And not crying and getting steps without a tracker and kissing somebody kind. Sleeping without antihistamines, making smart fantasy trades, remembering her umbrella, buying the right-sized jeans, checking her calendar the night before meetings, online shopping only when sober, attacking her to-do list from hardest to easiest. Living in the present. My parallel cat is living in his present, sleeping in the sun, letting toddlers learn to pet without fussing, stalking frogs without pouncing. We decide: waiting for the future, for a me who stops wanting, who wants other things, is too hard. Instead, my restless, lazy cat and I look sideways now, while parallel us is doing it right, for tips we will ignore, before it is her wishing to fast-forward through hurt, her cat puking up grass on the rug.


Immortality would be list of perpetual burdens: learn the names of actors and ignore the lawn and buy the wrong avocadoes and bury our cats and repaint the living room and ask young people for help and get worse at trivia and recycle and keep track of win-loss records and moisturize and toenails and steps at zero every morning and get our hearts broken and remove the heartbreaker’s city off your weather app then feel better enough for too much Househunters and dinner over and over until you can tell a new person morning I slept well. Living forever at its best: just bored enough, choosing a tiny bit lonely over the effort of company. A small but manageable sadness. And then every third week a day trip with a friend who doesn’t bug you who tells you which TV to watch next and plays car games to a place with new trees and birds you don’t recognize and your feet get all tired on the trail and the omelet at the diner isn’t great but you eat the whole thing anyway and wish you were home alone where your thumb knows the remote control in the dark. Don’t pretend a world without endings makes sense. Someone new can love me if they want but they’ll have to do it on my couch and bring me supper and smokes.


About the Author: Jennifer A. Howard edits Passages North and teaches creative writing at Northern Michigan University in the snowy Upper Peninsula. Her collection of short-shorts, How to End Up, was published by New Delta Review.

Story Songs: "Living in the Country" by Cowboy & "Stuck Between Stations" by The Hold Steady