Only What Is

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What if she had just kept cooking all these years? What if she’d come to love hiking and hadn’t really tried? What if she’d just gotten some damn Cosmo magazine and learned ten ways to spice up your marriage, how to learn the art of seduction? What if she’d said I think we’re a little bit stalled? What if she’d told her husband she wasn’t super satisfied with their sex life lately instead of asking him if he was satisfied with their sex life? What if she’d allowed herself to sit for a beat with his every It’s fine, spent time with fine as not being so very fine of an answer? What if she’d admitted that she was a little bit less happy in the marriage than she had once been too? What if somewhere in herself that she can’t access, she doesn’t want to be with him now, not because she’s no longer wanted by him, but like, separate from what he wants, or maybe alongside it? What if she doesn’t know what she wants now? What if she never does? What if he loved her more? What’s the measure for that? Is that a bad thing? It doesn’t feel like a good one. The first time she realized she loved him, they hadn’t been dating long at all, maybe a week or two. It was one of those days when he’d just stopped by, and when she closed the door after he left, she thought, I love that guy! Love is italicized here but you should really try to hear it with an upward inflection, the way she heard herself say it in her head, like it was not necessarily romantic love but the way you’d say it about the bagel guy who remembers your name and sometimes puts a black-and-white cookie in with your order just because. It was only in the next moment that she thought, Oh, oh, maybe I am in love, because it’s not like she had ever really been sure what that meant anyway, and maybe all we’re trying to say now is that maybe being loved just felt so good that she thought she was in love the whole time but really wasn’t. Arguably, this seems like a stretch. She doesn’t doubt that she loved him. Maybe everyone wonders what love even is after it goes away. Maybe there’s a period of time where heartbreak supersedes recognition of any other emotional component of an experience. When he left, she’d been so mired in hurt that it was harder to locate any other feeling in the thick of that mud. And in this brain, it’s just so much easier to keep rolling steady in the hurt lane than it is to merge into accountability. So what if this had to happen, was always going to happen, what if there’s no other way for this to have happened than for him to blow it up? What if her bud is right, what if this was all meant to be, what if god was involved? Who is she to say god isn’t involved if god is involved? Wouldn’t god be like So rude, I’m out here hooking you up and everyone besides you is telling you it’s god and you’re all like “That’s not god that’s just random,” and I’m like “Bitch, god is good, god is love, jeez, c’mon!” One of her friends had said Who knows if there’s a god, who knows if everything happens for a reason, but isn’t it more fun to think that there might be a good reason for things than to think that there might not be? What if all the people who believed in something greater than themselves were right, what if all the ones who believed in nothing were wrong? What if everyone was right, that god isn’t everything or nothing, it’s everything and nothing? What if there were no what if, what if there were only what is?

What if is her game. What if is her fucking brand. What if is what stories are. What if she spoke up more, or louder, or longer or what if she did one little thing, one little something, one little anything differently and the words on this page are all what ifs that mercifully never got thought because they stay together? But she didn’t, and they don’t.

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