I Think I Can See

by | Jul 13, 2022

abstract watercolor image of a woman in blue

The Many Difficulties 4: Waiting, Erin Gilbert

When I was young, I thought I could see well. I could see the bougainvillea planted out front of my childhood home. They thrive in full sun, making the Sonoran Desert I lived in a perfect habitat. I could see the grapefruit and lemon trees in my neighbors’ backyard. They were kind enough to let me fill up a bag whenever they were ripe, usually in the first few months of the year. I could see rows of books at the library where I went every Saturday with my mom. I could see new worlds and choices. I could see a space for my imagination to run wild. I could see a mix of peppers and tomatoes drying on top of paper towels on the counter. My mom must have just picked them from the garden. I could see some bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, and cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes were mostly red and green — some were yellow. My mom told me once that sometimes she harvests them early to prevent sunspots, but mostly because she was just too excited. I could see the sun set from the wrought iron bench where I sat with my dad every evening. He made a point to wake up early to watch the sun rise every morning, preparing his coffee the night before so it would be ready first thing. During the day he would look up what time the sun was to set in the evening and would make sure to tell me. It didn’t matter what we were doing or where we were at. He made sure to get to a spot where we could watch the day come to a close. As I got older, my worldview became bigger. I moved out of my parents’ house when I fell in love. I went to college and read lots and wrote often. I tried to engage with every curious thought loop. With college life came real life, and I experienced loss for the first time. I saw, through no choice of my own, the deterioration of someone I loved. I saw death intimately. I saw how loss affected people differently based on the relationship they shared with the deceased — child, parent, brother, uncle. I saw fewer sunsets and sunrises with my dad. I saw that at some point he stopped letting us know what time the sunset would happen in the evening.

It didn’t matter what we were doing or where we were at. He made sure to get to a spot where we could watch the day come to a close.

I graduated, and with that came a hopeful new lens. I tried planting my own garden in my backyard with the help of my mom. I watered it and gave it just enough sunlight and just enough shade. I saw that it became riddled with red mites. I saw myself give up on it. I blamed the bad soil my house existed on.

I began to see the dust on the shelf in the bathroom. I began to see the dimpled zucchini and the half-eaten bag of baby spinach in the fridge — I saw that it didn’t get eaten fast enough. I began to see the dark circles around my eyes because my mom pointed them out the last time I saw her. I saw a new gray hair, which made a total of four atop my head. I saw the stain on my mattress from a spilled mason jar of Cabernet Sauvignon. I saw the pennies in the cup holder of my car that I thought might someday be used. I saw red marinara splatters on the stovetop from dinner the other night. I saw the dishes in the sink, also left over from the other night.

I saw a photo of me and my grandpa on the shelf. I could see that it had been covered in dust. I could see an urn on my bookshelf — it was my dog, Becker. I saw a sticky note I wrote to my partner to show support on the desk near the pencil holder. I saw a fresh coffee ring on his desk left behind by the fresh coffee that came with said sticky note. I saw new weeds in the backyard. I saw new bugs that had made their home on the new weeds in the backyard. I saw a list of to-dos from last week in the Notes app on my phone — I saw that nothing was crossed out, but I know that I did them. I saw new promotional emails from subscriptions I’ve long forgotten about and emails from banks that want me to make my credit score worse and my debt bigger. I could see alarms that I had set for 5:30, 5:45, 6:00, 6:15 and 6:30 a.m. I could see the redness in my eyes from accidentally sleeping in my contact lenses. I saw my reminder to make a dentist appointment on the fridge. I saw the bills taken out of my account. I saw my student loan growing. I saw the notifications on my lock screen from all of the publications I subscribe to. I know when something bad is happening in the world when they all pop up within five to 10 minutes of each other. I could see a text from my grandmother. I could see that she was feeling okay, but really tired from her fifth chemo treatment. I see a reminder in my phone to call her this week. What am I supposed to see?

Taylor Couty

Taylor Couty

Publab Fellow 2022

Taylor Couty is a writer based in New York. Her work can be seen in Canyon Voices literary magazine. She is currently pursuing her MA in Journalism and Publishing at The New School for Social Research.

Find her on Twitter @coutystaylor and on 
Instagram @taylorannsc.