Shelf Life

Circling the block for the thousandth time, I pay close attention to my thick boots hitting the frozen pavement. The sounds of outdoor things are so much clearer, sharper, in the winter but I couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps it’s the way the blackened trees can only stand skeletal against the white clouded January sky, motionless and without sound. The way the air stiffens your face to glass.

The hour is earlier than it should be but I have stopped imposing the world’s way of keeping time onto my own. These days my body tells me what it needs and I listen. When she is tired I put her to sleep. Even if it’s nine p.m. Even if it’s eight. When she is wide awake with wild dreams, thoughts, ideas, words scratching at her little morning bed head, I let her get up and drink coffee and write to her heart’s content. Even if it’s five a.m. on a weekend. Even if it’s four.

The heavens blush a rosy peach as I tug my wool hat down over my ears. For a few minutes, the coffee slides down my throat and warms almost every bone in my frail frame. In the silence I can hear the clatter of my own radical hopes and my own desperate fears as they battle it out someplace inbetween reality and illusion. It’s all in the mind but then sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s right in front of you, as tangible as a loaded gun pointed right at your brains. When you have been lying to yourself for a long, long time about what is saving you and what is ending you, it can be surprisingly hard and unexpectedly painful to try to separate the two.

Sometimes the very thing I want the most feels so exhilarating that it pangs in my stomach like a terrible sickening dread. Sometimes I think I should turn back and undo it all but I fix my eyes on a flock of geese soaring high overhead. I snuggle my empty hands into my pockets, put one foot in front of the other, and walk one day at a time instead.

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