the terror of tidiness


The mess has been keeping her intact. Stacks of paper like cornerstones, the trinkets and keepsakes anchoring her to a slim delight. Remove one bone from this body and the skeleton collapses. She hesitates into the room. She is afraid to show me how bad it is. She is afraid she will fall apart. She is afraid to let go. I want to tell her an empty space doesn't mean she is  empty. I want to tell her the stories transcend the boxes she keeps them in. But this isn't the time. Instead, I say, Pick a corner. I say, You have to start somewhere. And she does.

. . .

But even my own heart resists equilibrium. I walk outside with not enough of a coat on. I want to feel that cold against my wrists. I want to shiver just a little.

. . .

The doorbell rings and the UPS man hands me a box. I bring it upstairs to open. Inside, an astonishing gift of flowers. Deep pink roses. Light pink Gerber daisies. A note that tells me everything I've been wanting to hear. I begin to topple inside. The neat bundle I have made of myself, the wrinkles I've smoothed out, the straight line I've been walking, the certainty I've been toting and touting. The petals undo it all. And then, almost instantly, the strange comfort of my heart beating wildly. It is so loud I can feel it in my ears. My body breathes out one long breath after another, as if it's being saved, but from what I'm not sure.