It feels like it should be raining. I can’t quite explain why. In novels and films, there would be a constant pattering against my windows. Shadows would be long and strange. Maybe the rain is a baptism, maybe it’s the tears the protagonist won’t cry. If it was an artsy film, there would be no musical score to emphasize how the character is alone with her thoughts, her head as muddled and cloudy as the sky. In the darkness, she would have a small candle. The tiny flame would flicker, and the camera would linger on it, perhaps with a slow pan back up to the character’s face. Fragile hopes and dreams providing her only light and warmth in a dim and unwelcoming world.
I’m not sure what box my candles are in and, in spite of the urge, I’m not going to hunt for them. Bright sunlight lets itself in, sidestepping the vertical blinds. Two of the panels are broken. I hadn’t noticed during the walkthrough. Outside, there are children shrieking, and a dog barking, and cicadas screaming, and a lawnmower dutifully purring along. I’m sitting in the middle of the living room, on the floor, eating a doughnut off a paper towel. Boxes line the walls, but not enough to suggest that I might be an established adult. No, it’s a lifetime of collected meaningful things, and it wouldn’t fill this apartment if I tried.
Furniture will help. Kelsey is going to take me around in her brother’s truck tomorrow and we’re going to raid every Goodwill in town. She came by yesterday and helped me and Cousin James and my co-worker Rachel get all the boxes up way too many stairs. They didn’t eat as many doughnuts as I thought they would. I’m grateful for my slightly stale doughnuts today, but all the sugar and carbs in the world don’t add up to a latte, and the fried, frosted thing doesn’t give me the energy to get to work. I should at least rearrange some things. The WiFi guy is supposed to set me up before three. The microwave says it’s noon, but it’s closer to eleven. Still morning.
A very active Saturday morning for the apartment complex. For some reason I thought I might try and meet my neighbors today. But, no, I’m still relishing the walls between us and that these walls are, in some capacity, mine. I sit in the middle of the room as if they’re all going to collapse in on me. Like this is too good to be true, or as some kind of punishment for what I’ve done. Like the walls are cardboard and they’re about to get pulled away and a film crew is going to shout, “Surprise!! You’re on reality TV!”
Or like it’s a blanket over a pillow fort that my parents are going to rip away and cry, “What have you been doing? Have you lost your mind?”
I want to make an inspirational post on Facebook. I want to scream to the world that I finally did it and I’m not sorry and I’m stronger now than ever before. I want to plaster my real blank walls on the fake and empty walls of social media. I want to post a selfie with lipstick and Starbucks and yoga pants, grinning because I am a fighter and I love life. I want to take a picture now of my oversized t-shirt and jean shorts, me on the carpet and my sad doughnut and my blotchy, sunburned face. I want to tread the lines between Bravado and Vulnerability.
Kelsey sent me a text over an hour ago asking if I’m awake, how sore my arms are, and if I’m feeling okay. Eventually I’ll respond, lying that “Oh, I just got up, I’m just so tired from yesterday, you know?” And I’ll want her to offer to bring me a coffee but I won’t ask her to. She’s already done so much for me. I don’t know that I deserve her.
I should be doing something productive. I’m nervous, like I’m about to be caught. I feel like I’m at work and have taken an extra five minutes on my break and my supervisor is going to come look for me. I feel like my mother is going to sneak up behind me and ask what I’ve been doing all day and why isn’t my hair brushed and don’t I know how much needs to get done and how hard she works?
I think I might be slipping into a kind of madness. I was so numb yesterday. I still haven’t felt a real emotion. It’s all a malaise of happysad melancholy, cautious optimism, guilt, hurt, pride, and righteous anger. I’m afraid my phone is going to buzz and it’ll be my parents, that somehow they got my new number. I wouldn’t know how to defend myself. All I could do is feebly assert that I’m only an innocent bystander of my own life. I didn’t hurt them. I lacked the agency to do so. They dragged me around until the only logical turn for the narrative was for the puppet to make a break for freedom.
It’s sick, how I want their approval. I want them to look at this sad, sorry little accomplishment－this apartment－and give it a right to exist. Like none of this is real until they take responsibility for it, because they can make it all go away if they think it’s mine.
This doesn’t feel like the triumphant end to a family drama. It feels like the beginning of an indie film and I don’t know the script. I don’t know if this is a film about the folly of independence and youth, or a bildungsroman where I self-actualize and find myself. Is this my Hero’s Journey, or my Tragic Fall?
Either way, production ought to have provided better doughnuts for the cast.