Here again / by Christina Rosalie

Outside, in the quiet winter cold, a dog barks again and again and again. A series of three staccato yaps, then a pause, snowflakes swirling in the silence before it barks again; left somewhere outdoors, hot breath making the fur wet around his mouth, icicles gathering in shaggy snarls.

In the sky, the moon, rinsed in the shadow of a recent eclipse, climbs higher up the edge of the dark.

Inside, I almost hold my breath. Heartache coiled in my chest again. I’m restless.

It is still winter here, and I’m home after a week away, where I was submerged in desert sunlight and words. The yearning to be at the next place in my life is fiercer than ever now; to be doing this writing thing, full tilt, without anything else. To be writing every day, without a day job that leaves me feeling like one of those tabs of fish food you throw in the tank for the fish to nibble relentlessly while the owner leaves for a vacation.

It is still winter and stumbling about the internet I find a classmate from my year in college who has published her first collection of essays, and also has the job I wish I had, in the thick of the Manhattan literary world, among tall buildings and subways and martinis. I bite my lip seeing her book jacket, her shiny hair.

I hate the color of this thing that creeps up in my solar plexus. I hate the way jealousy makes me feel small and suffocated, and the way it makes me ask a hundred stupid what-ifs, as if time weren’t irreversible, as if I weren’t here in the thick of this winter snowstorm with a three year old tucked into flannel sheets upstairs and a husband suffering through another bout of depression.

Maybe this is the thing I hate the most. How he won’t admit that his entire way of inhabiting the world hinges on finances; on what he makes or looses for the week in the market, the charts and numbers blipping by him faster than a heartbeat. He won’t say that his life is empty of things that make his heart tremble with passion; he won’t say that he keeps putting these things on hold to maintain our status quo, to keep afloat, to put in a home gym and a flat screen TV, to do whatever comes next in the acquisition process that never ends but never makes him really happy either. He doesn’t see it this way. But I feel his emptiness like a dry heat licking at my skin, making my knuckles crack, my lips grow chapped.

Winter. It seems to always find us here, under sweaters in different rooms with hardly anything to say. It’s been three weeks of tight jaw muscles, and shorter conversations. We hug each other by the kitchen island over Saturday morning pancakes with maple syrup and bacon and hot coffee, but there is always something that makes one or the other of us pull away abruptly, as though magnetism, like heat, is scarce on these cold days and longer nights.

The only time I really see his face bloom into an unguarded smile is when he is with Bean. Then it spreads across his cheeks like the unexpected tiny rainbows from the prism hanging by a ribbon in the window, and a small sharp sliver worms its way into the very center of my chest. I can’t help but wish his smile would bloom like this for me.

But we’re like hungry dogs, circling, ready to snap at the slightest provocation. It is as though we’re both looking for a reason, for some release of tension—both of us craving the pulpy mess that exposes our hearts and leaves us pressed close together with heat between us. Maybe this makes no sense. Of course it makes no sense. But why else do we do this at-once push and pull?

When he’s around, it’s all about pull-your-hair-out-crazy mood swings, and this week has been his worst week ever in the stock market. Everything tipped in the wrong direction, keel up, toppled like dominos. And at the end of a day I can’t help it, I turn away, heart pounding. I’ve already given nearly every shred of patience away to six year olds who play modern warfare games and miss their mothers living in other states. It’s almost like a reflex: the way I avoide directness, intimacy, while feeling like everything between us is flayed: muscles, tendons, hearts, tears always at the back of our eyes.

But then when he’s gone all I can do is watch the clock, the minute hand dogging the hour hand until he’s back, craving him like homesickness.