July 17, 2018 by The Citron Review
by Sutton Strother
Shower, and put on pants.
You don’t have to leave the apartment. You can spend an hour tracing and retracing the C-shaped path between your front door and your bedroom wall, blasting the feminist punk albums that make you feel braver than you are. This would be an improvement over yesterday, when you traveled only from your bed to the living room and back again by 4 p.m. Today can take you farther, if you want it to.
Step into the foyer. Now might be a good time to suss out which neighbor plays jazz piano so beautifully. No need to introduce yourself. You can stand outside his door and imagine him on the other side, syncopating while a joint smolders in the ashtray beside him. You can smell the joint from the foyer. You wonder if he’s put on pants today.
If you can bear it, go outside. Past the garbage bins. Past the bodega at the bottom of the hill. It’s been two weeks—maybe longer—since you dared to venture even that far. Leave before the high school across the street lets out. Don’t give those little assholes time to appraise your size, your mom clothes, your labored asthmatic breaths.
Take a right, and head for the local park. Smell the river. Depending on the day, it might smell like salt water or human feces. Find out which.
Or, take a left, and board the train. Ride it into Manhattan. Emerge in a better park, one that reeks of horse shit instead of human. Infiltrate a pack of southern tourists whose accents make you homesick but whose glacial walking pace conjures screams that bang against your teeth for release, reminds you that you belong to this city now, all its commotion, all its lonesomeness. Get lost in The Ramble, and forget that you belong to any place at all.
Whatever your plans, think twice before involving someone else. Down that road lie awkward silences, acute panic, plans aborted by lies that come too easily. Even the meek therapist who has tolerated so many missed appointments is showing signs of fatigue now, charging you double when you leave him hanging.
And should you fail? Say you feign another illness or injury, talk yourself into bad weather, bad timing, bad moods. Say the jazz pianist is quiet, and you’re in no mood for punk. Say you have not showered, and you have not put on pants. What then?
Slide off the bed. Turn on the light, or don’t. Clear a space. Stretch. Roll your hunched shoulders, your hips, your ankles that crackle like bubble wrap. Begin to run in place. Fill the silence with your wheezing, the air with your salt smell. Feel the hardwood beat back against your bare feet. Watch the numbers on your step counter tick by—a hundred, then a thousand, at a time. You may stop when the ticking stops, but not a moment before.
Stay right where you are, and sweat.
Sutton Strother’s work has appeared or will appear in Longleaf Review, Natural Bridge, Jellyfish Review, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. Originally from Kentucky, she resides in New York City, where she is currently working on a novel about grief, mermaids, and dysfunctional families.