Franny moved in to Leo’s basement apartment when hospitalizations began to spike. Their reasoning was to free her apartment for anyone who needed isolation, but wasn’t sick enough to take a hospital bed needed by someone else.
By Christmas, she realizes she’s living with her boyfriend. This was never part of the plan. Her plan, anyway. She suspects Leo always hoped they would move in together, but was wise enough not to push her.
Out there, the unsettled world keeps roiling. Franny spends time each morning, before Leo wakes up, perched on a tall chair at his kitchen table, writing. She cannot muster the attention span to work on her novel, so she writes small bits of things: poems, missives, vignettes, fill her notebooks.
The sorrow working through the world finds its path in her words.
One early morning, cold and frosty outside, she cannot find another word to write. Her pen stands, poised, millimeters above the blank page. Her hand is frozen. Leo loves the cold, is reluctant to turn up the heat. One of the many hundreds of small negotiations occurring daily in their cohabitation. One of the many reasons why she wanted to keep her own place. One of the many ways she is learning to love this man in her life, his habits, his preferences, his presence.
She thinks, I should be able to see my breath, it’s so cold.
Without realizing it, those words find their way to the page.
I should be able to see my breath, it’s so cold.
I should be able to breathe out grief like smoke rings.
I should be able to breathe until my lungs are full again, until the world turns again, until it finds peace again.
My breath should mark a path through the darkness.
My feet should follow the path.
The path should lead us all to the light.
Instead, I am here, in the kitchen, waiting.
It is so cold.
She blinks. “Here, darlin,” Leo says, holding out a mug of steaming hot coffee. “It’s cold, let’s warm up.”