by Sally Donaldson
I am the cruise director on a ship of fools. I organize my motley crew of might-have-beens and should-have-been. They line up at my command and refuse to do anything I tell them. They tease me behind my back and say I’m a sloppy sentimentalist.
I am the queen of lists, the laundress, the chief cook and bottle washer, the framer of pictures, the designer of rooms and schedules. Get up, get up you sleepy head, get out, get out of bed or you’ll miss the bus, the deadline, the party, the meeting. You can’t dream your life away. Why not? Because I can’t. There are mountains to climb, lists to be written, things to be done. Right now. Right this minute.
I am the drill sergeant with a bleeding heart. What’s the matter? You look so sad, tired, bored, cranky, spaced out. Whatever it is the look stabs me in the gut and invades my brain. Would you like a cup of tea? No, don’t, I’ll get it for you.
I am the concubine who walks five steps behind you. I look out at the world through hooded eyelids and watch out for dangers. I am silent much of the time. I choke on my worries and hide what I know. I dim my light so others can shine. I am mysterious but not charming.
I am the harridan, yelling, “Stop that now! How dare you get so far ahead of me. Don’t you dare move another muscle.” I wave across inlets at fair haired girls sailing out to sea. I stamp my feet and cry. I retreat behind closed doors where I write down my secrets and reorganize my underwear.
I am the judge before whom everybody is assumed guilty before proven innocent. Who is the guiltiest of them all? I am. For what? For everything. For the muggy heat in summer, for the cold grey days in winter, for the clothes that don’t fit right or get lost or bleed in the laundry, for asking too many questions, for asking the wrong questions at the wrong time, for missing the moment at 4AM when you needed to talk, for not warning you that people are not always kind, for saying yes too often, for always saying no, for lapses in kindness and attention, for getting tired and being cranky, for barrettes that don’t stay put, for all the buzzing, blooming confusion in the world.
Sally Donaldson, PhD has worked for the past thirty years as a psychologist in private practice in Greenwich Village, New York. A recent graduate from Stonecoast with a MFA in Creative Nonfiction, she’s working on a memoir, “Love After Fifty,” about how two people with complex pasts and children on both sides make a family together. Her work has appeared in the Penobscot Bay Pilot.