Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A letter found after the raid

The food is fresh here, as is the air. There is a man in a tent, his name is Robert, and he makes shoes by hand. He gives them to everyone who needs them, which isn't many people during these warmer months when we all prefer to walk in bare feet. Robert has so many stories from his own Before, and he tells them, punctuated by the clang clang of his hammer. On my off days, I can often be found at the mouth of Robert's tent, listening and mesmerized.

Please do not be jealous. There is nothing romantic between Robert and I. My intent is not to send you these anecdotes that will make you itch with rage, but with gladness. I am finally happy. I have found a home, a peace that I could not locate out there. We are advised not to reach out to our Befores, as the human race is safest without the knowledge of time travel. What good is it to revisit? To potentially mar any more than what has already been done. But there is something I cannot shake, something - the only thing - that can distract me from Robert's stories or the quiet mornings alone in my tent, tracking the air's rise in temperature. The week before I left for good, you turned over in bed and said to me, "You are better than I ever could have expected." I could tell from the way you said it that you meant it as a compliment. You meant to say, "You are the best wife I could have ever hoped for," or "Thank you for all you do," or "You are an amazing woman." But as words are often the very obstacle to their own meaning, you did not. And I laid there, in our California King bed wondering if I was any better than I expected. If you were. If our children, our home, my job, our routine, our life was better than I ever could have expected. And it was the answer to those questions that led me here. I have found my home and, I hope, in my leaving, that you will, too. Thank you for stirring in me what had settled, for reminding me of what was down there, what had been, and what could be again.

Send the kids my love.

xo, Marla

Friday, September 9, 2011

Alice Here to Stay

Alice nibbles the edges of bread before abandoning them on the counter to become stale, shriveling inward and away from the atmosphere. She does not return the caps to things: toothpaste, milk, cologne, permanent markers. She is a motorboat of small scale destruction and I follow in her wake. When I am not sweeping, re-capping, or licking my finger to unsmudge surfaces, I am watching her, waiting for my next task.

It has not always been this way. I have not always been a hawk, Alice's messes have not always been my prey. When Eric died last month, I found myself living with new labels: Executor of Estate, Widow, Woman Who Cries on the Subway, Neighbor Who Cannot Afford Her Mortgage and Must Move. At first Alice offered to help me pack, help me move. She offered to buy pizza and beer for her husband and his bulky friends to get them to help as well. But then she showed up at my door, the For Sale sign in one hand, a kitschy quilted bag in the other.

"I don't mean to be insensitive," she said. "But I wish my husband were dead and not yours."

I moved aside to let her in, deciding whether or not to say aloud, "I wish that, too."