written by Emma Bogdonoff | illustrated by Mitucami Mituca
January has come, and I am wearing last year’s clocks like armor; I have already survived each and every one of their ticks. There is celebration in the cold air, a furor of resolution, an accounting of accomplishments. I stay inside, avoiding approbation for successes that feel like failures. The clocks have taught me that some accomplishments are small or large catastrophes.
After I sold the horse that I had spent years training, the horse that I could no longer afford, I dropped the check — the largest I’d ever seen — on the table and went straight to bed. I stayed there for two weeks. Congratulations, they said, what an achievement. Cup after cup of chamomile tea until I broke my only teacup and buried myself beneath the covers again. A horse-shaped hole in my heart.
Then I gave what was left of my heart to a losing battle, knowing the end of the story before it began. Terminal: years or months or weeks. My parents worried that it was too much for me, all those hours of driving and the hours spent sitting by her bed. I took the heart from my chest when it became too heavy to carry, and kept going. Good moments to temper the bad, eating pancakes for dinner and chocolate cake for dessert. I would treasure the memories, but in my empty chest, I felt the ache. A photograph snapped, but the moment gone. So wonderful that you were there for her, they said, at least she’s no longer suffering. And I thought, yes, but what about me.
To relearn happiness, I learned a language. I read the dictionary like a novel or a shopping magazine, selected my vocabulary carefully so that I could not hear anything hurtful. I learned the word ‘morning’ in four languages, but only in English would I have to mourn. One night, I dreamt in Spanish, and my sueño could not turn into nightmare because I did not know the words. A small victory. So impressive, they said, wherever do you get the motivation? I dreamt of forgetting English entirely so that no phone call could ever again begin with I’m so sorry.
I bought a plane ticket to a place far away where I wandered down streets that I did not know and felt the lightness of my own existence for a time. I bought a bottle of passionfruit perfume. Maracuya. I had never bought perfume before, but I liked the way the word rolled off my tongue. It smelled like escape. I lifted my wrist to my nose and, instead of looking at my newly inherited watch, I breathed in foreignness. Or forgiveness. Allowed myself to keep moving. Traveling all alone, they said, how brave. But I carried with me the weight of these successes, and some mornings my suitcase was too heavy to lift.
About the artists:
Yolanda Oreiro aka Mitucami Mituca is a Spanish illustrator, currently based in Barcelona. She is actively involved with the zines culture and currently collaborates with different magazines like proyecto-kahlo and Shameless Magazine.
Emma Bogdonoff is a snowboard instructor in Big Sky, MT. She spends her free time writing, drawing, and learning languages. Her flash nonfiction has previously appeared in 100 Word Story.