She had thought she needed the ocean
To pull her away from that tied
Knot inside of her heart
She stands at the corner, her hair strung around her neck from the dampness of the rain. Her eyelashes are beaded with small droplets; they shudder at the sight of the empty streets. The only sense of time she has is the drops of rain that patter on the sidewalk beneath her feet, a carpet of stone she can’t sweep her secrets under. The concrete is a vulnerable place for her to stand, yet she forces herself to stay bounded to that corner. Here she cannot hide from the silence, or the emptiness in her head.
If time was written in front of her, she would see the exact moment the tide rushed in and tumbled the rocks in her chest. She would be able to see that exact moment, when the horizon hit the earth and shattered the small goods of all the goods in her world. She could see what right turn made a wrong, and what path coaxed her with beaten sand she knew she wouldn’t be able to cross. But she had taken that path anyway, she knew now, standing at that corner.
Her fingers fumble with her name tag, etched with a name that represents so many things she missed. “Rebecca” is reads, but that name does not own her anymore. She misses that, out of most things..
She works at the coffee shop, wiping away stains off marble counters and dirting white mugs she knows she’ll have to clean later. Rebecca smiles at the thought; the coffee house is one place she has anchored herself to. Different faces with different stories keep her imagination wild as she pours them more coffee or grabs them another scone. Watching them read the paper and chat with their friends. . . she wonders which one is more stained with newspaper ink: their brains or their fingers. For Rebecca, it is her thumbs. She carries the news with everything she touches, leaving little smudges here and there.
But after leaving so much of herself everywhere, she realizes it isn’t rock bottom she has hit. No, that she had tumbled down a while ago. She had looked up, from the pit, squinted in the sun, climbed to the top. Bottom had a place to go. But when she reached the top, pulled herself from the rubble that weighed her down deep in her gut, she had seen a flat plain. She was surrounded by a desert. Before, at least she had the choice to fall down the wrong path; now there weren’t any paths to fall down in.
A desert with no tears to soften the sand. Not like here, where it rains so often from the places that call out for help, like they’re drowning.
If time was written in front of her, she would think over all the years she had spent in that desert, all those years without a river running through her veins to flood the hollowness in her chest. At least it would be full of something.
The vultures surrounding her spin in a circle, mesmerizing to her eyes, like airplanes whirling out of control. Or maybe they are airplanes above her head, but she can’t tell the difference between the trees and the skyscrapers anymore. She’ll stumble along the slippery sand, her eyes closed tight from the blistering wind. Her eyes closed, closed tight.
“Rebecca,” a hand touches her shoulder, “Rebecca Holden.”
It’s her coworker, a smile with firecracker eyes that gets her weekly boyfriends into trouble.
“You’re going to get sick if you stand in this weather. Break’s over, come inside,” she pulls at her shoulder, pulling away the sand and leaving Rebecca standing in the middle of a puddle, in the middle of that vulnerable sidewalk. Those are airplanes, those are buildings . How long had she been gone?
Her coworker speaks vacant words, strung together with a string of silence. She’s laughing, smiling, her hands gesture images Rebecca cannot conjure. She does all of this, but she cannot be heard. Rebecca squints her eyes, hoping somehow this will open her ears and the words will flow in like that river her throat is starving for. Yearning, for that sound, or any sound. She’s all dried out of that now.
“You’re soaked!” her coworker hands her a towel. “My god, Rebecca Holden, you are one crazy entrepreneur.”
“I didn’t realize I was out there for so long.” she replies, her lips pulling into a small smile. Her coworker’s eyes flash a look beaded with worry, or maybe Rebecca imagines it. But for a flash she is frightened the young woman sees the pain in her teeth. Maybe the way she bites down is wrong, maybe the way she smiles is colorless, flavorless, invisible.
Soapy suds cover up her hands, elbow-deep in lukewarm water and yet she still has a dry mouth. Rebecca washes each cup individually, scrubbing off the grime until they are pearly white again. It’s comforting to know she can fix something here, even the small little things. Something that brushed against the mouths of the laughing, the smiling, yet tainted by this jubilation. She washes it all off, until they are unsullied and shaded with the shadows of her hands.