winters, betty mars, elizabeth ehrenpreis, betty ehrenpreis, lizz ehrenpreis, winters, california, rural california, sacramento, sacramento valley, creative non-fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction writers,

POSTSCRIPT: WHEN YOU’VE RETURNED

1

My first night in Sacramento is spent lying awake in the dark listening to the rain fall. My legs keep getting caught in the sheets; the sound is comforting, but I cannot sleep. Everything feels wrong. I’ve lost even more weight in the last two months; the clothes in the closet were already slightly too big, but now everything is unwearable. When I last left this place, the heat was still in the hundreds. Now, a deluge.

2

Despite wanting to stay in and hide, I drag myself to go see Welcome to Night Vale at the Crest Theatre. I bought the ticket before I left. The friend who was supposed to go with me got caught up in work travel, so I went alone. In the concession line, the woman in front of me kept turning around to tell me how much she loves Cecil. I didn’t know how to say to her, “I’m not trying to be rude. I just don’t know how to talk to strangers right now.” Instead, I mumbled at her and worried that I may run into someone I know in this small town city. On the walk home, I called my oldest brother. We talked for two hours about nothing in particular.

3

All I can write is letters. I keep trying to write something for here or for this other project or for essays to be pitched or even in my journal, and all I can write is letters. All I can do is monologue on the only stationary I could find that I didn’t completely hate and shove stickers and matchbooks into envelopes destined for places I would rather be, which is literally anywhere but here.

4

I am still not sleeping well. When I lived in Oakland, in the old house where my room was painted olive green, the floor furnace caught fire one February and I nearly got trapped in my bedroom. I’m too afraid to turn on the heater in my apartment.

5

July drives out from Oakland late Saturday night. We drink whiskey and talk so much we forget to watch the time. We wake up early the next morning and drive through a storm to the rural area where we spent our adolescences. I take her author portraits.  We end up in the middle of nowhere and tromp through an orchard. The mud ruins both of our shoes. After lunch at a classic Winters haunt, she shaves the sides of my head and we both dye our hair as we watch Rocky Horror Picture Show.

6

Existential malaise is a privilege I am being afforded. There is nothing wrong.

7

In the shower it occurs to me: I think I am lonely.

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