This year, I set myself a resolution of diversifying: of trying every faddish yogurt that cropped up in the cooler case. Working my way through, carton by carton, the nontraditional fruits and savories, the bifurcated containers built for mix-ins.
My plan presented January 2nd, fully formed. The sun had risen, hovered, and slid behind the cottony scrim of winter cloud; I was still in bed. My six-year hoodie let in the draft, cold air defining the zipper against my chest. I pulled the comforter tight and ate Ritz, one by one, from a hunger-mangled sleeve. My friends’ online selves documented cheery headway toward their yearly goals. Dan posted from the summit of K2. In polarized goggles and neon-sheathed down, arms aloft in triumph, he looked like a steroided mantis. Every inch of him was layered against the cold, the glare; only his smile gave him away. Julia and Gwen were two days into their separate cleanses, wheat and dairy asceticism promising larger cultural benediction. Triathlons, budgets, long-awaited trips to Bangladesh. In that moment, I found it hard to breathe. I let myself slide down, down, head settling to rest on the pillow, and tapped the skin of my eye sockets just beside my nose until my lungs unseized.
Since Tony had left, my routines had unraveled such that my life was barely an echo of its former self: call from well’s bottom to the waiting, well-lit world. Charred toast scrapings in the sink basin like residual gunpowder. The jade’s shriveled leaves — greige deformities gnarled as hands — encircling its sun-bleached pot. Out of toilet paper, always, subbing shampoo for shaving cream. Along the toilet’s inner rim, red mildew reaching the meniscus in frightening stalactites.
Tony had bailed just before Christmas. Saturday morning, peck on my cheek while knotting his scarf, he headed out. Christmas shopping, I then assumed, warmed by the thought of him leaning over jewelers’ cases in the company of like-clad husbands. Coterie of red cheeks, crow’s feet, overcoats in cherished neutrals. Sodden-shoed, all: We were still at an age when galoshes were unacceptable. I scrubbed the house in anticipation of his return, the tiny, glossy bag slung over his wrist. He came back empty handed, hard faced.
Was it someone else? I asked right off. Alba and Enid sprang to mind, not unfairly. Account managers both, easy at party chatter, and younger. Only Enid listened to NPR. No, no one, he assured me — it was only freedom he wanted. I’d been bested by the lure of absence. As he packed I sat on the bed, tracing the duvet’s abstract patterns, picking pills from the discounted Amazon sheets. I sat there still as he left, leather soles ringing on the hardwood, and rarely lifted myself from my blanket nest until my resolution revealed itself.
In the fridge, I knew, was a tamarind-lime Chobani. All I had to do before the sun went down was rouse from this bed and eat it. Try three bites — a quick lip to the spoon edge and swallow. To sweeten the deal, I wouldn’t make myself rinse the carton before recycling. And the next day, the brief walk to the market for blood orange, chia grape, pumpkin luscious with flecks of real nutmeg. Fluorescent lit from above, edge to edge with their neighbors, the yogurts held the taut presence of calm. Snacking choice of the self-possessed.
A yogurt a day doesn’t seem like much, if that’s your bag. It’s another story in the depth of Massachusetts winter, when you’d give your left tit for a Cuppa Noodles or a cocoa packet, airline bottle sloshed in only as afterthought. Nights, the emphysematic clatter of the oil heater, noir crawl of cars’ shadows along the length of my bedroom wall. I never posted progress pictures, just kept my mental tally. Blueberry cobbler: Q1 board meeting and my deck was late; I pressed my face to the cool of the bathroom stall’s steel, wondered about the berries’ provenance — Chile, most likely. Olive oil-thyme with smoked almonds: Took mom’s call as I edged up the ice-packed driveway. In neutral, I squeezed shut my eyes, steadied my breathing. “Yes,” I said, “great! In fact, I’m just headed out.” Pawprints dotting the Dumpster’s latched lid showed blue in the lamplight. Pineapple-habanero-mango: On the days when my body feels heavier than the sum of its muscle and ligament and bone — damnable carbon and psychic weight — I roll myself onto the floor, knowing that the discomfort of hardwood on rib, dust clot underlying nostril, will eventually spur me to motion.
Hard to believe, maybe, but the world did thaw. One March morning I noticed the ice had receded from the center of my windowpane, the clear center wider now — pupil piqued by dimness or novelty. Raspberry creme brulee: I found the green cashmere pullover wadded at the closet’s far corner, thrown in anger and left in equal measure. Laying it on the bed, I smoothed its wrinkles with my open palms, plucked hairs from its collar and arms. Held it, smelled the scent of me three months prior, dulled by environmental lassitude. I slipped it on then, shocked at the chick-down softness on my skin. I wasn’t wearing an undershirt, but I wouldn’t need one where I was going. Up the block was a bistro, just opened, its selling points choucroute and porter, dark two tops, filigree of candlelight filtered through cut glass. I’d planned that afternoon for two yogurts — my resolution was five days from completion — but the prospect of canelas with walnut-granola mix-in left a lurch in my throat. Let it wait, I then decided, prim in the fridge’s unlit interior. Canelas tomorrow, cardamom the following. Meyer lemon-huckleberry-carrot ginger and done. Afterward, a period of recovery, an eventual return to strawberry, plain — flavors of my youth, so predictable and innocuous as to remain untasted: unfelt.