In the Months of Quiet and Chaos

She moves home to a room that is at once familiar and foreign. She sits with her old selves at the white desk that once held her as she cried over big things that felt small, and small things that felt big. She looks out the window that she used to think held the whole world. Her roommates are no longer exaggerated reflections of herself, but the people she chooses to sit next to on the couch.

She walks cracked streets with an old friend who shares her memories from a different angle. He makes her laugh and she gives him TV shows to watch and together they think that perhaps these months won’t be forever. There’s no such thing as missing out, he says. This is what we’ve got.

She says goodbye to a part of herself in a small, bright apartment. Her arms are wrapped around familiar, wrinkled shoulders, holding the hum of a warm exhale on her neck. Don’t breathe. Just stay here. She sits, and she laughs, and the lining of her throat feels thick, and her skin sweats beneath the thin plastic of transparent gloves. She pulls her mask down to her throat so that her lips can speak clearly, just this last time, just this small rebellion. We love you. I love you. A mouth that can be read.

She loses herself in other stories, beneath blankets and rainstorms and the soft cotton of her favorite sweatshirt. The stories are grey and green, with a low tenor that sits just beneath her breastbone. They sound like the ocean behind a brick wall. They feel like the older versions of herself that sit beside her in her familiar hotel room.

She finds a sacred numbness in the pockets of the cloudy afternoon. Her mind has slowed to a stop, and she doesn’t want it to start again – not with the air outside, not with her favorite words, not with familiar voices reaching through her phone. She is quiet and she is empty and she is relieved. For just a little while, she is not here, not here, not here.

And then she is – here, again. Watching the flowers bloom outside the window that used to hold the world. Finding the stories of her old selves in the drawers of the white desk. She watches herself build herself, through fear and hope and the weight of beliefs that were not quite hers. She arrives inside the voice that she hears now. She listens.

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