Back when I still had Amy. One night we were lying around on her ratty livingroom carpet. I had my eyes closed. Listening. She was full of ideas, full of what if?   and here's what we should do.   She laughed a lot. It made me tired.

She jumped up and ran to the bathroom and came back and said don't open your eyes. I didn't.

It was cool when she smoothed it on my face, smelled like tangerines and dirt. Mud mask, the kind that would leave gray powder in her eyebrows, waiting for me to discover it, hours later, in bed.

She didn't ask if I wanted it on my face. She never asked; she knew I might say no. I adored her for that. She never did waste any time talking me into things, just dragged me along into climbing water towers, jumping from her uncle's hayloft into not enough hay. Would have dragged me into a marriage. I would have gone. If she had wanted me to.

She said, quit moving your face. I held still, no more fooling around. When she had me covered   (round cool circles on my cheeks and chin. a swath across my forehead like the relief of a fever cloth. slow slender strokes, her soft strong fingers blending me together)   she went off to start dinner. Don't let it get too dry, she said. It'll pull your skin, it'll hurt.

As the mud dried it constricted, it did hurt. My forehead, cheeks, chin all tight. Mouth encouraged to stay closed, taut. I waited a while, until the itching, before I went to wash it off. In the bathroom mirror I was an interesting brownish monster. I wanted to bare my fangs at myself but all I could get was a small expressionless slit. I wiped off the mud with wet cotton balls. Dampened, the mud relaxed its hold on my skin, like I was wiping a cool, immediate muscle relaxant all over my face. Underneath, my skin was pinker, but still the same old skin.

I try driving new roads to work but I always go back to what's easiest. I keep thinking I will dye my hair, but I don't. I think, this is just a phase, I will go back to books sooner or later, I really am a reader, I'm just not reading right now. I blame my job. I blame other people. I try things but they don't work. I don't really try.

I sit where most of us sit.   In a box, in front of a box.