There are universal truths:
- Love and fury are indivisible.
- Matter cannot be created or destroyed.
- There is victory in being remembered.
- No one exists on purpose.
And so you will persist in the wake of your own supernova as an accidental afterimage on the retina of the sky that we will all observe in love and fascination.
my wrists ache and my doctor says it’s from typing too much but i think it’s because of all the stories i’ve left untold. my carpals are swollen and burning with narrative that i’m too frightened to let loose from my central nervous system to my peripheral nervous system so i do repetitive, stressful things instead like reading others’ arguments on twitter and wondering why i can’t manage to start conversations with my best friends. a brace will treat the cause, sure, but not the symptom.
I’m making a pb&j at midnight because I live alone and can do this kind of thing without arousing suspicion. I haven’t eaten a full meal in a week. The world has made me sick.
As always when I’m sick and tired I think of you. How it’s been almost three months since we last spoke. Almost eighteen since we kissed. How when Death came for me my mother turned you away from our doorstep and how I am glad and resentful for it. How you went from being the woman I wanted to marry to a bullet grazing my cheek en route to elsewhere. Late nights like this the scar stings. I do my best to soothe it with hamfisted metaphor and flourishes but I always fall short.
I always fall short.
I never read the letter you left on my nightstand.
But then you went and gave my mother a card for me in the wake of my nearly-dying. A card full of hallmark sentiments about freedom. “You just crawled tooth and nail from your death bed but don’t you remember how I broke up with you? Aren’t you happy I let you go free?” I’m paraphrasing but that is the spirit of it and I wish I’d never read it.
Would you have said the same thing at my funeral? Eulogized not my corpse below you but our relationship? Waxed poetic about the crushing kindness you did me by breaking my heart?
As if I would allow you to speak at my funeral.
I think I understand what happened now. When your feelings fill your lungs like tar you don’t know what to do about the slow pain of drowning. You wheeze about your selflessness and sacrifice and the undying love you bear others and never manage to cough up what’s eating you.
Lucky for me I’m not dead and I only miss you like this when I’m tired and hungry. Maybe that’s what drove you away. I smother the things I love when there is no clear line at the start of no man’s land.
First come the smiles, then the lies- last is gunfire.
Here we are. Alive and full to bursting. Me with cheap metaphor and you with unspoken tar.
Tell me, how does your freedom taste?
Paying in quarters makes it less painful. A step closer to actual bills than nickels and dimes. Heavier in the hand to remind me of what I’m giving up. The price of bread, milk, tea, dinner for three off the dollar menu at McDonald’s. It’s harder to spend quarters frivolously and easier to keep them clenched in my palm until the hash-marked edges leave dents along my lifeline that won’t fade for hours. I think I can still feel them days later. The ghost of change where it would be a gift to be able to think of anything except how it might be to afford to leave town and never come back.
I know a rich boy. This rich boy is older than me but he acts four years younger because his parents are a doctor and a hedge fund manager and when his hours are short at work he’s gleeful. He’s never counted quarters to figure whether he could afford to spend time outside with his friends in an overpriced coffee shop at the expense of bread.
His life’s goal is to make a million dollars. Mine is to pay my bills on time, own a greyhound named Tilda, and have a savings account with more than $5 in it.
Funnily enough I’m closer to achieving mine than he is. Guess which one of us is happier.
Thursdays are a liminal space. Obligation without motivation dragging on forever in the way nothing seems to stop stinging the cut on the back of my thigh. My garter did that. I don’t know how it managed; they’re supposed to be soft backed with rubber, kind to those tender places that never see sunlight. Some people have no sense of propriety.
Boundaries are weird. Cosmically weird. I’ve always had a problem with boundaries.
See, I walk around with my ribcage cracked open and my lungs on display for anyone who cares to watch me breathe; you’d think I would unlearn surprise at their love of this softness but my lungs are not my heart and I recoil from anyone who tries to reach out and touch. What if they take hold and squeeeze and get lung tissue under their nails? They can’t be trusted.
My sternum, unattached, sits a floating, ineffective guard against whatever may come my way while I navigate this strange grapple between crippling fear of intimacy and desperate starvation for the softness of the skin webbing between fingers and the soft spot beneath the ear and countless other places where it would be so nice to touch and be touched.
Cremation is cheap but the laws stating that bones cannot be left whole appall me. I want those significant and alive to have my hair and teeth to make with them what they with and I know with certainty that I do not want to be embalmed and buried in steel and concrete. I prefer to go straight into the ground, in a shroud– some fabric that will rot but maybe embroidered with runes and blessings– but where? Bury me in the Sierras on the East side of Rose below the treeline. Bury me with flowers. Horsemint and melissa and columbine and sage. Burn dragonsblood graveside so my father will be welcome there. Pour wine over my stone marker. I’m weak and afraid and I want to be remembered.
Where does freedom begin?
With the absence of fear. Where, despite the void or because of it there is a river of potential heretofore unnavigable, unknown. The water rushes and sings grey-green off the mountain dragging down moss, old bones, bees, poison hemlock. You never learned how to swim but the best part about being free? No one will push you into the water. Come and sit on this boulder in the dappled sun and let your toes get a feel for the snowmelt water rushing past and let the cosmic radiation burn the rot of stagnation right off your back. It’ll hurt a little but you’ll be better for it. Sit a while and talk. Stretch and take up all the space you never could before. Take up all the space you need.
Only my mother would consider the postictal phase of a seizure melodramatic. Only my mother would take herself out for ice cream on my birthday. Alone. Only my mother could consider consider an aversion to peanut skins overwhelmingly depressing. Only my mother.
There’s a concept in learning and conditioning called variable-ratio scheduling wherein the number of responses required to obtain a reward changes at random. It’s used most-recognizably in slot machines. Coin-greasy fingers slipping against buttons and touch screens under flashing lights and C-major chords beneath mirrored ceilings. Generic galaxies spinning beneath their feet. Blacked out windows. Not a clock in sight. With variable-ratio scheduling there the gambler will stay, suspended in their own perception of time and space, until they run out of money or some stronger stimulus comes along to distract them. Casinos do their damnedest to ensure that there is no stronger stimulus; cocktail waitresses are beautiful but unobtrusive providing everything from liquor to food to ashtrays and would you look at that? The ledge between the slots is the perfect size to hold all of it and a cup for more change (in the few places that still pay out cash rather than vouchers).
My mother is on a variable-ratio schedule. Most interactions are neutral or they are postictal disasters. But once in a blue moon I’ll win something large or small and that is enough to keep me coming back– one more hand, one more penny, one more roll of the dice.