Lately I’ve been so lonely that I’ve considered joining the church across the street from my apartment. The sign in their window says they’re having a candle light ceremony on Christmas Eve and the thought of being in a room full of strangers holding candles is an idea I immediately fall in love with. Which might be part of my problem. I am always immediately falling in love. And it’s always with ideas. This is why I love books. They are full of ideas. I love ideas so much that I haven’t read half the books on my living room shelf; I just really love the idea of them being there, of being a person who has a lot of books on her living room shelf. Of being a person who could, if she chose to, spend all weekend in leggings and an oversized sweater reading Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime on the bench seat in the bay window, even though I didn’t know that essay was on my shelf — even though I didn’t know that essay existed until a few moments ago. Even though I don’t have a bay window.
It’s not really a problem being in love with the idea of books. Or the idea of eating tangerines in February. Waking up at 5 AM every day to drink a glass of water and slide into an hour-long yoga session, in the living room full of books. Filling an old leather backpack with two sweaters, a box of Cliff bars, a pocket knife, and 56 dollars cash and jumping on an Amtrak that takes you anywhere West. Going anywhere West. Going anywhere. Following love. Making a meatloaf for dinner. Having a family to make meatloaf for.
These aren’t insane things. They’re simple daydreams. They’re boring, and they’re all things that perfectly normal people actually do.
My therapist says I’m normal. Yesterday he told me I was perfect.
But I’m getting tired of words.
I refuse to touch raw meat and will never make a meatloaf, but the comfort that’s attached to the image of doing so is what keeps me knocking up against it. I’m picturing myself wearing a red-and-white checkered apron. My ears are pierced with pearls. There’s a dining room table and on it are candles that are lighting themselves. Sitting at the table are my husband and our children but I can’t see their faces and I don’t know their names.
You think about a word long enough and all the meaning begins to leak out of it. You repeat the same word twenty times in a row and soon all you’re aware of is your dry mouth and the strange sound you make when you move your tongue against itself. You’re vaguely aware that something is missing, that the noise you’re making used to mean something to you. Something used to be here, is a thought I carry around like a miniature coffin in my left coat pocket.
But there’s an exception to the above rule: I’ve just whispered the word love to myself 20 times and still my mouth feels like the inside of a raspberry. Still I’m thinking of the snow outside and all the kids who spent the afternoon writing letters to Santa. Still I’m thinking about Elizabeth and her long blond hair, even though sometimes I’m not sure if her hair is really blond, if it’s maybe more of a sandy brunette. I don’t know what color her eyes are and want to say green and— does this mean I love her less?
I keep whispering the word love and wonder if the meaning doesn’t seep out of it because I don’t actually know what the word means. What does it mean to love someone? I love you I love you I love you I love you. One time I texted Greg “ILY” and he asked if that stood for “I love you.” I said it did and he said those words should never be abbreviated.