I put the asparagus in the pan with the oil and taste the pasta for doneness, turn the heat off under tomorrow’s oatmeal. The grapefruit and baby carrots and apple are all assembled in their corner of my shelf of the refrigerator so that I won’t have to think very much as I am running out the door in the morning. I sit outside on the back porch with my dinner and a book and feel the solstice coming closer, the long light of the evening, my skirt around my knees. The neighbors on both sides of us are eating their dinners outside tonight too because you cannot waste a single minute of spring here, you must immerse yourself in it, get it under your fingernails before the clouds close down and it’s time for polarfleece again. I turn the page and fork up penne and the splintery wood slats against which I am leaning in the twilight whisper, “Don’t go.”
On the bus or in the car or on foot, I see mountains or water or some combination thereof. Rainier, iconographic, looms up in the distance and bellows “Where are you going?” The Cascades scintillate in the early morning and sigh “How can you?” The lake pushes and gleams and swells and asks me “Now? You’re going to leave now?”
The cloud room waits at the top of the stairs and is molded to my form and fashion, reflects the little bits of me that I have gathered over the years. There is my stuffed octopus and the photos of the five times I was a bridesmaid in my twenties. There are my two rows of black shoes and the dusty mirror in my closet. There is my blue and orange bed, there is the feather
boa hanging over the window, there are the tiny pictures I pasted on the wall with double-sided tape, there is the stained-glass heart over the door. There is the child-sized crown, made of stiff paper and fake pearls, that has hung in my various rooms over my various beds since I was ten. “How will you sleep out from under me?” it wonders.
My calendar fills up and I begin to get emails that say “Before you go,” and “While you’re still here.” I make lists and check dates and try to make time for everyone I want to see, everything I want to do, in my bright beautiful summer city. “Oh! Ha! I won’t be here!” I say with a smile and a shrug when someone mentions the fall burlesque class, or a winter wedding, or a bellydance performance opportunity next spring. My friends send me pictures of their sons and daughters and all I can think is that when I finally meet them they will be many years old and won’t know me at all. They’ll be walking and talking by the time I get back so I won’t get to hold them awkwardly and smell the tops of their heads. I won’t see my own sister for almost two years. There are no notes in the pages of my planner after August seventh. Every email that asks if we can get together next week for lunch maybe, each casual hug goodbye mutters “Where will you find people remotely this good on the other side of the world?”
It’s only a year, I keep telling myself. A year and a couple of months. Adventure, new experiences, stretching boundaries, all those things you’ve been wanting for so long, they’re almost here. You’re almost there. I think about compacting my life into a single bag, having no
address for a while, being possibly lonely for some of that time but definitely alone for much of that time. For how long, I think. For the entire year?
My pillowcase, fresh off the line in the backyard. My favorite window seat on the morning bus. The way I go from the FAGE 0% yogurt to dried fruits to hummus to the free sample/free cookies station to the bagged salads to the frozen spanakopita to the fizzy water with lemon to the tangerine sour Altoids at the University District Trader Joe’s. The bursting gardens on my walk down to the market, doing shimmy drills in Monday night dance class, lavender-frosted cupcakes, watching movies all squished up on the TV room recliner, the difficulty of backing out of our driveway into traffic, the ducklings at Green Lake, the names in my inbox, the books on my bookshelves, each couch in each house of each friend: all of them conspire to form a chorus of doubt, murmuring, “Stay, stay, stay, stay, stay, stay.”