Overcome with anxiety, I cleaned my office for most of the afternoon. I think I’m prepared for what’s to come, but I can’t shake the feeling that something colossal is about to go wrong. It’s like I’m constantly swallowing my own heart back down my throat, and if I let myself be still my stomach cramps with something I can’t name.

The trouble is, I always think I’ve got more time.

My bags are already half packed, and I’m not leaving until Saturday evening.

One door to my studio seems to have been a temporary housing for ants. N., armed with a can of death, started spraying. Frantic, I scratched my arms and legs. I feel them crawling all over my skin. They’ll get me back for this, I say, half mad almost. I’ll be gone and when I come back all the books on my table will be eaten by ants, all my things will be destroyed because we took away their home!, I shouted to no one in particular. C. shakes her head, laughing at me all the while. They’re not human, she tells me. They don’t think like us. I scratch my scalp, my nape, the backs of my thighs.

Wouldn’t you fight back, if you lost everything you love?

I’m cleaning and I’m cleaning and I’m cleaning and I don’t know why I don’t feel at peace. The trouble is, I always think I’ve no more time.

On Closing the Apartment of My Grandparents of Blessed Memory
Robyn Sarah

And then I stood for the last time in that room.
The key was in my hand. I held my ground,
and listened to the quiet that was like a sound,
and saw how the long sun of winter afternoon
fell slantwise on the floorboards, making bloom
the grain in the blond wood. (All that they owned
was once contained here.) At the window moaned
a splinter of wind. I would be going soon.

I would be going soon; but first I stood,
hearing the years turn in that emptied place
whose fullness echoed. Whose familiar smell,
of a tranquil life, lived simply, clung like a mood
or a long-loved melody there. A lingering grace.
Then I locked up, and rang the janitor’s bell.

(from The Writer’s Almanac)

There are words for it. Something clinical, something cold. No. Something vicious. Attacks, most would say. Panic. Anxiety. I imagine them as dark clouds, wisps of terror, filling up my lungs and throat, threatening to make the world disappear.

Whenever it happens it feels like they have taken everything away from me, and I am left clawing alone in the deep dark.

It’s difficult, finding my way to the surface. I slide back to myself, only to feel like I have shrunk, dried up in those few minutes, and now my skin hangs loosely from my body.

A poor fit, says a voice in my head. A poor life.

I said, I should really learn how to say yes more than no. I said, remember when I was that person? It’s as if she’s vanished, these past two years, and instead was replaced by an empty shell, which is also myself.

Somebody asked a question, and it took me hours, days, to come up with an answer. I sit in a corner, my head between my knees, gasping. How do people do this without flinching?

What does it mean to say yes?

Gumption, I whisper furiously to empty room. Living, said the echo.

Robyn Sarah

It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.
It is possible that we are past the middle now.
It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.
Yes: I think that we have crossed it. Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of,
but to a different show, clearly inferior.

Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.
The tickets are to that other show.

It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened hall
without waiting for the last act: people do.
Some people do. But it is probable
that we will stay seated in our narrow seats
all through the tedious denouement
to the unsurprising end— riveted, as it were;
spellbound by our own imperfect lives
because they are lives,
and because they are ours.

(from The Writer’s Almanac)