Three Down and Four Across

What are you like, underneath? When you peel it all away — yesterday’s jeans, tonight’s new shirt — what are you like?

My underneath sits so close to the surface, I don’t think it’s underneath at all.

What do you miss? When you’re window-watching the world, when you’re waiting for the light to change — what do you miss?

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I miss the house I grew up in. I miss my turret-room, the swirl-around stairs. I miss the laundry pile on the second floor, the boys on the third. I miss the four of us, fighting over Frosted Mini Wheats. I miss reading the backs of the boxes — Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. None of it killed us, did it? I miss my belly full.

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I miss my family. My family, pre-divorce, but also: my family, pre-girlfriends. Pre-boyfriends. They change things, don’t they?

But it’s not all bad. Sometimes it’s not bad at all. Sometimes it’s wonderful, when the dynamic changes. The girlfriends can turn out to be friends (your friends), and then you get to say snatch! And thank you, if you’re feeling gracious. And don’t be an idiot, okay? If you’re feeling little sister-y.

And then when it’s your turn, sometimes you get to see someone you love, standing shoulder to shoulder with someone else you love.

You get to see butter browning and eggs running; you get to see oil splattering and bacon shriveling. You get to see toast dinging, plates descending, forks stabbing. You get to stand in the doorway, and you get to feel so full. (You get to wipe up all the crumbs, too.)

You get the end seat, and the tiny tomato tart from yesterday. The one so good you nearly died. Flavor. (Do you remember me?)

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You get to wave their fingers away; you get to squeal HEYY, I SAID SMALL! You get to steal the section you wanted; you get to fill in Three Across and Four Down. You get to laugh with your mouth a little full; you get to leave your elbows on the table; you get to forget the napkin in your lap. You get to flick out your tongue and savor the butter, still shimmering.

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I miss this; I can’t tell you how much. It’s been so long. So long since I’ve felt anything. (Anything at all.)

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I miss looking in at these kitchen scenes. I miss living them. I miss the ordinary, the everyday — the kind of stuff you could pull from the heart of any number of houses — of homes — all over the world.

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I feel like my own kitchen scenes are sad.

The other day, for instance, there was salad. Good but not great.

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I ate it standing over the cutting board, leaning up against the marble counter. Cold. It was gone in fifteen minutes flat — fifteen minutes before I realized I’d forgotten to put on the CD I like. Or undo my apron, or take off my nametag, or free my hair (still tucked up in its hat). Fifteen minutes before I realized I’d, you know, forgotten to sit down. Like a civilized person.

There was ice cream, afterwards. Not what you’d call enough, but a start. A good start.

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Burnt sugar meets salty caramel, meets big scoop. That’s what I told Instagram, because there was no one else.

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I miss being known, more than anything. And I miss kissing, just kissing. I miss questions and answers and Crest toothpaste, all rolled into one. I must miss the hope, too. Fluttering and landing, before swelling so big, before lifting so high.

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I miss the highs. I want them in my kitchen, in my life. I am hungry for them. So hungry. Can you understand?

I don’t know that I need to try to recreate the ones I’ve had before. And I don’t know that I need them to be with boys.

I think I might need to make my new memories with girls — a whole bunch of girls. A whole house of girls, all hell-bent on cobbling together a home. All determined to fill that ever-expanding space that nobody seems to know quite what to do with. The one between the families we had, and the families we haven’t had quite yet.

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