It’s a particular kind of agony, the way the spine curves to take on shapes it was never meant to inhabit: widow, orphan, jilted lover. I bring a giant exercise ball to work to sit on instead of my chair, but my posture still slumps into the shape of a hook. What’s gone wrong in me runs deeper than weakened muscle.
I bought a travel mug my freshman year of college. I used it to hold my Maxwell House instant coffee. Now, I use it to hold the office Folgers. One day, my stomach and psyche can’t take any more acid, and without warning, I switch to green tea, which I have hated all my life. I wonder how much I’ll have to drink before the smell of fake and burn flees from the skin of my insulated cup.
Today, the sun rose behind a blanket of storm clouds, and the only color the sky could manage was a mute periwinkle, a washed-out hue so close to gray it didn’t even deserve to be called blue. The geese flew by, but I didn’t see them. I didn’t want to see them.
Fine. Origin: Latin finis, end, utmost, highest point. Definition: there are twenty-nine, and none is the one I’m looking for.
Sometimes, I have three coworkers. Sometimes, I have seventy-five. Sometimes, it’s just me and the phone and the rain and the rain and the rain, and the mold in the walls, and the mouse in the hall, and the violin playing low on my computer’s awful speakers, the song cutting in and out because our internet isn’t strong enough to sustain it.
I washed my sheets and pajamas, my pillows and blankets and bedspread. But within days, the stench was back, rank and dirty and old, as though the bed had never been cleaned, and I had to conclude it was coming from me: rank and dirty and old.
Anxiety. Synonyms: fear, foreboding, worry, disquiet. Again, not exactly.
Suddenly, it’s winter. Suddenly, there are no more leaves. I love the cold, but I can’t get warm. Somewhere within me, I know: there will never be enough scarves.
And I think of how many things I’ve broken that they might become stronger, though I didn’t know it at the time. All I felt was the break. The uncertainty. The limbo, the unknown, the purgatory. There is no scriptural evidence for purgatory. Perhaps because this life is purgatory enough.
Sorrow. Antonyms: happiness, joy, consolation, relief. But one doesn’t necessarily preclude the other. Someone once told me all things are a balance of bitter and sweet. Rumi agreed when he said, “There is no pleasure without a tincture of bitterness.”
I want to speak another language. I want to learn words for which there is no English translation. I want another word for star and sun and absent moon, for love and fear and what comes too soon. For death and life and waiting, for blood and bone and aching. For marrow. For quiet. For sex and for exclusion. I want another word.