I gave up drawing the bathrobe and I didn’t feel guilty.
Until I did.
I arranged pillows on the bed in your general size and shape and leaned into them through long, hot afternoons while scolding myself for not being more productive.
In a fit of ennui I made myself draw a bathrobe for you. I obscured the robe behind the ladder-back of a chair and suddenly understood my friend’s impulse to imagine something new behind her gate.
I had already been convinced that if I thought about you while I drew the robes I would do a better job.
Another way of saying this is that I believed that if I had sex with talented and interesting people, I would be more talented and interesting. There are formulas that corroborate this bad logic, which makes it no more accurate.
I had promised to draw every day because I thought it would make me more focused and creative, but my ambitions spiraled far beyond my capabilities. I began to hope the exercise would make me more diligent and a better person. I would discover a hidden natural skill. People would be impressed. I would make friends and develop patience and make money and would never experience failure again. I wanted to be better—not just than I had been, but better than everyone else. At least to you.
It was a lot of pressure for a dead man’s bathrobe.
When I told my friend, who was no longer in Mexico and had herself given up on gates, about my defeat she said, I mean, it’s an endeavor that was always doomed to fail. No one is ever going to capture life as it was. We all decided to try something impossible.
I listened to songs about clean breaks and being better off and burning bridges but the relief I was looking for didn’t come. The obvious best choice was still obscured by remembering a long summer afternoon of accomplishing nothing together and the feeling that that could have lasted forever.
I packed my whole life into the trunk of my car so it looked like I had never been there at all. I put the bathrobe in the dresser and gathered a few books I wanted to show you when I passed through your town, which had once been my family’s town, until even my association to myself was eclipsed by you.
I did an excellent job of disappearing.
As I tend to do.
Tatiana Ryckman was born in Cleveland, Ohio and lives in Austin, Texas. She is also the author of two chapbooks of short prose, Twenty-Something and VHS and Why It’s Hard to Live. Tatiana’s work has appeared on Tin House’s The Open Bar, Barrelhouse, Opossum Lit, The Establishment, Nonbinary Review, Flavorwire, and many other publications. Tatiana has been an artist in residence at Yaddo and Arthub, and she is the editor of Awst Press and Assistant Editor at sunnyoutside press. More info at tatianaryckman.com.
From I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do) by Tatiana Ryckman. Reprinted with permission from Future Tense Books.