This is the house she didn’t belong to: Art on the walls, wooden floors, high ceilings, a garden alongside, hazy humid heat infused with work sweat and pungent vegan cooking.

The hippies all sense something in her – something taut and bleak and anxious. She’s never been accepted in a hippie house.

She tells herself she could never live with vegans, anyway.

She’s lived with troubled teenagers.

She’s lived with a troubled single mother.

She’s lived with prim and proper and highly organized family friends.

She’s lived in a house full of international twenty-somethings who alternately kept to their rooms or went out drinking all night, were sports fanatics, hosted backyard dance parties. Despite being absorbed into their circle of camaraderie she had almost nothing in common with them. She remained quiet and somber, her sense of humor askew. She stood at the edges. Tethered to him in spite of him, but when it got very bad, sometimes, she would take off alone.

Top down, driving along the levee beneath darkly underlit nighttime clouds, she luxuriates in the heavy, balmy breeze. Only when she stops to sit by the water and listen to the cicadas hum in concert, chorusing abstract patterns like the voice of the universe, like electricity, then the mosquitoes swarm and she gets eaten alive.

If she could afford to live alone, she would. A nice, quiet apartment done up just the way she likes. Clean and comfortable and serene. Darkness when she sleeps. Still, quiet, morning light to wake her. Her books. Her music. Her Persian florals on the walls. Her food in the fridge.

A part of her is afraid of living alone.

She’s afraid she would go out of her mind.

Only, if she were going to lose it completely, she would have done so already, but she’s afraid of slipping, of living permanently askew. Losing what little touch she has. Separate from everything and holding everyone in contempt.

Every night, for years now, as long as she has no witnesses, she kneels at the edge of her bed and she prays.

Sometimes she prays in thanksgiving, but more often she prays that God will grace her the ability to feel love for Creation.

Most nights, she prays out of emptiness on the edge of despair.

She tells herself that her depression is situational. Things will change and she will feel better.

She tells herself that in the midst of a dark night, it is enough simply that she prays.

And it’s true that, many times in the past, things have gotten better. But after any elevation there’s another descent, and another. In fact the general pattern, in recent years, has been one of decline.

It’s always something different.

As a teenager she was an atheist and she would lie prostrate on her bed, overwhelmed by grief.

She hadn’t even realized that she had had hope for the human race until she began to lose it.

She anguished over her uselessness as a human being. Her heartlessness. Her lack of interest and connection. The futility of so much time spent on entertainment.

Sometimes it was her double life as a family member, unfeeling. The daughter and sister who was other than the person her family imagined, the person they willfully pretended her to be, the object they loved.

Later, when she had moved far away and thought she had found her purpose in life, she struggled to maintain her energy when each mundane day followed each mundane day followed each mundane day.

Then there was realizing and really really believing that anything she accomplished would be swimming against the current of human cruelty and complacency. Unsolvable dilemmas of people who have done wrong to each other.

Crimes that could be forgiven and understood but never justified.

After a while, it was all too much and she despaired because she had never been in love.

She needed someone to ground her, stabilize her, comfort her – but she had never been in love.

Then she despaired because she fell so deep into love she thought she had drowned.

Obsessively, hopelessly lost in love.

But romance couldn’t save her from her own mind.

She moved home to the family she had discovered she loved, to a place that she felt as connected to as to her own blood and found she still didn’t love it enough.

She saw heights of education accompanying blind, unthinking delusion.

She saw naked greed and the insidious, cloying sweet poison of handouts and entitlements, engendering disgust in those who gave and contempt in those who received.

She saw astounding ignorance and brutal defenses that lashed out and beat down anyone weaker who happened to be at hand.

She saw human life counting for nothing, among the privileged and among those who felt themselves to count for nothing.

She saw cynicism and selfish hopelessness in those who saw the world as it was, who understood.

Cynicism in herself.

Bile.

She blamed the lack of meaningful work in the post-industrial global economy.

Exponentially growing populations.

Upheavals.

Scarcity.

The lack of meaning.

Traumas that lasted generations.

Pain begetting pain.

The lack of meaning.

.

She wants to tattoo “Patience” on her arm in a pale golden-yellow ink. To remind herself. To remind herself to wait to feel love, to seek out love.

She’s afraid she’ll do more harm than good, allowing her head to lead her heart, working to do good without a sense of love.

She despairs of accomplishing goodness with her bitter, bewildered heart.

When she was young she lay on her back and stared into the darkness.

Now she prays for grace.

She prays for hope.

.

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