Room by Catherine Buck

This is your room.

A bay window framed with lilac curtains overlooks a city street. You can see pigeons, a crust of bread, an iron pole that some old thinker might have used to secure a horse.

Outside, the red-gold trees leave summer in style. The stubborn plant on your windowsill is still your favorite, with thriving vines that spiral around handpainted pots.

There is a window on your ceiling that holds out rain but lets in sun. On clear nights, you can lie alone and see the stars. There’s Orion, the Ursas, and a host you haven’t named.

Once you only dreamed this room. You touch your pine dresser, curved edges of high bookshelves. You spent a weekend organizing these by author, genre, and importance.

Your desk is by the windows, close enough to wave to a friend walking by with a bag of groceries. You’re planning a pizza night for the weekend.

The papers on your desk have pen and post-its in the margins, stains from at-home teacups and at-work coffee mugs.

You have an aging tabby with a limp. He sleeps on your bed and snores up a storm. He’s vain and easily startled, but lovely with kids. When he blinks at you, you want to cry.

People rely on you and back you up. Friends, family, and coworkers: they’re all there. Once you were afraid you might lose them, but mostly, they stayed.

You have love now. She has a fast wit and tries to understand you in a way that makes you feel split open. You haven’t figured her out. You’re doing so together. She’s in it for good. You want so much for it to be true.

You almost missed her, because you were still with someone else. He might have been the one to keep you in another life. If you’d stayed, your wedding photos would have gotten a hundred likes and at parties you would stand alone.

In the mornings she will go for a run down to the water and you’ll meet her halfway, holding two coffees to share by the monument. You’ll ask her to commit to this view, to never change her mind.

This is not your room.

You spend lots of time in this room. You are more familiar with the navy comforter and heavy drapes than most scenery. It is where you belong and have been.

It is yours, plural. You share this space as you share your life. You share the shag gray carpet and the bathroom double doors and the bowls of ripe fruit. You share the driveway, lawn, and garden newly mulched.

You can see your garden from the window if you look straight down: daffodils and daylilies. Each morning you check on their progress. The peonies are close to bursting.

You know this room is real because you feel the oak drawers, doorknob, pointed hangers. Your closet is packed; you’re saving the best for something you haven’t yet defined.

You share other rooms. One bathroom shelf is yours, with a bar of lavender soap, peeled labels and crusted rims. The cream rug by the tub is your favorite.

You outline everything. The front of your notebook is business: grocery lists and meeting minutes. The back is a journal just for you.

There is a fifty-five gallon fishtank downstairs. You’re trying out saltwater. You curl your legs underneath cushions and watch the beauties swim in loops. They never stop moving, even if there is nowhere to go. You hate these fish.

You had love once. You and your husband had stared into each others’ eyes and committed to forever. It was time. You shared jokes and all the times he held you as you cried. Nevermind the cause or frequency.

You almost lost him. There was a moment before you went from now to forever that you froze with the thought of another world. But you found your person. You stuck by him. That was what it meant to love.

So here you are. You have walked the path and accomplished the goal. You have a husband, job, and house. Your friends have kids and yours will come soon enough. Perhaps you will get a dog who will run in the yard with your  daughter who will tumble and you’ll dry her tears. You’ll have long talks, teach her to dream big and never ever settle.

She’ll stare at you with eyes the size of houses and promise that she won’t.

Catherine Buck lives in Jersey City, NJ, with her partner, pets, and plants. She holds an MFA from Rutgers University – Camden. Catherine was a member of the Tin House YA cohort in 2021, and a finalist in the Gigantic Sequins flash fiction contest in 2022. In her free time, she explores new places and attempts to bake bread. You can find her on Twitter at @buckwriting. This is her first fiction publication.