by Fred Leebron
That morning I awoke light-headed from all of her hostility. It had started the day before, when nearing the end of my walk I had to cut it short, a weird fearful feeling of how that last mile might take its ultimate toll accompanied by a sense of failure that I couldn’t complete my usual two and a half hours through the mild suburban fantasy streets of Camp Hill. Could someone hating you really cause a physical unease? Sure, why not. Especially when it quashes your appetite. I wondered what the kids would think about this fight; they seemed careful not to choose sides as it were, but would anybody but my friends and therapist and lawyer think me right? The dispute was all familiar territory, and the familiar territory was saying, “Don’t let us do this to you.” Her own mother and father had fought over college payments. The dirty Susquehanna literally separated us, she over there in the far more real Harrisburg, but what also divided us was her sense that I had wronged her so much I could never pay enough. How could I want to eat when I faced such a bottomless debt? It was like my daughter’s multiple sclerosis; when I thought about that, I couldn’t eat either. I didn’t want lobster or foie gras or crab cake or spicy grilled shrimp or filet mignon or fresh swordfish or scallop ceviche or butter chicken or spicy tuna or pan-seared duck breast or any other food that would usually call me into action, if eating is an act. That morning I awoke and never wanted to eat again, that morning I awoke and lost count of the many ways I had disappointed and angered her, that morning I awoke and didn’t want to get out of bed, there in my shabby apartment with the ceiling stains and the dust-coated inherited furniture and the bathtub with its open wound. I was living like a graduate student because I could see the future and it wasn’t good. I would never make enough money to solve everything, I would never make enough money to solve anything. All that money I had saved was tasting bad, like it was that I was eating because every time I did eat I was eating money; all that money couldn’t stay saved, and now she was calling on me to spend literally all of it. Her name was still on the account; she could see it all. “You are not sorry, and that is specious reasoning,” she emailed. If I told you all about it, you would ask me to turn on the radio to drown me out. But radios no longer exist; it’s all playlists and things very personalized. Like your very own heart, beat up in its ribcage, scarred by thousands of brushes with romance. That morning I awoke, I awoke and I rose out of bed, I rose out of bed and got my gear on. I took my long walk and I finished it.