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“When it feels like your world is ending, maybe it’s just beginning.”

This I read in some tone-deaf article about the current state of the world; the equivalent of “keep your chin up!” for the modern depressive.

And I wish I could believe it. Truly, I do. I wish I could slap it up on my vision board, think good thoughts, and transform myself into something less sharp and cynical. I wish I could be someone who does yoga and meditation, actually practicing the principles of peace and well-being. I would be happy… probably.

But I do not do those things. No, instead, I am miserable. Mostly.

It’s raining again this morning, and I am trying and failing to keep myself from thinking. Thinking about anything, really, but mostly about my dad. About his cancer. It shouldn’t have been such a shock after all of the signs, but it was, because that sort of thing just doesn’t happen. But it does, and it is. They said it was curable but treatment is aggressive. Essentially losing a year of your life, maybe more, to fight this ugly disease. Possibly not ever being the same after. Certainly nothing is the same for right now; two minute phone conversations have the ability to inspire weeping.

When someone is sick, it becomes impossible not to pay attention to every detail of their lives: How they looked and sounded before and during, their sleeping and eating patterns, even their bathroom habits. Every change is meticulously cataloged in your mind and filed away for comparison with each new encounter. The tears, however reserved one might be with them, lie in wait for any sort of observed nuance.

About six  months before learning all of this, Marty left. I still haven’t spoken to him, haven’t told him. I wonder what he’d say about my dad; they never got along all that well. I also wonder how I would say it to him. Would it be casually, in passing? Something like, “So um, my dad has cancer. It’s no big deal. His voice sounds different and he sleeps a lot, but it’s like, fine.”

No matter the delivery, I know honesty isn’t on the menu. Marty doesn’t get that part of me anymore - the vulnerable part. He doesn’t get to see me cry for any reason, even a good one. He only gets the put-together, “my life is altogether better and less complicated without you” version of me. Which is stupid, because it’s just another person to lie to when your life is falling apart.

What I’d really like to show him is the version that says, “I’m hurting and confused, and there are layers to me I’ll have to peel back to figure out who I am without you ingrained into my very being.” There’s also the “I’m so heartbroken I can’t even be sure I trust myself anymore” version. But I cannot and will not show him those cards because from here on out, everything is stilted and hardened. It’s a hard and fast rule when you love the way we did. Or the way I thought we did.

But as all mediocre things tend to do, our relationship petered out and left us both with the precarious satisfaction which comes with closure.

I’m only joking of course, because really it ended in a spectacular monster truck rally from hell, screaming matches and crying jags included. It would have been so much easier if there had been another woman, or if I just didn’t love him anymore. Those ends are definitive, those I can stomach and understand. But the unnecessary leaving bore into me and my self-esteem, drilling careful, tiny holes to make sure I wouldn’t catch the leaks right away. When I least expect it, I find that I feel too inadequate, too “leaveable,” to pursue anything worthwhile.

Feeling unlovable is my Achilles’ heel. When I inhabit that space in my head, I am dangerous and feral. I will drop off the grid for a month at a time, I will say hurtful things to even the most well-intentioned friend. And when I’m done I come crawling back, tail between my legs, shame incarnate. I make promises I won’t keep to people who are sick of hearing them.

Ultimately, the breakup culminated with me listening to “Girlfriend” by Eve 6 and sobbing in the bathtub, coupled with staring out the window pretending I’m in a music video for “Bittersweet Symphony.” These incidents occur with slightly more regularity than I am comfortable with, breakup or not. Marty is a pseudo good guy, and I’m sure he had his reasons for leaving. I’m not entirely sure I even hate him for it.

But today I will meet Maura at our coffee shop on the outskirts of downtown in an attempt to escape from my thoughts. Here we can hide away from the throngs of other urban caffeine seekers, nestled in the comfort of our less than trendy cocoon which smells of patchouli and old books. I realize I actually do love this place. It’s a constant when I’m feeling unbalanced; a cozy beacon in a slick, grey city. It’s just the right amount of “granola,” if you will, without being pretentious. It even has a basement that you can smoke in, which is practically unheard of these days, and I hope that never changes.

I don’t even smoke. Regularly. More than once a week. Twice at most.




“I need a Clarence,” I say, once we are settled into a squashy sofa in the basement. I run a hand through my hair and sigh for emphasis.

“Alright, I’ll bite,” says Maura, who is quickly draining her Aztec Mocha. “Who is Clarence?” She coughs a bit at the heavy concentration of spice.

“You know,” I say, exasperated. I tend to have this problem where I’ve already started a conversation in my head, and I expect everyone else to be on the same page. If there is resistance or questioning, it annoys me. “The angel from It’s A Wonderful Life?”

Her blank stare tells me she does in fact not know who Clarence the Angel is. “He gives George Bailey a glimpse into what his life would be like if he hadn’t been born, or done all the good things he did or something.” Maura is still staring. “...Nothing?”


“I don’t know, I’ve probably seen it at some point,” she says off-handedly.

“Well my god, it’s only an American Classic. Give me a young Jimmy Stewart any day. Me-ow.”

“Still don’t know who that is.” Now Maura is the one to sound annoyed. “But keep going. Why do you need a glimpse into what life would be like without you? That sounds so depressing… and sort of narcissistic, honestly. Why do you always do this?”

“I don’t always do this! Or maybe I do,” I concede after a beat. “I’m just saying maybe I need a George Bailey moment to be grateful for what I have. Lately I just feel like shit. I feel trapped and regretful, like, all of the time.” I do indeed do this. I am uncomfortably honest about these types of things. Not with everyone though; Maura is significantly better at handling it than most people.

She doesn’t flinch. “I mean, isn’t that kind of being what in your thirties is?” she asks. I can tell she’s debating ordering another coffee, maybe a smaller one with less spice.

“I don’t know, I’ve never been in my thirties before. But I hope not. I don’t want to regret my decisions anymore. I’m just constantly asking myself things like, ‘what if I never broke up with Amy? Or Cal?’ or ‘what if I had actually moved to New York that summer like we planned to?’ or ‘what if I had dropped out of school and bought that record shop, like Rob in High Fidelity?’” I realize I’m being overly dramatic and analytical, but I can’t help it. I don’t even mention Marty, who is probably my biggest “what if.” When the future is uncertain, I fixate on the past.

High Fidelity is the shit. But you don’t want to be Rob, Rob’s an asshole.”

I am grateful that Maura knows what I’m talking about this time, but I rush to Rob’s defense anyway. “He’s not. He’s just a realistic character. He does and says things that most people would keep to themselves, sure, but he’s just honest about his flaws.”

I love characters who are honest about their flaws. I feel so exhausted trying to hide my own from everyone else that I just want to hide away most the time. Maura is not like this, which is why she is my best friend. She has a seemingly endless supply of energy which I like to imagine I can absorb via osmosis. I am a leach. That is my Rob Fleming confession, my flaw. I like to take on the qualities of the people I surround myself with to feel better about who I am.

“I’m sensing a theme here.” Maura scrunches her nose and narrows her eyes. “Do you need to have some sort of reckoning with your past? To make peace with it or something? Do you need to do a top 5 heartbreak scenario?”

“I don’t know,” I sigh. “It’s not like I can do anything about what’s happening, I can’t change anything. I’m not even sure if I want to. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just like… get a snake. That seems cool and dangerous.” I am innately aware of the absurdity of this statement, and just want to talk about something else.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Maura laughs, causing the only other inhabitants of the smoke-filled basement to swivel their heads in our direction. “That’s kind of a drastic departure from revisiting the past. Did George Bailey get a snake?”

At this point, I am laughing too. “No, smartass. George Bailey didn’t need a snake, but maybe I do. Maybe I’m ‘Snake Girl,’ and everybody wants to talk to me at parties.”

“You know, the last time you were talking like this, you quit your job,” Maura says, still smiling. My laughter quickly peters out and she stops. “Oh no…” she whispers.

“So, I quit my job,” I announce, not wanting to reveal to her the deep-seated panic which threatens to overthrow my nervous system. “I can’t deal with people’s proverbial and literal shit anymore.”

“Nan, what are you doing?” My name is not Nan, it’s Linnea. Maura has called me Nan since we were twelve. “I know you’re going through a hard time but why do you do this to yourself? Do you at least have a plan this time?”

“I want to open a floral shop. I can’t do that if I’m wasting away at a receptionist’s desk forty hours a week! I just want to make pretty things and be my own boss. I don’t care if I have to work hard, I can work hard.” I’m not sure who I’m trying to convince, but at Maura’s eye-roll I add, “I can.”

“Alright. But is now really the time?” She eyes me with something that looks suspiciously like pity. I expected more from her.

“Now, later. It’s all the same. We’re all just a speck in the cosmos, and life is meaningless. Look, Mo, my dad has cancer. I lost the love of my life. I’m falling into a seemingly endless pit of despair. I think it’s time to shake things up.”

Understanding dawns on Maura’s face and perhaps she sees the situation as I do for the first time. “Okay well, first things first, we need to find you a snake.” And she begins to thumb through her phone to find a reputable reptile establishment.

This is why we are best friends.


Bio: Lucy is a thirty-something desert dweller who writes fiction for fun. She enjoys drawing from real life experiences (joy, pain, everything in between) to bring relatable characters to life. 





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