What to do With the Energy It Gives You (and How to Keep Going Once Exhaustion Sets in)

1: clean. Something is always dirty, always put off or conveniently forgotten. So you wash the dishes, maybe, or vacuum under your bed, or finally get around to cleaning out the spoiled produce from the fridge.

 

2: paint. You like abstracts. You like them because they are fast and expressive, and you can paint them without a sense of loss at what might have been. Not much of a sense at least. Not like if you tried to paint a face, maybe with water colors like that girl whose videos you watch online. She can make the paint sing, making it rush and dance into the shape of someone, like it were easy, like it were as natural as pouring cream into a mug of coffee and watching it swirl and cloud and settle. You used to call yourself an artist, back in high school, but you don’t anymore.

 

3: sing. You hate your voice but the act of singing feels good, like swimming naked in the dark. You put music on, something angry, or upbeat, or some life affirming pop anthem about being young, and for three and a half minutes you let the song convince you that’s a good thing.

 

4: run. You bought those shoes, and that pair of yoga pants, and you really did mean it when you told yourself you’d go for a jog every evening after work. You made it a few days at least, before the inevitable. You put them on and put your hair up and start and just think about your own breathing, and the burning in your calves, and the sharp pain in the side of your stomach you half remember reading is caused by something expanding, but the why of it you can’t quite recall.

 

5: reorganize your closet. Half your shirts are wrinkled when you put them on, and you haven’t seen your favorite bra in weeks.

 

6: cry. Preferably in the shower. You can’t feel the tears with the water pouring down on your head, running down your back. You sob again and again and it hurts, because that’s what crying is, what it’s meant for. The tile is hard beneath you. You sit there long enough that the water begins to cool.

 

7: it’s not enough, is it? Even after all of that, even once you’ve grown tired and crawled into bed it’s still strangling you. You pull the covers over your head, pull your legs and arms in close. You don’t cry again, you don’t have the energy for it, but this emptiness is worse. There’s nothing left inside you but It. It. It. You can’t name It, and anyway this isn’t a fairy tale. Naming It won’t give you power, it will only make It real.

 

8: sit on your couch in the dark with a glass of water you do not drink, your hair still damp from the shower.

 

9: make coffee. You still can’t eat. You cook an egg but all you can do is look at it, and even that twists your stomach. The coffee is black and hard to swallow.

 

10: count. All the days you had, all the days you never will.

 

11: put her things in a box. You’ve been avoiding it. The car is warm from the sun when you open it. The sight of her CDs is nauseating. Her shirt still smells faintly of strawberry shampoo and sunscreen. The smell is good. It is terrible. Most everything of her’s is here in your car and now you see it, how little of herself she left in your apartment, like she knew. But you both did. It was always going to end like this.

 

12: mail the box. It’s easier that way.

 

13: go to work.

 

14: stop at the store on the way home, buy a pre made salad and a carton of ice cream. You still have marshmallow vodka in the freezer.

 

15: find something else to clean.

 

16: try to sleep.

 

17: sleep through your alarm.

 

18: go to work, come home, pass out, repeat.

 

19: repeat.

 

20: repeat.

 

21: allow your friends to take you out.

 

22: repeat 18 through 20. As needed. Again, and again, and again, and again, and again and

 

23: cook dinner. It’s just dried spaghetti and sauce from a jar, but it’s the first time you’ve used your stove since she said goodbye.

 

24: paint your nails, lime green.

 

25: watch a comedy special. Laughing feels like a betrayal at first, but that feeling fades.

 

26: get out of bed Saturday morning. It’s eleven-thirty, but that still counts.

 

27: go out Sunday. It’s just to a bookstore, just for a few hours, but you put on a nice outfit and your hair looks good in the selfie you take, even though your eyes are still tired.

 

28: make yourself an omelet Monday morning, eat it all without feeling sick.

 

29: smile when your friend texts you.

 

30: remember. This is not the first time you have been sad. She will not be the last person whose hand fits perfectly in yours.

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