I type through heavy eyes. It’s Friday, and I have an hour left at work. For a while I felt flooded, so I turned the lamp near my desk off to soothe my senses, but now I just feel underwhelmed.
Last night my boyfriend acknowledged his loneliness. He said he loves solitude but so often he feels lonely; I said he needs to get acquainted with himself; he said he’s trying to force himself out; I said he’s only trying to escape. This morning he said he doesn’t know how he feels and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. I asked how he’s feeling—twice. He didn’t respond.
As my hand cradled his neck—smooth, girthy and staunch; it’s somewhat like fondling a tree—I thought of Sula scratching at Ajax’s skin to find the gold underneath, supported from within by sweet loam. I was reminded of how this man, like mine, is one of earth and fine metal—beauty, frailty, and all.
I’d put off reading Sula until I was ready. Despite burning through half of Morrison’s oeuvre last summer, I designated this book—along with Beloved—a pivotal read, one that would surely further define little abstractions in my view toward the future. I imagined it would fix everything; I would understand myself because I’d see myself in her: wayward, self-assured, too often incomprehensible. What I got instead was a fable about chaotic hatred, a too-real depiction of hard love and an emotionally undereducated woman as havoc trails behind her through a flock of robins. In culling the materials for her own world, Sula reached into others’ and soiled them, only to discard them soon after. The world wasn’t hers until she made it so.
It’s 3 p.m., and he hasn’t responded to my texts. One hour remains. I place a container filled halfway with chana masala and stray spinach leaves in the company microwave, set it for one minute, and wait. I turn around and stare out the wall of window separating the indoor lounge from the patio. It’s raining and somber; the patio grounds are drenched. The microwave beeps. I take the container out and sniff the steam emanating from the heat lamp. It’s made my rice and chickpeas smell like elephants.
I feel now as I did half an hour ago, right after Nel washed away in those circles and circles of sorrow: underwhelmed. Only now do I realize that I venerated Sula during a period in which I became numb. The world was mine, but the world isn’t mine—it’s ours now. And it was never ours, but everyone’s, and it was never everyone’s, but its own.
It’s 3:30 p.m., and he hasn’t responded. I’ve pecked at my lunch, but it’s still cold, and I don’t want to microwave it again because it smells like elephants and I don’t eat meat, so I don’t want to eat elephants. I’m sustained by two toasted almond croissants and a chocolate donut I had for breakfast, hundreds of carbs that I ate with my thumbs and a shot of espresso. Now I chase my little lunch with a sugar-free Red Bull to stay awake for a coffee date at 6 and feel somewhat like a person. It helps just enough to clear my mind as I finish this sentence.
Sula was fine. Nel was good. Nel survived because she never culled; she wrapped herself around what was given, surprised to find the nonchalance Sula sported like a shawl in October hidden deep within herself.
Ajax escaped, so we never heard from him again. I wonder what he’s up to in Dayton, whether he found what he was looking for. I wonder what he’ll do before he goes to work at 5. I wonder what he’s doing now while I scroll through his texts, trying to read his mood between the lines.
Where do I land in the spread between Sula and Nel? I think, glancing at the Dunkin Donuts box across the office. Sula tried to mine an earthy man for gold; one more donut wouldn’t hurt; Nel leaned into all she had; I can practically taste the chocolate frosting; but they weren’t that different in the end, were they; I’d have to contort my chewing in such a way as to avoid the cavities speckled across my teeth; maybe they don’t adhere to the dimensions of a spectrum; my roommate just announced there’s cheesecake at home.
Sometimes, at my most idle, I imagine us on a white sand beach back home. I’m lying on his chest, lips softly pressed against his collarbone, nesting my head against the heat emanating from beneath the dirt. I think of breaking apart the gold to search through the loam for relics of old demons and removing them and the terror they bring, but instead I’m here, in a chilly office space, and he’s made of flesh and bone,and what I describe would be murder.
It’s 4 p.m., and the day’s over. Not for me, of course—there are still emails to send, plans to drop out of, cheesecake to eat. The Red Bull kicks in and reanimates me. I gather my things and head for the Metro. He hasn’t responded.
I can’t tell whether I was underwhelmed or hungry. I wonder if Sula was just hungry. As I turn to go, I catch the distant, stolid images of small bodies scattered across a green expanse flash across the flatscreen; a red chyron reads: GOV.: 10 KILLED, 10 INJURED IN TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING. I frown as an ashen blonde cries for us on-screen. Maybe I’m just hungry.
Kaila Philo is a blog editor for Full Stop, where she also writes a column of dispatches from the urgency of life. She currently lives in chaos.