The Road to Success
by Liz Dosta
Today I rode the train with too many things. I had two bags, a cup of coffee, and a book about self-control. I wore a knee-length skirt. I held my coffee between my knees. I used my hands to read my book. A man sitting next to me asked me if what I was reading was spiritual. I said no. He said that I could use some spirituality. I thanked him for the suggestion. I resisted the urge to spill my coffee on him. I read 35 pages and learned that creativity comes from the prefrontal cortex, where cool-headed thinking and reason occur. I got off the train and began the walk to work. Three Elmos and one Batman were in conversation. I imagined myself swimming through the crowd. I imagined myself being carried by the crowd. I imagined that there was a parade, and that people were cheering me on. I did not spill my coffee as I entered the building. I did not spill my coffee as I entered the elevator. Chopin’s waltz in C#m. Op 64 was playing from the speakers. An elegant man in a black overcoat smiled at me. We rode the elevator up, side by side, in silence. I watched the numbers light up as we passed each floor. Once at my desk, I sat down and drank my coffee very slowly, feeling the warm liquid slip down my throat and warm my body. I had not spilled it once.
I’m sitting inside my therapist’s office. He is sitting across from me in a beige armchair. He is wearing a green-and-white-striped collared shirt with a pair of khaki pants. I am wearing my knee-length skirt, the coffee gone from my hands, though I feel the urge to curl my fingers around something. I curl them around each other. The walls are nearly bare save for a single calendar hanging above his desk, on which nothing is written. It’s September. My therapist shifts in his chair, his wispy blonde hair floats around his face, his thin legs crossed one over the other. He tells me that this very scenario is how they describe anxiety.
“It’s like being in a crowded room with a full glass of water, and all you can think about is getting that glass of water to the other side of the room without spilling it.” I look down at my hands. Quiet pianos. I feel like an old map that’s been uncurled by young hands.
“Have you ever worn heels?” I ask him.
“Once or twice, as a kid.”
“Did you like it?”
“I think I liked the sensation of something different, but I didn’t feel the need to make heels a part of my everyday life.” I nod. He taps his watch with his finger, indicating that our time is up. I nod again.
Outside, it begins to rain. When I get home, I am soaked through, my clothes heavy as a bag of apples. I peel them off like cornhusks and lay them across the radiator. I make myself tea – tummy tamer – and walking very slowly, I carry it to my room, the steaming liquid nipping at the lip of the cup, the floorboards creaking below my bare feet. I think about Batman and the three Elmos in conversation. I think about clumsiness and humor, and how I never wear heels, except that one time at my mother’s second wedding, when I tripped on my way down the aisle. I think about what my therapist said, the sensation of something different ringing in my ears. I stop and bring the tea to my lips and blow on it. The heat envelops my face. I take a sip and feel the hot liquid radiate through my limbs. It is a comfort as I carry myself through the crowd.
Liz Dosta was born in Japan, raised in California, and currently lives in Brooklyn. Liz holds an MFA in poetry from Columbia University where she was a teaching fellow, and currently works as a research editor for Condé Nast Traveler magazine in New York. Her work has appeared in The New York Observer and The Atlas Review among others. Twitter: @Liz_Dosta.
Stories @ Digging Through the Fat: Volume 2, Issue 4
March 11, 2015
Photography by: Gessy Alvarez