On Sabbatical

The new apartment has become my domain. I roam around its sensible floor plan looking for stray things to pick up and deposit in the places I’ve designated as their proper homes. I pile empty boxes in corners and trash and recycle by the door. I stand over the sink cutting fruit and veg into bite-sized pieces, which I then put into clear, plastic containers. These containers stare out at me when I peer into the refrigerator. The refrigerator has begun to feel like my friend.

I am damaged by the last four or five years. Instead of looking in a mirror, I imagine myself looking in a mirror. I imagine that I see a housewife looking back. And, I know that this is going to sound massively insulting, but I am horrified. It feels like I’m hiding from something. I stand until my back and feet ache from devotion to cheesecakes that don’t turn out and onions that I burn instead of caramelize. Then, I make everything again. Better. But is it good enough?

And, when I check the news, I see news of a country that doesn’t look like mine. I am baffled by these United States. Neither victories nor losses feel like such. They feel confusing.

I feel numb;

I feel stupid;

I feel cheated by polemic pundits who make a better living than anyone I know by delivering versions of the truth to people too tired from daily living to continuously pan through the silt in search of facts. I want to believe in our government, and I want to believe in our citizens, but I feel kind of hopeless.

Maybe I’m burnt out.

 

These last five years did a number on me. I’ve changed so much, but I don’t think I “grew” or “matured” nearly as much as I attempted to survive. Daily, a blankness spreads over my face pushing into my life. I want to say that it’s been a year of this mask of superficial placidity that is supposed to help hide that fact that I was so miserable to outsiders, in order to not offend. But, truthfully, I have no idea how long it’s been. It’s felt like eons, and I’ve tried to not keep track. It’s a testament to how willful I am that I haven’t been able to figure out how to stop fighting back, but it’s a true sign of internal decay that I’ve spent months trying.

 

How can I explain this? How can I explain it to you?

 

I can’t. Not yet.

Instead, I wash dishes while my hands sweat inside purple latex cleaning gloves, and when I’m done I pull out prune-y fingertips that smell like rubber and chemicals.

Instead, I stare at the wall and wonder if these United States have room anymore for a person like me. Are Wendy Davis and Trayvon Martin and North Carolina indicators that this country is standing room only? And, if so, what is all this cooking and cleaning and ironing and grocery shopping training me to stand for?

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