Betsy sat down to the serious business of changing her life. Indeed, that very evening she had stood in front of her body-length mirror, naked – one thing she was sure never to do again. She had looked at herself with sustained vacancy, masking mild incredulity. She had flung her robe around her shoulders, whisking away all the bulges and folds. She now sat at the kitchen table, her pen tapping the empty page, summoning her new life into words.
She was not delusional. Exercise? – what a vulgar sentiment. Diet? – absurd, the very root of it was an invitation to death. She wrote with a delicate and precise hand, carving the letters into the page: quit drinking. A few minutes passed and she added the word ‘excessively.’ She paused and then preceded the sentence with ‘occasionally.’ Occasionally quit drinking, excessively. That wasn’t so bad. A few more minutes passed and she crossed out the entire sentence. This was no time to be repressed, and besides, she would need her wits about her.
Two cups of coffee passed. Her head drooped until it pressed against the page and her arms hung limply to each side. She was a willow tree, her emotional branches having given up at birth – destined to wallow and droop. She sat upright thinking, what pitiable rubbish. With a surge of energy, she wrote three things down, giving each one a sanctified nod.
Thing one. Betsy stood in an island of clothes, everything from her closet strewn like so many corpses around her. She had a coin in hand, and for each item she conducted a flip of fates. Heads and she granted safe return to the closet. Tails and she summoned the ominous black donation bag. She had boxes prepared too. Every bauble and trinket would suffer the fates. Indecisive by nature, she orchestrated a spectacle of detached decision-making. She flipped and sorted. The fates were pitiless with successive tails and yet merciful as a favourite sweater was spared. Hours later, her apartment resembled a habitable space. There was a semblance of order and sanity, while part of her soul felt bagged and boxed by the door.
Thing two. She was examining herself in the bathroom mirror. Her hair was a complex disarray of strands. She did not have a vision or goal, but with scissors in hand, it was hardly the time for creeping self-doubt. She cut, shaped, tussled and re-shaped. Randomly, she stepped back and gave the mirror flirtatious, coy, and by the heavens, even seductive looks – she hated herself immensely. She finally stopped, not when she was happy with the effect, but when she believed there was a real risk breaking the mirror.
Thing three. She was at work, sitting at her desk. Edward was also at his desk and looking intently at his screen, a sure indication that he was doing nothing. She was patient, waiting until Edward got up with his empty coffee mug in hand. Leaving enough time to merit coincidence, she got up as well.
The coffee pot had finished brewing as she sidled into the break room. Edward looked up and smiled, nodding once.
“Allow me,” she said graciously, swooping in for the pot at the same time as Edward. They jostled, and for a horrifying moment, she thought she had knocked him over. He steadied himself, and she offered a silent pray for deliverance. Coffee pot in hand, she refilled his mug, and then realized she had forgot her own at her desk. Thrusting the pot back into the machine and unable to think what to do with her hands, she clasped them behind her back.
“Coffee?” she asked.
Holding his full mug in hand, he looked at her.
“Not here, Saturday,” she clarified.
The confusion did not softened from his brow. “You and me?” he asked, slowly moving gears beginning to turn. She nodded.
“Okay,” he said.
“Well, okay then.”
She conducted a hurried escape to her desk, and like a puppet with its strings cut, collapsed into her chair. Less than twenty-four hours into her new life and she was sufficiently exhausted.
Perhaps, she decided, the rest of the year ought to be a well-earned break.