I stared at myself in the mirror at 17:30 on a Monday evening. My hair is the longest that it’s been in my entire life. I leaned onto my forearms and brought my nose an inch from the mirror to inspect the face that I should know so well and had a thought. When you repeat a word over and over and over and over it starts to sound foreign and will lose its connotation or even meaning. Eventually you’ll dissect the word by sound and by letter and realize there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet and no more. You cannot make another letter, and you cannot make another sound in the English language and actually you cannot even imagine it. It is like trying to imagine a color you haven’t seen before. I stared at myself over and over and over until I didn’t know what I was looking at. Past the long hair, past the blue eyes that seem as if they’ve paled, past the thin upper lip that I share with my sister, the uneven eyelids and the forever sunned skin. I meticulously scanned my face and noticed creases by the corners of the eyes of my mouth. Am I nearly 28 and getting wrinkles? Is this why I should apply sunscreen? I twisted my face until the wrinkles were more prominent and immediately stopped when I realized they correspond with my smile. This is pleasing and it makes sense. I used to really hate my laugh. It is loud, probably obnoxious and very much ‘ha’ heavy. But between The Office marathons, the get-rich-quick ideas, the cheap booze and the expensive Ubers I had forgotten to hate that. I wondered what else I had forgotten, as I was starting to remember. I dissected every single part of my face until I didn’t know it anymore, and I didn’t know what was behind it, either. I stared at my eyebrows and raised them so there were wrinkles on my forehead. I tried to picture my brain behind it and I told it that I hated it and that I wanted to break up. I lowered my stare back down to my eyebrows and then my eyelashes and then my pupils and I stared at a stranger. I let my eyes relax and go out of focus for an undetermined amount of time, as they had grown tired from paying so much attention to the detail. I brought them in and out of focus and felt like I was exercising my vision. I leaned in a bit closer and found the clear contact rings around my irides and I hate you, I thought. If I keep up this exercise will it make you stronger? Can I, one day, wake up and be able to see correctly? I raised my eyes back to my brain and wondered Can I, one day, wake up and have some sort of clarity? My phone vibrated and I glanced down at a text. My spine was hurting and I straightened myself, brought a cup of wine to my lips and asked myself how I could be near 28 years old and still wondering “Are we done here, yet?”
I started pacing around in the one-bedroom apartment I was cat-sitting in Boulder. I let my feet slide far apart on the laminate flooring as I didn’t pay attention to the Olympics I had streaming on the TV. I watched my feet as I tapped the edge of my phone on that space between your upper lip and nose while I slid in and out of waves of deep contemplation. I thought about what it would be like for someone to know that about me – the ‘kelsey’isms. The tiny, intricate things that each individual has or does that they generally notice but sometimes have no idea of. For most people it becomes the things that you love about another person, and for me it has always become things I hate about them. My mother calls this intolerant and I don’t let that bother me.
There were a lot of things that Andrew said that I was thinking about, but particularly his comment “It seems like you’re caring about what other people think,” kept ringing between my temples. Was I? My phone vibrated and it was Giselle saying “It sounds to me like your heart is calling you back to that tiny mountain town,” and before I had time to respond, she following it up with “I know there was a reason you moved, but just for the record: you’re allowed to change your mind.” I went back to pacing and tapping my phone and damned Giselle for always saying the right things.
As I started my second cup of wine I was in the middle of a gif-off that was becoming evident I would lose. I let the acid burn in the small cracks of my chapped lips as I let the time click by with laughter and searches, until I realized time had clicked by quite quickly and I was late for a conversation that I didn’t want to put energy into.
Forty-five minutes later I was sitting in a dark speakeasy sipping (downing) the Grapeful Dead cocktail(s) and having to tell someone why I wasn’t interested in them –a conversation I’d never choose to have in public, but Williams & Graham is a fun place to be. I tried to be truthful and delicate with what I was saying, but he said the words “I guess I can stop trying to impress you now,” and I almost rammed my head into the table four times. My phone buzzed and I looked down and it was someone that was teetering on importance in my life and it was in that moment that I blurted out that I was going to Flagstaff for my birthday. I had a plan to visit Flagstaff at the end of September to race, but I felt the rush to go sooner and when I said it out loud it became real, and in that real moment my heart fluttered and I smiled and the skin on my forearms tingled. The person across from me told me that often it’s not the places you miss but the person you were when you were there. I twirled the garnished grape in my drink and thought it was annoying how someone can know so many facts about you but have no idea who (more accurately, how) you are. It was a true statement, yes, you can’t be who you were, but I would never chase that. I don’t miss who I was because I like who I am, and I don’t hate who I was in the least but I sure as hell am not trying to go back to that person. I traced the outside of the cocktail glass with my eyes slowly and thought rapidly about knowing the happenings instead of the facts.
I returned back to my two-week retreat in Boulder and rehashed my night to Sarah via text and after an explosion of laughter she replied with “I think you find it easier to be yourself even in stranger’s company than a lot of people.” I gave myself a huge stretch and a loud groan and reached over to give Peyton a pat. “It’s going to be a long drive,” I told that fat cat, and promptly fell asleep on the couch.
And it was a long drive.