Angela Townsend

“Do you have someone special in your life?”

Do you have any idea how flamboyantly I could answer that question? Are you prepared for what you have initiated? Did you pack your crash helmet between your tapered paisley pants and travel-sized shampoo?

You think you are making conversation. You think you are pedaling your unicycle on a well-lit road. You think my left hand is waving in your direction. 

You are kind to think in my general direction. Many would pass the peas. My existence drills holes in your ozone. 

A woman on this earth should not be alone at this age. 

I frighten the ground beneath your feet, and your seismograph rattles.

You take a noble risk to attend my banquet. 

But you think small. My table is full, and my vehicle has a thousand wheels. Are you certain this is what you asked for?

Very well, then.

I haven’t the faintest boyfriend. The back of my hand lacks the stamp for the amusement park. My wrist lacks the wristband that grants admission to the concert. There is a single indentation in my loveseat. 

I have a mother who sends me poems for breakfast. She wrestles angels at the corner of three states and has lent me the shape of her eyes. She tells me God smuggles comedy into walnuts and Tuesdays. She blockades the exit ramps of hope with her body. She has been cast to narrate the big story. She laughs at her own eyebrows and bids me wiggle. She calls me a ninja and a queen. She is made of virulent enthusiasm. 

I have a stepfather who wears everything I give him. He will not discard the Dannon Yogurt shirt I won in a Y2K raffle. He tells ice fishermen they are brave. He tells an unbidden imp that she is his daughter without a hyphen. He hops an archipelago of supermarkets for cherry soda, then sends a selfie while dignified shoppers scowl. He gives seraphs noogies. He looks me in the eye and says he knows diabetes is hard.

I have a boss who is a nuclear reactor with a maple core. He founded a cat shelter that became a sanctuary. He spews profanity to shield naked ears from the sacred. He does not know if he believes in God, but he thanks the universe for every stray. He sends abstracts on topics germane to my pancreas. He scolds me for exclamation points but says my prose makes him cry. He scrawls on my birthday card that I am one of his favorite people in the whole wide world. 

I have friends as strange as six-winged angels. Katherine commands me to turn my ray-gun of gentleness inward. Dana enlists expletives to insist that I am good. Hana hides colored pencils in my desk. Cory texts me Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles without context. Harriet holds both of my shoulders at once. Siobhan talks to the moon. If I write it, Stella reads it. Lyle says I have only begun to become beautiful since age forty.

I have donors who give more than checks for cats. Mara says my blog is her church. Mario says I make his days “significantly more swell.” Trina writes me free verse about marmalade psychologists. Holy people in sweatshirts take me by both hands and tell me where it hurts. Vikings on fixed incomes raise thin skin and bones from the dead. 

I have editors on four continents who use the word “love.” I send them secrets and entrust them with adverbs. They cup my cover letters in both hands. They know the same deluge of declines. We laugh together on the shore. We knot stories into friendship bracelets. We will never see each other’s faces outside hundred-pixel boxes. We love each other’s breath, which is the spirit, which is the word.

I have cats as hairy as yaks, comic gluttons with knapsacks of empathy. 

If this sounds foolish, I hope you, too, shall join the fools on all fours. They are graceful despots, expecting greatness from the day and gravy from all hands. They are lithe as the humor that holds the world’s face out of the water. They grow dense as neutron stars on my solar plexus when the universe expands too fast. They bid me to the fresh-cut sunbeam. They forgive. 

I have ancestors who have more to say now than before. They once asked questions like yours. They splash answers on my face. They rally when I write or whimper. I talk to grandparents and animals. They have not left. They always RSVP “yes.” 

Do I sound defensive? Very well, then. A woman alone can feel like Jackie Chan, genteel questions leaping feet-first in her direction. But if I feel alone, it is because I have forgotten.

I darken Love’s counsel without knowledge. Love hoists me on big shoulders. From here, I see covenants in coy colors. I see all of us as small as pearls. 

Do I have someone special? I hear your question, and I laugh.

This is my answer —
a full banquet of “yes.”

About the Author

Angela Townsend is the Development Director at Tabby’s Place: a Cat Sanctuary. She graduated from Princeton Seminary and Vassar College. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Arts & Letters, Chautauqua, Paris Lit Up, The Penn Review, The Razor, Still Point Arts Quarterly,, and The Westchester Review, among others. Angie has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 33 years, laughs with her poet mother every morning, and loves life affectionately.