“I can see why you like fall so much,” my counselor says after we’re quiet for a while. I nod and glance at the red-numbered alarm clock on the book shelf to my right. 9:40. From her office window upstairs I can see a few students making their way along the sidewalk that hugs the outer wall of Jackson Library. They scatter themselves like points on a graph. Rise over run, their locations for a moment fixed, calculable. I am somewhere off the grid. Anonymous, I tell my counselor. No one can see the axis I run.
“I’m surprised you’re doing as well as you are,” she says.
I am leaning forward on the little couch in her office, my shoulders digging into my thighs as I look down at the cup of tea in my hands. Beads of condensation hang from the plastic lid like suspended tears.
“I think I just miss when we were all together, even if we still had our issues,” I say, placing the tea back on the table and resting one foot on the opposite knee, remembering. I say that sometimes it was so cold when we camped that we just stood around the fire complaining, but we loved it. I say it was like we were making fun of ourselves—like we were home.
I tell my counselor about our travel trailer, about the bunk beds me and my brother used, mostly for staying up late and giggling on fall weekends. I tell her about big bowls of chili and cans of cherry coke and the way the October leaves looked at Brown County State Park. She smiles. She knows exactly what I mean. Life before divorce. Life after divorce. We pause for a moment. 9:55. It’s not good to dwell on the past too long. I have to stay in the present. I pick up my lukewarm tea and make my way out the door, shifting along my axis in a new direction. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m moving again.
The memories are too much to carry, so I stuff them back. The happys and sads shuffle over one another like playing cards. They tuck neatly away into some general box I label “the past.” I’ll hold them again, flipping through them in that quiet way the next time my counselor says, “And how did you feel when…”
How did I feel? How did I feel when? This won’t be hard to remember, but I’ll take a long time getting the words out.