I’m sitting in a dark corner at a New Jersey Panera. Don’t ask me how I got here, but here I am.
I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m doing it my way. I’m writing every day and keeping a word count, but I’m not barreling towards 50,000. I don’t even think I have 50k words IN me right now. I want to sit in the quiet. I want to be left alone. I feel flinchy and exposed, but also as if the world is coming through a layer of vaseline. Muted and distant.
The sky is beautiful today; the late afternoon light is fading. It’s warm and unseasonal. The leaves are way past their peak; they’re getting in their winter look. I yearn to stay focused. Get my job done and do it well. Eat healthily. See friends. DO things.
But,today, I’m just trying to write few words and to look up, really look up, and around. The details matter, I tell my students. So I look for them.
The girl in the plaid school uniform keeps sneaking looks at the menu. She wants food, but her friend is mid soccer-boy story. The middle-aged woman wiping tables chews gum, but her mouth is crooked, like she’s storing it in her cheek. People come in two by two.
I want to cry, but I can’t quite get there. I’m the same age she was when she died. I’m going to pass her, probably. Will she still be my older sister, when she’s always and forever 47?
I don’t want the holidays to be sad. I can’t bear to be the sad girl again. But I can’t hold the happiness. It overflows its tiny container, and I try to chase it, but I drop the rest.