by Stephanie Hartley
“She wants to know if I love her, that’s all anyone wants from anyone else, not love itself but the knowledge that love is there, like new batteries in the flashlight in the emergency kit in the hall closet.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
She mixes patience into her coffee and
contemplates the difference between a Tuesday in August
and Saturday in fall.
She spends a red light watching the woman in the right lane smoke confidence.
She rolls up her sleeves and greets her students with the plastic white wastebasket she uses to collect the apathy vibrating in their pockets.
She picks off dread that settled on her lunch bag and paints her desk grey to remind herself that pure anything
is a lie.
The kitchen is the worst room in the house.
She avoids it:
It isn’t her kitchen.
The room rejects her, does not favor her attention,
and tattles like a younger sibling.
She misses her teapot on the stove,
and hates finding the dishes she put away earlier moved elsewhere in the cabinets.
She misses listening to The Big Bang Theory on the living room TV
and cooking pasta, drinking a beer, pleased with herself.
She misses using her over sized French café scene plates
and the top shelves abandoned because everything is stowed within her reach.
She misses staring blankly into the pantry next to the refrigerator.
and hearing the breeze flutter the blinds from the balcony into her bedroom.
She forgets to water the hanging plants on the porch,
but the sunflowers on the dining room table glow
and the cactus in the window sigh.
Her library breathes.
Her kitchen measures time with a red spoon,
an inhale and exhale.
Bad day remedies in the spice rack,
closeness in the mason jars; perspective in the straws.
Wonder steams from the stove pot
and angst swept out the back door.
She eyes the carpet,
with decision she snaps her fingers and the floor cracks,
thin tributaries spread till the uneven smudges and stains are just part of a scorched desert landscape.
She leans forward and with a deep breath blows all the pieces into a cloud
that fills the room.
She straightens. Pushing her arms out against her breath
And the walls fade.
She’s thinking about Wild Things
She tosses clothes in a pile
on the closet floor:
An island of discarded evenings out, and mornings smoking on the back porch.
She chooses her thoughts from a dresser by her bed,
and her mood from a drawer in her nightstand.
With intention she sorts her limbs into order,
deciding what still suits her and what she’ll donate.
She does this everyday.
Once a season the pile leaves to live elsewhere and she curls her toes over its empty spot on the floor.
On Mondays she writes
before filling the bathtub beyond the drain with hot salty water.
On these days she makes soup and sips scotch;
she reads and goes to bed early.
She forgets how much she loves the dining room’s green painted walls,
until she is standing in the forgotten hallway connecting bedrooms to the rest of the house;
wondering why this small, vastly important room is different from the others.
It’s unpainted; there’s dust clinging to the shadowed edges and corner.
She looks at her hand on the wall, a forgotten amount of time.
With clear tape and a sharpie on the back of a Christmas card from Colorado envelope she fixes the problem:
“Temporary is a myth we tell ourselves”
The sheets snore.
Lulled in the ocean’s rumbling waves,
miles from the bedroom door,
she rolls over, a hand under her cheek against the pillow.
Nana taught her to quilt,
as her grandmother taught her
and as she will teach her granddaughter.
Nana taught her the rules,
straight lines and symmetry,
as she will too
But her needle drifts
Nana understands but with pursed lips
She stops following all the old patterns.
She closes her eyes and feels her way through the fabric.
The thread moves with the needle, spools of dark against her arm and
elopes to the couch then curtains.
A new layer is sewn to the wallpaper and the carpet;
It drapes through the foyer and in the grass outside.
She’s stitching an echo of her grandmother’s exigency,
feeling the thread within her arm flowing like her own blood:
The lives of grandmothers and grandmothers
and mothers and mothers
to daughters and daughters
to granddaughters and granddaughters
a tattoo to house their love
If you asked her what happily ever after is like,
she would ask you
“If everyday is perfect
and your partner is flawless,
how would you know it? And could you care, deeply, for it?”
About the painter: Eric Sorensen is a medical student and artist who loves painting, drawing, and photography. After college he studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. Eric enjoys both figurative and abstract work. Image: Painting, acrylic on panel (2014), part of a series exploring synchronous color palettes and the geometry of flat shapes abutting clean boundaries.