Tag Archives: Pain

Dreams.

13 Nov

I feel his hand on my shoulder. It is cold, bony, and scrapes against my skin. It doesn’t sting too badly. Pain doesn’t cause discomfort for me – it’s like a Popsicle – strong at first, but after awhile, it melts away. He tells me something, the man behind me. I don’t hear him at first, and that makes him angry. He grips my shoulder tighter.

Now there is pain, pain like grabbing a wire hanger that is left beside a fire, yet I ignore it. He knows I am here, I know I am here, but for some reason, I feel if I don’t acknowledge it. If I ignore what is happening, we will both remain suspended. The two of us will stay lost in this never-ending scene, and I will never die.

The knife enters me anyway.

I feel it; I’m not quite numb yet. I can feel it twist inside me, switching my lung with my heart. Then the world goes black.

I die every time.

I shut my eyes. It doesn’t matter if I sleep for five minutes or 10 hours.

“It’s like sucking your thumb; you’ll grow out of it,” my mother tells me over the phone the next day.

She’s told me that for 18 years. Now I’m ten days away from turning 20 and she still says the same thing. But nightmares are nothing like sucking your thumb. I don’t suck my thumb anymore.

***

It’s 2 a.m. My mouth is dry, and I cannot see because of the tears that blur my eyes. But that doesn’t bother me. Four days is not long to go without sleep. I’ve gone longer. People don’t understand, because they don’t feel their dreams. In mine, I am conscious of everything.

A man is standing in front of me, a doctor. He was called when I stopped responding to the pleas of my pencil-neck roommate. Apparently, he is discomforted by my 96-hour days.

“Having trouble falling asleep, Wesley?” the doctor asks.

“No,” I say.

Falling asleep is easy; too easy. Giving in is something that tempts me every minute. But I can’t do that, because I know that one day, I’m not going to be able to wake up.

He hands me a pill anyway, and tells me to take it. I know this doctor. His name is Ben or Bill or something. He’s come for years. I argue at first, but I know that I don’t have a choice. I swallow the pill dry. Before I know it, I’m back in again.

***

This time I’m underwater. I’m going to drown, I think. The thought relaxes me. The dreams where I drown aren’t all that bad, considering what experiences I could compare them with. But then the dream changes. I am still in water, but it tastes like soup. I look up to see a giant sitting above me.

It’s then I realize that I am going to be eaten alive.

I used to look away when I was about to die. I used to run, beg. Now I lie limply and watch. The giant lifts me up with his fork and bites down, taking off my right leg.

I don’t look away … I’m past that. But I still scream.

***

I am in the car with my roommate now. We’re getting groceries, and since we’re in my car, I’m driving. I can tell he’s nervous, so I try to calm him.

“Darren …,” I say.

“Dylan,” he corrects quickly.

I could have sworn his name was Darren. Part of me thinks he’s changed it just to f*** with me. I continue talking anyway.

“I’m not tired …”

Darren, or Dylan, or whoever he is makes a sound.

“… and I know how to drive.”

Just then, a car honks at me loudly, as if he too wants to prove me incompetent. Apparently, this is too much for my night-light roommate.

“Pull over. Now,” he says.

“Fine,” I say roughly, and pull over. Right into the face of an oncoming truck.

***

Please, someone wake me up. Please. Please. Anyone, please.

I am balancing on the top of a pillar that is just large enough for one foot. Below me, there are hundreds of creatures with whips, chains, and spikes – they’re ready for me to fall. This death will be worth remembering.

Usually I don’t, but I can’t help but start crying this time. This dream has gone on too long. I’ve died five times. Usually, it only happens once or twice. For a moment, I wonder if I have died … for real … in the real world. The thought scares me. I always thought it would end at death. Then, around me, I hear familiar voices. They belong to my mother and the doctor.

“Would you like me to let him go?” The doctor asks sympathetically. “There is very little hope that he will come out of it.”

There is a pause and I hear my mom crying, and I allow myself to hope. I am in a coma … I know it … it must have happened because of the crash … and if she chooses to pull the plug on me, I can escape this time. I’ve never been able to escape before.

Against my first instincts, I find myself wanting to die more than anything. If it happens now, in this way, I will never have to die again.

Please, I beg, and then I silence my thoughts so I can better hear her speak.

“No,” she says finally, “not just yet.” I hear the shuffling of tissue. “I want him to rest … he could use it.” Then, her voice is gone, and all I can hear is the sound of the mob below me.

I lose my balance and fall.

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Right From Wrong.

11 Nov

“This is wrong.” I thought I had purged my mind of my mother’s voice, yet her strident tones still echoed through my brain, muffled but not silenced. At 14 a fuse had been ignited, my mind tented like the Petersons’ house last spring, but the chemical I used was 14 years of commands coupled with scattered Christian infomercial perspective.

Brush your teeth, clean your room, go to bed, and other orders ingrained in my head during my childhood had ceased to resound through my skull, yet one phrase remained, preserved.

“This is wrong.”

Wrong means bad. Wrong means red X’s scattered across your test like caustic confetti. Wrong means the hellfires of damnation, which I stopped believing in (along with God and heaven), but which still have the power to frighten me, like the chainsaw-wielding villain I saw on TV when I was six, who I knew wasn’t real, but was really cackling manically before me every time I shut my eyes.

“This is wrong.”

SHUT UP!

Wrong is the look of pain and confusion in the eyes of the boy who slipped a note through my window at five in the morning because he wanted me to know he was thinking about me, who sat through 10 showings of Harry Potter the day after my grandmother died because even though neither of us liked the movie, for one moment Maggie Smith’s mouth tips up to one side just like Gram’s did and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop grieving until I could watch that with a smile instead of a sob.

Pain and confusion cover his face. Pain facing rejection, confusion as he feels my body tense, my hands shift restlessly, everything moving with want, yet held back by something he cannot hear. How can a mere whisper contain me? Reins to yank back my body, a bit to prevent explanation to the troubled eyes before me, yet no blinders to spare me the sight of the darkness clouding his face.

“This is wrong.”

A gradual change, imperceptible to the unperceptive, a change in lilt, in tone, in meaning.

A silenced tongue is wrong, not the feelings it might expound if freed.

A bound body is wrong, not the movements it may make unshackled.

Cloaking an atheist in the robes of a sister is wrong.

Hurting someone who loves you is wrong.

The words have not changed; my conscience is preserved, the influence destroyed.

This is right.

Mellow Out.

3 Apr

A Starbucks café mocha is made with espresso, mocha sauce, and steamed milk. On average I can fit in one game of Robot Unicorn Attack while the drink is being prepared. Clearly I’m a New Yorker if I anticipate the same quality and rapid service from Mellow Out, a coffee shop by the side of a dirt road in Marshall, Virginia. After giving my order, I managed to play seven rounds before a chipped mug was thrown in front of me. So I put away my iPhone. It seemed anachronic somehow; people were still reading the paper in this town.

Barbecue sauce clung to the table. I dragged the mug toward me. The coffee reminded me of the brown slush by the side of the streets in the city. It had once been snow. I did not pay three bucks for some high school dropout to mix lukewarm coffee with Swiss Miss. Brown lumps of feces circled the surface. I’d rather eat a napkin.

I pushed the slush away and slumped back in my folding chair. Maybe she won’t show up. I felt like I’d been caught online shopping with my father’s credit card – again. Nerves and guilt, discomfort and sweat. My black clothes were absorbing enough sun to drown a polar bear. Mellow Out needed to invest in some blinds, or at least a ceiling fan, because according to the weather app on my clever little cell, it was 98 degrees outside. I did not pay three hundred bucks for a plane ticket to purgatory. Neither did Tommy. I wondered if anyone would notice I’d spiked my orange juice this morning.

A red-faced man in probably a once-white tee shirt was waving at me. No, actually at a kid who just walked in. The man stood up, baring his belly, and pulled the scrawny little kid into a fatal embrace. He kissed the top of the kid’s head and patted his back. They sat and laughed. The kid had a pack of Orbit gum and kept shoving pieces into his mouth until the pack was empty. Chain chewer. Just like me. I wondered how the red-faced man put up with it – the spittle that dripped down the kid’s cheek as he talked and the rhythmic smacking. It put me into a trance. I’d have never dared to chew like that in front of my parents.

A rusty bell rang as the door was flung open. My eyes were fixated on the ground in anticipation. Black patent leather Christian Louboutins marched closer and closer, their deafening stomps in sync with the blood pulsing in my head. Then they stopped. Maybe she won’t see me if I don’t look at her. Maybe it’s not even her. Her identity was unfortunately confirmed once the overwhelming stench of Coco Mademoiselle and Frederic Fekkai hair products wafted past my nostrils. I swallowed hard, but took nothing from my desiccated mouth.

“Oh don’t be rude, Kiki,” she said.

You sound like someone cracked an egg on your voice box. I glanced up. Stupid. Her thin red lips were smirking down at me and those demon eyes that have been forever burned into my brain brought me back to my grade school days.

“Sorry, Mom. I guess I’m not myself today.”

She sat in the chair across from me. That flimsy table was my only protection. I didn’t miss that feeling. Growing up terrified of a parent shapes you into a self-conscious adult who is equally terrified of serious romantic entanglements. I heard that on Oprah once. Or maybe I made it up.

“Well, isn’t this place vile?” She crinkled her nose at the poverty-stricken rednecks surrounding us. Judgment. That’s what she did best. She was cruel and harsh and her punishments were satanic. Her criticism was incessant and routine, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. Being victim to her words stung like a slapped cheek, but they didn’t just ­injure the surface; no, they sliced you deep and left you with an ugly scar to remind you of exactly how far from perfect you were.

“We aren’t in Kansas anymore,” I mumbled.

“Kiki, that’s a cliché. You know how much I hate clichés.”

You hate everything.

“Don’t call me that. I’m not six years old anymore.”

“Clearly. And you sure do like to show it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Don’t you think that dress is a ­little inappropriate for the occasion?” She pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. I glanced down. I liked this dress.

“Tommy gave me this.”

I saw pain in her eyes before they returned to their playful and evil norm. “I doubt he intended for you wear it today. Whatever. How’s that friend of yours? Dick, right?”

“It’s Rick. We broke up.”

“Your fault, no doubt.”

“It was mutual.”

She scoffed.

I hated her. She may have deemed herself a queen, but I hardly consider an unemployed, gold-digging virago to be imperial in the slightest. The thought of her brings back all the frustration, and the tears, and the pile of diaries under my bed that told her tyrannical tale. She had made my childhood a sob story. Sitting there in front of her, even after years of freedom, I felt no different than I had at 14. So stupid. I was so stupid to think I could finally gain the upper hand. It was the same – my palms damp, my body trembling, the dire need to smash her head in, and the disappointment in myself knowing that I never would.

“How’s work been going, Kiki? Sorry. Kirsten. I don’t know a thing about your life – you never bother to call. You’d never guess we live in the same city,” she said. She was twisting her wedding ring around her middle finger. She had worn it there ever since my father moved out.

I cleared my throat and grabbed a paper napkin to tear to pieces. “Work’s been fine. My life’s been fine. I’m fine. I quit smoking.”

“I paid for you to receive an Ivy League education, yet you’re still making coffee runs. Some child of mine.”

“Dad paid.”

She ignored my comment and said, “Tommy, now he didn’t disappoint me. Everything I could have ever wanted from a child – that’s what he was. Mind you, I wish he’d never moved out here. Oh well, he wasn’t defiant, not like you were.”

“You wish it had been me, don’t you?” She looked at me, confused. “You wish our lives could have been reversed – that I had died and he had lived.”

Then there was silence. I’d never heard it from her in all my life. Before, I had been deaf to every sound but her voice. Now I soaked it all in. People walking, people talking, utensils tapping plates, the radio softly playing a Keith Urban song – everything I had missed because she had stood in my way.

“If that would bring him back, then yes, I do wish it had been you,” she choked on her last words and excused herself, saying she’d see me at the church. I watched, speechless, as she straightened her black pencil skirt and left, a little more human than the way she came.

I eyed my slush, wishing it had been me too.

I didn’t pay since that hovel didn’t deserve my hard-earned cash. Instead, I left the slush in the middle of the table with fragments of a paper napkin encompassing the mug. There was a convenience store across the street. It reminded me of the ’80s, an era I only knew through the works of John Hughes. I bought a pack of Pall Malls. The greasy haired woman at the counter IDed me and I was glad to feel young again, even if only for a moment.

I made it to the church without lighting any. Maybe hypnotherapy worked. I didn’t go inside. I sat on the hood of my rented Honda and opened the Pall Malls. I took them out and grinded them against the scorching hot car, one by one. Then I let myself cook on the hood. I pretended to be a fat slab of Oscar Mayer’s turkey bacon, like my mother made when I was tiny, back when I loved her.

I thought about chewing gum and bacon and the now sizzling backs of my thighs. I thought about my breakup with Rick and the lamp he took. I’d bought that lamp in Santa Fe. I thought about Tommy, and the drunk bastard who ran him over, and my newly discovered Atheism. I thought about Tommy’s daughter, Clara, who’ll be fatherless on her fifth birthday, and his wife, Kayla, who will never heal. My empty studio loft was looking far less lonesome. Then I thought about my mother. I wondered if she had been happy after I left home, if she did mindless activities like knitting and painting watercolors. And if she ever loved me.

When I got home I made bacon and ate it on the bathroom floor, sitting cross-legged in yoga pants and tee shirt. I counted the ducks on the shower curtain. There were 43. They were all smiling at me.

People were keeping going and the world went at its fast pace. Blogs, Twitters, and Facebook statuses were being updated. New episodes of vampire-themed TV shows were still being released. Millions were going to work, getting married, popping out suckers – all this on the day of my baby brother’s funeral. I don’t know. I guess I expected the world to stand still, for the snow to turn to slush, and for me to have a moment to finally exhale.

My shirt.

2 Apr

Love. It’s a simple but overused word. I love you. I love this song! I absolutely loved that movie! The word doesn’t mean much anymore, not to most. Some people scoff at it. We throw it around like a used shirt, wearing it because it’s comfortable, safe, and secure, but never truly understanding why we have it. We lend it out, forget about it, and years later, we think, “Hey, I really liked that shirt.”

But do we care? No. It’s probably gone now, thrown away because of a rip or sold for $3 at a garage sale. We forget; it doesn’t matter after that.

Then we see the world fall apart. From the safety of our living rooms we watch amateur video on the news or Internet, and sometimes we feel so helpless and alone we’re not sure what to do. We cry for the inhumanity, scream for the injustice, and wonder why the world is this way. We think we can change the world; we know we want to help those who need it most … then we remember that T-shirt we threw out years ago.

We want it back; we fight and scramble for it. We go out and buy new shirts, try them on, but none seems to fit. We’ve lost it – we’ve lost love. We are unnerved for a bit; we sit alone and beat ourselves up for letting it go. Then we just we shrug it off. We say, “I’ll do it later” or “I’m too busy.” I’m guilty of it too: “I don’t have the right resources” or “I’m too young” or “No one will care.” And it seems as if no one does. With high school students only bent on the next party or who’s dating whom, you wonder if, in the end, their shirts were ever worn.

Is my generation going to save the world? We try, a small group of us, but our shirts are faded among the bright colors of greed and the everyday and the wanting. We are pushed into the background. We try to push our way through the crowds, and we truly wonder: where has the love gone?

I don’t want my love to fade; though my shirt is tattered and worn, I wear it daily. I am honest and open, and when I say that simple, dead, four-letter word, I mean it. I know I’ve made mistakes with it in the past and I almost threw my shirt away; I carry it carefully now. It’s close to my heart, where it’s meant to be. I do lend it out every once in a while – I let those who need it try it on and feel the safety that I feel. I leave them pieces when I go, but my shirt never seems to tear. It stays just as simple as it ever was.

When the time comes, I will stand alone in this world and stare into the eyes of those with the shirts of greed and want and lust, and I will know that even though mine is not the most beautiful shirt in the crowd, it’s among the best.