When her alarm went off at six a.m., her first impulse was to smash it to death with the table lamp. Instead, she held the urge back, picked up the phone, moaned, and shut it off. She rolled out of bed and rested her heels on the hardwood, cold-as-fuck floor and came close to crying out the dirtiest word that came to mind that day, just like she wanted to every morning. And, just like every morning, she swallowed it. This was her own fault for moving to goddamned Canada after growing up in a goddamn desert.
New Mexico. Shit. What did she have to go thinking about that for?
She closed her eyes, took a breath, and restrained the thoughts that wanted desperately to run there, steering them in the direction of the day ahead.
Shit. That didn’t help.
She focused on the next ninety minutes.
That did it.
As she shuffled into the bathroom, her hand instinctively swept up a bottle of mood stabilizers and fumbled fruitlessly with the childproof lid. She barely kept herself from hurling it at the wall. After a great deal of concentration, she finally got the pills down her throat, leaving her free to speculate on the person watching her on the other side of the sink. Five years ago, that person would have been hung over. Ten years ago, she would have been crying. Twenty years ago, she would have been whining. This morning, she was calm, naked, and Zen with the events of yesterday.
She shook her head before wrapping her hair in a ponytail, slipping into a pair of track pants, pulling a sports bra over her head, making the necessary adjustments, zipping up a thick hoodie, and lacing up a pair of sneakers. On her way out the door, she leaned over to kiss the boy in her bed on the cheek. She wanted to tear off her clothes and fuck him, but she told herself she couldn’t.
“Pete,” she whispered, “I need to go to work.”
“Why?” he mumbled.
“Oh.” He rolled over. “Call me later?”
“If I feel like it.”
Poor Pete–her perpetual rebound. She could tell he had been falling for her for a while now. She should probably stop calling him after days like yesterday, but she hated sleeping in a cold bed. Maybe she should just get a goddamn cat, like every other librarian.
It didn’t take long to get to the gym, where she wrapped her hands and stretched. Here, in front of the heavy bag, her weight on the balls of her feet, her gloves up to keep from getting hit in the face again, it was okay to give in.
Five years ago, someone who maybe understood her more than anybody in the world–the person she hated most–walked out of her life.
One, two, one, two, one, six. Jab, straight right, jab, straight, right, jab, right uppercut. One, two, one, two, one, Sean.
Ten years ago, the closest friend she ever had up and quit on her.
One, two, three, two, five. Jab, straight right, left hook, straight right, left uppercut. One, two, three, two, Fuentes.
Twenty-five years ago, her mother was gone before they ever had a chance to get to know each other.
One, four, three, four, three, four, three, four, three, six. Jab, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right uppercut. One, Mom, Mom, Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! DAD!
Yesterday, her boyfriend said something she could only think of as a deal-breaker, leading to a pretty dramatic public breakup.
One, one, four, three, two, seven. Jab, jab, right hook, left hook, straight right, nut-punch. One, one four, three, two, Brody. Okay, so she made up seven.
She bounced back for a second and had to admit that she and love just didn’t get along.
Over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of some person bouncing around in the reflection of the room. Teeth clenched, sweat and tears stinging her eyes, muscles tight, lightning searing her bones, she looked like someone she used to know.
One more round to go: Six. Right uppercut. Me.
After a long shower, she didn’t have to worry about holding anything back anymore–the medication had kicked in, taking care of most of it; the rest had been rinsed away. It had taken a long time for her to stop hating herself so much that the world wanted her gone; simultaneously, it had taken a long time for her to stop loving herself so much that the world wanted only to do her bidding. Now, with her collar straight, her hair swept back, and her makeup alluring-but-subtle, she was just another twenty-seven-year-old on her way to work.
A long day beckoned. She needed to have a talk with her more-likely-than-not-ex-boyfriend, she needed to figure out whether or not to keep stringing Pete along, and she needed to pick up her phone and call the man who’d told her specifically never to “ever fucking dare” ask him for anything ever again and ask him for something. In other words, she needed to clean up a series of messes she’d made. In other words, it was business as usual.
She studied the woman in front of her, through the rouge, the eye-shadow, lipstick, and brushed-out hair. “Yeah,” Lisa Green said. “I’m still in there.”