Tomorrow I will throw jeans and a toothbrush into my backpack and exit my cold, messy apartment, leaving behind a note for my phantom roommate and two pieces of moldy bread in the refrigerator. It will take my feet and a train and a car to finally deposit me in front of the house where I grew up. I will climb the three steps and open the door and be greeted by warmth and love and chatter and delicious smells. I will sit in the kitchen where there are four types of cereal and five types of fruit, and I will eat and answer my parents' questions, and I will joke with my brother and hear myself laugh for the first time in weeks.
Later, the relatives will come over, and I'll be hugged and photographed and interrogated, and my grandmother will give me a present that will be edible, to Put Some Meat On My Bones. I will nod and socialize and exchange amused looks with my brother and smile until my face hurts. Dinner will be huge and wonderful, and people will keep passing me food, and I will keep eating.
Afterward, my brother and I will sneak out to the back porch to talk and be alone. He will make fun of Aunt Edith, and when he laughs I'll notice that his eyes are as blue as the darkening sky. Sometimes we won't talk, and all I'll be able to hear will be crickets. It will be much too cold, but we will sit outside until we can't stand it anymore, and then we will go back in and sit by the fire and stay there until we have eaten and talked ourselves to sleep.
The day after tomorrow, I will take a car, a train, and a subway, walk over a bridge and up three flights of stairs and return to my apartment. It will be as cold and empty as before, and all I'll hear will be the steady noise from the four lanes of traffic outside my window. But the highway starts to sound like the ocean after awhile, and one grows accustomed to the cold. You can even get used to hunger once you've lived with it. Soon it will become so familiar it will seem as much a part of me as the blue of my eyes.
"I am an award-winning writer who lives in Florida. My fiction has appeared in Elements, The Storyteller, Mudrock Review, and on the website Satireville." E-mail: kjlitchfield[at]juno.com.