After Sei Shônagon’s The Pillow Book
They take the last ice cube and don’t refill the tray.
Is a run-on sentence;
They leave their glasses, shoes, and belts around the house for the imaginary maid to pick up.
Is a life-long lesson in the definition of terms;
They do not eat leftovers.
Is an ode to ringtones, Freud, and the fullness of safety;
They walk out of the kitchen without turning off the burner.
Is a creation myth;
They do not put napkins in the wash even when they blow their noses with them.
Is someone insistently asking what you are thinking about;
They find houseplants an affront and knock them over as often as possible.
Is a recipe for lingering doubts and insomnia;
They do not read washing instructions. They do not sort. They dry everything on sturdy.
Is a zone of mercy;
They trim their beards over the sink and leave the hair.
Is a flow chart for the end of hope;
They do not empty the trash even when overflowing. They just keep pushing more in.
Is a museum piece with an installed couple sitting behind thick protective glass;
They spill something and rub it with their shoe into the carpet.
Is walking on a beach littered with broken shells;
They are incapable of closing things they’ve opened—a drawer, a window, an argument.
Is the fruitless search for the unbroken one;
They do not send birthday cards or presents. They do not thank people.
Is a thin sheet of flame folding in upon itself;
They think flowers are weeds.
Is the late sky and the morning air;
They put silverware crusted with food into the dishwasher where it hardens into rust.
Is the thing before and the thing after and the pause in-between;
They wait until the grass is too long and wet to cut, and break the mower.
Is what we talk about when we’re not talking about love;
They break things. Little remains whole in their presence.
Is a horse entering a well-lit room;
They pretend they can’t hear you when asked a simple question.
Is a sestina using these six words: blind, disappear, order, again, tears, once;
When you think of them, words like shovel, wrench, door-stopper, brick come to mind.
Is thinner than the night before;
They act as if they were born from the mouth of a river.
Is the same piece of luggage come around and round on the conveyer belt;
They don’t say what you need to hear.
Is a tiny theater where plays a tragedy that begins and ends the same way each time;
They believe most women are highly sensitive like it is a disease.
Is the stain on silence;
They are like bruises on the back of a woman’s legs.
Is a four- volume meditation on the color beige;
They do not hear what isn’t being said.
Is when you know less than you knew before;
They are poor at waiting and even worse at following.
Is an insistence on we;
They will not know what you want even when you tell them.
Is a person saying I really do not understand;
They threaten to quit you many times, but they never do.
Is the sweet smell of daffodils in the beginning, and the smell of earth at the end.
Marcia Aldrich is the author of the free memoir Girl Rearing, published by W.W. Norton, and of Companion to an Untold Story, which won the AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction. She is the editor of Waveform: Twenty-First-Century Essays by Women, published by the University of Georgia Press. Her website: marciaaldrich.com.