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Penelope's Lament

by Aliza Dube 5 years ago in family
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Growing up, my mother called me Penelope like an afterthought. As if she had come to regret naming me after a dead man.

The walls of my apartment are empty now. The mouth of my mailbox glares at me, black hungry, vacant. The week you left, I tore apart a book of coupons that came in the mail, terrified that your first letter, the one bearing your new address, was hidden somewhere between its useless pages. I knew it was too early to expect anything. I checked anyway.

The week you left I finally finished writing my book, a history of everything that happened before you. I pray that I never have to write about you the way I have written about the men in that manuscript.

The week you left I started going to church. I struck a deal with God that I will go to church for every Sunday you are away if he will keep you safe, keep you strong, bring you back to me.

The week you left I research more than I should. I start looking up advice columns by military girlfriends. I get perseverance quotes about deployment instead. I have panic attacks knowing that the worst is yet to come. I stumble upon a quote that says “A military girlfriend is just a wife in waiting, no one would put up with this if they weren’t in it for the long haul.” And I have panic attacks about the future coming up to hit us fast, it feels like I’m falling down the stairs lately, even when I’m standing still.

The week you left I thought about Steve’s quote from Wonder Woman more than once, his barely audible whisper of “I wish we had more time.” We will have more time I know. I try to kill time lately. But it stares back at me, sluggish and irreverent, stubborn in its pace.

The week you left I started taking Nyquil and going to bed at 7pm. My friend tells me that this is a sign of depression. I tell him that every bed time brings me closer to you. I start to envy bears and their hibernations. There is not a minute of this winter that I want anything to do with. Your absence is a hand around my throat and I’m trying to learn how to breathe around it.

My professor once told me that it takes the human body 7 weeks to adapt to even the worst of things. I am praying for a time when I will not have to remember this statistic so often.

The week you left I reminded myself that God can take my anger. I heard it on some human’s of New York episode once, a girl with colon cancer heard it from a priest. It’s my motto lately. But for once in my life I am not sure that angry is the right word to describe me anymore. Tired. Forlorn. Lonely. And against my better judgement, hopeful. But not angry.

I remind myself that your letter may take two weeks to get here. I still panic that you will not write at all. That I held on too tightly in our final hours, that you will slip like sand through my fist. It would be easier for you to not write, to forget me. There are easier people to love. But I still hope you will.

In high school, I read the Odyssey cover to cover. I read about Penelope, my namesake, waiting years for her love to return with no word, faithfully, without complaint and without doubt. Without ever going astray. I laugh now, in spite of it all. If my mother only knew.


About the author

Aliza Dube

I am a recent graduate of the BFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Maine at Farmington. I am currently living with my boyfriend and cat in Kansas, cause why not? I am currently seeking publication for a memoir manuscript.

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