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Remember Your Goals

Write down your goals for tomorrow. Write down your goals on a small pocket-sized notepad so that you can take it with you. Don’t make these goals for tomorrow a “to-do” list. Don’t do this because some of the things you’re bound to include in your goals (like “shower”) are never included in other people’s “to-do” lists. “Goals” because that feels softer, more forgiving. Write down your goals and then place the pocket-sized notepad on your bedside table.

When you wake up in the morning, reach over, pick it up, and let it be the first thing you see. Pick up your novel, leaf through a couple of pages while you sip coffee. Savor the few moments you have before the day starts, before you have to start meeting your goals.  

Welcome the cat onto your lap, pet the cat underneath the chin. Pet the cat on the top of the head. Do not, under any circumstances, pet the cat on the ears.

Get up and wash your hand with clear, liquid soap when the cat scratches your palm after you have definitely petted her on the ears. Remember to buy more clear liquid soap when it struggles to come out of the nozzle. Write “remember to buy clear liquid soap” on your list of goals.

Do not think about the person you saw at the train station yesterday. Do not write out a message to the person you saw at the train station yesterday. Do not, under any circumstances, send the message. Do not wonder what her life is like, now. Do not wonder who knows her better than you do, now. Do not let your thoughts stray from your goals. Write down all of these “do-nots” into your list of goals. Put down your pen now. Put it down. Do not write out these things. Forget the questions you have, like:

Did you see me across the landing at the train station?

Is that why you left?

Or, did you realize that you were on the wrong platform and suddenly leave to correct the mistake?

Was it too windy for you, over there?

Did your unruly hair catch in the breeze and cover your eyes, so that your reading was interrupted?

What were you reading?

If you saw me, what did I look like to you from across the landing at the train station?

Did you notice me from my walk, or from the way I stand?

Could you see the new tattoos? Even the ones underneath my clothes?

What would you have done, if I had waved?

What would you have done, if I had come up to you and asked what you were reading?

What would you have done, if I hadn’t pretended not to see you?

Would you write about me again?

Are you doing that right now?

Stop that now. Stop wondering these things. These things are not part of, or related to, your goals. Do you know what happens when you abandon the goals? If you abandon the goals list, you spiral. If you spiral, you forget to do important things for work. If you forget to do things for work, your bosses will take notice. If the bosses take notice, they’ll be nice about it at first, and ask if you’re doing okay. If you say you’re okay, they might believe you. If you say you’re okay, they will probably believe you, but they will still keep an eye out for mistakes. If you make mistakes, or forget things, like which shifts you’re supposed to turn up for, they will become stern. They might have conversations with you about responsibility, and trust, and pay rates.

If you don’t get paid $16 per hour, you can’t pay rent. If you don’t get $16 per hour, you can’t eat. If you don’t get paid, you can’t feed the cat that you shouldn’t ever pet on the ears. If you don’t get paid, you will have to ask your older brother for help, and his wife will roll her eyes so hard, you will practically be able to see it through the telephone. If you ask him if she is rolling her eyes, it will start a thing between the two of them, and then he will call you back in a few days’ time and tell you he can’t help you. When he says he can’t do anything for you with an apologetic tone, he will lightly suggest that you ask your parents, and you will recoil and feel like a failure. When he calls, he will speak in low tones, even if his wife is not around, and ask you if you’re doing okay. If you say you’re fine, he won’t believe you. He will wait patiently, quietly, on the line until you start to really tell him the truth. He will ask you, what happened? Did you see her again? Weren’t those goals that your therapist started you on working out well for you?

Throw out those questions you weren’t supposed to write down. Rip that piece of paper out of the pocket-sized notebook and crumple it into a small ball. Throw it into the trashcan. If you miss the trashcan, the cat will think of the ball of paper as a new plaything. The cat will swat the crumpled questions back and forth between her claws, and eventually, the piece of paper will be shredded up into many tiny pieces. Don’t let the cat eat the shreds of paper; she will try. Don’t dwell on what having seen that person at the train station could have been. Don’t think there was a chance of further interaction with her going well for you.  Finish the coffee that’s probably cold now. Rinse the mug. Get into the shower. Complete your goals for today. Then, write down your list of goals for the next day. Place it on your bedside table, so when you wake up, it can be the first thing you see.

Michele Zimmerman is a Queer writer and holds an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work appears in SUPERFROOT, POST ROAD, Catapult’s TINY NIGHTMARES: VERY SHORT TALES OF HORROR, and others. She is the winner of the BLOOD ORANGE REVIEW 2021 Literary Contest. In the past she has been a SUNDRESS PUBLICATIONS Best of the Net nominee & a two-time finalist for the GLIMMER TRAIN Short Story Award for New Writers. Find her on Twitter @m_l_zimmerman.

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