Tomorrow, after everything is finished and
I feel too heavy to function
I will walk to the elementary school and
run twenty laps.
As I plod around the pavement I will
on just my steps, my breath, and my sweat,
exhaling with ragged breath the number
of the lap I finish. I will
on just these things until the drag of my feet
the weight of my skin
the shake of my thighs suddenly
makes me picture dragging a carcass across a threshold,
something I have never done.
( My body often feels like this,
even when I am not running —
the dragging of something dead and weighty,
it doesn’t feel like that.
It feels like that
on the phone with my mother
in bed with my partner
and especially —
— when I am disappointing my God. )
As I drag my body around the elementary school track
I will tell myself
“I am doing this for exercise.
I am doing this to feel good.
I am doing this to sweat.
I am doing this to breathe deeply.
I am doing this to prevent disease.
I am doing this to get my blood pumping.
I am doing this to sleep comfortably.”
I will switch directions, and begin again.
“I am doing this for beauty.
I am doing this to fit into my clothes.
I am doing this to lose weight.
I am doing this to honor myself.
I am doing this to not recoil from human touch.
I am doing this to not feel shameful.
I am doing this so my God will forgive me.”
Eventually, I will exhale the number twenty and walk
until I am too cold
and must go home.
My mother will text me to apologize.
My partner will sleep in his own bed.
My carcass will feel lighter and heavier than before.
Shouldn’t I just do what I want?
Aren’t I already being punished, anyway?
Stephanie Neuerburg is an actor, playwright, and poet based in Chicago. Her work has been featured at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Her original play Science Night was a national finalist for the 2015 John Cauble Outstanding Short Play Award. She is also the producer & host of The Saddest Case of Celibacy in the West, the ghost town road trip podcast. www.stephanieneuerburg.com
IG: @therealstephanien Twitter: @pizzacrawl