- At Home in the World
As I'm falling I think: Here I am in Whole Foods, I'm thirty-seven, I look good for my age—no gray, no sagging yet—I smell like silk, I'm in advertising, I'm smart, I'm together, I'm wearing a plum wool sweater from REI and a short jeans skirt that is going to be around my waist in less than a second, I'm holding a bottle of lime seltzer in one hand, an expensive chunk of cheese in the other. That's as far as my mind gets, then bam, down I go. There's nothing to slip on, nothing technically wrong with my knees —they just give. The seltzer rolls into a tower of stoned wheat crackers, jolts but doesn't topple it, doesn't down it like it should. The cheese goes sliding under a massive refrigeration system where the hydroponic salads are kept. As I go down, all I think is: I hope they find that manchego before it starts to smell.
There's no reason I should hope that—I have no love of Whole Foods. I get claustrophobic in the clogged aisles of joggers, hipsters, hippies, hobbled old women with eyes that shine like dimes. I spend way too much money here, regularly. It's like Whole Foods is some kind of clown who robs me weekly with a bouquet of artfully arranged flowers instead of a gun. It's like Whole Foods is slightly sinister; it's like Whole Foods plots.
For instance, why I fell: there's a big shiny Dwell magazine display right by the cracker tower, and on the front cover is the building in Cleveland I almost jumped off twenty-some years ago. It's revamped. It's redone. It's restored, but I, obviously, am not, mainly because my best friend whom I was with did jump, and I saw what her body did on the pavement seven stories below.
What her body did was ooze and seep and go into my own.
Well, her body didn't. But that evening, under the polluted crust of sky, our eyes toward Lake Erie and snow in our hair, she jumped and went into me because I didn't. This is how it feels when your best friend dies and goes into you: creepy. Sad. A fiendish pushing that lasts for weeks at a time, and then when it stops for a few small seconds, relief. You're someone [End Page 103] else now. You're you plus another. You're good to go. And when the paramedics come and don't bother with anything but a sheet, a sheet that isn't even white but cheap airplane-seat blue, when her parents come screaming, when the guidance counselors and psychologists ask why she did it, when you realize you need to keep your mouth shut and pretend you were on the ground the whole time, not up on the roof with her, not about to do it yourself, when years later you fall down at Whole Foods because of an unshakeable vertigo you've had ever since, you remember how fine the line can be. How close now is to then, how near near is to far.
Now people are helping. Now people are looking nervous: You don't fall in Whole Foods. You don't just drop. There are vitamins here for that. Whole Foods and I have something to protect, an image of wholeness, for one. So once I'm up, I smooth my skirt and shake myself free of the hands on my sleeves. One old man though, eyes boring, stares so far into me I feel he's scrutinizing my cerebellum. His bird grip steadies me, and I focus on the fact that his fingernails are longer than mine.
I'm fine, I tell him, and it's almost the truth.
Back then we were best friends despite a lot of reasons not to be. She was from the rich part of town, I wasn't. Her parents were getting divorced, mine already were. She had soft brown hair that smelled...