Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Seventeen and Counting

Day One in Austin, I met someone.

When I first talked to her, I realized she was no stranger. "You can't do this," she told me, oh so matter-of-fact. "You can't do this." This meaning another breakup; this meaning another painful mistake; this meaning more financial troubles; this meaning more bricks of shame and regret to pile onto my already overwhelmed shoulders. Yes, I know you well. We've talked many times throughout the years. And because I knew her, I agreed with her. Who else's words do I have to rely on?

After a while, she stopped talking to me. I was confused. Between the medication and counseling, did you not like competing for my attention? I don't want you to leave. You're the only one who has been here all these years. And she wasn't yet gone. Like white noise in the distance, unimportant and non-intrusive, she was still there. I'm not sure what happened to her, but her silence continued day after day. Eventually, she filtered away to nothingness.

Day Eight in Austin, a new girl showed up. "You might, possibly be able to do this," she said with a draw, before spitting on the sidewalk. This meaning looking through online job boards; this meaning holding a short conversation without crying; this meaning showering every day. She was kind of like that girl who sat next to you in English class senior year of high school. You'd smile if you saw her on the street, but you wouldn't hang out with her on the weekends. And come to think of it, you're not even sure of what her name is anyhow. It doesn't matter because she eventually left, too.

I was starting to get lonely. And frustrated. One day you're here, and the next you're gone. And then another day this other one of you shows up, and then leaves like the one before. Just as I was beginning to think I couldn't take any more of this, you showed up. Day Fifteen, there you were.

"You can do this," you tell me. "You can do this." This meaning multiple job interviews each week; this meaning reading and writing for my sanity and pleasure; this meaning taking bites of food between smiles at the dinner table with the family, my family, who has taken me in. You're reassuring. I'm skeptical. You won't last for long, I know. And not just because the others came and went, but because your words are a long shot for the mess I'm in.

Two days have passed and you're still here. I'm surprised. Will you be here tomorrow? Will you even be here later today? You don't offer any answers except to say, "You can do this."

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