1. It’s the fourth of July, and I’m sitting alone on the couch, eating chocolate mousse from a chocolate candy cup, cutting the sweetness with olive oil potato chips (because the olive oil makes me feel less guilty about the grease). I have a green masque on my face. I’m listening to fireworks exploding down the block. I finish the food and run a hand across my belly. I’ve stopped running. My body has gone soft with the names of all the daughters I didn’t have. Just once, I’d like to be the girl you don’t remember.
2. You say, “Be happy,” as though that’s all there is to it, as though happiness is something to be plucked from the closet and worn like a scarf. Happiness goes with everything, no matter what the season. It comes to you like fireflies on a hot summer night, ripe for the catching. Be happy! You say it as though keeping fireflies in a jar doesn’t kill them. So how to be happy? Can it be caught like a cold? Can you sneeze your happiness into my blood stream? Can it be given like a gift? Can you wrap it up and hand it to me all prettied with red ribbon? Here’s some happiness. Isn’t it lovely? You wouldn’t believe what I had to go through to get it, all the people I had to fight to get my hands on it.
3. I came here to forget, to let the tired tide of memory wash you from my body.
4. The way I love the light that pours through the canopy of a Japanese maple—it will never extend the same love to me. Never will light and leaves tell me, “Your hair, the way it moves in the wind on summer mornings, breathtaking.” And that’s fine, but with people, this is more problematic. That my vocabulary isn’t the basis for your attraction to me is one thing—that because of it, you don’t understand half of what I’m saying is another. Last night, while I was on the phone with my mother, the setting sun poked through the camellia, the aperture between the leaves so small, it looked as if someone had hung it with tiny lights. Magic, the illusion only lasted a moment, before fading out to ordinary. In that duration, I didn’t hear a word my mother said. Sometimes, the question to be asked of those we love isn’t, “Are you listening?” But, “Are you hearing the same thing as I?”
5. Long before I knew better than to hope, before I learned to seek advice that only brought more confusion, before I thought to question my every intent, I picked up pennies, blew on dandelions, and wished on stars and birthday candles, always for something more than what I had. Some days, I want to sit down in the middle of the road, look up at the sky, and count all the things I don’t understand. One day, I’ll get hit by a car, close my eyes for three seconds and slip into a ditch, push my legs until they fail me. All of this has already begun. Already, I’m losing track. I keep hoping, if I keep walking, I’ll come upon the answer, but all I encounter is a dead deer on the side of the road. It must’ve just been hit, the body still intact. I make a wide berth around it. Half a mile later, I pick up a penny, and it makes my fingers smell like copper. I stare so long at the mile marker that I forget what I came for.
6. Have you noticed that I talk to you with a mouth full of toothpaste? How early I must’ve developed this skill. I must’ve had too much to say. I don’t have as much to say now, but I still do it, still carry on conversations while scrubbing plaque from my gums, shifting the foam from cheek to cheek.
7. I keep telling myself anything can change in a matter of minutes.
8. The marionberries are so ripe, they give up their juice when I run them under water and fall apart in my hands. They are extravagant in their mulberry-purple, in the bite of their not-quite-enough-time on the vine. I think of my aunt’s berry pies, the whipping cream that cut the tartness. Hafez said, “There is no pleasure without a tincture of bitterness.” I wonder why that has to be true. It’s the way memory edits out what we don’t want to remember, until the story reads the way we need it to. I remember eating too many berries, the summers I spent in Oregon, how lonely I felt despite never being alone. I remember all the things I let fall from my hands.
9. I keep seeing that dead deer. I’d been walking with my head down, tracking my feet, my thoughts, and looked up and not two feet away—deer, dead. “Oh, Jesus,” I whispered, and hand to heart, I shut my eyes and said a prayer. Oh, Jesus, it sent the flies up out of the carcass as I passed. I was grateful for that deer. For the first time, in a long time, I forgot everything else.
10. This is the house where we were going to live. These are the steps you were going to carry me up, the threshold we would cross, the living room where we’d put all our books. This is the yard we were going to tend, and these are the walls we were going to paint. I hate painting, hate gardening, but I was eager, willing. These are the sacrifices I was going to make. This is where our children were going to learn how to walk, while you worked nights and I worked days, and sometimes, our paths only crossed in bed. And wouldn’t that be nice, you said, meaning sharing a bed. I took it for something else, but didn’t say it. These are the things I was willing to do. I am always the one who is willing. This is the name I was going to take, the one I practiced signing like a love-struck adolescent. This is the union I wanted to build. These are the bricks on the walkway, caked with dirt, that I was going to get on my hands and knees to scrub clean. This is the furnace I would learn how to fix, the leaves I would rake, the porch where I’d find you when you needed some space. I am always the one who is going away. This morning, I went by the house. It’s still abandoned, not for sale. I thought about looking through the windows, searching for what might remain, but I didn’t. The life that might’ve been there is already gone.