This morning, I wake up angry. This is not a common occurrence – usually, the frustration builds through the day, the anger kept at a slow simmer. I wake from a dream that troubles me:
I am standing on top of a tall building. It is taller than all the buildings around it. It is eerily quiet. I walk to the edge, look down. It is almost too far down to see. I think about what it must be like to walk from a rooftop. To decide that this is the way – after all – it is to end. With falling. Not yet fallen, but about to fall.
As I stand there at the edge, contemplate the fear of falling, I lose my footing. And now I am falling. The fall is so fast but from such a great height that I have time to find my voice and to scream. In my dream, I can hear the sound of my voice – high-pitched, fearful, but filled with rage, too. It seems I may fall this way, screaming, forever without stopping.
I wake and my head is pounding.
After the reading the other night, a young man talks to me about his writing. The skin on his face is so smooth, so untouched that it makes me want to cry. He asks me about graduate school, about the writing program, the faculty. He asks me what I am working on now. I hear myself telling him, yes, I am writing again after a long time of not writing. He writes some things down in a little notebook while I speak.
Two blocks from my house, a squirrel lies dead on the sidewalk. There is no blood visible, just the small animal curled on its side. I think about calling someone, but I don’t know who to call.
We drive to the grocery store. The clouds are high and gray. There is a chance of rain today, and I am hoping for it, willing it. We are all a bit out of sorts today. We ride in silence.
The hours pass. I put the groceries away. I load the dishwasher, sort the laundry. I pile the recycling into its bin. I peel carrots, potatoes. Chop onions and celery. I will make soup today and lentils. And roast vegetables for the week. I fold laundry. Unload the dishwasher. Put the kettle on for tea. My head is pounding. I think about falling. I think about the squirrel dead on the sidewalk. I think about the boy at the reading with his little notebook.
Not yet fallen but about to fall.
The kitchen table is piled high with the things I have not yet read. The New Yorker (4 issues). Harper’s (2 issues). The New York Review of Books (3 issues). The Sunday New York Times (today’s and the book review from last week). A newspaper called Korean Quarterly. A magazine called “More” that was sent to me as a gift (“for women of style and substance,” which here, loosely translated = over forty). I want to set the whole fucking thing on fire.
My head is pounding.
I follow the link to the film about Korean adoptees. I start to watch it, but have to stop. The tears come fast and unexpectedly. I go back downstairs for the laundry.
Here’s the thing: I want to re-write history. I want to change things I cannot change. I want to have things I cannot have. And like a child on the ground, kicking his legs and pounding his furious fists, I want it now.
Many years ago, when I was still married to B., we were in DC at his parents’ house. I was looking for work at the time. His father was in finance and wanted to get me a job at the local office of his firm. I had protested, said I wanted to do something related to what I had studied, something that I was interested in, felt passion for. He eyed me coolly and explained that many people ended up doing things that they hadn’t planned on doing, but they do them because life is filled with difficult choices.
“I am not yet ready,” I said, “to make those choices.”
We were sitting at their dining table – a long plate of thick glass atop curved steel legs. The walls were bone white and unadorned. The wood floors were polished and bare. For several long moments, we did not speak.
He stood up. I thought he was leaving the room. Instead, he came around to the side of the table where I was sitting, stood a few feet away from me, his arms folded across his chest.
“I know you are struggling. I’ve been where you are. Sometimes, when I feel like that, I do a small task – like polishing my shoes, or pressing my pants. I do that, and it makes me feel better. To have done something. It’s just a little thing, but something.”
I sat there, listening to the sound of his footsteps – slow and deliberate – as he left the room.
I drag the last of the baskets of laundry upstairs from the basement, dump it out on the bed. I make piles for each of us, fold the things that can be folded, make a separate pile for things to be hung. I roll the socks into matched pairs.
Back downstairs, the soup is simmering. A few cupfuls at a time into the blender, then back into the warm pot. I bring the puree just to a boil, add the kale. Cover it.
I start on the lentils.
I go back to watch the movie excerpt. This time, I get through it without weeping. It hasn’t rained all day, but evening is coming.
Come quickly, nightfall.