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Julie Brooks Barbour

Woman Leaves a Trail

I sign my name on documents and mail them to a realtor, an employment office, a county clerk, and a doctor’s office. I’m filed alphabetically, all my numbers safely kept. At a hotel, I walk on wet grass and leave size nine imprints, cannonball into the pool and make water slosh over the sides. As I travel I’m evident everywhere: drop of urine on the toilet seat’s edge, grease-stained napkin tumbling in a rest area parking lot. Mourning the blue dress I left at the cleaner’s in my former city, I take an exit for an outlet mall and park the U-Haul trailer at a distance. I can’t take a risk without bargaining. When I reach the townhouse in my new city, I text my sister I made it. No immediate reply. The previous owners scuffed the walls and broke a window blind. I can manage if that’s all the damage. An old friend from a neighboring town stops by and we crowd boxes into the living room. After my friend says let’s catch up later and goodnight, I face what I can’t resume: a life in my hometown. Past lives whisper in their taped cartons, my childhood creaks to the steady songs of tree frogs. Tonight I only negotiate the placement of bed and nightstand.

Woman Remembers Sleep

Instead of dozing, I float inside a jar clouded with belief. Some salesman dangles a pillow and bottle of basil lotion.

When sleep was good, I went all night and didn’t wake at 4:30 a.m. to empty my bladder or toss through the remaining hours before sunrise. Some nights after waking I read myself to sleep, mother the restless child I’ve become.

I drift to the next street where a group of women around my age whispers to one another and exchanges slips of paper. A woman offers me a small strip folded on itself. Opened, the paper is blank.

When sleep was best, I didn’t dream at all, or wake anxious and sad since I wasn’t busy all night creating stories. Those nights I slept hard, the saying goes, or like the dead, goes the other saying.

Woman Reclaims Her Time

There’s a broken clock sinking in the bathtub. Glass scattered underwater. A few drops of blood on a towel. My thumb bruised. Spackle for the wall where I threw the motored object. So my spouse and daughter don’t ask questions later, I say the clock stopped and I threw it away. If the time arrives for truth: I was sick of its orders and expectations. Now. Tonight. Should have done that last week. I cracked and drowned its perpetual sound. The day is blank. Again. Forever. Finally.

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