things I dislike: that in-between time, when I feel I need to speak out loud, to prove I still exist; the men who stare too long; the “are you traveling alone?” question; the plotting of my fake story of who I am meeting and when because I am a woman alone and my existence must be paired with preparation and constant fear of attack; the nightmare, the 3am jolt awake in my hotel room that one of those men are standing in my room; the questioning of what could possibly be pleasurable about a trip alone; the bruise on my hip from my duffel banging into it every time I squeezed into bathroom stalls with two bags because you can’t leave them anywhere; explaining — or the defensive need to explain — why; the man at the bar who talks to me then immediately says ‘MY WIFE is joining’ (sir, you spoke to me, and I do not give a damn and I am merely being polite and I would prefer to keep eating my parmesan truffle fries in silence) and then his wife does join him, and looks at me skeptically, as if my very existence is a threat, or at the very least an inconvenience, a plot twist she didn’t like; and I am alone and there is no one I can turn to and roll my eyes.
things I like: the departure, the arrival — I’ve made it! I’ve done it! — going wherever I want, whenever I want; no one questioning if on my first night I skip dinner after eating a giant pretzel for a late afternoon snack; going to the bookstore down the street two days in a row; the way older women look at me, looking me in the eye with something that seems like interest and maybe even respect; when a young girl, maybe 12, in an adidas track jacket (!) passing me on the street says, “I like your earrings,” in a monotone, and I grin as I walk to the brewery; circling through the Georgia O’Keeffe museum 4 full times because I can, and I want to — and on the fourth walkthrough sitting on the bench with the rattlesnake encased inside, and I smile under my mask; dipping in another museum 30 minutes before it closes, buzzing off my afternoon rooftop margarita and listening to Nina’s cover of “Suzanne” on repeat as I walk through the rooms as fast and as slow as I want, taking pictures of everything; texting my friend Logan and laughing out loud to myself as I go; walking on the empty street in the morning, tilting my chin up slightly as my mother would, walking fast, and feeling her beside me — I swear it! — but not having to say anything, because I am alone, and I am here, and I am fine, and I am free.
“Sometimes, you have to look around
at the life you’ve made and sort of nod at it,
like someone moving their head up and down
to a tune they like.”
— Ada Limón, excerpt from “Oh Please, Let it Be Lightning”