“Body Weather” by Jenna Lebovits


    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


     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		


     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

     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	 


     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		


     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 	 

 	 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 

     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

     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

     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 


     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

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