20 Months

It has been approximately 36 months since I slept next to a man, since I heard the low snore from a chest rumble from anywhere other than a couch on the floor below me, 26 months since I packed the last of my things up in the first house, clothes from the dresser, plates in the kitchen, books from the shelf, 26 months since I got ready to finally move, only to hear my husband tell me he wasn’t coming with, 23 months since I said I was broken, 20 months since his death actually broke me, 20 months of parenting a child by myself, 20 months of listening to others tell me that they understood how I felt when even I didn’t, 20 months of listening to still others say nothing at all.

20 months of distinguishing the difference between being alone and being lonely.

20 months of discovering I am good at one and, on my bad days, not yet completely over the other.

You can learn a lot in 20 months. How to cook new things. How to fix a toilet. How to put on clothes day after day when sick, when stressed, when crying on the commute, how to say nothing because you need the job, because that roof up above is your job, because that food on the table is your job. How to go to work, come home, and love your child as if there were two of you. In 20 months, you could learn to become, in fact, what felt like nearly an entirely new person.

You could learn to feel more fiercely, forgive more easily, learn to pay attention to the moon night after night, its shapes, the way the clouds marked its face, learn how its progression across a night sky reminded you that progress was possible, even if slow. You could learn to love even the toads, come to recognize the soft hum of insects as song, admire the trees and their leaves for what they could teach you about letting go.

In 20 months, you could learn to want things again beyond just survival. You could learn to want, even if want was the most dangerous thing of all.

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