About the author：
ELIZABETH BERG is the author of many bestselling novels as well as two works of nonfiction. Open House was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for an Abby Award. Her bestsellers also includeThe Year of Pleasures, The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, and Dream When You’re Feeling Blue. Berg has been honored by both the Boston Public Library and the Chicago Public Library and is a popular speaker at venues around the country. She lives near Chicago.
I know you think I keep that green rock by my bed because I like its color. And I do like its color. But the reason I keep it by my bed is that oftentimes I wake up frightened, and it comforts me to hold it then. I squeeze it. I lie on my side away from you and I squeeze the rock and look out the window and think that outside are rocks just like this one, lying still and strong and silent. They are beside rivers in Egypt and in fields in Germany and at the center of the desert and on the moon. The rock seems to act as a conduit, drawing out of me whatever it is that is making my heart race, whatever is making me feel as though my own soul is one step ahead of me, saying don’t come. Don’t bother. Martin, I am fifty years old. The time of losses is upon me. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know. I saw Kotex in the drugstore the other day and began to weep. Then I saw a mother with a very little girl, helping her pick out crayons, and this, too, undid me. I had to leave without buying what I came for. I drove home and I thought about Ruthie standing next to me as I lay on the couch one day. She was two and a half, holding Legos in the basket of her hands. I had a mild case of flu; I was mostly just exhausted. And Ruthie dropped the Legos on me and used my chest to build a small city and I was perfectly happy. I think I even knew it. It was that Chinese thing, that when your mind is in your heart, you are happy.
You know, Martin, when Ruthie was a freshman in high school, I was driving home from the grocery store one day and listening to the radio and I all of a sudden realized that in four years she would be gone. And I felt like screaming. Not because I have nothing else in my life. Just because she would be gone. I pulled over and I wept so hard the car was shaking, and then I repaired my makeup in the rearview mirror, and then I came home and made dinner and I never said a thing about it, although maybe I should have. Maybe I should have started telling you then. I was afraid, I think, that you would say, “Well, she’ll visit,” and the feeling would have been of all my eggs being walked on by boots.
I’m sorry the note I left you was so abrupt. I just wanted you to know I was safe. But I shouldn’t have said I’d be back in a day or two. I won’t be back for awhile. I’m on a trip. I needed all of a sudden to go, without saying where, because I don’t know where. I know this is not like me. I know that. But please believe me, I am safe and I am not crazy, I felt as though if I didn’t do this I wouldn’t be safe and I would be crazy.
I have no idea what will happen next. I am in a small Holiday Inn one hundred and eighty miles from home. I have a view of the pool. Beside me I have a turquoise journal, tooled leather, held closed by a thin black strap wrapped around a silver button. I bought it the day before I left. Normally, that kind of thing would not appeal to me. But it seemed I had to have it. I opened it, looked at the unlined pages, closed it back up and bought it. It was far too expensive, forty dollars, but it seemed to me to be capable of giving me something I’d pay more for. I thought, I’m going to buy this journal and then I’m going to run away. And that’s what I did.
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