How closely our lives drift past other lives; how narrowly we become ourselves and not some adjacent other, someone both near at hand and much too far away.
— Catherine Lacey
I find a mentor who stays. When my own mother disappears, she becomes another mother. She never tells me I have to choose between my art and my partner. She never says, over a second glass of wine, If you really believed you had anything to say, then you would have written it. She is not the reason I stop writing for three years. When I am lost in a draft—because in this version, I write every morning, I have no trouble going to the page—she picks up my call. She asks just the question I need to hear. She is not easy with me. She tells me when the work could be better. When she dies and her body is cremated, I go along to scatter the ashes. I cry like I’ve lost family, because I have.
We buy the house in Belgium, my lover and I. He writes songs upstairs while I paint the walls blue. The ceiling, too. In the mornings we throw out feed for the chickens, and at night we eat popcorn in candlelight. Everything is romantic. We have three children and every night we lullaby them to sleep. Even when they are too old for lullabies, they ask us to sing. When our children have children, they come home for the holidays. We don’t even have to ask. He never leaves me. We grow old in the countryside. We die happy and fat.
I do not fear rejection. I do not lie. I do not suffer from uncertainty.
In this one, I get to live in New York. I fall madly, deeply in love three times every year. I am crazy about love. I am never afraid to write about the heartbreak, and in fact, I get a book deal out of it. I dedicate the manuscript to my therapist and my father. I have more friends than I’ve ever dreamed of and they throw the biggest, most beautiful launch party you have ever seen. Glitter is everywhere. I invite all of my ex-lovers, and I kiss them each, once on each cheek. I say thank you. This is all I’ve ever wanted.
The Toyota is never totaled, but it breaks down 20 miles outside Gunnison, Colorado where the backcountry stretches to meet the bluest sky. I fall for the western landscape, and I fall for Cory who pours drinks at the hotel lodge. I buy a pair of cowboy boots and we have a daughter. I name her Milla. We spend every Thanksgiving with Cory’s mother, Claudette, until Cory leaves us, just gets in the car and goes. I get a job at the hotel lodge and rent a double-wide for Milla and me. We live next to the Colorado River, where horses graze on the tall grass. We call them our own. Claudette brings us plastic pink flamingoes for the garden, to make it feel more like home. At night, I stroke the summer sweat from Milla’s hair. I tell her she’s the only thing I’ve ever loved.
My father runs a 5k every morning. He is not addicted to anything. I do not ever think of him dying. When I ask him to come visit, he says he already has a ticket for next month. He wanted it to be a surprise.
The apartment I live in is filled with light. Floor to ceiling windows, twelve feet high. I buy two new plants every week and none of them die. I am alone and happy; all of it is my choice. I am an incredible cook. All of my friends live nearby, and on Fridays they come for dinner. They ask for seconds. We are 25 forever, unbothered, trading in laughter and unearned advice. I don’t think twice about these friends who I love, and who love me back in equal measure. We look around the table, bury our good fortune down into our bellies.
I have brown eyes. No one ever tells me their life story. No sordid, lonely details. No one ever says that I make them feel safe, like they can tell me anything, that my eyes are bluer than any blue they’ve ever seen.
I am formless and floating, a nebulous nothing. My mother marries a man she loves. My mother is loved.