I. the body keeps on walking but you do not walk with it the body keeps on speaking but you remain quiet the body keeps on going going going but you remain still you walk down the hill around the corner to the post office say hi to the man he asks you how you’re doing you tell him you’re doing ok and how are you he says he’s good but that’s what people always say so you don’t believe him he hands you a card sign here you tell him hope you have a nice day the card is red it’s from your father happy birthday Jenna Louise and suddenly you are five years old before bedtime and you miss him and it confuses you the feeling returns the one in the gut but this time it’s stronger and this time you can’t ignore it but you try to you walk around the corner back up the hill back to your apartment you stop to take a breath the breath is shallow the body unfamiliar II. you are six years old at your best friend’s house your mothers are best friends too and you tell strangers you are sisters and they always believe you because you both have the same unruly hair which has become less and less tame with age the clock tick tick ticks it’s small round you’ve never noticed it before never noticed the small swirls of pastel flowers hand painted on its frame the tick tick ticks are all you can pay attention to it’s 2am and before tonight you’ve never been awake past midnight the clock synchs with your heartbeat you try to make it your mantra to focus only on it and not on your thoughts but the feeling overwhelms you you feel as though you are the only person awake in the world III. your mother’s voice is shaky unsteady her breath shallow on the other end of the telephone it feels urgent she tells you your grandmother’s condition has worsened you should consider coming home for the weekend you’re not sure how to feel a sensation builds in the lower abdomen a knot you can’t ignore the tightness you need to take a deep breath but it hurts so you hold your breath for a few seconds you tell her of course you’ll come tonight even though the drive is long and it’s already late last weekend was your birthday you celebrated at home and your grandmother was there and she seemed alright she kept telling you how happy she was to see you she met your boyfriend he’s a good man she said and she wants to see more of him but you couldn’t smile as she told you this you just felt sad IV. T falls asleep before you on the night after your grandmother died it’s that feeling again and suddenly you are nine years old lying in a bathtub blackened by dirt and mildew in a seedy San Diego motel your mother tells you that she wants to move here wants to be closer to her sister but you think that’s strange you think that maybe she’s trying to make family feel like family because it never really did feel like family except maybe for the first five years before your siblings were born or maybe it did feel like family just not in the way you would’ve liked it V. November 2020 one year after your grandmother died you open your phone search through your songs until you find it You’re in My Heart the song that had been playing on the radio that night you force yourself to cry the song is by Rod Stewart but you hate Rod Stewart you feel bad sobbing to one of his songs you wish a better song had been playing that night because now it’s an anthem and you will listen to it this same day every year the last time you heard it you were reaching for a 14-ounce can of kidney beans at the grocery store a vague constriction the body builds feeling in the heart the chest becomes heavy tense then the feet then the arms then your vision the body feels foreign far away and you notice the aisles beginning to narrow you wonder if they’re closing in on you or if it just feels that way VI. you decide that pleasure is good decide to stop feeling ashamed about it you’re lying in bed together you want to feel good you focus on happy thoughts ignore the rest it’s late maybe eleven he just got home from a soccer game tells you he’s sore so you sit on his lower back your legs are dark against his pale skin you want to rub his shoulders run your hands gently down the length of his back a body that loves you a body that you want to love and you do but something’s in the way his skin is dry you reach across his body barely grasp the bottle of oil on the nightstand careful not to spill it you readjust your balance by pushing one leg down on the feathery comforter you hear the sound of her body in the hospital bed you begin to panic it’s irrational you know this but you stay there for a few moments unable to get yourself out VII. machine beeps card scanned tiny light turns green you tell the woman thank you and exchange a smile she looks tired you feel tired you wonder if she notices if other people notice have you always been this tired? your friends are tired H is depressed she’s been depressed for years now her birthday is on Friday you make a plan but she doesn’t seem excited karaoke but you don’t like karaoke the cafeteria smells like soup shitty soup and chicken too people line up for the shitty soup you’re not supposed to eat the shitty soup it makes you sick and food stuff is stuck to the bottom of your shoe and a man you’ve never seen before bumps into you tells you he’s sorry he avoids eye contact and you say it’s ok and the body keeps walking an alarm beep beep beeps slow for too long a worker turns it off he yells to the crowd I’m sorry tells you to enjoy the food nobody responds you keep eating but you smile in his direction your friends talk but not much everybody is tired and you don’t blame them but sometimes you want to talk all sounds converge into one and you wonder what people at the other tables are talking about you wonder what they wonder you wonder what they know and if they like the shitty soup your stomach hurts but you’re eating rice and black beans no soup and hot sauce and a bowl of fruit a new person sits down K they have blue hair they seem afraid and the first thing they say is sorry I have social anxiety nobody knows how to react you all just kind of nod you don’t think that’s reassuring for them but you try not to make it your problem it’s not your problem alarm beep beep beeps again but this time stops the conversation gets better talking about birthdays and birthday outfits but K isn’t talking they just look uncomfortable H is excited about her birthday and your stomach is feeling better you remember you have class have to go now you tell your friends you all decide to go but K just got here they’re still eating but it’s not your problem you have to go to class VIII. you pack two backpacks pack the car get the little dog make the five hour drive up north you want to feel happy think you are ready to feel it T comes with you the drive takes longer than you remember but you’re smiling and you’re talking happy with him about good things talking and smiling and he looks happy when he looks at you it’s dark when you arrive at the campsite about an hour from his childhood home in Vermont you step outside the car you feel different the body is tense on edge you are no longer happy no longer smiling talking about good things you are outside in the dark and afraid the little dog barks and T yells at her to stop her name is Lonesome IX. you drive the car down on Tuesday get there on Friday the drive was easy peaceful the car is gray 2010 Toyota Camry your grandmother’s it’s in great condition your grandfather maintained it well he’s good at that kind of thing the car has had numerous owners in your family first your brother the day she gave it to him she was beaming saying how proud she was a few months after she died your mother drove it around in a desperate attempt to feel close to her mother the car still smelled like her still had her things in it you promised your mother you’d leave one of your grandmother’s necklaces in the car so you hung the cross necklace on the mirror though you despise Christianity and send a picture to your mother X. it’s 6am in Savannah and you awake suddenly to the feeling of weight on your chest you and T have spent the night in a historic-chic motel it’s haunted according to Reddit you dreamed about your grandmother last night she was wearing all white except for a blue silk headscarf long locks of caramel hair visible beneath it and it made you smile she had her hair she was sitting on a couch but you don’t recognize the place perhaps your grandparents’ first home in New Jersey? a small square painting hangs above the couch you’ve never noticed it before a girl maybe five years old in a pale blue dress a small white hat rests sideways on her head eyes innocent but dejected XI. you take less than usual this time T takes the same your bodies are similar in size both moderately fit and naturally skinny blessed with fast metabolisms the pill goes down easily and doesn't burn you’re sitting side-by-side in two lawn chairs on a quiet beach in Florida thirty minutes before sunset the comeup is quick you consider yourself a sensitive person hyper-aware of her body perhaps a bit too aware he begins to feel it first it takes you at least another twenty minutes the beginning is pleasurable except for the tightness in your lower abdomen you keep this to yourself you don’t want to alarm him your thoughts move quickly you can’t focus on any one before it’s onto the next you ask yourself if you feel happy yet is the body at ease? you exchange sweet smiles stand up move the chairs down to the water careful not to step on any of the hundreds of man o’ wars lining the shore and you sit back waiting for the body to relax for once you take one long deep breath
Jenna Lebovits is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she concentrated in creative writing and cognitive psychology. She currently lives in the NYC metro area, and this is her first publication.
Image: “An Encaustic Bat Flew By My Window” by Bill Cawley