I walked Los Altos Hills over and over; the Dish at Stanford, the hard way, the easy way; with my sister-in-law; with my childhood friend and neighbor who had just moved back from New York in the same condition I found myself inhabiting—the 98 lbs condition. We took the dog with us.
I did not eat: a few grapes, 1/2 a bagel. After that I usually felt sick. I slept like a dead person: out, immediately, in a world of black that took my heavy head at night and spit me out into yellow morning, shivering on nerves.
The girls who packed the boxes, with my plates and bras and books and soap and their sympathy and my sadness, were like ballerinas: strong, flexible, seamless. “Is it petty to take soap?” I asked. (Who had I bought the soap for, anyway, in that scent, in that dish, before the Christmas party? Who except him, us, our house?)
“Take everything that is yours,” one of the ballerinas said to me. I could not tell forest for trees, mine, his–hadn’t we just undone our selves for us? I sat in the kitchen and held a single mug, idiotic, useless. They twirled and taped boxes.
I filled my days with things, small things, task after task, jobs but not work, conversations and kindness but not laughter. Yes, I cried, but only on the better days, when I felt human, of this world, real. My impression, before, had been that heartache made you real, scared you human, awoke you. But that wasn’t the case: I went to the land of the dead and ghosts. I tiptoed. I held my breath. I disappeared.
1 year later: What felt as bleak and forlorn as a gray wall was—and wasn’t. You can build out of air and hope and even crushed hope; desperation—it is still hope; if that’s all you have left, hold on.
3 weeks of ordering (but not eating) French fries from a diner near my parents’ house are what I remember. At their doorstep was where I was dropped off, like something purchased that disappointed: return to sender. I stayed close to home, kept my head down, eyes on work, eyes on my sister’s kid, bright, alive.
This did not feel like surviving. But it was.