Once, I rode in a giant swinging pirate ship at a county fair with my mother. I was wearing my best floral Sunday dress. I could feel my stomach in my mouth and hear her shouting next to me.
Another day, I watched my mother cry while sitting in my father’s large brown leather office chair. She asked me why I couldn’t be a better daughter. She asked me why I wasn’t good. I was nine years old and had no answers.
Once, I was drunk at dawn. My friends and I pulled ourselves up from the ubiquitous tan carpet of a Florida apartment, put away the playing cards, and laughingly headed to eat burritos.
Another day, I was lying in the grass outside of my front door. It was night-time and a now recalled birth control medicine was coursing through my body. I was screaming. I was sobbing. My boyfriend looked down at me from where he was standing, hands spread out like a statue. I couldn’t see his face because he wasn’t facing the light.
Once, my dear friend and I held hands in a San Francisco wine bar. She was describing yet another awful interaction with the same confused man who didn’t deserve her attention. We couldn’t really afford the wine, but we needed somewhere to go. When it dawned us both that we were crying in the window of this much-too-nice establishment, we laughed so hard that we nearly fell off the hard wooden stools.
Another day, a former friend is yelling at me over the phone. I’m due to meet someone for a dinner date and this has dragged on for days. I tell her that she needs to respect my need for space. She says she will not. And this, I tell her, is why I cannot be her friend any longer.
Once, I thought I fell in love with a man who said I had the most beautiful smile in the world.
Another day, he would tell me he loved me for the first time while we were in his car having a fight. I can still picture the brake lights of the cars ahead of us on the hill in the dark. He would later take it back.
Once, I taught my sister how to cook a dish our mother made.
Another day, I fed my sister water from a tiny paper cup while she was lying in a bed in the ER.
Once, I sat on the steps of a Jesuit church in Rome eating gelato. I was biding my time before I went inside to view the ceiling fresco and cry as if my heart was breaking. An old woman asked me if I was alright. I hurried to reassure her and replied, “si, it’s…molto bella.” That was not correct Italian.
Another day, I walked down the sandy road of Tulum’s hotel zone after a delicious dinner. It was unearthly beautiful with the smoke of burning copal making the restaurant lights hazy against the jungle. I had never felt more lonely.
Once, I told him he had broken my heart. I was lying. I was lying to both of us.
Another day, I was stood up by a date that I think came into the bar and saw me. When he walked out and didn’t reply to my text messages, I realized he wasn’t meeting me. I asked the bartender to look at my Tinder profile and tell me if I looked like my pictures. He assured me that I did.
Once, I watched the sun set across the Pacific while my friends danced at the wedding of a dear couple. I had been there when they had met, and I hadn’t been around all these people in years. We were all a little bit older and happier, I hope.
Another day, I held my shaking friend in her hallway while her roommates called the police. We had seen her ex-boyfriend standing below her window in the dark and knew his trunk was full of guns. He was violating the restraining order.
Once, I told myself the truth. I did the work and loved the work.
Another day, I gave up.
Once, I smiled across a sea of faces blurred by the bright stage lights shining towards me. I took a step and raised the microphone to my mouth.
Another day, I downloaded an e-book about heartbreak. I read through three chapters before exhaustion took over. When I woke up, I didn’t need the book anymore.