Excavations

by Tara Suess

 

if you had told me that my office—

 

the one with the ambient whirr of air conditioning 

and the gendered bathrooms 

and the supply room filled with boxes of cardboard tampons, neon highlighters, note pads, rollerball pens, and packets of generic aspirin…

 

the one with the coffee machine that was always broken 

and the fridge packed with forgotten lunches 

and the paper printouts of wi-fi passwords stuck to cinderblock walls with scotch tape 

and the colleagues who’d pass in and out of conference rooms like ships

 

—would one day become an archaeological site...

 

a snapshot of life as it were

standing calmly

on the precipice of global disease and devastation  

 

i would not have believed you.

 

we were meant to return in a matter of days

but my last memories in this place were raw and sour

 

often, i would slip away unnoticed

to the handicapped bathroom that smelled of musk and bleach

or the mothers room meant for feeding milk to machines 

or the corner near the stairwell where others had no reason to lurk 

 

a quiet place to hug my knees

and listen intently to the ringing in my ears

to feel the salt dry up on my cheeks

 

maybe that’s why i didn’t balk at a break.

a few days when grief could bubble up at odd hours without shame

days that stretched into weeks 

weeks into months

 

had we known, our site would not have existed

belongings packed up in boxes

transported and re-homed with rightful owners

a clean break;

total closure.

 

rather, i found our former lives suspended in time.

 

then and now

a corkscrew on the counter

a sweet, sticky spot where the wine splattered

depleted condiment bottles and chips grown stale

keyboards collecting dust in their crevices

wires sprouted up from the floor like vines to nowhere 

coffee cups dried up, brown stains dotting their rims

sweaters lain over ugly ergonomic chairs

it was winter then.

 

the familiar click and rattle of the heavy glass door,

the lights were off when i walked in.

i traced the same footsteps 

toward the place where the ghost of my former self sat 

waiting inside that ugly ergonomic chair

 

her pain was mighty and engulfing 

it struck me in a moment when we merged

a familiar affliction

like the obstinate ache of a once-broken bone that never considered retreat

or stubborn wounds in grooves that split along their seams with each minor bother

 

but.

she is there.

i am here.

 

she is with the staling chips 

and the lifeless wires

and the distant echo of voices that once reverberated against those cinderblock walls.

a fixture of an archeological site

that cannot be extracted

 

her world is not my world.

the one where seedlings push through ripe, wet soil

and flowers unfurl their petals to drink in sunlight

where cheeks are dry

and new skin grows over stubborn scars

where hope is abundant even when it’s not

and we hug our knees in consolation with others.

 

isn’t it remarkable how lives occur in shifts?

love and then loss

then love again

 

strength and then weakness

then strength again

 

those who pick you up when you’re down

are lifted when your vigor restores

 

a perennial exchange of energies

 

we carry each other through

in waves

like the ebb and flow of the tides

that trade fluidity and stability 

the brawn of the shore against frothy surf

the force of the ocean against sweeping sands.

Tara Suess (she/her) is a copywriter and painter living in Brooklyn. Follow her on Instagram @tarasuess and Twitter @realtarasuess.