I have to be at the accountant’s office at 2PM and need to leave in 10 minutes, so I decide to write a poem.
Realizing I had not put on mascara yet, I begin composing in my head while I look in the mirror. My eyes yawn to make my lashes more prominent for the application. Opening them wider I wonder how many midlife crises a person can have. Do we only get two? Am I free to move about the world now, free from worry whatever choice I make next will be the one that leads me to my next undoing.
I apply the layers of my lips. First cover stick to erase the place where my skin becomes lips. Next, moisturizing lip balm the shade of petal glow. Lastly, the gloss, for a little bit of shine and SPF 20.
I write three good lines in my head, of which this was not one.
I always do my lips while I wait for my mascara to dry. Then I blend in the rest of the cover stick that I believe hides at least some of the residue from the midlife crises I’ve been through already.
I’m still thinking of new lines every few minutes so I grab my laptop to take with me just in case I’m stuck waiting at the office for someone to usher me back to that board-looking room. Or maybe I’ll just sit in my car with my laptop instead.
As I drive I try to Google the location where I am going, but can’t seem to remember the name. I realize I don’t know the name of the place I’m going but I know how to get there so it doesn’t matter.
At a red light I have a vision that I will never make it to the building because my car wanders into the wrong lane and I take a sharp left to avoid colliding with a late model Pontiac driven by a teenager who’s skipping school. I should have skipped more school when I had the chance, I think to myself. I keep driving west and never return to Omaha. The light turns green.
I wonder at the day—so perfect. The spring trees, with their white blooms falling like snow, are delightful and it almost makes the drive to the accountant seem worthwhile. Almost. I arrive at the office, park, put on my mask, and make my way to the second floor.
The board-feeling room has no smell and I select a chair facing the door; make small talk with what little I know about the man sitting across from me. He has a son who is a dentist and my dentist retired last year and I haven’t been back since. I should go soon, I think to myself as his voice becomes something akin to the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
The man has a stack of folders filled with papers on which there are several translucent “sign-here” sticky tabs sticking out the side. Eventually we get to the point where the folders and papers all open up like tulips in bloom, petals strewn across the boardroom table. My signature is required exactly once. This won’t be interesting enough to include in my poem, I think to myself.
The man talks us through the facts and figures and I try to comprehend but I’m not really listening. I did my own taxes every year for 25 years—handled every detail that required accounting. Marriage, buying and selling houses, paying for property tax, insurance, having children, putting myself and my husband through college, his jobs, my jobs, and our divorce which I wouldn’t even count as one of my two midlife crises.
I didn’t have an accountant to help me sort through all of it. And I don’t need an accountant to understand the bottom line. Last year, even with with my income, my new husband made less money than the year before we were married. I have never felt more insignificant.
The numbers blur on the page under my gaze.