I Would if I Could

IMG_0445A house on the beach where it’s always warm. Sand that clings to the folds of my skirt and the points of my collarbone. It’s too small a town to own a car, so I ride a bike instead. It has a milk crate strapped to the back so I can carry my groceries. I write copy for businesses and advertisers to pay the bills and it’s boring most of the time, occasionally soul sucking but I get to work from home on my back porch. I get to start at 10 in the morning, after a long swim and a light breakfast. There’s a small market down the street and I go almost everyday to get stuff for dinner – tonight it’s lemon potatoes over salad greens.


In 9th grade I had a truly terrible year – bad teachers, lost friends, long quiet days where I hardly spoke to anyone. I was always cold and I was always sad and I needed to get out so my parents put me in private school for the rest of high school. I had to try to get good grades, but there were also a lot more opportunities. I had my first internship at the State Department because of a contact with my school’s board of directors. And now, well, I can’t really get into what I do, you know. Security clearances and all.


We met when I was studying abroad. He worked at the Starbucks next to the grocery store, lived a few blocks from my dorm. Right before Christmas he broke my heart – a dark bar that still smelled like smoke even though no one had smoked in there in years. He was drinking a beer and she kept stealing sips from it, leaving her lipstick on the glass. He told me later he was afraid, that they were old friends. She worked in the convenience store next to his house. She wasn’t going anywhere, and every time I spoke, he was reminded that in May I was leaving forever.

Except I didn’t.

IMG_0464When I was smaller, I was good at math but I didn’t like it much. I read books under my desk, tucked up in my textbook like I was on a TV show. I started a new Nancy Drew during fractions; I finished The Phantom Tollbooth instead of long division. But in seventh grade, when I started Algebra under duress, we had a new teacher. She was effortlessly cool and obviously brilliant, and she was the one who first told me that math could be a story. It orders the universe, and its unanswered questions are the quests I’ve been looking for. Something clicked, and when I learned the stories behind the constellations, I also learned their orbit, the push and pull of the galaxies. Some day I’m going to order the stars.


This week, Kelly asked me if I could have one career instead of what I’m doing now, what would it be. I feel like I’ve talked about that a bit, but the problem with thinking in narrative is that I’m always thinking about how I could be different, where I could be different. I am constantly stymied by the narrowing of possibilities, of time. I keep trying to look past it. I’ll let you know if it works.


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