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Still Watching

She'd had cottage cheese for dinner.

Sure, she had other food she could cook. But she just couldn't bring herself to go to the effort. Not tonight. She sat on the couch, staring out the window at the street below where traffic beeped and lights flashed. People streamed in and out of the Chinese take-out spot. She'd eaten there yesterday. She still had some Lo Mein in a square paper box in her fridge. She was saving it for some other day.

The spoon still sat in the half empty container of cottage cheese on her coffee table. The wine in her glass was mostly gone, the deep red dredges at the bottom. Across the room, the TV streamed "Freaks and Geeks" endlessly. Lindsay and Sam jumped from one painful teenage encounter to the next, with only 10 seconds to decide in between.

She liked the noise in the background. It'd been years since she'd really heard the noise of the city. Every siren and cry and laugh and honk became like the stitching at the edge of your clothes - noticeable only if you stopped to look at it for long enough. She'd gotten used to it all. The rushing. The carefully guarded quiet spots. The work she'd grown efficient at. Friday nights out with the girls. The Saturday morning recovery brunch. A new dating prospect every few months quickly quashed for one reason or another. Yoga to forget about all of it for 45 minutes.

Eventually, it all became background noise.

Below her, a middle aged couple walked out of the Chinese spot. He was carrying the to-go bag and she had her arm through his. They were going to the park. They were having a picnic. They'd gotten a sitter for the night and they were going to make the most of the nice summer weather.

That's what she decided.

A mother with a screaming baby strapped to her chest dragged another kid that was trying to touch all every handrail. The mother wore a sundress, even if the sleeve was askew. Motherhood was hard for her, she decided from seven stories up. The dad was no help. The mother worked hard and got little reward, but one day she'd divorce him and go live near her daughter, who'd moved to Italy and paint all day and drink nice wine at night.

That's what she'd decided too. She liked this game making up lives for other people. It was easier than making up her own.

She looked down at her phone. Kristi had texted her a picture of the bar they were at. Just in case you change your mind!!! the text read.

She hadn't changed her mind about going out.

There was also the same text from her mom from an hour ago. You might like this article! Her mom was always sending her articles about young people that got a grant or went to grad school or got a job in England, where their success blossomed. It was all very encouraging and well-meaning and gave her unreasonable amounts of stress. She'd never be those people. Right?

Suddenly, the sounds of Lindsay struggling through a break up shut off.

The instant play had stopped. Are you still watching?

She wasn't really. She wasn't even sure what Lindsay had been saying. But she still watched the world below, the people moving around, the cars carrying them, the shops they entered and left. She watched long into the night, trying to let the cluttered streetscape drown out her cluttered mind.


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