Sometimes I like to be dirty. The kind of dirty that comes from carrying a bag of groceries home in the sun on a hot day so that sweat films my skin and I knot my hair at the back of my neck. When I step into the shade of the kitchen, I set the groceries on the counter and run the water cold and strip off my jeans and fold them and drape them over the back of the chair.

I stand in a t-shirt and panties and fill a glass of ice water from the cold tap, then another. The sweat dries on my skin while I drink and I think if someone were to lick me, I would taste of salt.

There is no one here to taste me.

I put away the bread and milk and I empty the boxes of the year’s first strawberries into the strainer to sort them. I run the water over the red berries and the shock of cold on my hot skin feels good on my hands. I run my arms up to my elbows under the faucet and splash my face, then set the strainer of berries on the sideboard to drain.

There is a bottle of wine chilled in the fridge. I pour a glass.

When you live so long in fear and uncertainty that they have become part of you, burrowed so deeply into you even your dreams turn cancerous, when that fear is excised surely and immediately and suddenly, for the first time since it began, you believe it’s all gonna be okay, there is a physical chain reaction– first the shaking sick plummeting feeling of vertigo, then the euphoria of release, and, finally, the sublime bliss of soul deep exhaustion.

I take the wine and a bowl of berries to living room. There is no one here but me and no obligation to plan dinner. No one to frown and tell me wine and strawberries doesn’t make a meal. It is only two in the afternoon, and I want to write. The only way I can write while I drink is to stretch each glass–a sip of wine, eat a berry.

The berries are ripe to bursting and when I bite into them the juice runs down my fingers. I wipe the juice on my winter pale thighs before I touch the keyboard and leave vivid red stripes like ritual paint on my flesh.

Dark bellied thunderheads are riding in, crowding out the blue sky.