Fiction by Lara Markstein from our Summer 2017 issue.
I am not here for the lava beds. I am here because a month ago, in the middle of an advertising meeting at the insurance company for which I work, my boss said, “Jude, do you have anything to add?”
And I said: “Yes. I’m leaving.” And I walked out the door, my mug and milk-scummed bowl still on my desk, packages of oatmeal beside migraine pills in the top drawer. Colleagues who barely knew my name studied me suddenly, their mouths parted, unsure whether they ought to feel pity or jealousy. I did not return my boss’s texts or answer his calls, which was hardly fair; he’s a lovely man. But I couldn’t bring myself to apologize. The words evaporated in my mouth.
Anyway, my phone soon returned to silence. The company hired two staff to replace my position (it turned out I was not such an essential part of the team as I’d been told—merely prolific), and that part of my life was over. My friends bored of me reenacting my departure and I spent my days puttering about the house: taking apart window frames, computer keys, and fridge shelves to clean. Scouring the pantry and closets for items to throw out.
Dan was supportive, as always. Although he did say, “You needn’t have burned all your bridges, too.” He wanted me to see a therapist, convinced I must be under some incalculable stress. After sex, he slumped against my chest so his weight pressed me into the mattress and asked, “Is this how you feel?” I felt remarkably calm. Remarkably light. Relieved, perhaps. So I thanked him for the advice, but insisted I must decline. “My head’s working well, pal.”
Image: Gill, De Lancey. “Pueblo Bonito Ruin, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.” 1888. Watercolor. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.