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Late December 2020

Everything that was broken has

forgotten its brokenness. I live

now in a sky-house, through every

window the sun…

Mary Oliver

I sit in the bathtub and turn on and off the faucet with my big toe. In our two bedroom apartment, the bathroom next to the front door has a tub bottom to the shower, long enough for me to sit if I scooch up against the tile wall. I try to relax. Breathe floral notes rising from pastel water and think, this is okay. This is right.

I fit.

As I’ve done before teetering on the invisible fence of despair, only half-knowing, I pick up Mary Oliver’s poetry. Felicity. A small-spine gospel I’ve clung to since my sister gifted it one Christmas. Like someone spinning around blind-folded and pointing to a map, I open her pages. Scan the first line.

The poem goes on and I am naked and known by one who will never see or know me. Who, nonetheless, observes I am broken. Broken how wild things are taught to carry others on their back. Flickering on a dim, dimming, part of my soul that believes I could be less broken than this.

But only if I leave what I’m afraid to miss. Walk out of the bullpen I’ve come to adore, or at least fashion into home. Tree-lined street. Tall windows and doormen. A group of friends — or more accurately — a social calendar. Cocktail habits and bright light weekends. Planning that Paris tip. Lingering at ring displays on his arm. And a corner of the universe carved for me, more deeply every day, by the needling river of time and expectation. Carved by a blade like love. Bloodletted.

I feel in my fibers something pulling, and I don’t know where to. How to start. If I can. The familiar dread of ambivalence; everywhere and no where as home, everyone and no one for me. A belongingless belonging to a world who has showed me as much kindness as it has indifference. Which, to be plain, is a much gentler cruelty than most have known.

I sit in the tub, alienated, most of all from myself. And her poem falls like a slant of light, through an open shade, from somewhere else.

I sit in the poem, in the tub, trying to remember to breathe. Reading her lines again and again. My spirit waking up and peering over my shoulder at the mention of “sky-house.” Stirred by the idea of home under the sky, and a life spent searching that sky.

I feel without words. Groundswell in a parched heart, needing to be tended. Left instead. Adventure that hadn’t come. Youth growing soft on a shelf. Those sunrises I meant to wake for. The table of life guarded by doubt and practicality. And me, surrounded by such beautiful trappings, and trapped.

The bathtub prayer I didn’t know I was praying would be answered by a global pandemic. I dearly wish I could write anything else. The cataclysmic moment the world stopped turning, the door swung open and I slipped away.

What came next was born partly of good fortune, good sense, and most honestly, from a breathless claim to my existence. When I let the animal of my body off the leash. Answered the call, long echoing through me, to go somewhere I don’t know I’m going.