On Wednesday, November ninth, I woke up at six a.m. and in the dim light, swiped through my phone to Facebook. News from the night before had not changed. I thought it would have changed.
I walked the few feet from my bed to my bathroom and peed while the fog of my dreams lifted. I stood up to brush my teeth and wondered what I’ll do if I ever need an abortion. Instead of reaching for my toothbrush, I gripped the counter and crumpled to a squat, crushed by the force of my sobs.
Eventually, I brushed my teeth. The sight of my puffy eyes and red face in the mirror threatened to propel me to further ugly crying. I didn’t look at myself again.
I tried not to wake the bird as I crept into the kitchen. We’d both been up late the night before, but if he didn’t get at least ten hours of sleep, he’d squawk all day and forget the rules about biting.
I poured the cat her breakfast. Pieces clanked into the metal bowl. I filled her water dish.
I wish I was a cat.
The bird quietly stirred. I adjusted the blinds to filter light in, to wake him gently and hopefully prevent the squawking. He wouldn’t get his ten hours.
I texted the man I stopped dating less than a week ago. I went to work.
I spent the next four hours grooming horses in ninety degree heat and getting yelled at by a woman I barely know. I drank a bottle of water. An orange Gatorade. A blue.
I didn’t think.
Before I drove home, I checked my phone for the first time in hours. The man I wasn’t dating hadn’t replied to my text from that morning, or from the day before, or to finish the conversation he had started days ago.
I projected my feelings of loss on him. If I could fix us, I’d feel better. The rest wouldn’t matter so much.
Instead, I spent the next half hour driving home and crying. Pressure in my forehead threatened to become a dehydration migraine. I tried not to cry too much.
My friend’s birthday party was that night. I knew about it for weeks. I imagined twice the celebration: her birthday and our new president. Or at the very worst, her birthday and an end of the world blow out.
I knew I’d go. I’d recover by then. I would rest my heart and watch TV for hours and be ready to smile and drink and celebrate her life.
Instead, I sunk further into my couch and finished the container of frosted sugar cookies from the supermarket. I didn’t want to stay inside, some lugubrious blob on the warm leather couch. I didn’t want to go outside, either. I couldn’t do anything.
I ordered pizza, even though I’d eaten so much sugar I didn’t think I’d ever be hungry again. But hypothetical pizza seemed like a good food to try and fill the sadness, since my cookies were gone and I wanted salty grease.
Not that anything mattered anyway.
My phone rang at exactly seven-thirty and I went to meet the delivery guy. Two men leaned against the wall surrounding my complex and I looked away when I walked by. Did they feel bolstered by the results, no longer subjected to common human decency? I’d read about too many acts of hatred that day.
I found the delivery driver around the corner–delivery guys always get confused around my apartment. He spoke with an unfamiliar accent. I wanted to ask him where he’s from, if he’s okay. I wanted to tell him I was sorry. I wanted to tell him that I’m with him. But I didn’t know him. I didn’t want to overstep. Instead, I looked him in the eye and said thank you. He hurried away.
I walked back down the sidewalk, hyper-aware that this time I wasn’t meeting anyone. No one expected me back home. And those two men were still standing near the gate.
I avoided eye contact again and pretended to focus all of my attention on retrieving my keys, stuck under the pizza box in my hand. My other hand clutched my wallet and plastic bag filled with side salad (a gesture of healthy eating, except it was iceberg lettuce) and tiramisu. I’d done that dance plenty of times before. This time I didn’t want to be stuck outside with my hands full, fiddling with a jangling clump of keys, any longer than I needed to be.
“Hey, want me to get the gate for you?” one strangers asked. I was still looking down and I noticed his baggy, black pants first, the kind with the same dangly straps that the emo kids wore in high school. His face is pale. None of my neighbors had ever offered to get the door for me. Most of them didn’t even hold it open behind them.
I almost said no. I almost had the key situation handled. But in that instant, a potential threat had become an ally.
“Sure! Thank you so much.” He’d already walked toward the gate, his own keys in hand. I knew far too few of my neighbors. I’d never even seen most of them.
He responded with something kind and friendly. For a moment, I was hopeful.
Back inside, I sank back into my couch.