May 29, 2012


The 7 trains runs above ground. The boxes in the basement hold my goodbyes, mostly. Let go. I repeat it accidentally or automatically.

"Do you want to stop at Starbucks for the ride in?"
"Sure, I haven't had a coffee yet today."
"I'll turn up here instead of at the light, we hardly take this road."
"I know, it's been a while."

I can cry, tears pooling and spilling, without my voice wavering. Trained, practiced. From the years when.

It had been a long time since I last cried. I can count the occasions in the past year and a half: a tear-shed move to dc and a late night whimper about a boy. After tear-stained years, I marvel at dry eyes. Who knew I could achieve this? If this is an acheivement.

Early morning, sweat-drenched trek, bus ride north, flu/cold/alergy change of plans, subway letters and numbers and transfers, neighborhoods without. An unexpected search for Whole Foods, reference to undergrad admissions, orientation, student ID, I've regressed, time folds in on itself. I'm twenty-eight, I'm twenty-five, I'm eighteen. The moon through the bedroom window. Her drawing of our portrait, once on my wall. The framed pact we made in fourth grade, "I promise to be best friends..." I'm sixteen, I'm fourteen, I'm nine. There's a storage unit waiting for my memories, waiting for my winter clothing. She's leaving too, the last of us. The house walls promise to keep better watch over the next family. I find Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Freshman year summer reading.

"Ms. Independent." He hurls it at me, a quarterback in another life with a strong arm. It weighs on me now. That word. I've had to be. I am. I'd have to come undone, unravel myself, to pull it out, to set it aside. I would have to fall apart. But without it, I wouldn't know how to put myself back together. The pep talks I once had memorized have vanished; I grasp at the malnourished and slippery mantra, "I can do this." Empty and vacant but still there.

The return train pulls into Grand Central; I wait for the car to empty before I reach up for my backpack on the overhead shelf. "Let me help." He reaches up, grabs my bag, and places it next to me on the seat before he finishes the sentence. I look up to say thank you. He's waiting for my eyes to meet his, my smile to meet his. It does, they do, I do, and he's gone before I can form the words. My backpack waiting for me and suddenly a bit lighter.

The blankets aren't packed. My car battery is dead. I have two flat tires. Soon, it will no longer be mine. Any of it. Soon, I'll claim a seat on the subway, a view the skyline, the corner of a bedroom, and I'll begin again.

Romantic notions, really: beginnings, dreams, independence, home. They're tangled and heavy, too.

But there is always someone who sees me. Who knows not to trust my voice, to look for the tears. Someone who knows to reach for my bag before I can protest, before I know what is happening. Someone who lets me come undone, who lets me put myself back together. Someone who believes in romantic notions too: beginnings, dreams, independence, home. They're tangled and heavy lifelines. We hold on to them together.


  1. Oh how I love you. And your writing.
    I am so grateful for both.

  2. goodness Em....this was wonderful

  3. Beautiful writing, as always Emily! Somehow all of your writing brings a tear to my eye
    <3 Kiersten

    1. Thank you, Kiersten. That means a lot to me!