Anna was fully dressed and laying on the edge of the bed with a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips within reaching distance. It was four in the afternoon. When I asked how she was doing, she said she was in a “thought coma.” She wanted me to fix it. She said, “Fix it!” in a sarcastic, whining moan.

The thing in need of fixing was a conference proposal due at midnight central time. I pointed out helpfully that she had until 1 a.m. eastern time. Her feelings about this proposal were that she didn’t want to do it, but that two of her professors had encouraged her to – they had wondered why for all her good work in the department she hadn’t presented at a conference already? This meant for writing the proposal she didn’t want to write she’d be terrified if it was accepted and demoralized if it was not.

All of this Anna related while I changed into at-home clothes. She proclaimed she was tired of seeking approval, which for all its developmental plusses would probably not help her with the getting through of graduate school. This led her to the necessary phase of contemplating other versions of herself. There was the one where she quit school after the semester and did nothing. There was the one where she finished her PhD but didn’t seek academic jobs – where she completed seven years of study for personal enrichment. Last, she weaved through the ultimate of her fallback plans, the one where she withdrew from school at the end of the semester, reverted to her all-district striker form, took a six week course, and, by the time we’re married, had started her new career as a fitness instructor.

She ate some more chips. Doing so, she demonstrated that she’d positioned herself so she could eat the chips without getting any crumbs in the bed. This implied she’d complete her proposal and it would be accepted. Her body was curled in a Potato Chip Comma.

Photo by serenejournal

Jack Christian

Jack Christian

JACK CHRISTIAN is the author of Family System, which won the 2012 Colorado Poetry Prize. Other excerpts from “The Apartment on Market Street” have appeared in Carolina Quarterly and The Weeklings.
Jack Christian