Nonfiction by Kiel M. Gregory
There are times when I have to tell myself everything is okay while pacing my apartment and trying not to hug myself around the chest because movies tell me those that hug themselves are crazy and I don’t want to be that.
The last time you were here I asked if you thought my cat, Sam, was lonely.
You said, “No, she’s got you,” but I wonder if that is to her benefit. She watches me pace my apartment. Onions soften in a pan. I add some potatoes I boiled, season them with spices to make them exciting. I am too scared of living to be bored today.
When the blank-faced, hug-less pacing starts to feel too repetitious to be sane, I sit. Okay, that’s not good. Whew, alright that’s better. Just keep moving, everything’s going to be alright. Where’s Sam?
She sits on the edge of the bed while I walk the fifteen feet from the bedroom doorway to the stove and back. I open the windows slightly ajar to keep the aroma of the food I’m cooking from settling into the clothing hanging in the closet in my small apartment. You have to figure out how to manage tight spaces. No one wants to sit next to someone who smells like onions. Sam’s watching snow dance in high winds outside. My toes start to feel cold against the laminate floor.
I worry that she, too, is trapped in this small space. I open the blinds further, set them halfway up the length of the glass so she can see more of the world. She finds something startling, captivating. Her eyes widen, face shifts from companion to animal. She I-see-a-bird chatters. Pupils become razors. I feel that I have caged something beautiful.
One-handed, utensil-free, pan-flipping potato rotation. I’m just trying to move the food, so it doesn’t cook unevenly. The motion reminds me of my children and weekend breakfasts and hot tea for their mom and me, cocoa for both the boys. Daddy, flip the cakes, they cheer in my head. Daddy, do the thing with the pan like a food magic trick. Stabs my heart. Vision blurs. Pace. Maybe run your hands over something for the sensation, the tactile distraction. Everything’s going to be okay. Breathe.
It’s getting cold in the apartment. Damn the onion smell, I have to shut the windows. Sam’s all puffed out on the edge of the bed. She seems fine… She is fine, just close the window. There you go, that’s productive. Now shut the other one. Good. Good job. You did a great job.
You did a great job, buddy! I’m so proud of you! Fuck…No, no, no, not right now, everything’s going to be okay. The boys are okay, I’m sure of it. I blow out through my mouth. In through my nose. I walk to the bathroom to blow my nose, out to the kitchen to throw away the tissue, back to the bathroom to wash my hands, out to the kitchen to shut the potatoes off.
The knife block smiles at me with happy, glinting metal teeth. I wince, exhale sharply, turn around. The crossbeam waves neighborly from the ceiling. I think of the leather belts in the bedroom. I wring my hands.
I hold a tall glass while it fills with water from the tap. Now my fingers are as cold as my toes. Maybe make some coffee. Hug a mug. Call a friend?
Write it down. Breathe. Everything will be okay.
Listen to the sound of my voice, I say to myself in my own head.