How to Be (8)

Samantha Edmonds


Rather than

Get accepted into the university of your choice, five and a half hours away from the boy you promised to marry, an hour from your mother. It will take you over two years to get your degree, more if you pursue the PhD, and in that time, he is not willing to relocate to be closer to you. His life has roots, unlike yours.

Leave him. Do not want to, but do it. Cry when you do. Watch him cry, too. Regret it. Think he was good and kind but average. Do not miss him, not at first. There are other boys in your cohort and they have chosen the path you have chosen, the one your ex thinks is crazy, the one made out of words and not tangible things. Perhaps you will fall in love with the words of one of these new men, but maybe not. It doesn’t matter. You are here to write.

It is hard. It is, to be honest, mostly miserable. Get a studio apartment to yourself, the first time you have ever lived alone. On weekends, don’t leave your apartment. Go two days or more without speaking to another human. Wonder if you exist. Dream of sex, but have none. Drink. Smoke. Spend your money on those vices instead of groceries. Miss your mother. Start to even miss, much later, the golden-eyed boy you’ve left behind. Wonder if you have made the wrong choice.

Start forgetting to call your mother every day. Settle on every other, then once a week. Then every two. Run out of things to say to her when she starts calling you. She does not know the names of your new grad student friends. She does not know what you’re working on or what your apartment looks like.

Go out on weekdays with the students in your cohort and order PBRs and talk about Don DeLillo and David Foster Wallace in smoky bars with no windows. Is the Mona Lisa just like the Most Photographed Barn in America? Will post-postmodernism ever catch on? Bring work home with you. Greet in the office on Monday the same people you shared Saturday night with. Write. Write. Write. Find in this terrible sadness some reluctant joy, surrounded by people who think like you, write like you. These peers will call your work prolific, but you will just call it lonely.

Wonder what your mother would think of it.

To give it all up, to move back and call home, go to Section 9.

To keep following the words even into the darkest void, go to Section 10.