Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Before I Left, Excerpt from What I Left When I Left


There might be people in this world that can read minds against their will and if that kind of person exists I am pretty sure my husband is one of them. I think this because of what happened during the week when I knew I would soon be leaving but he didn’t know; I knew I needed to tell him this but I couldn’t imagine any possible way to get my mouth to make those words, and since my husband can unintentionally read minds, he drank a good deal more than usual that week, jars of gin mostly, but tall cans of beer from the deli, too. He’d walk in the house with a can hiding in a paper bag and look at me like it was a joke. I would laugh. He would laugh. Inside our laughing we really weren’t laughing.

The morning of the day I left I kissed him before he got out of bed. A flimsy smile and no words and his mouth to my forehead and then he got up, got dressed and left the room. I stayed cold awake under my shut lids until I heard our front door close.

That afternoon I left the apartment wearing my backpack and felt so sick and absurd I walked into a neighborhood bar instead of the subway. I ordered a double bourbon even though I didn’t really drink like that and the bartender asked me where I was from and I said Germany for no good reason, or maybe just so he wouldn’t try to talk to me, or maybe because I needed to live in some other story for a half hour. I was a lone German woman, here to see the Statue of Liberty and the Square of Time and the Park of Central.

After a while a man came in, sat right beside me despite a long row of empty stools. He ordered a cranberry and nothing. The bartender said, Two, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

What’s your trouble? the man asked me. Tell me your trouble, baby.

I looked back at him like I didn’t have any trouble to tell because that’s my trouble, I thought, not knowing how to tell it. My other trouble is people who want to know my trouble and the most troubling of those troubles are when strangers want to know them and this is why my favorite thing about airport security is how you can cry the whole way through no one will treat you any differently. They’ll still search you if you’re one of the ones they chose to search. They’ll still try to detect metal in you. They’ll still yell about laptops and liquids and gels and shoes. They won’t ask what is wrong because everything is already wrong, and they won’t look twice at you because they’re only paid to look once. And for this, sometimes, some people are somewhat thankful.

Catherine Lacey’s fiction has appeared lately in Wigleaf, Elimae and Fifty-Two Stories and recent essays and interviews have been published or are forthcoming in BlackBook, HTMLGIANT and The Believer. She is one of the founding owners of 3B, a cooperatively-run B&B in Brooklyn. Her first nonfiction book, We Don’t Talk About Things Like That, will hopefully find a home soon, and the excerpt here is from a novel-in-progress that might be titled I Have Something To Tell You.