It's Monday night. I'm standing in a place called The Makeout Room. A disco ball revolves overhead. I'm forty-two years old.
I'm talking and trying to buy a raffle ticket and instead dump change on the floor. I'm on my knees, reaching for coins. "I only care about the quarters," I say, and then hope nobody heard me. Quarters for laundry.
I used to own a washer and a dryer. I used to own a house. Two houses, one after the other. A house in Seattle and a house in Hawaii.
The Seattle house was sweet and snugly built and surrounded with green, but it turned cold inside. A candle on the edge of the tub set my hair aflame. Candles, champagne, hair on fire, and the bedroom at the top of the stairs was colder than the basement.
The Hawaii house was warm and open, people showed up at the door to hang out, talk story. Two floors of house plus a lanai and carport, but no doors I could close, except for the bathrooms.
At the Makeout Room, I hold a beer in one hand and dig in my purse with the other. One-handed, I open my little pill holder, lip a white half-pill into my mouth.
I find people I know. They ask me how I am and I want to ask them: How do I seem? Who am I? What should I do with my life?
Someone waves at me, we know each other to say hello. I've read his book, heard about him long before I met him. I move halfway toward him to say something, but realize I have nothing to say, nothing witty saved up, so stop partway and pretend to be fascinated with the crowd. I want to ask him: When does the fear stop?
Being married somehow protected me from awareness of my age, but now I'm bare. I'm older than most here, except for the tall-headed rocker who will play onstage. But maybe he's always looked that way.
You can see it in the way I reach for skittering coins, unscrew my pill keeper one-handed. I can feel my stockings laddering up my thigh. The veins and thin bones are beginning to show in the backs of my hands.
A poet reads about a woman who crawled into a chimney and died there. They found her by the smell. The body is on its way to that stink from the moment we're born, already dying, cell by cell.
A woman hugs me and tells me I smell nice. I want to turn and feel the warmth of her compliment on all sides. I'm also terrified, wondering how long I can keep it up.
It's a good night, a good show, but I can't wait to get out and back to my neighborhood. The junkies slow-stepping through their dreamtime. The bearded street guy hoarsing out his own Pink Floyd variation: Hey you/Out here in the cold/Getting hungry, getting old, can you help me! Together we stand, divided we fall. We fall!
Alone, among my neighbors, I can begin to reassemble myself, recognize my body as only itself, only me, only forty-two.
Alone with my keyboard under my fingertips, I'm whole, unquestioning. As forgetful as in the arms of a lover.