I Walk Out of My Mother's House and Towards the Pacific Ocean
Linnea Cooley

All at once, it's over. I take a plane ride 3,000 miles away from my mother. She drops me at departures in her new car, and when I take the escalator up, I don't turn around to wave goodbye. I have a new address now, a new driver's license, a new haircut, and a new job. California is sunnier than I expected. I walk past a row of seven palm trees on my way to work, their trunks stretched upwards towards the sky. On the first day of August, I call my insurance provider and get a referral for therapy. The operator asks me a question and I ramble for a bit too long, my babble filling the silence on the other end.


When I cry, I crouch in the closet so as not to disturb my roommates. I have five roommates, all PhD students, all quiet and studious. My therapist keeps a jar of glass pebbles in her waiting room. The pebbles are green, blue, and gold, and the top layer is covered in dust. The pebbles are to look at, not to touch. When our sessions are over my therapist says, "It was nice seeing you this week" and I say, "It was nice seeing you too."


I buy a new pair of sneakers and throw the old ones in the dumpster behind my bank. Later, I take my money out of that bank and put it in a new one. I clean the bathroom. A week goes by, I clean it again. My roommate becomes my best friend, and then slowly, suddenly, he becomes someone who shares my bed. The bad memories make the good ones stand out with even greater clarity. In the darkness, I spend hours observing the place where the curve of his nose blends into the wall. My mother used to say I was difficult to love. Now I have no mother and I sleep as one part of two, his arms wrapped around my cold little body. I dream all night. My brother is three years old, standing by the staircase. My mother stands behind him like a shadow. She raises her hand: he screams and screams.

Linnea Cooley is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work appears in McSweeney's, Pif Magazine, and The Roadrunner Review, and in 2020 she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.