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in winter we learn to end
On the last day of the year, Sophie knocks on my door and says we’re going to Ojai. We’re going to the hot springs and we’re going to meditate and write our intentions and use the sulfur to cleanse out 2022. There are no phones and no wifi and before we go, Sophie asks if she can roll a cigarette.
She stands at my front door and takes a deep inhale.
I’m on a second date at a members club where they put stickers over your phone cameras. It’s a Friday afternoon, and I’m not at the office, so he’s invited me over.
I talk to his friend, an artist who speaks in an LA accent that is neither English nor American but somewhat German.
She tells me about a screenplay, and when I ask her what it’s about, she says it’s mainly vignettes, no clear endings, and no beginning.
It happened when I was younger than the daughter is now. It’s not her fault. I say it again. Over WhatsApp and phone calls. Again and again. I know, I say. It wasn’t.
I’m shoeless at the transcendental center with a man named Gary, who promised to teach me how to meditate. He’s wearing beige socks and beige pants, and telling me how we’ll know when we sink in, when the mantra becomes more of a sound. “The more you say the word,” he says, “the less it means.”
I come home from Ojai for a date with the guy who moved. He drives me to a cocktail bar in Atwater just like we did last summer, and he tells me how life is so much better now.
“It’s nice not being alone all the time,” he says.
I borrow his vape, and then I choke.
It was something so bad that at first I thought it was good. But, of course, the more I said it aloud, the worse it all became.
I remember Ben’s kitchen in Greenpoint when I told her. She stopped washing her glass to say she was so sorry. I didn’t know what to say.
It was worse until I said it enough it became nothing. I thought.
I text him when I get home. Why are you following her??
He says they met at the club by the bridge, he’s shit at names. Forgot. Sorry. He says. He’ll unfollow.
We leave the baths and I loop my arm through Sophie’s.
“Why don't we do this every year?” I ask.
“You said that about Palm Springs, Sophia. But sure.”
Do you realise who I am?
I almost ask him, but I’m in bed with a quilt wrapped around me, and he’s getting dressed as fast as he can. It’s nearly 11, and he says I always get like this. Domineering.
I stand at my front door, and I tell him I will not end another year, asking him to kiss me.
Four months later, I look at Gary and start thinking about my laundry, whether my sheets will be dry when I get out of here. And whether he was right, whether I’m always like this.
When I check back in, he says the sinking thing again.
Haven’t you already said that? I want to ask. Aren’t you just saying the same thing again and again and again?
A week goes by and he’s followed her again.
Why did you lie? It’s fine. Stupid. But why?
After two years he says he can’t do this again.
You’re great, he says. I’m sorry. It’s just happened too many times.
Sorry, for whom? I write.
The text doesn’t go through.
Sorry for whom?
No delivery this time.