This is Life

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by Lora Kilpatrick

The coffee pot slips from his hand and hits the tile in a million tiny pieces of it’s all your fault.

He growls, stares at me as I shove gummy bears into a lunch box.

“You should have woken me up earlier.”

If I had a response, he stomps away before I have a chance to say it. The reporter on TV mimics his anger, raging about people dying in a country I can’t pronounce.

In a blur of neon backpacks, the kids rush for the bus. He leaves in a blur of swear words.

I stand in the silence they left behind, surrounded by the detritus of life. Half-eaten bowls of soggy cereal, spaghetti-crusted dishes, papers strewn about like confetti.

I swear I went to sleep an eighteen-year-old and woke up forty-five.

Where did life go?

Five months to toilet cleaning, two years to dishes, one decade to changing diapers.

My back pops as I pick up a jersey reeking of sweat. I bury my nose in the armpits to remind myself I’m not dreaming.

As a nation, we’re more divided than ever.

Hate surges through the screen. I hit the remote so hard it flops to the floor.

The TV turns black, watching me, the shiny eye of a dragon always waiting to devour. How many years did it take in its never-ending hunger?

Cords and plugs uncoil from its innards like tongues. I dream of ripping them out, dragging the monster to the backyard and taking out thirty years of hormonal anger. In its place I’ll put books and board games, a plate of warm coconut cookies, a box of old love letters.

Then I would move on to the video games, the computers, the cell phones. Everything that keeps us from looking each other in the eye and discovering the real problem. The pebble buried beneath the layers we call life.

But I must keep myself packaged up. Otherwise, the children would stare at me with wide, frightened eyes. He would push bottles of antidepressants my way.

Keep moving. You only fall apart when you’re still.

I pick up shards of coffee pot. Shards of it’s your fault. Pieces of this is your life. I’m something people break, then pretend it’s not their fault.

For the first time in years, I feel rage. Hot, thick, shameless rage. If I ever had words to fight back, they were taken from me long ago. All I have is my hands.

Before I can think, I lunge for the TV, unplug it, drop it a few times on my way out to the yard, and end up dragging it by its cord. From an array of garden implements, I choose an ax. My joy is uncontainable as the screen separates into a thousand glittering slivers of freedom.

“This is life,” I shout as I swing. If I don’t, I’ll go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow at ninety.


Lora Kilpatrick lives in Oklahoma, where she runs a violin studio. When she’s not playing violin, reading, writing, or tending chickens, you can find her a couple thousand feet in the air flying vintage tailwheel airplanes.

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