This is our last night in this room. I am surrounded by books– I always check out too many books– I don’t want to read any of them. I have to stretch to read them, to make room, and I don’t want to stretch. I want to sink– into the comforter, the broken-spring mattress, sleep. I am alone in a way that I won’t be for many nights to come, and tonight it feels like panic.
The rats are awake, of course. Always rats. The rats trying to get in, us trying to get out.
At least for a while they’ll be somebody else’s rats.
I just read a story by Beth Tashery Shannon in the long meanwhile. I laughed out loud at it (perhaps startled the rats), at the alien playfulness of it, the odd familiarity. I looked her up and yes, she’s Southern. Kentucky, even.
A few weeks ago I saw a picture of a river in Tennessee and cried. Not a gentle cry. A cry like my heart folded, threw up a white flag.
Home is a place I can never return to. A place that I can never leave.
When did you first become homeless?, the intake form asked. (Which form, I don’t remember. The last three? All of them?)
I will spend much of my life trying to answer that question.
“Old sowbugs not dum. But doo, yoo hav to admitt, leave a sheltered live. Thare iys gets strained. Thay forget to wash thee dishes. Sometimes thay are so sorry the havn’t wrot thir friends a letter in weeks. Weeeeks.
Thing is, sowbugs rollup by instinked. Do you instink? Becase your instinked, you knowhat too doo. If yoo donot think soo, give yours a bath, then you will get lost.
Itts like dreeming your ona heighth plain inthe Sun. And you wakeup, that’s where you ar. With canyon stream and arroyo rocks look lika pyramid. And what rols upfrom the crevices but, finally. A old sowbug.”
– Beth Tashery Shannon, “Satday Afternoon with a Cold. When I Lett it Out, and it Only Started Crawsing Back too thee House.”, from the long meanwhile: stories of arrival and departure, edited by Molly McQuade