She wakes in the morning before the sun.
She makes tea and writes for a while, then when her dog comes to find her, she puts on her layers, leashes up and they head outside.
Beyond the front door, the air is dandelion puffs from her mouth and the trees are shedding leaves like paper fire.
They walk together, the girl and her dog, down streets where their footsteps echo and then, on grass that is licked with frost. The air is still, cold glass. Sometimes, the dog comes up and buries her head in the girl’s side: this makes the girl smile.
When they head back to the house, the sun is as strong as it will ever be. The girl dresses quickly and then ties her scarf tightly around her neck and she gets on her bike. There are eight hours in an office. The girl answers the phone and types out emails and talks with people she runs into.
Eventually, she packs up and bikes home.
Her dog comes to the front door and they go outside. This time it is dark and the dog is like two kinds of shadows woven together. The girl is not scared about losing her; the dog never lets her out of her sight. They walk for a while and then turn back. There is more tea, more words and then a bed with soft blankets and purring cats. And she sleeps until the next day when it starts again.
Sometimes she wonders where it is all going.
At the beginning of the week, she thinks it is a long time before the next weekend, then all of a sudden it is Wednesday and then it is Friday and five minutes ago she was in high school. There are friends and there is yoga, a family dinner—a week passes, then one more and this is a life, she thinks. This is her life.
There is the novel that she still wants to write: she scribbles down ideas and character notes, but she can’t seem to sit still long enough. There is the wandering she would do, except that wandering costs more money than she has. But she has postcards and dreams and she is happy.
She wonders about things like the end of her life and whether she will be lucky enough to look back on what she was lucky enough to live. She hopes that she thinks there was someone who laughed a lot, who cried a lot, who loved a lot. There was someone who traveled and told bawdy jokes and who danced on the speakers at bars. She hopes she gets to do everything she wants to.
She is quieter now. She is far away from previous versions of herself: the daredevil, the party girl, the bookworm. She thinks about how serious she used to be about staying tough; she was all combat pants, whiskey and strong cigarettes.
If she could, she would go back and say,
Baby girl: stay soft. Your life won’t go the way you expect it to. You will know what loss is, you will see the versions of your life separate like an earthquake. You will mourn like a tornado and you will learn that if you don’t bend you will break. Things will happen that you never thought possible and you will survive them only because you let yourself fall.
She wonders whether, if she had started soft, it would have turned out differently. She lost her mother and she did not handle that well; she did everything she could think of to get away. She drank and she partied; she took some money and went south, coming back sun-kissed and lonely. She lost herself in men and the words that came out of her twisted like winter branches.
All of that running away eventually made her too exhausted to move. Doctors tried to help, but she could never quite explain what was happening: how the sadness was corroding her.
Things change. Over time, and with a lot of luck and determination, she surprises herself by stumbling into healthy: healthy love, healthy home, healthy body. She re-learns things like love and comes home to be closer to family, whatever that may be. Her days are softer now, infused with gold light.
She can feel every year before this one inside her body, it cracks open wider to contain everything.
She thinks: yes, this life is not what was planned. There are people missing and people who were unexpected; she is living proof of a checkered path leading into a sunny field. A life doesn’t promise anything except possibility and she is grateful that she survived to see it through this far.
She wakes up before the sun and makes tea and sits in her chair and writes.
Then her dog gets up and then they go outside together, to explore the world before anyone gets up. They see how it changes leaf by leaf, week to week.
This is how she makes sense of everything; this is how she breathes.
This is how she builds moments: quietly.
This is how she lives.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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