coffee for breakfast
to get up, to write, to peddle
on the exercise bike, to buy
lipstick the color of rose petals, & leopard print
lingerie trimmed in bright red
M&Ms for lunch, for dinner
to self-soothe & wake,
rush: serotonin, endorphin, placebo
one parts water, one
to let go
after a night of wet, heavy snow, the roads & parking lots puddle into grey slush. as i stand in line at the grocery store, cradling a box of elbow macaroni, two bunches of kale, & a carton of eighteen eggs, the woman in front of me apologizes: for the items, now bagged, that would not fit into her cart; for the fistful of coupons slowly swiped; for breathing air & existing in the first place. i say wait & help yank her cart through the parking lot, then load the bags into her car. she tells me that for eleven years, she was a soloist soprano singer at her church; then she became sick with bronchitis & her voice never quite recovered. my snow angel, she says, let me hug you. tears fuzzy my drive home, & i spend the afternoon weeping myself into & out of sleep.
at advanced autoparts, the cashier asks if i want him to put on my new windshield wiper blades. can you show me so that next time i can do it on my own, be independent? i always think it should be really simple to do; then i try & break every piece of plastic available to me. i ramble. i am exhausted after a 10-hour shift at work & preparing for the four hour drive to spend the next three days with the boy i’m seeing. he says, sure thing, & i work alongside him as he instructs: pull toward you; no, flip it the other way; no, now it’s upside down; no– like this, & i say, thank you; thank you so much. he smiles. says, no problem, & when he calls me dear, i am reminded of how i felt as a child when i pictured my imaginary friend, billy brumble, who was like an older brother that would lift & carry my body; protect me; say, don’t you look so pretty, when i smeared my mouth with hot pink lipstick & wore a grey hat too big for my head, a scratchy grey dress draping my body like a table cloth.
after i stop for gas an hour & forty-five minutes into my journey, i spend fifteen minutes kicking clumped up snow & ice from my wheel wells at a truck stop. because it has been snowing hard, i am wearing my reading glasses. they fog in the cold from my hot breath. a man gets into the truck parked next to me, & before he closes the door, he looks at me leveraging my snow brush behind the front wheel on the driver’s side. everything ok? he asks. i tell him i’m fine, that i feel safer with all the gunk beaten out, & say, thank you for asking. he tells me to have a good one, travel safe.
inside the truck stop travel center, i buy a twenty ounce coffee & a king size whatchamacallit candy bar. the boy who rings me up says, whoa, i thought i was the only person who liked these things, & i tell him he’s not alone, that they are my favorite, too. he says, if you get a chance, you gotta try the ones coated in peanut butter that have chocolate wafers on the inside. they call ’em thingamajigs. i tell him i’ll keep my eyes peeled for them & thanks for the heads up. he smiles, nods his head, then goes back to flirt-arguing with the girl running the register next to him, who wears blonde streaks in her dark hair, rings of black makeup around her eyes, & rainbow-colored buttons on her red work vest.
D & i spend our days off together caught in the cuddle zone. we sleep late, his bedroom cloaked in dim, grey light, & open our eyes only to poke our heads above the pillows, peep at the time on the clock, & burrow back into bed. when i pull the thick, dark curtains back from the windows, bright winter sunlight spills inside; we shield our eyes & squint, falling face down into our nest of blankets & body heat. it can’t be daylight, we groan, our bodies static-clung, hand gripping forearm, bicep, legs crooked round knee & thigh. on the morning when he goes back to work, i lie in bed staring at the ceiling, imagining my life if it were contained by these–his–walls. i think of the night we spent in his hotel room drunk on his boss’s homemade blackberry wine, the slowness of our hands husking the clothing from our bodies, the way his lips shook & how i asked myself, do you want this? &, repulsed by my desire for the cupping of his hands, the curve of his biceps, the tenderness, many parts of me whispered, don’t. i think of how, during our next encounter, i said, there are two kinds of people in my life–the people who care about me, & the people who sleep with me; how, when he asked, it’s not possible for someone to be both of those at once? i shook my head, saying, the circles of that venn diagram don’t intersect; how, still, our bodies joined, my mouth a cavern filled with a child’s howls, my face sopping tears & shuddering breaths. the way he held my body, silent, his fingers brushing at my eyes, until i fell asleep, & how he returns, again & again, to the wreckage i am diving in.
then, i rise from his bed & tug the bedding into place. in the living room, i fold our blankets, collect our coffee mugs & empty fruit snack packets from the table, & throw a pinch of shrimp pellets to the idiot fish swimming in their tank. in the kitchen, i wash each dirty dish & pull half-wet laundry from the drier, draping each piece on a hanger, drying rack. before i pack my things & let myself out, slipping his key under the doormat, i pull on a pair of his wool socks & tell myself to accept the kindness i find in this series of rooms, the heat that rises from the places where we’ve stood: vapor, love, intersection. i make the going slow.