Gone in the Morning

“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.”


Mes Trois Chats

I opened my bedroom door this morning & was immediately greeted by the excited meow-squeals of the littlest, Evelyn. She was much too happy to actually sit & let me pet her, so I simply extended my hand & let her rub her own head against it. She continued to wiggle around my legs & bestow sweet love bites to my ankles while I went about my morning routine in the kitchen.

The rain pattering against the skylights echoed in the high ceiling space. A rumble of thunder reminded me that my Toulouse was nowhere to be seen; even the mildest of storms sends him into hiding. Before I finished pouring my coffee over a thick bed of coconut oil & cream, I deduced the most probable place he would be. Sure enough, I found him there, hunkered down behind the toilet, the farthest location from any portal that could expose him to the elements.

Like the wonderful cat mum I am, I moved the small trash bin & knelt beside him. I stroked his worried forehead & gave him kitty-kisses with the slow blink of my eyelids. It was not until I heard a soft purr start in his throat that I gave him a final kiss & continued to get ready for work.

Berlioz had been watching me from the bathroom counter all that time. When I went over to him, he arched his back in a big stretch, leaning into my loving neck scratches. He sat there next to me through my whole grooming ritual. This is most likely because I offered to let him sniff various things—the toothpaste cap, a cotton swab damp with witch-hazel, my contact case—as I went along. He enjoyed that.

My phone suddenly lit up & told me that I was running 5 minutes behind schedule, but a last round of goodbyes felt worth the inevitable hurried sprint across the flooded parking lot & dash up three flights of stairs when I got to work.

First I kissed Berlioz atop his giant head. Then I bent down to Toulouse & whispered assuredly that the storm would soon pass. And then I exited the bathroom to a delighted squeal from Evee who was squirming for another nuzzle.

“Have a good day, ma petite.”

Purse, lunch, coffee, umbrella—into the rain.




When I accidentally let it in, it sneaks in through a single breath—one seemingly ordinary breath in a normal rhythm—so I never see it coming.

In through the nose & out through the mouth, in through the nose &—oh God!—

Heaviness like the color black drops straight into my chest. The sudden weight shatters my equilibrium, sending my eyes & thoughts spinning into my head. All around the fizzing, dancing, pinprick lights, I see threatening shadows creep in from all sides, like a dark wave swelling over me.

Am I drowning? Am I falling? Is the top of my head floating away? No, no, it is only in your mind.

My body is frozen with a chill that starts at my ears, crawls down my neck, my back, my arms. I realize then that my mouth tastes like blood, but it is a phantom smell; I triggered a reel of “teeth falling out” dreams to play. The fear of losing control circulates in my brain. My heart jolts & then quickens; my eyes widen; my hands shake; my teeth clamp; my stomach twists itself in a knot like a fetal position; & I can no longer breathe.

How again do I breathe? In through the nose—no, I did that. Out through the mouth?

I let it all go. The panicked parts of me immediately start to balance out again. I know I should keep breathing, seek the balance, but I am scared to take another sip of air.

What if it is there waiting for me? I’m sure it was hovering just above me all along…

I clutch my chest & focus my eyes in front of me.

In through the nose

A normal taste, a normal rhythm. My heartbeat slows. A minute of even breaths passes. I sit up straighter in my chair.

Just as quickly as the anxiety came, it left, & the day resumes again.

I never see it coming.



Her Expression

Every thought she has ever had can be known by the study of her expression. Through the emotional vicissitudes of each day, her story is captured upon her face; she adds each moment to a frame & wears it in her secret way, subtly painted across angular features, pale olive & thin.

Always begin by reading her eyes. They are like porcelain orbs set in shallow caves with blinking mouths, identical drops of ink in each center. Sad India pigments bleed from those stains; they spread beneath the shear skin stretched under the curve of each socket. Along the hooded edges that hug her gaze, fans of eyelashes perch themselves in pairs of long, sultry wings. Her searching stare is always dark, always piercing, yet in a way that is rich, with capacious warmth, like a sip of bold coffee on morning’s tongue.

But, for God’s sake, do not drink & forget the detail on her lips—full & pastel pink, with the signature taste of mint. Their texture is pliable but firm, a bed safe to tangle & whisper in, two soft blankets over the crowded pearls of a dreamer. They laugh. They kiss. They speak—but they will not tell you the story of her expression; they will only playfully direct you back to the deep well of her eyes & smile with pleasure as you guess at how to draw from it.



Seasonal Depression

There was little reason for that routine evening drive to be particularly memorable. All I can think is that it was already late December, so by this point in the year I fully expected to be settled into the cold, desaturated world of seasonal depression. Upon my return to Ohio from a week in sunny Texas, I prepared myself to see nothing but plains of white twisted with varying lines of black, every scene frozen under a vast shroud of gray.

But all the way down that seven mile stretch of road from the highway exit to my heart’s home, I was blessed by paintings of gentle colors flickering through my car windows. The decomposing earth produced a grayish-green sea about the scattered islands of rusty leaves. The wet tree skeletons donned an array of plum & mossy browns. Hazy purples were thickly present in the damp atmosphere. The low sun poured out a sheer veil of soft, mango light over the prevailing winter.

The joy I received from this seemed to rise up slowly from within myself, like warmth radiating out toward the beauty around me & spreading over my skin, like a tide reaching up from the ocean to kiss the lover shore.

But just as the tide must always recede back into deeper water, so does joy in the wintertime.

It is January now, & I am still thinking about that drive, recalling the journey fondly as a blur of muted colors—my favorites.

The scenery now has entirely given itself over to a jumble of leftover browns & dirty white, & the sky has already faded into a ceiling of drooping gray.

I am by the window with my notebook, as is my preference during this evening hour, when the sun is warm & golden in its descent & casts a romantic glow over everything that is usually so painfully unremarkable. This is my favorite hour, my only happy escape from the tedium of the season.

I am waiting for the streams of gold to trickle out upon the frost. There. I can almost see it! Wait. No. No, not today. Today, the sun is not going to come. The gray ceiling has chosen to be merciless. Today it is truly solid, a thick, even coating of bleakness; it offers no break for the soft winter sunbeams to peak through for me.

With a numb scowl, I accept what is denied me but remain by the window until the filtered light is fully under the horizon. Only God knows if the ceiling will break tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day either.

I bitterly think that it would be best not to hope for things at all in these downcast months. So, I turn & resolve to expect no more moments of awesome joy from nature, or anything else, until the appearance of Spring.




The Thunder—It Mocks Me [A Short Story]

I sat out waiting until the storm rolled in. My tired, half-moon gaze never strayed from the night sky—it flickered almost constantly from electrified whites back into the cloudy indigo—until I felt the first drop of water fall onto my hand. I looked down and tenderly wiped the tiny bead of moisture off my thin, trembling fingers. You poor things. They hung off my hands, barely sensible, only twitching back to life in order to stroke a slightly dissonant-sounding variation of an A minor chord after each deep rumble of thunder I heard in the distance.

Again I lifted my head to the sky now frothing up with sheets of incoming rain, and, with my trail of thoughts disrupted, I came back to reality—the reality in which I was outside, sitting shivering in the storm, doing nothing but waiting. It always seemed to be that way, that I was always waiting for you in some form or another.

Vision blurry from the mix of tears and rain drops caught on my eyelashes, I bumped my guitar on the doorframe coming in from the strengthening mists of wind. This sent a twang of sound rippling into the belly of the sleeping house.

It was late—too late for people to be at the front door, and the dog knew that. Upstairs I heard her stir by the dainty jingle of her collar tags. I prayed she would not find this disturbance a threat to the family, which would undoubtedly necessitate her unleashing a siren of whimper-like barks to ward off “the intruder.” On most occasions, such noble precautions would earn her nothing but my love and praise, but at this hour they would come at the cost of waking the rest of the household, and the last thing I wanted at the moment was a bombardment of questions from an irritable mother.

What were you doing outside so late?
Why do you look like that?
Have you been crying?
Is someone out there with you?

No, Mom. I’m alone.

I heard another tinkling of the dog’s collar but nothing more, so I turned the lock, released a heavy sigh at this symbolic abandonment of all my romantic “making up in the rain” fantasies, and continued as discretely as possible into the dark, intensely air-conditioned living room.

The items I carried in from the storm weighed on me even after I set them down on the lumpy, muddy-green couch: my guitar that always seemed to favor your touch to mine, as you always made it sing so much sweeter than I ever did or could; the soft, simple plaid blanket your parents and sister gave me for Christmas; the mustard-colored wool hat your aunt knitted me, also a Christmas gift, already stretched from so much use during the long winter; my well-worn-in journal that must have held a hundred bled and dried copies of your name in between line after line of all my desperate scribbles of thought, an obsessive habit of mine.

I was just about to sink down hopelessly beside these things when suddenly the backdoor swung open with a slow but forceful push. In came the voice of the grumbling thunder, a strong gust of wet May air, and then, its silhouette revealed by a long burst of lightning just overhead, a tall figure hunched over as it passed through the doorway.

“Ah, good.” In the darkness, I couldn’t quite see his face, but I knew it was my brother. He twisted and shook his lanky extremities of the rain until he succeeded in making himself laugh at his own ridiculous movements. “I thought it was Mom I saw through the window, but then I thought it might be you, so I decided to chance it and come in. And it is you, so that’s cool.”

Though my chest still clenched in an uncomfortably unnatural way to hold my aching heart, and the indigestible weight of loneliness still sat swollen in my stomach, my spirit was instantly lifted by his effortless humor.

“Yep, it’s me,”I said lightly—or attempted to say lightly; I felt each word flop out of my mouth and die on the floor as they came out. “I was just out on the porch playing guitar, but, you know, the rain…” I was about to make a guess at what he was doing outside, but just then I caught a pungent scent wafting up from his damp clothes and I knew it had something to do with destroying some plant matter in a series of small, contained fires.

“Glad I came in when I did. I have my nice headphones on me.” He slipped off his shoes and returned the headphones he had shielded under his sweatshirt back to their usual place around his neck. He stood for a moment, then, with his hands on his protruding hips, and as if to a room full of awkward party guests, announced,“Well, who else is starving?”

My body, from throat to stomach, tensed with nausea at the thought of eating anything in my current state of heartbreak. My appetite was destroyed. In fact, for weeks it seemed like all I had been living on was worry, writing, and prayer—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—in that order.

But for some reason I followed him into the kitchen anyway, holding myself around the waist, like you might have done if you would have stayed a little longer that night; you might have noticed how great a need I had for being held.

I spread my fingers out wider, pressed them into my flesh tighter, both adjustments to mimic your bigger, stronger hands.

This trick-of-the-mind worked well enough, I suppose. My nausea settled and I was able to forget about you long enough to be entertained watching my brother concoct a very unconventional breakfast sandwich he dubbed with the name “The Spicy Spicy Thunder Hump.” Whether he were under the influence of certain psychoactive substances or not, anyone would agree he had one strange and fascinating mind.

But when his sandwich was gone and we parted ways, him retreating to his basement cave and me ascending the stairs to my lonely tower, my distracted thoughts were quick to recede back into the darkness of myself, back to you.

Do you have any idea the kind of hell you put me through?
Does your wild selfishness conjure even a pebble of guilt inside your head?
Do you see me?
Don’t you love me?
Do you see me?
I bet you are already sleeping soundly.

The thunder rattled my window, a mocking snore in the night.



Convecting Shades of Blue [A Short Story]


The rain fell, & the car cocooned us in its gentle chatter. The beads of water slid from above us & meandered down the windshield, trailing like tiny illuminated rivers with the yellow porch light caught in their bellies.

We listened & watched, our skulls hanging off our necks onto our separate headrests, our bodies limp yet fully awake; we just didn’t know what else to do in those moments, & the drum of the rain was hypnotizing.

Without turning his head, barely moving his lips, he spoke his words slowly & deliberately. “Have you noticed that every time we fight it rains?”

I sighed, admittedly annoyed at the perfect poetry of it. It was too tragic & beautiful to let myself consider, too star-crossed, too exclusive to “us.” I was trying to end things; I didn’t want to start thinking about all the ways the universe conspired to keep us together, as if we were actually special somehow, just like he wanted me to believe—enduring.

So I said, “No, I haven’t,” although looking back on all the nights we found ourselves similarly in the midst of breaking, the sky really did seem to supernaturally reflect the sorrow stirring in our chests. Pathetic fallacy written into our story, which was ironic to me remembering how he told me once that he greatly disliked that particular literary device.

Irony is… a sign. I’m doing the right thing, I assured myself, taking a deep breath through my nose.

The longer we let things go on the more counterarguments I found I had for his defenses for “us.” Regardless of whether or not they were logical arguments, it was easier to do than to accept some of his rationalities & deny others; denying them all was the only way to truly let him go, with no strings left to pull, no trail left to follow—or maybe that justification was just another counterargument I created to console myself.

I shook the confusion from my brain to refocus on the moment. He was looking at me now with two spheres convecting shades of stormy blue in the sockets beneath his furrowed brow. I could always count on seeing a separate, stronger, stranger conversation turning in his eyes, begging for me to hear, through his urgent stare, the less reserved, more desperate version of what he was vocalizing.

I don’t like what you’re saying, though, I tried to say back, but it just felt like a staring contest, praying that the other would just give in; he didn’t want to hear what I was trying to communicate either.

If I remember correctly, I was the one to look away first, as one would expect from the guilty party.

I felt terribly guilty, but I just wasn’t in love with him anymore—maybe because I was never truly in love with him at all. Because, when you truly love someone, can you ever really stop? If you truly want to touch & know every part of that person’s soul in order to somehow join it with yours, & if you truly come to the point of wanting to do or give anything for that person to love you the way you love them, can you ever stop feeling that way? Knowing what I know now, I don’t think you can stop anymore than you can stop yourself from the sensation of feeling altogether. That person becomes part of you; every word, every contortion of their face becomes vital to your daily function, your life, & your story.

“I have to go,” I said softly, my hand on the door handle, my eyes lowered to the dashboard.

The panicked vibrations of his quickening heartbeat sent a quiver through the warm air trapped inside the car, & the hairs on my arms rose as a barrier against feeling it. His right hand that clutched the bottom of the steering wheel released & hovered over to me, but just before it touched my bare knee, he forced it closed & rested it on the seat divider. He looked so miserable & helpless, his sad stare burrowing into my flesh, trying to absorb every particle of this memory, our last moments together alone.

“Say something,” I finally pleaded. “I can’t leave until you say something.”

He smiled in an endearingly pathetic way & then proceeded to pinch his full lips so tightly together that their soft, pink color drained white. I returned a small smile & gently bid him to release them with just a light touch of my index finger. Before I had time to react, he grabbed my lifted hand & pressed it to his face, placing a kiss on my fingers—one, gently, & then another, & another, cautiously, then desperately, palm to wrist to arm to shoulder. My body tensed against receiving them at first, but my muscles began to relax under the pleasant warmth of his lips tenderly kissing up my neck & passed my jaw.

He stopped just inches from meeting my mouth. The storm turned madly in his eyes that spoke without speaking, pouring his desire onto me; he wanted my permission.

At that point, I admit to surrendering to this unspoken request almost immediately.

“This is the last time,” I whispered—or did I just think it? My hands revealed having a slight nervous tremor on their way up to his face, which I simply let sit in my hands as he brought together our lips.

I closed my eyes to the lights & the rain & let myself feel him one last time. His love for me was so intense I could literally feel it pulsing into me.

“I’m so selfish with you,” I breathed into his kiss, our lips rolling together in my barely audible words.

He either didn’t hear me or didn’t care; he wanted me. Nothing else seemed to matter to him but me.

A thought, a spark of fear, suddenly infected the intoxicating pulse of his affection & began circulating in my head: What if I never find someone else who loves me this much? What if he is enough, & I’m just selfish & greedy to think a truer love exists? I don’t want to be alone…

This fear continued to spread over me, &, as a response to it, I pressed into him harder, feeling needy & dissatisfied. In turn, he interpreted this increase in my innate desire for human connection as a desire for him specifically, but his hands tracing the contours of my body soothed me, made me present, made me remember I was alive, & so, despite the guilt I felt, I did not tell him otherwise. And he continued to kiss me.

“I love you,” he abruptly mumbled against my skin. He had been fighting the urge to say it all night, but we both knew, eventually, he had to say it.

The increased surge of pain & guilt constricted my insides, & I winced against those three words repeating in my head; those three words were powerful enough to instantly push me back into the reality that I was avoiding.

“I know. I’m sorry.” That’s all I could bring myself to say.

His face crumbled with the weight of my reply.

Pulling from the experience of all our previous goodbyes, I would have guessed that he would have tried to keep me there all night, feeding me line after line of pleas & defenses, but I caught sight of some dark cloud in his wounded eyes that told me I had finally stripped him of the last bit of strength he had to hold on.

“I have to go.”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

I watched him straighten himself back up against his seat & place his hands back on the steering wheel. Every movement he made seemed like a great struggle against himself.

In the end, our goodbye felt a lot like slipping on wet floor; the cold, quick pop of the car door opening, the harsh interior lights incinerating the intimate shadows between us, the sound of the car door slamming shut again knocking the wind out of me. It was a stagger, a fall, a painful end—that’s what leaving him felt like.

Truthfully, I don’t remember much about it after that. I do remember the contrast of my hot ears to the cool, uncomfortable wetness of puddle-water seeping into my shoes on the way up to the house, & the delayed moments staring out from the garage covering into the beam of his headlights before he drove off, & the terrible loneliness of afterward, numbly sitting on the couch by the window, listening to the drone of pattering rain.

All that while, my thoughts were consumed by my mourning heart, for somehow I could not stop myself from carrying his hurt inside as I walked away. Even after all this time, I swear I still feel it when his heart trembles out there in the world, like a pluck on a taut string tied from his chest to mine; I couldn’t stop myself from hiding away a piece of him, of that moment, in a corner of my heart, as a part of me, just enough to remember…

Yes, I suppose I did love him—or, I guess, I do love him, as there is always an exception for everything, isn’t there? I love him, but… I didn’t stay—I couldn’t stay. I’m not sure I could ever explain it, but, knowing what I know now, I think there must be an exception.