Rent-Free Living

Here is something I often forget: people only see what you let them see. They see the black sweater that you’re wearing, but they probably haven’t gathered that you’re really worried about sweating violently if the temperature climbs AT ALL.


They see the smile that is or is not there, but chances are they haven’t guessed that if they said just the right/wrong thing, you would come dangerously close to completely unraveling at the seams.

People might know that you practice Sunday pancakes, but they probably don’t know that while you’re adding the wet ingredients to the dry, you’re often questioning where you’re living, who you’re spending time with, where you’re going, and just generally: what you’re doing.


They don’t know that you have a mean girl living rent-free inside your head. That she’s particularly nasty when butter is in the room. And that you’d almost evicted her (really, you had!), but you’re a little afraid she might be making herself at home again. You had this thought when you quickly and quietly threw out the toast you really, really wanted. With sawdust in your throat. Did you arrange some trash on top for good measure? We can keep that between us.


Nobody will know that six days of out seven you feel like a crazy person for feeling so up and then so down, unless you tell them. And nobody new will know what you were like in high school, or that you spent four years desperately trying to like college. Or how you are half-liking becoming an adult, but about once a week you just want to curl up on an actual mattress and call your mom.

Nobody will know that you mostly want someone in your life to help you untangle the plastic wrap, and take the giblets out of the roast chicken, and hold up the other end of the pot while you scrape.


Nobody will know that you’re trying to be open about letting in somebody else — you really are — but it’s exhausting to think about beginning from the beginning. That the whole thing — right down to the leg-shaving and eyebrow-plucking and hair-straightening — kind of makes you want to take a nap. And while you’re dozing, in that place between awake and not awake, you’re wondering if he’s calling her the same things he once called you. If they’re doing the things you two used to do. Your things.

My grandma once told me, not unkindly, that nobody is wondering all these things about you because they’re so worried about themselves. This is comforting, I think. Warm coffee is too. With cream!



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