Phil was at the club, the beans in “kids club,” and I was at home with a cold. I took a shower. As soon as I stepped in, once the water slid through my hair, I imagined a man with a navy blue ski cap pulled over his head holding a knife. Or maybe a gun. It wouldn’t matter. An intruder. I have thoughts like that a lot. Not so much that it makes a noticeable impact on my life, but every now and again. Walking down the street in New York, I sometimes imagined a bullet being shot through the back of my head.
I haven’t learned my house yet. In the house of my childhood, I knew every step. I could walk the house in the dark and know when a banister would end, if there was another step up. Where the hinges were on the door. I could race through that house, weaving between furniture, chasing through rooms, and I loved its sounds when it was time to sleep. I thought I heard the attic sometimes. Not that anything happens in an attic, besides storage, but I thought I could hear the wood.
I could feel the garage beneath my bedroom. In the morning, when I heard Poppa march down the stairs, deactivate the house alarm, and open the front door, I knew it was 6:30AM. I heard his steps crunch in our pebble driveway, and I knew how many steps it would take back inside the house from there, where the morning paper had been. I’d still have a few more minutes in bed before my alarm. I’d try to remember my dreams. They were never of being shot in the head. I dreamed of an enormous fish the size of a whale with fangs, somehow coming after me through the faucet in my bathtub. I didn’t dream of death, though.
In my house now, I don’t know the steps. Sometimes I worry I’ll miss one, fall down them and die. Then last night, while falling asleep I thought, “When I die, if they have to cut me open to do some kind of autopsy, I hope they remove some of the fat. Grab at least four handfuls. It’s the least they could do.” But I’m dead. I’m not even in there anymore, why would you even care? Because I don’t want to be remembered as fat. What do you want to be remembered as then?
Then I turned over and tried to think of something else so I could get some sleep. But I couldn’t. I want to be remembered for my cooking, I thought, for the way I sing, maybe, how strong I made my children, to be remembered as the woman who wanted to give Abigail the middle name Brave. As someone who touched others lives in a way that rendered my time here worth it. My time here necessary. That I was a small, but crucial cog in the universe. I want to be remembered for my creativity, I guess, but it’s okay if no one thinks of that first. What would I want them to think of first when thinking of who I was? To those who knew me well, I’d want to be remembered as someone who loved them unconditionally–no, I’d want them to know it in their bones, that they were loved fiercely. For those who knew me peripherally, I’d want them to think, in a strange way, that I made their life better. That I inspired and gave someone a little hope. That I lived life passionately, without stops. To be remembered as someone who enriched the world around her. Enlivened it. I have never, not even once, thought “I want to be remembered as someone beautiful.” Who cares about that?
And on what do I choose to focus while I am here? My double chins. My external appearance. And I’ll admit it, when I learn of someone successful, someone who does enrich the world around her, who brings integrity and humor at the strangest of times, if I see her photo, and she’s fat, it somehow means less. That’s so messed up.
Sometimes when I’m driving, I think, today could be my last day. I could get hit by an out of control car, and the car would go over the cliff. We have cliffs here. Windy roads with ledges. Or I think, what if I hit a deer. What would I do? Who do you call if you hit a deer? Do you get out of your car to see if it’s okay? I would assume so. Of course you do, you idiot. These are the things I think about, a lot, or maybe just every now and again. I suppose it’s relative. I thought it was normal, but when I asked Phil if he ever thought these things he looked at me like my teeth were made of corn, and my eyes were maybe hubcaps. He’d never seen anyone so strange, with a mailbox mouth. I’m not normal. But we all know there is no normal. Still, I’m fine with being not normal.