Like Nothing Happened
It would be better if we had different neighbors. These ones have been around too long. I babysat their children years ago but what they really know about me is that my default state is gone. Yet I have been back here for months now, avoiding eye contact, always wearing my brother’s XXL sweatpants that don’t hang off me the way they used to.
Sometimes I wonder if the neighbors think I am back because I am recovering from a breakdown. In that way, the neighbors might know more than my own parents. The sweatpants are comfortable and also too long. I help out by taking down the garbage barrels.
The bad haircut I got a few months ago is now the bad haircut I got a year ago, but I know better than to confuse time with progress, usually. I want to cope in my usual way — the nighttime way, the stranger way, when the smell of beer and cigarette smoke on the wrong man’s breath is enough to drop my stomach to my knees — I just can’t is all. Now body is just another word for barricade.
I’m hesitant when I drive. All those years of city living have left me feeling more vulnerable encased in metal, the balance of power swinging this way. I think about a program I watched when I was younger. About people who are terrified to get behind the wheel of a car because they think every bump and dip in the road is the jolt of hitting something, someone. I see darting shadows even in the light, a trick of the shadows or are my eyes seeing beyond my control. It all is. I pass a dented mailbox and wonder if it is my fault. Look in the rearview mirror to be sure the cyclist is still upright. I understand the old man on the show muttering that was definitely a body over what someone else would call nothing.
That’s a lie; I didn’t watch it. My sister just told me about it. And all these years later I am still shaken by those people who still hit the gas and go, despite the wreckage they believe they will cause along the way.
Amy Rossi is the managing editor of Split Lip Magazine. Her work has recently appeared in Wigleaf, matchbook, and Synaesthesia Magazine. Find out more at amyrossi.com.