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Maya Bernstein-Schalet

On Being Alone

Interior Scene with Cook by Morgado de Setubal

sometimes when i am scrubbing little coffee crumbs off the counter by the compost i think about who i am when no one is looking. who am i when i watch a robin land on the telephone line across from my bathroom window, facing the inconsolable desire to turn and to tell someone, “look, look at the beauty of that bird,” but instead must turn to empty space and a collection of shampoo?

who am i, starfished on the living room floor of my childhood home, negotiating the math of whether it is too late in the day for more caffeine? how late is too late? 2:38PM? is there too much dust on this rug? will i sneeze? but, i am so comfy.

who am i, crying at my kitchen table because i just read in an article that we are decades behind where we need to be for life to continue on earth? some part of me wants you to see me. some part of me is relieved i do not need to explain the pain reverberating in my core when i think of koalas running from fire, fire destroying everything and everyone they know. some part of me thinks, this would make a good Substack!

who am i, pouring pinto beans into a dutch oven the day after i make a pot of garbanzo, waiting for the smell of onion and leek in hot water to fill the room? i guess, one could say, i am a woman who makes beans. i am a woman who is fond of leeks. i am a woman who cannot imagine life without onions.

who am i when my toes are cold and there is no leg there to tuck them under but my own? someone who needs warmer socks? and, who am i when i spill a glass of water all over my kitchen floor? the only one around to be frightened by the loud crack of glass?

i like to be alone and i always have. i like to walk around by myself. i like that i can go as slow or as fast as i want. i like to not be watched. i like to eat how much i want, whenever i want. i like to not brush my hair, or wear a bra, or shave my armpits. i like to be who i am when no one is looking. i just don’t quite know who that is. but — maybe that’s fine?

i will shuffle around soon. i will check on the beans. i will find my slippers. i will watch the snow. i will lay my head down on my pillow, dozing off in a big city full of millions of people, listening to the whistle of my own slow breath and waiting for the light of morning.

About the writer:
Maya Bernstein-Schalet (she/they) is a writer from Brooklyn. They live in Tucson and are currently an MFA candidate in Creative Nonfiction at The University of Arizona. Their work has been published in Temas, Waxing & Waning, and The Briar Cliff Review.

Image: Interior Scene with Cook by Morgado de Setubal (1752-1809). No medium specified. No size specified. 1790. Public domain.

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