No Question Mark

It feels so good to laugh. Laughing is up there with snow days when you are six. Indian summer when you are sad. (And alarmingly pale, already.)

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A good laugh is up there with twin slabs of homemade lasagna, one for here and one already Tupperwared-to-go, when you’re twentysomething. Or whenever noodles + cheese + tomato sauce starts to sound like a few too many i-n-g verbs, all in a row.

Salting.

Boiling.

Draining.

Grating.

Heating.

Whisking.

Pouring.

Stirring. (Sampling!)

Chopping.

Cooking.

Seasoning. (Sampling, Part II!)

Layering.

Spooning.

Spreading.

Sprinkling. (Aggressive sprinkling, if adding an adjective won’t throw us all off. Yes? Okay. Let’s go with dumping, then. Day-depending, this part could look a lot like dumping.)

Repeating.

Baking. 

General assembly, my foot. General assembly is all of the above, plus dishwashing. A lot of dishwashing. (And hand washing — dammit.)

We were talking about laughing though, weren’t we? How good it feels to laugh. Last night I made meatballs — no-recipe, one-pot meatballs, thank you very much — and I laughed and laughed.

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The light was bad but everything in the skillet was good. I felt good. Normal. Happy, even. I watched the sun go down (while scorching my tongue, eating straight from the skillet), and I thought oh, how beautiful. Look, how beautiful.

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I’d forgotten, how beautiful. (But: gotcha!)

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It was like fire unfurling across the sky. It was like everything the poets say better (best), until it almost hurt to look, it was so bright.

This morning I woke up scanning for flickers of my former spark. Found none.

It’s a maddeningly long way back down. Back to the bottom. That’s what I found — am finding.

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When things feel bad — really, really bad — I alternate between sitting with that feeling and shoving it away. I can’t decide which way is better.

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Bad feels better in the woods — I have determined that.

But I am tired of feeling badly. I am so tired. I am tired of fighting, and it is all a fight.

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It is hard to sit still. Hard not to fidget.

Time to go ahead and think of happier times, I think. Happier times, when just a quick fix would do, on a down day. An hour alone, a good night’s sleep, a new book, a piece of pie.

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I think of those things, some of my favorite things, and I automatically think of the person who was One Big Happier Time.

This is not 100% true, of course. But for a minute, I just want to remember him that way.

I liked the way he smelled, straight from sleep. I liked to bury my head in his neck and breathe. It was so warm, that spot, and it smelled so good. Like aftershave, like deodorant, like a simple bar soap. Spicy, sweet. Maybe not so simple, after all. It smelled like the toothpaste I still won’t buy, along with something I haven’t smelled since. Something just uniquely his, I guess. But it was mine too, once.

I think of all of the mornings I wished would never, ever end. All the mornings he made better. Infinitely better. How many mornings? How many mornings did I spend cocooned in jersey-soft sheets, kissing every warm spot within reach? How many times did I say I love you. I love you, no question mark.

How many times did we say it out loud, how many times did we say it in our heads. I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you. Four knuckles, four kisses. I love you so damn much.

And then I think of all the mornings I wished he were gone, wished he would go. Wished I could run. I think of the I love yous, fewer and fewer of them, fading in frequency. I think of his voice. Can’t remember it.

It’s not his voice I hear now. It’s someone else’s. This voice belongs to someone I don’t know — someone who can’t hug me. This is the hardest thing you will ever do, she says.

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I nod, and the tears that have been threatening spill over. Stream down my cheeks.

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