The Possible Causes of Your Suffering
Your mother. Your father. Mostly your mother. The fish that was only supposed to live in salt water. The new goldfish that had baby goldfish and then ate them. Learning about cannibalism. Catholic school. The Bible. Shakespeare. The word “counterclockwise.” The time you thought you were dying when your first period lasted for ten days. Tampons. Shoes that were too tight. Leaves that gathered in swimming pools. Wondering about things you left. Wondering if anyone ever found that note you left under the desk. Or the letter you left in the library book. The time you did a cartwheel in your room and left a hole in the wall. Walls. Shadows on walls. The black dot on the wall at Roosevelt Middle School, a.k.a. the Make-Out Hideaway. The sixth-grade school picture you left in the hole in your wall when you moved. Wondering if anyone ever found it. Leaving. Arriving. Trying to make new friends. Learning that the pen pal you wrote to as a teenager was really just your aunt. Winters in Iowa. Losing your retainer down the sewer drain. The list of things you wrote on a piece of paper and buried under some dirt by the baseball field. Not remembering what you wrote. Flowers that bloomed too soon. Flowers that never bloomed at all. Leaving home for the first time, not knowing it would never really feel the same when you came back. Not being able to see lakes at night. Taking astronomy in college. Learning about stars that die. Learning about dark matter and black holes. Losing things: money, credit cards, keys, pets, pictures, cell phones, the backs of earrings, concert tickets. Losing more things. Books you lent to people who didn’t read. Knowing people already bought their plane tickets when you called off the wedding. People you loved but chose not to know because there was something more mysteriously heartbreaking about not knowing. The people you will spend your whole life loving and not knowing. Living in an apartment on the twenty-seventh floor. Living in an apartment on the first floor. Watching the news. Presidential elections. Censorship. The phrase “seven billion people on the planet.” Knowing that, statistically speaking, there is someone living in the world who looks exactly like you. Knowing they could be suffering. Knowing that you will most likely never meet them. Losing even more things. Almost losing people and then losing people. Realizing there are so many ways to die and then realizing moments later, there are so many ways to live.
Mercedes Lucero is the fiction editor of Beecher's and pursuing her PhD in creative writing at the University of Kansas. You can find more of her work at mercedeslucero.com.
Illustration by Nusha Ashjaee