January doesn’t get mad, she’s just disappointed. You let yourself go again, hog maw. You come bearing gifts: your paunch and your pallor, as well as a hangover from partying with December. Countdown from ten and here you are again. It’s your courtship, your dance, you and January do this annually. Break up to make up, start over, start anew, quit your vices and start running.
Always, it’s running. So: you buy running shoes from the fancy running people store. You are fancy running person. You are commitment person. See your technology tights. See your technology shoes. See how they aerate and alleviate, autocorrect your overpronate and supinate, and sublimate your desire to smack people. They’re stupid shoes.
Horn and hoof maintenance, she says, as she admires your ranch shoes. January is a farmer. She wears a straw hat. She chews a reed of hay. Oh that hat, she found it at Nordstrom Rack. Oh that hay, she got it at Whole Foods.
She’s off to hot yoga now, Bye, though she might have spoken that word into her phone. For you there’s some field greens and flax seed in the fridge. There’s natural peanut butter with the pool of flop sweat on top. January feeds it to you by the spoonful.
And one day on your cattle-slow jog, you run into February. Feb, as you affectionately know her, Feb is short and redhead. She is riding her bicycle. It’s in the fifties today. Feb cheats on you every year like this, throwing Donner parties flowing with champagne and cannibalism and hypothermia, where everyone is starving and boiling oxhide to a paste. But she doesn’t invite you to those parties. You get her temperate and mild.
Feb beckons you with chocolates and chalk hearts. January doesn’t get mad, she’s just disappointed. You kick off your technology shoes and slip into fuzzy bunny slippers — she makes you weird, don’t ask. Technology shoes will be relegated to yard work shoes by spring. See your shit kicking shoes. You are shit kicking person.
March has cats. Two or maybe ten, you’ve lost count. There is at least one for each stairstep. The cats line up one per stair, each one a bauble, and as March takes each step, they mew in turn, as though she is playing a piano. But they sing only for her. You stumble up drunk and get their midnight yowling, their collars jangle as they whisk off to find her.
March wants to visit the zoo, and you agree because it’s fresh air, not the cat food air of her house. The tigers remind her of Mr. Seamus. The lions remind her of Bailey Cat. Even the antelope reminds her of one of her stupid cats, and then March talks in a baby voice and slinks toward the Great Ape House and becomes a cat herself.
April. Lollypop biter. Impatient. Did a stint in inpatient. Floor two, room one oh three. Promises TC, her family is rich. She had locked herself in the bathroom and screamed she was going to kill herself, and since then it has rained everyday.
Sorry for the drama she says, as she climbs into your passenger seat, wearing a sundress showing off her stark-white kneecaps. On the outs again. That night she wants to sleep with the windows open. Says she doesn’t care if someone climbs up and murders her. You say, well this is a safe neighborhood, and it’s a second floor, it’s fine. But she is disinterested in logic or pattern. She snows the next morning. She makes you sad.
May is a little sister. You keep her, she keeps you. You keep each other because keeping is so important and so rare. She is a katydid, a pumpkin, a kid. An Easter egg finder, a hide and seeker, a dancer. An unabashed birthday monster. Her birthday is the whole month, also recognized as a national holiday somewhere in a tiny sovereign nation.
She watches Saturday morning cartoons with you, your bellies full of mini-marshmallows, magically delicious. You’re children again, sprawled out on the beige carpet, more greige from shoe dirt and dog dirt. Your mother, a bank teller, sits at the dining room table doing her performance piece with the Slim Fast, the cigarette, the mascara.
Act one, she applies mascara with he mouth open, leaning into a little mirror set up on the kitchen table. A sip of malted vanilla. A drag. Act two she rolls her hair up into communications tower of pins and plastic curlers. Act three she dons a bright red blazer with huge shoulder pads, looking like a ruffled bird. Fin.
By the way, May likes the nice bag that June has. She’s added it to her birthday list. June’s bag is its own tiny sovereign nation, with its pockets and sections and subdivisions. A weekender bag for a weekender girl. June never commits to a suitcase.
That bag is a clown car. The short clown strolls out, the skinny clown strolls out, the full set of bath towels stroll out because hotel towels unsettle her. The bowtie clown hops out, the murder clown hops out (the audiences gasps,) the antibacterial handwipes hop out because the TV remote scares her more than the murder clown.
If only she had a suitcase, she could fit the rest of the circus, the conductor, the lions, the dancing bears and fat ladies, and you could jet off to somewhere for a week or two, except you have a fear of flying, and beside, you’d rather wait around for July.
July has the blue eyes of the ocean, the tan skin of the sand. She is the sound of a sigh in the sunshine, and you are the sound of an ass adjusting on the plastic pool floatie. When you want to get crazy and grill watermelon, she pretends it’s a new and novel idea. She bakes peaches in pies and orders pineapple on pizza. She is like whipped cream, a dollop here a dollop there. A mountain on top, who cares, it’s summer.
She totes a fancy camera. Fireworks are her great subject. She sweeps her hair behind her ear, and waits behind the lens for the next one. You wonder what is the point of remembering fireworks. You remember you always had to leave the show early because your sister had to pee, no matter how many times your parents said to go before you leave.
Photos are for looking back fondly or remembering sadly, or scrutinizing how fat or how young or how drunk you were. Fireworks are only remarkable for a moment and then fade. She captures them with a sense of duty to show they existed. She is their Jane Goodall, their archivist, their conservationist. You wish she could stay for longer than a moment.
August has an anxiety disorder. We didn’t swim enough. We didn’t cookout enough. We didn’t visit that amusement park like we said we would, the one with the wooden coaster that makes the td td td sound rising up the track. td. We didn’t make french-pressed coffee and read the New Yorker on the screened-in porch. td. We don’t even have a screened in porch. td. We didn’t take the children to enough botanical gardens. They’ll grow into uncultured and ungrateful adults. td td td
The coaster descends and now it’s depression. She is somber as the school children who see the composition books and three-ring binders clutterfucking the aisles. The unsold pool floaties in dented boxes are dumped off like corpses in the clearance bin. The Halloween candy is just an aisle over. Halloween jumps out like a serial killer, and just wait because the Christmas decorations will stab you in the heart.
September speaks in a voice that is soft and ashy, in whispers because that is how goodbyes are best spoken, though sometimes they are best not spoken at all. As September says goodbye to summer, she whispers goodbye in that dusky tone.
But her voice just an illusion. She had a tracheostomy in her twenties after the car accident. Sometimes you want to pan fry your brain with garlic and parsley, we are nothing more than calamari.
The car accident adorns her body like a gold-plated headdress that weighs on her. Your headdress is made of feathered insecurity. You wear your stately robe of obsessions that you mistake for sentimentality. It’s like a production of the Lion King when you get together with September, a gutteral catharsis at the end of summer.
October is red and rust, oranges and cream. When she holds your hand, they don’t get sweaty. She keeps fruit in the fruit bowl, some apples and common oranges, a pear. And what are these weird oranges you ask, oh those are kumquat, a word that comes out of her mouth as a smile. To make a kumquat marmalade, she breathes, marmalade an exhale.
October is fine and she likes to drink mulled wines. She glides in her over-sized sweaters and loose-fitting shirts underneath, everything baggy and hanging off and hiding her body, which you never see. She hides some sort of gestation, some sort of mystery. She wears those layers like a carmelized onion. Everything is carmelized with her.
She bakes when she’s happy. She bakes when she’s pissed. She fights silently like that. Passive-aggressive apple pie is her specialty. It gets dark early. She goes to bed early. Most things in life are never as beautiful as you imagine them.
November is no one. It is the month your mother died. It changed the composition of a year. It pauses here. November doesn’t breathe or flow or rap. There are no cats, no kumquats, no marshmallows, no clowns or feathers. Just a still life painting of wax grapes found in an attic.
The leaves still change colors but they leave you colorless. The days still pass but they leave you behind. So you go back to doing what you do best. Always it’s running.
But first, one last hurrah. December. Ho ho ho. December has no filter, she says she’s going to raise hell and break shit but it looks like she’s just going to fix another drink. She calls it a Bahama Mama, a drink that’s supposed to have dark rum and coconut rum, grenadine and pineapple and orange. But she just has white rum and warm Sprite.
December is walking talking tramp stamp with maxed-out credit cards, she just wants the kids to have nice things you know, and even though she’s not working right now you know, she has a bad knee and fibromyalgia you know. The kids got twenty gifts each and when they were done that asked if that was all. You know.
Another year of wondering and wandering, encountering and enjoying. You wake up next to January. She doesn’t get mad, she’s just disappointed.