“Never, ever, get yourself into a situation where you have nothing to do but write & read. You’ll go into a depression. You have to be doing something good for the world, something undeniably useful; you need exercise, too, and people.”
This passage by Annie Dillard wakes me to my surroundings: my lazy, disheveled state, sitting on the couch in my night shirt & messy bun, nothing to do today except write & read.
It is the third time I reach for my coffee & realize I let it go cold again. Instead of pouring the contents into the pot on the stove, standing & stirring it to life, I dump it into the sink & resolve to take a shower.
The shower head hisses in streams then drums down on my head. I start the water cold & gradually bring the temperature up until steam fills my lungs & the air feels heavy. Shampoo then conditioner. I run my fingers through my long hair & pull out what looks like a hundred thin strands.
How am I not bald? Am I balding? I let the hairs cling to the shower wall & look at my collection miserably. I’m definitely balding.
I can’t find my razor, but I see my husband’s & reach for it.
No, I don’t want to use my husband’s razor; I want to leave him. I want to scream at such a sickeningly loud & desperate volume that the unwanted prickles will just fall off my body & leave me smooth & pure as a baby.
I am a baby. A naive, proud, impatient, impulsive, 25-year-old baby. I made a mistake. People will understand that, won’t they? After all, it’s only been eight months to compare to the rest of my life.
The cello that floods the bathroom mourns with me. For a moment I am emotional & soaring, looking at my slender silhouette in the foggy mirror & picturing I am the tragic protagonist in a glamorous movie. I swipe a clearing into the glass, narrow my eyes to my blurry image, & pretend to contemplate my soul in a deep & sultry way. But suddenly something about my sad stare becomes too real, & I defensively kill the brief amusement with another scene; the beautiful, pitiable character I assumed morphs into nothing more than a melodramatic mime, sobbing ridiculously while holding out her cup for a tip.
I let the music play, but my heart goes numb to it.
Still the mime, I paint my face. Creamy, organic paste the “crunchy” bloggers say is better for my health, but it’s just another thing I use to hide who I am & what I feel. The marks of acne I spend a shameful amount of time disguising. Less time now, though, now that they are mostly scars & not the active sores I almost bargained with God to take away in exchange for my first born child.
The child I will probably never have if I leave—I am panicked with a sudden thought. Did I somehow trade my hypothetical daughter for acne relief? Is that why I have clear skin & this unshakeable urge to disappear?
I say a quick prayer, as if to take it back, but I can’t take anything back, even if I don’t fully trust what I’m feeling, even if it terrifies me to make up my mind—because look where making up my mind got me. I just had to get married. Now I just have to run away. Or do I? Will this feeling pass? I know nothing for certain. How should I know what I really want?
I am not scheduled to work today, but I can do nothing productive around the apartment or elsewhere until my appearance is changed & my soul is cleansed by routine. So, fully made over & ready for any opportunity the day brings, I sit back on the couch & stare at the wall.
Because I’m stuck! Because I want to leave, but I can’t—not without abandoning every comfort of my “normal” life. My sunny apartment, most of my furniture, my gorgeous wedding photos, the security of a steady income, someone to take care of me when I’m too lazy to eat, someone to run to when something falls apart.
My marriage is comfort. It’s comfortable, & I may take it for granted sometimes, but my insides are vibrating with the deep, unspoken knowing that a comfortable life is not enough for me to feel alive.
I find my phone & slowly begin a text: “Hey. I think we need to…”
No. I start over.
“Good morning. We need to talk.”
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