Sue William Silverman

How to Find a Snow Leopard in Georgia

Wake up in bed at 5 a.m. in rehab for sex and love addiction.

Put a fuzzy pink-slippered foot on the floor.

Rub your toes in the fuzzy pink slipper.

Ignore the silence of the room. 

No, pretend the silence of the room is the silence of the icy wilds of Mt. Everest.

The icy wilds of Mt. Everest are the farthest place you can imagine from this room, sitting on the edge of a bed in a rehab unit in Georgia.

You brought the book The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen with you to rehab as if it would prepare you for your own expedition. The fact that this is the one book you thought to bring to rehab might, in and of itself, be enough proof that you need to be here. Regardless, you now want to be on his odyssey not your own.

Glancing down at your fuzzy pink slippers, surrounded by gray industrial carpeting, you gaze at chasm-splitting mountain peaks.

The silence is your own choosing.  

Or isn’t.

All you’ve ever wanted is for a snow leopard to wrap its long tail around you, as if the intensity of its stillness could protect you from abandonment, fear, loss, lies. If you, yourself, were a snow leopard, you’d be on an isolated mountaintop where no man could find you. You’re sure Mt. Everest’s pristine ice is the only scent that soothes you as you watch the circuitous path the snow leopard follows—no one following the shallow scuff of your pink slippers.

Wind freezes your senses until all you hear is the sound of distance.

You aren’t even sure you exist.

You almost didn’t. That day you awoke from too many pills, limbs blissfully paralyzed, longing for numbing cold on frozen slopes, following snow leopards to their blessed isolation where no one sees them. No one hunts them.

You don’t want to be hunted.

You smell eggs cooking in the base camp cafeteria.

You run your tongue over your teeth as if to sharpen them.

Can you reach the summit?

You taste the silence of white-blue ether. You see a distant spot of fur, padding closer. You pad forward, on your stealthy pink paws, to meet it.

Sue William Silverman is an award-winning author of seven books of creative nonfiction and poetry. Her most recent memoir, How to Survive Death and Other
, won the gold star in Foreword Reviews Indie Book of the Year Award as well as the Clara Johnson Award for Women’s Literature, sponsored by The Jane’s
Story Press Foundation. Other books include Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, which was made into a Lifetime TV movie; “Because I
Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You,” which won the AWP Award; The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew; and Fearless Confessions: A
Writer’s Guide to Memoir
. She teaches in the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.