Tag Archives: SAD

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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Dating Is For Humans.

11 Apr

Slouching in the sticky seat tattered from countless moviegoers, I am aware of my incredible luck. Trying to preserve every second of this moment, I almost bounce out of my seat as I scan the theater, then check to make sure I have not disturbed her. I attempt to still my arms from any telling tremors as I reach for my soda. The screen darkens, bringing ads that announce their products with a cacophony of lights and sounds that dazzle my eyes and set my ears ringing, yet, oblivious to these sirens’ calls, my thoughts turn inward. With pounding heart and sweating palms, my arm reaches over to grab some popcorn, as if the familiarity of the gesture will make things normal and set me at ease. Yet, as if to mock my wishes, my stomach lurches, warning me that anything going down right now will most likely come right back up.

It was sixth period. I sat in my seat, morosely sketching bad copies of my rejections on the geometry warm-up. My dismal humor took great delight in parading images of failure past my mind’s eye. I relived all the humiliating episodes as I put them to paper: asking Amy to the homecoming dance and Tami to a football game; inviting Becky, and failing that, Ruth, to the movies; offering to take Pam out shopping; nearly pleading for Madeleine to hang out at the mall with me. With that last effort, my grand total of depressing attempts had reached half a dozen. Why was dating impossible for me? Couples were ubiquitous. The unattached were all popular, attractive, or in-between significant others. They did not seem to mind being single. I did.

Was I out of place? Did a cosmic mishap deliver me to the wrong planet? I had always listened to classical while everyone around me jammed to rap or hard rock. I read romance novels and science fiction to the consternation of my friends and classmates. Not one to socialize in class, I felt no connection with the rest of the world. Was there none? The infamous “they” always said that “everyone dates in time,” but I did not believe it. Dating was for humans, for me there was nothing but a cold and lonely orbit around them. I knew better than to expect a happy ending to my story even though I wanted to believe I was special. What did “they” know, anyway?

The bell rang, signaling all good little boys and girls to take their seats and feign attention. As if to mock that facade of perfection, I heard the expected sound of Sarah’s hurried footsteps. She rushed in and collapsed into her seat under the scowl of our math teacher. Unrepentant, her eyes glowed with secrets. I wondered what drove her to mock our teacher. Looking over at me, she noticed my drooping head, how it seemed to hang under the weight of heavy thoughts. My face, though hidden from her sight by a supporting hand, reflected my misery.

For the first few minutes of class, I could feel Sarah watching me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her begin to fidget, swinging her head between the teacher and the with the regularity of a metronome. Knowing Sarah as I did, that could mean only one thing. I had become her new subject, to be poked and prodded until I relinquished all secrets, only to be discarded in the wake of another’s misery. Although little time had passed, she could take no more (or perhaps her neck had begun to hurt) and when the teacher turned to write something on the board, she hissed, “Hey.” I did not respond, “Hey, Tom! What happened? What’s wrong?”

I did not answer. Foolishly, I hoped that if I postponed the inevitable, maybe some lucky happenstance would save me from her clutches. But I was cornered. She began a lightning-quick barrage of questions about all manner of things that I would rather not discuss. They pounded against my ears like hail whenever the teacher turned her head. As the period ended, my ears were smarting and red; with an explosive sigh, I caved in and told her of my failure to date a girl. While we walked to our seventh-period class, I reflected sourly on my uncertain citizenship.

As much as I hoped telling her my troubled thoughts would end her interest and allow me to go back to the comforting obscurity of corner seats and back hallways, she was not content to leave me to my misery. She dogged my footsteps and transformed my welcoming corners to trapping corners in an attempt to fix the problem, fix me. She suggested friends of hers, friends of mine, even strangers to us both.

It became our daily ritual. From the moment she rushed in late to sixth period to that liberating bell at the end of the day, I would meet each suggestion with furious vigor and ironclad determination. However, she had been a general in this kind of war far longer than I and was willing to let me squander my energies. She was right. As my passion waned and my arguments began to lose their force, I saw a wicked triumph in her eyes. Every name wore at my defenses. Years in the making, they were toppled in a few short weeks.

Then came a day when I was slow to offer a denial. Sarah had mentioned Amber, a girl who nearly carried me through biology last year, and to whom I was returning the favor in English this year. She was smarter than most, had a dry, ironic wit, and was attractive in a quiet sort of way. My traitorous mind staged a slideshow: Amber and me laughing at the teacher, Amber and me discussing the merits of different authors, Amber and me sharing a fancy for comedies … was I actually considering it? Why had I never before? Sarah jumped at the opportunity, her eyes manipulating the wheels in my mind, rolling them off the beaten path and into new and unsettling territory. Just as she was about to finish me off, Mrs. Morgan passed out our weekly math quiz. She gave me a look that said, “This isn’t over,” and I knew she was right. While all the good little boys and girls were taking their quizzes, my mind was working to reconcile myself with the idea of asking out Amber. If I failed, it might ruin our friendship, which I treasured, as it was one of the few in my life.

My teacher would be confused upon seeing my quiz, for I had answered every question with the word Amber.

Just as I expected, the moment the quiz was over, Sarah looked over at me. Gathering herself, she went straight for the kill.

“I could ask her for you. You know, if you’re too wussy!”

“No!” I shouted, the words tearing themselves from my throat. I had not expected her to be so direct. “No! I’ll do it. Just leave me alone!” I was amazed at my vehemence.

“A-hem!”

We sheepishly glanced over to Mrs. Morgan, and, after a quick apology, pretended to pay attention. For the rest of class, I tried to work up my courage. I now had a goal; all I needed was a plan and the will to see it through.

Later that day, as if a guardian angel were looking out for me, I happened to run into Amber on the way to the bus. Taking a deep breath and puffing out my chest, I told myself to say something before my fears could sabotage my resolve. After a brief hello and some shouted small talk as we dodged in and out of human traffic, my mind went blank. In the packed main hall, only a few feet from the exit, my brain coughed and I asked if she wanted to see the new Star Trek movie. She was somewhat confused and asked with a laugh if I meant Star Wars. Completely mortified, wanting to run and wishing I had brought my hat so I could disappear into the crowd, I nodded mutely and waited, my eyes riveted to her face. I searched for some hint of the reaction I so desperately desired. I was holding my breath as we pushed through the double doors to the front of the school and my fate.

“Yeah, that’d be nice. How about we go Friday after school? Just find the times and we’ll talk tomorrow. Bye now!” Amber called over her shoulder as she rushed to the bus.

Now halfway through the movie, I have controlled my tremors, and my breathing is returning to a more relaxed rhythm. The movie is interesting, now that I am actually watching it. I look around for what feels like the first time, and everything is in the proper place. People are focused on the movie, no one is staring at me; in fact, it is as if I blend right in. I loosen my clenched fists and settle somewhat more comfortably into my seat, one of hundreds, identical on the surface but each with its own story written in melted chocolate and soda stains. Everything has gone right so far, but I try to contain a feeling of overconfidence. My mouth opens to say something but I look over to her and the words just fade away.

Her face gleams with reflected light from the movie, and she seems different from when she was just my friend. It is as if an aura surrounds her, making her features seem more real, sharper. I shut my eyes and I can still see her; that aura gently tugs me, willing me closer. She laughs, and I hear bells ringing, awakening the butterflies in my stomach. I want to reach my arm over her shoulder but the thought terrifies me. What would Sarah think of me now? Getting so close, yet too wussy to make it definite. I reach my arm over her shoulder, tentatively, and breathe a sigh of relief when she does not pull away.

Flawed.

11 Apr
  Mind- a machination of mold.
Eyes- jaded spheres dripping tears.
Mouth- a curve of pointless words. …
Blood- red as revival.
Neck- a twig to snap.
Arms- limp rags for nothing.
Heart- thump, thump.
Stomach- churn.
Hips- swish.
Legs- run.
Bones- snap.
Self- human.
  I am an inventory of imperfections. Yet your kind words linger in my ears, and dangle before me like you do. 
  Serene, clear, and ever blue.  
  A perfect slew  
  of flaws,  
  me,  
  and, well,  
  you. 

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.