Mornings, the steep stone stairs grow steeper every day. The musty smell of locked rooms. Burnt-on muck at the bottom of the coffee pot that nobody cleans. But mornings are calls, appointments, applications to review; your fingers fly. It’s the hours after lunch that make you think about cell death. There’s a word for it, you looked it up: apoptosis. All those neurons, fizzing and popping. Life out of balance. Your life as a resource that cannot be renewed. Late afternoons, when the smell of cigarette smoke seeps through the walls, thick and grey and granite, but not thick enough to keep out the press of poverty. The brown ceiling stain that grows day after dull damp day, as if anyone could fight the rain and win. Whoever said safe as houses never played, as a child, in an abandoned house, never felt their foot break through rotted wood; never held tight to splintered floorboards, not feeling until hours later the eighteen shards of wood dug from your fingers by a sewing needle in a mother’s patient hands; feeling only the dangling weight of your legs, searching in air; the two friends who ran for help, the one who stayed, counting with you, one Mississippi, two; never dreaming of a time when hanging on every day would scare you more than falling.
KATHRYN KULPA is four generations removed from Ireland, four generations removed from Scotland, and, as she lives in America, feels millions of generations removed from civilization. She is a librarian, editor, and writing teacher, and her work has appeared in Longleaf Review, Smokelong Quarterly, and Pidgeonholes.
Image via Pixabay