sitting at a table signing books

At the last signing there was Chicken Soup for the Grieving Parent's Soul and I snorted and this time there is Chicken Soup for the Runner's Soul and I wonder if there's a Chicken Soup book for the people who write Chicken Soup books. For whoever had to do the search-and-replace that transplanted grief to running.

BREATHE.

ONE FOOT.

BREATHE.

NOW THE OTHER FOOT.

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I see people at the end of life, at least visibly at the end. People with walkers and skin like wet kleenex, every step an effort. I wonder what they see. I wonder which people are near their end unknowingly, not visibly so. I wonder what they see.

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When Liam died it was seven o'clock in the morning. He took his last breath, or failed to take another one, as construction workers carrying boxed lunches and coils of steel cable hiked up scaffolding outside our window. A dozen other things all died too, that second, and new things were born. It's only the things that die that are easy to pin down with a thumbtack. The newly born things evade detection, crouching in wait.

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Motherhood Maternity is across the hall, the same one from lifetimes ago. I am six months pregnant with my first child. There is nothing scary in the world. Not really.

There are babies, all red-faced and puckered and leaking from every orifice and wholly incomprehensible. They send me into invisible convulsions but there is nothing scary in the world, not really, except for an audience to indignity and unintentional pee.

I see the ghost of my unafraid self. Nothing will happen to me. Not really. Now, it's not so much a lack of fear. It's an abundance of submission.

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People browse me as they pass. I browse back smiling, always smiling. A little girl who'd bristle at being called 'little' walks by, snapping both fingers. Snap. Snap. Snap. Just having learned it, she is smug. I can snap.

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"Yes, it's my first book." I am mourning.

"8-12, younger with help, and lots of adults have read it too." I am mourning.

"Pirates, but not ocean-going pirates. They crash through the woods." I am mourning.

My face is so dutifully warm, so welcoming, it radiates heat. Weariness hits me like the slam of a door and, just like that, I am tired of smiling.