I could knock this out easily. Nobody in this massive office is here. Well, a few folks, sure. But nobody, REALLY. Nobody in the cubes around me. I can type away, giddily, to my heart’s content. Maybe it’s the caffeine, maybe it’s the Friday, maybe it’s the half-day broken up by a dentist appointment…it’s definitely the caffeine. Damn.
To whom do you turn when all you want to do is wail to the stars? When you want to scream to the highest of the high heavens? When you want to stamp feet and break walls and birth the shifting fit of pitch that is holding down your ribs?
There ought to be someone. Someone who can absorb all of that. There ought to be a person in a room. Not a priest. Not a holy person. Not a relative. Not a friend. Not a therapist.
The person you love.
And all I really have is you, my white blank page, so I will try not to kick too hard…but even as I write that, I am not sure it is a promise I can keep.
There will always be an awkward family gathering. This is not a new story. There will always be some new construction looking out over overturned dirt, workers using their air guns to rapid fire nails into wood in the distance, a picnic spread of too much food and too much drink. And I will always be dieting, ignoring every blessed apple, every silver drageed cupcake, as I scan the horizon overhearing couples fight without fighting around me. I will be alone and no one will ask where my person is. My sounding board, my punching bag. No one will expect of me to have brought anyone who leans in for my stories, who assures I have a drink refilled, who wants me to be happy and arches a curious brow if I get suddenly quiet and will talk to me about it later on the drive home…what that moment was and what it meant and I will say it was nothing, just my mother saying something that reminded me of a time at school when they took me to this special opportunity to study robotics in a big lab at the local university and I was very dumb and not interested in robots at all and that moment will exist again, however briefly, between our shared minds. No one will expect it. And I will not produce, as in this television program I have been mainlining, some secret romantic Darcy, some suddenly embodied Rochester, some long imagined and prayed for Tilney…just at the right time.
He will not turn to the surrounding room and announce that just as I had been looking for him, he will have been looking for me. For years, for aeons, for time immeasurable. And now, at just this set of coordinates, we are met, we are found, never to be parted again.
No, I will make strained small talk with the couples instead, with men who smile and say they remember me. For this there is only one possible frame of reference: I am remembered as sitting alone at other parties by these men who were also single once at those parties and about whom I entertained a single poisonous thought, men who were never introduced to me, regardless, and are now with eager and extroverted women who used to work where I work. I will sit there because there is no where to go. I will imagine a giant fork in the center of the table growing, growing ever more turgid and erect, tines sharp as razor blades. I will imagine rising up and standing on my chair so that I can leap and impale myself upon it. There is no fork. Just trays for fruit salad and ribs and teriyaki chicken which will fuck my diet. I will scan my phone to see if, amongst all this, the man who sent me a message six months ago, to which I accidentally read and made the inexplicable decision to respond to last night, has replied. He has not.
I turn and my sister is drunk and crying. My aunt said something kind to my mother and my sister performatively wrung out her sorrow because my mother is dying at some rate of speed faster than you or I. I consoled her, patted her face and hair. I was entirely Elizabeth Bennet at that moment. LSensible, connected, above the fray but deeply empathetic towards it. Looking after a crowd of curious relatives, none of whom know how to be social today. She calmed for a moment before blubbing again 10 minutes later to someone else. I push the gummy worms and fruit away and listen to my sister’s boyfriend’s treatise on a particular brand of corn liquor.
It is so strange to experience all this and have nobody grab you by the arm, sharply, so you can’t get away and say “Are you okay? I mean, is your heart….okay?”
who the fuck knows what might come out
I have just come from a little bit of meditation. It is a fairly remarkable thing to be quiet and not online, even just for 10 minutes. But I am grateful for my calm app today.
I am glad for the sound of lapping water. I am glad for the reminder of diligence met with gentleness. I am glad for the desire to come to the page and think in the quietness of my own life and not the stories that others want to share. Mine.
Life has been a slice of collapsed ego of late, the eggy meringue turning to soup over a far too sharp lemon curd. I forgot a meeting today. It wasn’t on my calendar. But if I’d stop to think, I would have known. Priorities are bad. Nobody’s mentioned it, so now my not mentioning it is a secondary strike. Too concerned with the sugared dream world, a place where you are linked to others and not alone. Too concerned with making right now suffused with food and numbness that you can’t sense what’s gone to rot around you. The joy of an ebbing depression is how much you let turn to shit while you were out. Sometimes, in such moments, I think, when you look around and feel failure and waste…your mind sends you right back out to sea.
But there are some curiosities to attend to whilst we linger on this shore.
Why on earth after fifteen years did you decide to reach out and friend me on Facebook? Old, old, old…friend? Boy I knew once. Boy who was one of the boys orbited the girls in the great firmament of my youth. Shorter than the others, I remember, aquiline nose, a name that matched mine. But mostly, one of the pack. One of the blur. I looked up at them, all of them, in wonder and loathing and expectation and resignation. I thought for sure that one of them could love me – in whatever definition or understanding I held love in at that time – and they all took their turn in apogee in my view. Each of them, preppy, sporty, goofy, above average intelligent guys, all of them friends, all of them in social agonies with the equilateral cadre of girls. I was not among them. I was not, be it in their eyes or mine, a romantic possibility. They had money. They had the right clothes. They matched. I spoke with flowers in my spare time. Dreamed of spiraling towers, delphinium. I pined with the power to set cities ablaze, but it was offset by a self-shame as immovable a force as any love was unstoppable, and so it was…being among them, hearing their jokes, observing their flirtations and dramas, learning the way an invisible wall feels brushed over your fingertips, crushed into the winged bones of your back. I insinuated nothing. I folded my hands, stomped out all embers, and graduated alongside them.
If I was seen on occasion by any of them it was because I was smart. It was because I could write and while none of those boys gave a damn about me, they didn’t turn their noses up at my writing. And there was a painful sort of respect I earned up there on my fence. I asked nothing of them, I didn’t give off any particular signals. I wasn’t a friend. I wasn’t a buddy. If I was a cipher, they were perfectly content to leave me unsolved. I did not die from this, perhaps I gained some screwy strength that let me manage growing up, but I did hurt.
It is an age-old story. Without Facebook, there was no reason to expect to hear from any of them again.
He – this voice from the past, if I think about it – would talk to me, now and again, though. I remember that. Never particularly smug or mean. There were many others I thought of first, but my wandering eye didn’t exclude him. I remember his mother being nice, involved, remembered me once or twice over the years. My mother was nice, but never involved. Save once. A coercion never repeated.
He seems super outdoorsy, fit, I guess, and while not married, maybe, also possibly politically questionable in the sorts of ways I would speculate a well-off white kid from the suburbs might end up 15 years later. Doesn’t post a lot, really. Months and months between posts. Curious what he thinks of me, now that my whole Facebook life is open to his perusal. You’d imagine there was some trigger, some reminiscence, some reason to decide to ping me – me, this person who was an aggressively innocuous teenage girl presence in his life some decades ago. Faceless, really.
But, one supposes, after a thrillingly short imaginative journey after receiving that request…envisioning he’d had some unspoken crush for me and just now, just now, so many years later, he realizes he must have m….no. No, he hasn’t said a word in hello, and I was, I assume, just a name recognized on a list. A You Might Know… might as well.
And so as close as the Internet allows 2 people to become, we are as strange to one another as we ever were. And I am tired and ready for a bath.
Worry first about getting something on paper.
So Saturday evening, I lost my guts to my newly purchased twee bathroom trash can six times. I was a horror story of fluids gone awry. I was in misery: a quiet, determined, real misery. It has to have been at least five or more years since the last bout of food poisoning and I’d sort of gone back to the iron gut state of mind so while my desire to eat out was running amok, I didn’t think twice about the rather goopy eggs or the weird butter on the pancakes. I was turning into an food vacuum that couldn’t be swayed from hoovering up anything so long as it was on a plate that came with a price tag. And that evening, I got something I suppose I secretly was after: a hard stop.
My body pulled every emergency break there was. I’d lay in bed, writhing about in discomfort, wondering if I could just ignore it, and then I would have the deeply ingrained, instinctive thought that…no…I couldn’t. And away I went for hours on end. Back and forth. I woke up and had terrible shivers and fever throughout all of Sunday, my sister even going and buying me a whole first aid kit full of ginger ale and saltines and powerade. The world got real glassy. My opinions started to melt into a single hazy space that surrounded me, my thoughts went in there, too. All that remained were the habits of computing and holding out longer than the pain, keeping the fluids in, the covers up. But if I thought anything, I kept telling myself I’d just get up and go to work on Monday because that seemed reasonable.
However, today came and I felt weak enough and dumb enough that I arbitrarily called off. Emailed off. Whatever it is. My counterparts emailed me eagerly asking to help, to let me rest. So I just didn’t go to work today, despite answering emails and doing enough to keep myself from ODing wholly on Dragon Age Let’s Plays and My Cat from Hell episodes on YouTube.
And now, now I’ve done one load of laundry just so I have some clothes to wear and I’ve started the dishwasher. I’ve eaten a sleeve of saltines and drunk some water and the ginger ale and some powerade. I really wish I could come back to life. I kind of feel the fugue state must be broken eventually and I’m a little bit petrified of my actual life and taking back ownership of it so I am floating. Writing this, I think, is a small step towards breaking the bubble. I haven’t been doing this and it’s bugging the hell out of me.
I am ready for therapy – which should happen this week. I am ready for everyone and everything to move an inch in any direction, preferably ahead. I am ready to take off this flannel and chenille combination and just try a life.
I realize now that my D&D character’s story is basically mine. I didn’t intend this, but I realize it now.
She’s a young sage, driven out of her home, her privileged youth by voices and visions. She follows the one lead she has and ends up with someone older, tragic, entirely not right for her. But she stays because this is the first time she’s felt these feelings and she pities him, worries for him, wants to help him. But she can’t help him, he’s too broken and locked in his pain and for her trouble, he sells her out to a man who wants to take her brain apart and understand her gifts. She escapes, but she can’t go backwards and all she wants to do is go backwards.
He said…thank you for being a good friend to me. He actually said that.
I said, with a weighted pause, a pause that surely you would get if you wanted to hear what I was communicating…thank *you* for being a good friend.
What a crock of…
But that’s not true, either. I’m mad about it. I’m mad that 2 years down the line, this is the best he can muster, not that I am not grateful for his friendship, his attention and care. Of course, I know what we said. I know the painful clarification came down and we are essentially just…passing time with one another. Not dating. So it’s not like this is an unfair statement…but it still so totally fucking is.
I am exhausted by the true facts of the case. I am exhausted by always being just wrong enough to understand why everything is the way it is. The unending tedium of “getting it” a thousand years running. I am exhausted that I have to dance for scraps. I am exhausted that his pain just puts everything in stasis and I am exhausted to realize that there is nothing about me that is worth rocking the boat. I am exhausted that I can’t let go of any of it. I can’t choose me versus choosing the avoidance of confrontation. I have no ability to try.
My therapist wants me to, on my own, in my own time, come to the realization – just as my wise friends, my sister…that I have to let it go. I have to leave it alone. And I’m trying. I’m trying to get some air and space. But it just so happens that all of this is taking place when my mother is ill and I hate myself with an extraordinary passion and my skin is painfully dry and I want to tear it off myself and hit myself with mostly metaphoric hammers and sit in my office being silent and fucking things up and go home and be silent and go to work and be silent and go home and be silent and go to work and be silent because everything else feels like my head in the guillotine. But maybe that’s where it belongs.
Better? Worse? The same?
I’ll never tell. Until tomorrow, I guess.
Wrote elsewhere, I really did. Bracing for Valentine’s.
I think, briefly, I capitulated to the great despair. I am not sure if I am still on my knees before it, but I think, perhaps, I will not be long down.
I gave myself an inch and that inch became a hundred miles. I feel tired and bad and like a devil just has been awoken from the tranquilizer dart I thought would see me through to safety.
I was thinking about Valentine’s Day and how nicely nebulous the dark space is where my heart is seated in my chest. I was thinking about my mother and how I don’t like how the chemo seems to be using her in the way you would imagine the cancer would if it had its way. Exhausting, wizening, enervating. She’s upbeat, she knows what’s up, but I have to overwrite the story in my head. I am not seeing her enough so every time feels a bit surprising. I’m not seeing her because I want to hold everything at status quo in my mind. I want everything to push forward for me without doing a dang thing, and I want everything to stay steady for her without doing a dang thing.
Meanwhile, at work, we learn about a little boy who has benefited from the things we make. A bajillion heart defects and issues and surgeries and problems and finally – we do a thing and he is free to be a little boy. I mean, I don’t do it, but I answer phones for people who make ads for people who do it. Or something inexactly, but legitimately related.
So I haven’t lost any weight, despite a non-zero effort. The kitchen’s a nightmare, I don’t want to cook in it. My car suddenly turned on a low tire pressure sign halfway through the drive this morning, causing an inadvertent panic. They’re asking me to do things I don’t know how to do. It’s fine, but I’m unsure. Tired. The activation energy over the past few days – I know what I need to do. I just do not do it.
So I ordered a pizza and have sickened myself on it and it’s here next to me and I’m contemplating which is the greater evil – to eat it and swallow the shame of having bought it and blown yet more money on one-off food fixes, or to toss it and blow that money and risk constantly daydreaming about wasted pizza and use that to justify another wave of carb-tasia.
It’s not good. It’s just not. I am thinking about how I didn’t even think or care about my goals. How I didn’t feel qualms about breaking the plan. How I know how this feels and I know how it feels to string yourself out on guilt aftershocks after the initial binge. I know and I know that I don’t know if anything is going to be different even though there’s a thousand and one reasons to make this time the time.
Why can’t we make this time the time?