When I tell you that I feel like being by myself for awhile, I really mean that I would rather be anyone else but me for awhile.

I fold myself up, methodically, trying not to touch any flesh to flesh, an unwanted reminder that I am human.


I go to the bathtub and turn the water on for a shower. Looking down, I see someone has filled every space on the edge of the tub with tiny little hotel soaps, saved from many trips. They are still wrapped in their paper and cardboard coverings, all now soggy from the water spray. Oh, now who did this, I frown to myself as I start to clean up the soapy mess, the warm water falling on my back, my hair becoming wet and falling into my eyes. In the soap dish, along with the soaps and several bottles of saved hotel shampoos, something catches my eye amongst all the beige and off-white and celadon and pale yellow. It is part of a very small key, its top half broken off, a bright brass color with a beautiful patina: a rainbow extending out in colorful waves, ending at the edge of the metal. I flick my hand quickly across the bottom of the soap dish a few times to clear off the water that’s pooling there, and set the key fragment back into it; pointless, as the water just keeps coming.


My sister-in-law peers into my room, surveying it in her brisk, sort of sneery way, and turns away again with no greeting to me, not unusual for her. Her hair is cut in a stiff modern/violent way, the color an ashy blonde that no one is born with. I note, with some shock, that she is smoking a cigarette after quitting for 25 years. She is not only smoking, she is defiantly smoking, dramatically pulling smoke in and puffing it out, like she is in a movie. She moves quickly, decisively, carrying a large shopping bag in her left hand. I jump up and run after her down the hallway. “Donna!” I call out to her, horrified, “What are you doing?” She doesn’t answer me. “Well, you can’t smoke in here anyway,” I say quietly to the large plume of smoke left behind with me.


In the kitchen, around an oval oak table, there are guests. My mother, dressed in a housecoat that is nearly faded to white from a thousand wash cycles, plops down a serving of jiggly chocolate pudding in front of one of them, a smiling, simple man with Beatle haircut and ruddy skin. He keeps smiling even though she has brought no spoon for him to eat with, because he is…a simple man. The man next to him eats a bowl of cereal brought close to his chin, unshaven, with a trucker hat and a plaid flannel shirt, serious and silent save for his cereal slurps. If I squint my eyes, in my peripheral vision I can combine the two men, the roughness and the redness, into the person I wish were sitting at the table. It only works for a few seconds, but I pretend and I feel better. My mother finally returns to the table with a big silver spoon for the pudding. “Way to go with the spoon, Mom,” I say, and she laughs.