Retreat

Instead of going to AWP I decided a few weeks ago that I would come home.

I looked at rooms to rent in the area, contemplated coming out here on Friday and staying until Sunday, but slowly the plan dwindled: I’d stay just one night, no, no nights at all. I would drive out Saturday and spend the day.

And then I got here, and fought my way through the Saturday morning college crowd at the one coffee shop in town and realized that my computer was dead and that the café had no outlets.

I wrote long hand for a minute and a half before I stopped and stared at the shapes of the letters on the page.

I went to the Clark, then, and contemplated leaving. Inside, the museum had been redone, the rooms cleared out and replaced with even smaller rooms, kept dark and painted the colors of the whatever time period the paintings were from. Degas’s dancer was moved from the white marble gallery where she had stood my entire childhood to an otherwise empty antechamber the color of deep water. 

Everything is different here now, except for the mountains and the roads that wind around them. I finally found a place to charge my computer at the corner market, but even that has changed, cleared of its aisles and dry goods and barely filled back in with locally made pottery and cutting boards and signs hand-written in chalk. Not that I am complaining. There is a table here, and I am not staring at the horizon like I did for too long this morning. I am writing.

I used to skip class to come here, this market. It’s less than a mile from my high school, and I would come here on Fridays and get twist-tied bags of nonpareils and fresh black and white cookies the year I wasn’t eating anything through the week other than quarter cups of dry cereal and cucumber slices counted out and put into plastic baggies in the morning.

I wanted to write about this today: about my body and the stories that I believed as  a child. Like that I was fat. So unbelievably fat.

I looked at pictures of me as a child recently, when I was visiting my mother in Maryland, and I couldn’t believe how not fat I was. Chubby cheeks, yes, and puckered knuckles, sure, but fat I was not. It was hard to see those pictures, to sit on the floor of my mother’s apartment and feel my body now pushing up around me like something I am holding on to. Now I am fat. Undeniably fat. Fatter than I have ever been. I wonder what would have come of me if I had never been told that story: the one where I was too fat to drink regular soda, too fat to wear a bikini, too fat to eat the salty snacks my mother kept on top of the highest cabinets in our kitchen.

“You’re like me,” my father used to say. “You smell food and you gain weight.”

I read that now and think, who says that to a child? And also, that is not true. Every pound on me is because of food that I ate when I was sad about leaving New Hampshire or stressed out grad school or feeling like shit about my work. Sometimes I feel like my body is not big enough to hold what is inside.

A builder bought the house I grew up in from my mother and changed it from three bedrooms to two, shifted the bathroom back to make room for a bigger kitchen, for granite countertops, for cabinets that reach the ceiling.

I saw the inside once before it sold, found the key the builder had left on top of the door frame. I walked through it with an ex-boyfriend and tried to explain what it had been, that it used to be mine. I don’t know whose idea it was to have sex in the kitchen, but I imagine it was mine, a way to mark the granite countertops with memories that made something in that new home mine.

 I feel the same thing being here now, like it doesn’t belong to me anymore. Although I don’t belong to it either. Almost half of my life has been lived elsewhere: Vermont, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire. All of these places that have gutted and made new, better in some places, darker in others.

Maybe it’s a good thing that it has changed. If I came back to the same people and places I would get stuck here forever. I wouldn’t want, instead, to go back to everything that has been made mine in the meantime.

I want to go home now.