I keep trying to focus at work today, but I am not doing such a good job. I am, remarkably, usually good at this. I am fueled mostly by rage and disgust, but I don’t want to get into that now, or ever, probably, because this is the internet. But: I am angry about some things that I have learned here, now that I have access. More access, I mean. Too much, probably, because I’m more in touch with my feelings, I think, than a person in this position should be.
I ran out of gas less than a mile from the gas station today. That long moment of my life looked like this
and was mildly embarrassing. Sometimes I am very dumb. By ‘sometimes’ I mean times when I do not put gas in my car, not even when the light dings on to remind me I’ve been ignoring it for a week just because it’s been too hot or too wet or too dark or too early in the morning.
Here are a few things I’ve been distracting myself with today and other days.
Sometimes my palm aches, and I know it is an ache for the warm hum of my old dog’s body, when she’d toss herself down onto her back, her tail still wagging madly, and I’d sit down cross-legged and rub the warm spotted skin of her belly. Or on a summer day, when I feel the cool alchemic slip of a soft-serve ice cream as it meets the heat of my tongue and melts, and the hard sun shines hot above me—and I am suddenly a small child again, and none of this has happened, the pain or the love.
All of this is still to come. There are places on my body now that hold space for memories I can’t know yet, can’t imagine.
Our bodies don’t belong to us. They belong to the selves we used to be. They hold space for who we will become. But maybe it’s not trauma that does this, not exactly. But living.
I cleaned my apartment when no one was coming over, and cooked elaborate meals with no guests in mind but myself. I began to learn to say ‘no’ to things, to define space for myself. I considered decisions longer, and hurt people less. With no one else’s needs into which to escape, it becomes much more difficult to skid through life on self-delusion and comfortable ignorance. Living alone is a confrontation with the mirror, a removal, if only for certain hours of the day, from the social contract, outside the systems of manners that grow up around women like strangling vines. It is becoming the witch in the forest, powerful and watchful and silent, setting visitors on edge.
The things I miss could be seen as childish, a state of being in which I was never obligated to consider anyone’s needs other than my own. Women are pushed out of childhood so quickly, shoved without ceremony into the heavy social obligations of adulthood. Living alone is a reminder that we can make our bodies antisocial, hoarding our selfishness and our silence. Loneliness and solitude are privileges of thoughtless and full-throated adulthood traditionally handed to men and kept from women. They are the strange and rich pleasures of the world beyond the social, beyond the structures of home and family.
In the heat of summer, as trees leaf out and the landscape thickens with green, the boundaries between inside and outside seem to break down.
“Remembered landscapes are left in me
The way a bee leaves its sting,
Non-mystical, insoluble in blood, they act as an opposite
To the absolute, whose words are a solitude, and set to music.
All forms of landscape are autobiographical.”