And Then I’ll Smile

At night, near the end, Roxie would come into our room, requesting my pillow. She’d do this by sitting at the end of the bed and look at me silently. Her eyes were my downfall.

She might as well be asking me to give her the moon because I was three pillows in, my back perfectly situated several inches from the wall behind my bed. But I’d do it. I’d remove the middle pillow (admittedly, the least plumpiest one), and put it there on the floor where she’d lay down and breathe heavily for the rest of the night.

One day, I was in the kitchen and I was looking at the picture our daughter had drawn of our family. We are a small family, three people. Big personalities. Not to the outside world, though. To the outside world, we are the Clays. We are small people who are kind and generally seem to have it all together.

We are nothing if not con artists.

I don’t mean that in a bad way. We’re not going to swipe your wallet any time soon (although Ava’s a bit of a wild card, so keep an eye out). I just mean we hold our cards to our chests because they’ve all been defaced with that dubious art of living.

We’ll be honest with you. We’ll love you through unending acts of service. But except for a select few, the curtain will remain closed.

Nothing to see here, folks.

I was studying that picture. I look like a dowdy fraternity house mother who needs to get her roots touched up and Matt looks like the questionable neighbor leering out his window across the street. Then there’s Ava, mouth wide in an excited “o,” (smiles are so last year), holding Roxie who looks more like a horrified meerkat than a dog, and then Rocco, a wild fox/half lemur at her feet.

I remember looking hard at that picture, at Roxie, thinking one day, this picture will be a lie.

And now it is.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about how I hate the cold and hate the hot but also love winter but then kind of despise it.

She laughed. And I put up my hands and said, “I don’t even know what I want.”

This over a plate of tacos.

I don’t want the past, necessarily. But there are moments of it I’m still swimming in. The present is too complex for me to think about sometimes, and the future? The future is the enormous rock down the lane that my feet walk towards, but I’m too put off by the fact that I have to walk there myself to realize how much closer I’ve gotten to it.

I think about this. About the universe God created and how much reason and logic has been drilled into it. We don’t go spinning, uprooted off this earth on Tuesday only to be safely spun back down on Wednesday. I think about chaos theory, how there’s an infinite number of ways to lose your mind and break your heart, but at the crux of it is God’s hand, his order, always guiding you home.

He can’t leave me. I won’t let Him. Because without Him? There’s no more honesty. There’s no more unending acts of service.

The curtain becomes a wall, and He’s no longer allowed to live behind it.

So these are the things I think about, and then someone comes up, a new person. Someone who will see me, small and slight, particularly unassuming. They will think, she looks like a nice person, and find comfort in the modest way about me and come to say hello.

And I will want to peel back the surface of hair and pore and skin and skull and brain until they see the workings of my own chaos, how it’s patterned and approaching a reasonable sense of stability.

But instead, I’ll just say “Hi, I’m Ericka.”

And then I’ll smile.

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