Twenty-year-old me had biceps. Back from a year away, rock climbing and waiting tables, fucking women for the first time. I walked differently. Strutting in my baggy cargo pants, flirting with those baby butch Oberlin girls. A new me.
In the college library lounge, short-haired, smooth-skinned girlfriends ran their fingertips up my sculpted arms and I ignited.
This morning I wake to my daughter’s nightmare whimpers. Tucked under my armpit, bone-thin, her ribs pressing into my side. Always burning up, she wears only underwear in the house. No blankets except her lovey, clutched to her cheek in sleep.
4 AM. The bedroom door opens.
“Where’s dad?” my son asks.
“Sleeping in the basement.”
He slides in under the quilt and settles next to me.
“Shh,” I warn him.
“Shh,” he says and falls asleep with my hair across his face.
Twenty-year-old me control-alt-deleted with a boyfriend who assigned us monogamy but then cheated on me with woman after woman. Insisted it was all in my head. That my suspicions were borderline pathetic and indicative of deeply-rooted trust issues. We couldn’t be together if I accused him of eye-fucking every woman he met.
“You’re not a lesbian,” he said.
“Maybe I am,” I said.
“You’re not.” Then fucked me face down on his bed. It was that kind of sex. The kind where someone barely even notices your body, sex so dry your skin tears, where you end up on antibiotics for a UTI. The kind of sex where he sees you ripping and keeps fucking you.
I wake again, this time to bright sunlight. It’s late, too late, and I know we’ve missed the bus.
“Sorry to wake you,” my husband says. He’s sitting at the foot of the bed.
“Rough night,” I say and sit up, stand up, shake the blood into my feet.
He comes over and hugs me, squeezes my soft arms.
“I’ll see you after work.”
Twenty-year-old me wanted babies. Tiny hands to curl around my neck and drool down my chin, fingers pulling my hair. Babies to fill me up since everything else was a piece of gravel tossed into the ocean. Not even a ripple. I thought about babies as I changed majors, considered moving to New York, danced between Susannah and Kate to the club mix of Bjork’s Hyperballad at that fake rave, the boys from Case Western watching as I took off my shirt and pulled off Kate’s, too. Susannah blushing as I put the E under her tongue and kissed the tip of her nose. Maybe a ripple.
Imagine what my body would sound likeSlamming against those rocks.
Two kids at school, another on his computer finishing his homeschool classes. I wash the dishes. I prep the slow cooker. I fold the laundry. I ask my mother to keep an eye on my son so I can go to the store. I call the pediatrician. I pump up the flat back tire on the bike by the shed. I take the garbage cans back down behind the house. I sort the mail. I run a bath. I feed the fish.
Will my eyesBe closed or open?