True Story, Issue #4

"Juliet, Juliet" by Joy Pope

True Story, Issue #4

A mid-life crisis can take many forms. In this modern-day, real-life Walter Mitty story, Joy Pope, a middle-aged mom of two struggles to escape the tug of a persistent daydream in which her younger self globetrots with a half-dressed Jeremy Renner.

From "Juliet, Juliet" by Joy Pope

The waitress was waiting for my order.

“Just a plain bagel,” I said, though I hadn’t been hungry in months. And I had lost weight. I was the same size I had been in college. The weight loss was unintentional, but I liked the way the loose waistband of my jeans grazed my skin, how I swiveled inside of them.

There’s something wrong. I heard my own voice, close and clear, inside my mind. It seemed louder, more determined than usual.

As if through gauze, I heard the waitress speak to Miguel and Maya before walking off.

Miguel leaned forward and smiled and said something I didn’t catch.

Lately, I had been having trouble thinking and following conversations. Whenever I let my mind become idle, I found myself in a state of uncomfortable distraction. Every moment I spent in reality was exquisitely unpleasant. Thoughts and perceptions ricocheted inside my mind. Bright lights bothered me. Rough textures sent a shiver through my bones. I was easily startled.

My brain wasn’t working right, but my imagination seemed just fine—better than ever, in fact. Any chance I got, I slid into that part of my mind. Daydreaming had become my escape.

I left Miguel waiting for a response and stepped into a fantasy scene I had suspended earlier: I was in my early twenties, wearing a red bandana like I used to, studying a rock face I was about to climb.

I was in Yosemite, in this daydream, even though I’ve never been to California and I’m not a rock climber. Maya, sitting across from me and now coloring her own crescent moon, climbed at a local gym two afternoons a week, but I had never tried it myself. I’ve never been particularly athletic, and in fact, I’m afraid of heights.

I often borrowed my daydream settings from television and movies, and Maya and I had watched a YouTube video about Yosemite climbers the evening before. So that made sense. But there was no explaining why the actor Jeremy Renner was standing behind me on the trail, barefoot and wearing only a pair of torn jeans. He stepped toward me with a heap of rope. ...