A late-night infomercial promises miracles of weight loss as I load the dishwasher with regrets and the remnants of another dinner eaten alone.
A dirty salad bowl witnesses my testimony about my mistakes, greasy silverware listens to me confess how I fucked everything up. I try to fit my carelessness next to a pot crusted with spaghetti sauce, then pile the things I gave up on on top of my sticky plate.
I gently place a broken promise next to my lone wine glass in the top rack. I fill the compartment with dish detergent, close the door and push the start button.
I'm alone. The dishwasher noise obscures assurances coming from the next room - pounds miraculously melting away...
In my dream, I'm reading a letter from myself: "Was it an easy thing to do? Was what you gained worth what you lost?" It's like a form - a series of questions with boxes underneath to fill in my answers. "Is the upset that you caused loved ones something that keeps you up at night? Check box for 'yes' or 'no'".
Awake again, a faded photograph has fallen from my hand to the worn carpet. I pour another glass of tequila.
It's an uphill battle, isn't it? Finding a path around your mistakes, without ever admitting to any of them?
-Janet, Near Elkton
More Postcards from Janet
That guitar player up on the stage knows things about me. Out loud, he sings songs about snow falling on a Vermont landscape, but when I catch his eye (which is surprisingly easy to do), I can see that he knows all kinds of truths about me. "I know why you're wearing that outfit," his eyes say to me alone. Other people hear metaphors about heavy snow bending white pine branches, but the words that go into my ear are "don't kid yourself into thinking that your obsessions are important". The chorus (that seems like it repeats a dozen times, and will linger in my head in the weeks to come) keeps singing, "you went and threw it all away just because you couldn't handle it?"
All those pretty people in their pretty clothes - they all waltz past me without making eye contact.
But they see. They know.
They're good at pretending not to notice me, but really, they're doing whatever they have to do to maintain a safe distance.
I can't really blame them.
I go to such trouble to maintain this disguise. I do everything I can think of, pretending to be someone I'm not, but they see right through me. I guess anyone can. For all the ways I try to present myself as someone else, all I'm doing is putting paint on the wrong surfaces.
Dear Alice,I look back over my shoulder at my excuses. At the times when I pretended I had someone else's interest at heart, when I turned someone's words around, when I told myself that it was easier just not to make the effort after all. I think back over the ways I justified my own selfishness, the ways I convinced myself that all of my mistakes were really someone else's. Of all the lies I've told myself, which of them were worth it? Which make any sense now?