You're sitting on the floor packing personal effects. You arrived early and let the place really hit you. It's nobody's home anymore. Every time you come it's a little less welcoming.
You're using paper and bubble wrap to pack every delicate and fragile thing this man had. You make cushions at the bottom of the boxes with the materials that you carried here last time. You're careful because you need to get this done today. You don't want to run out of resources.
You want to cry. But you're afraid once you get started you won't be able to modulate that activity. Like you said before, you need to get the job done. You said you were going to and you keep your word.
If you get all emotional then there are consequences for that. The other friend, the one plowing through different personal effects in the other room, would be uncomfortable. Then again, he seems pretty settled in there. You might be able to get away with a few tears without him even knowing.
If you just soldier on and procrastinate your feelings you'll be purposeful and sharp. But you worry about what will happen later, after you leave. You haven't been sleeping much. You've amassed a debt and it has to go somewhere. Three o'clock in the morning is where it's been going.
You admire the other friend, but you are not him. You'd like to stay you, only that person is a bit fuzzy right now.
You're good with the packing and wrapping and sealing and labeling. You feel your competence with that.
But you still get all self-critical and snippy. You don't know what you're doing. You can't fall apart here but you don't want to pay the piper later either.
You remember this. You're not supposed to know what you're doing. You've been winging it all along, even at the beginning when you thought you knew what to do but then found out later you'd be flying by the seat of your pants.
No one has taken you in hand. No one has mentored or schooled you in how to do this. You're doing the best you can. Same with the guy in the other room.
You're softer now. You're going to have to accommodate you. You stay in this nether world. You're not a robot but you're not letting the crying be the boss either.
After three boxes you take a break. This man's people are emailing you. You're aware that you are not a bottomless well of empathy and good will. You've dug deep with these people and just for today, they're getting a little less of you. You've got no patience for any one sided crap this morning.
You send out serviceable communication. You try it on for size. You like it.
You spend more time and more adjectives on the cousin. She's feeding you a little bit with her turn of phrase, her sparkling way with words. You smile and write something short yet pretty. She responds in kind.
You parcel you out in smaller pieces leaving little bits left over. The little bits amass. You get your job done. You did what you said you would and then some.
The other friend chooses something made of glass and you pack it for him. Your hands are confident from a day of this. You've wanted to help him somehow and you just found your niche.
The shit's real but you're okay. For the first time since this all began, including the days at the beginning when you thought it would all work out, you shake a little of it off when you leave.
You exit the train. There's a young orthodox Jewish couple who have moved to your neighborhood. They're walking together pushing a baby in a carriage.
You feel like they are renegades because they settled in Inwood, and not Riverdale, Crown Heights or Monsey. They are devout but willing to mix. People who are complicated and seemingly contradictory fascinate you. Same with people who make their own rules.
You love the couple immediately then realize you're being silly and reign yourself in. One of your long-time neighbors has noticed the baby and is exclaiming and cooing at her. In spite of her relative immodesty, the couple is friendly and engaging with the the not-Jewish neighbor.
You get closer and now it's your turn to have a look. Your dress hits below the knee, but your arms are exposed. No matter. You and the other neighbor are collaborating now. Look at those eyes! That smile! The baby looks from one of you to the other.
Light, lilting and merry, you remember the fun part of your repertoire, and it doesn't need to be orchestrated by you. You are not responsible for everything. You allow yourself to get swept up and to fall in love with the baby and maybe even the rest of the day.
Congratulations, you say out loud to the couple and then silently to yourself. You walk down your block toward your building and your apartment. The evening stretches out, wide and possible. Even better, it belongs to you.
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