So here you are. 6:34 a.m., reading important emails in the bathroom, birds chirp-chirping outside the window, waking up with the world. No. Wait. Here you are. 12:48 p.m., waiting for the eggs to reach room temperature, wondering how you’re going to keep these impossible ants out of the cake batter when you’re not looking, oh damn it, hold on. This is you, here, 2:18 p.m. Birthday cake in the oven, thunder banging around outside in that empty aimless way you feel down the insides of your thighs, smelling like vanilla and pondering parallel universes while hand washing the mixing bowls.
I once heard someone say that there is no such thing as fiction, only non-fiction that has been written in the wrong universe, and if that’s true, then there are multiple autobiographies of us out there in the expanse of intersecting invisible worlds. That means that
somewhere, you knelt before the altar often enough that you finally got up and left all your freedom behind, there between the boxes of tissues and the wood salted over by thousands of teardrops. You married one of those four boys and let your hair stay long and curly and baptized your babies on a Sunday morning, the different pieces of Jesus casting colors on their brows, reborn under rainbows. You only listen to country and Christian and you have a cross tattoo on your ankle. You finished nursing school and you work three twelve hour shifts every week; as soon as the weather turns warm enough, you live on the river, floating down the Mississippi, dreams slipping past your fingers in the muddy water, but mostly you’re content so you never try to catch them, all those bottled up old wishes that wash out into the ocean.
somewhere, you never left New York and you never left him and you didn’t willingly walk away from the haunting — you just unzipped your skin and let all those ghosts come right in. You could never scrub the smell of ashes out from your hair and you learned to live with the reminder of how close sixteen blocks is from death falling out of a clear blue morning. You don’t cry when you find a nest of baby mice in your closet anymore, when you move the Christmas stockings and unsettle a colony of cockroaches, because your bones burned up and your body is a desert wasteland that can’t spare the moisture, your root system collapsed in on itself like one hundred and four stories. You walk five blocks for the D train and don’t speak to anyone on your way into work, you walk five blocks home and barely hear the old men outside the bodega stroke your body with mongrel words; you write books in your head as you look out at the window lives of the people who don’t eat cereal for dinner, and on the nights the dogs won’t settle down, you imagine there are spirits more restless than yours in the room with you, and scoot over to make space for them beside you.
somewhere, you ran the car off the road, you didn’t drink too much and wake up to his insistent hips behind you, you learned a lot sooner that it isn’t noble to have an unguarded heart but sheer stupidity and you locked that shit down, you lost yourself in the cloud of her honeysuckle hair and touched her blackberry lips back when it still wouldn’t have mattered but might have meant something anyway, you never stopped asking for forgiveness for the sin of possessing a human heart, you didn’t tell him you hated him, you stayed here instead of going there, you didn’t write to him, you didn’t get drunk and tell him you loved him with your face half hidden under a pillow, you planted your heart inside a beanstalk and made your home in the loneliest corner of heaven.
All of those somewheres, none of them here, here at 9:23 p.m., listening to the soundtrack of lives that never happened, notes made up of sweet nostalgia and bitter relief. Here at 9:32 p.m., minutes disappearing like dust in the sunlight, fingers still — a, s, d, m, k, l — summoning up the words, a spell for forgiveness-clarity-forgetting-grace, a tribute of sounds under the beginnings of a blood moon. She is two today, and learned how to say “rain.” His freckles are one-third of a universe. I will go to sleep tonight with my lips just past the place his hair meets skin, breathing in his day, the solid shape of his back a promise against the springtime softness of my belly. It is unseasonably cold, and the rain smells like everything green, and I will dream of growing things deep underground. A hundred somewheres, a thousand, but this is the one I would pick, every time. Every time.