lent, dreams, and a trip to cvs
I’m giving it up for Lent. Smoking, that is. I don’t have a choice to give up at anything else— too many safety nets in place, crash mat upon crash mat below me like if The Princess and the Pea was about fucking up instead of falling in love. That story always irritated me, actually. The Princess was a little bitch and should have either moved off the pea or sucked it up like the rest of us.
The point remains. I want to fuck something up. Tragically, I already told the Love Club that I refuse to leave the city with them and won’t be attending any parties, so that reduces my options for reckless endangerment. I don’t have a car, or I’d go for a drive and hide in the forest. I can’t take the bus— I can’t go to another place in this city, that’s not enough. I need to be alone; I need solitude, total solitude. A world of my own to scream along to whatever music I want, a place where nobody will hear me.
It’s funny, you know? This is the most alone I’ve ever been, but it’s the least lonely I’ve ever been.
I stay at home. I stay in the city. I spend a February waiting for something impossible to translate into physicality. The days are the same, running like ink on paper, Sunday smearing into Monday smearing into Tuesday.
It’s said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I can’t remember quite who said it, the face of the speaker slipping into the cottony lining of my brain, but I try to imagine a face nonetheless— a man with impressive whiskers and an unkempt air, some sort of careless and witty scientist. It’s a throwaway line. I like to think it’s delivered with similar intonation as Clark Gable saying that he doesn’t give a damn, but I imagine the scientist saying it while hunched over some paper or invention instead of a girl.
I don’t think I’d actually get along very well with my imagined scientist. No matter how many different ways I imagine him saying it, the line is always delivered patronizingly. God, there’s so many princesses and scientists out there for me to direct my rage towards, instead of burning myself up inside. Here’s what I do— I ignore him; I ignore both of them. The princess and the scientist get an eye roll and an eyeful of my back as I walk away, metamorphosing into a insanity zealot.
(You know, there was once a time where I would have looked up who said it, but these days I don’t want to know. I don’t let myself get consumed by questions like that anymore.)
The days are simpler now, even when I can’t distinguish one from the other. I like to think that I’ve found myself in a routine, like a routine is a town you can stumble into. Hello, Routine, population of one. A beautiful day in Routine. What do you have in store for me today on this beautiful day?
So it goes. I wake up disoriented to whatever light God permits to come through my window, sometimes sunshine, sometimes nothing but the heavy clouds. I eat, I take my medication, I respond to text messages in a timely manner. Music is listened to, books are read, my schoolwork is ignored. The light spills into vast pools of champagne across the floor, stretching and shrinking as the hours pass, elastic with time. When it gets dark, I sit in the bath and get high enough to guarantee that I won’t dream, and I’m out like a light once I lay down. So on, so forth— the cycle continues. Groundhog Day is easier than I ever could’ve imagined.
It was fine for a while, I swear. It was beautiful and good— I was beautiful and good. The sun shined every day and I craved jazz like it was edible, wanting something slinky and saxophonic against my teeth. I spent my days like a tomcat, no worries beyond immediate pleasure, no life beyond the seconds I lived in. Each day presented itself at my feet like a dead mouse.
Oh, but it always comes creeping in, that old thing. Awareness, maybe, mostly horror. I think of Carmilla, how Laura and Carmilla lived in two separate narratives— Laura in a comedy of manners, like a Jane Austen novel, and Carmilla in a Gothic horror. There’s so many different psyches in me, all the separate people I’ve had to play like a newfangled Janus. It leads me to this— which face is Laura, which face is Carmilla, and why can’t I switch between the two of my own volition? How do I stop myself from ruining my own joy?
I don’t smoke. Not right now. God, it was a lazy thing to give up for Lent— I haven’t even had a cigarette since January, but what was I supposed to do? All the articles on what to give up for Lent said things that I’m already not allowed to have. No video games, no coffee, no fast food or carbs or sugar or dairy or gluten or alcohol or nuts. I should give up my mother for Lent so I can stop being underweight. I can’t do that, though, because neither of us have a place to go that’s not here, so I stick to not smoking and use edibles for my nightly high.
Here is the lynchpin of my misery— I didn’t, one night. I didn't get high because I thought the dreams would stop.
That was foolish of me, very foolish of me.
The idea of a twin prime is an erotic one. Two numbers, so close to touching but not quite, sharing air but not spit. When you can’t touch someone, you have no choice but to look at them. (I dreamt I dragged his dead body with me) I wake up with a sore neck, bleeding from my forehead where I had scratched it open in the night. (by our interlocked antlers, like fighting stags) For the first time in weeks, the clouds completely cover the sun, turning the sky into a blanket of white. (and he hung from his head right in front of my face, dangling from where I held him up) My bones ache, almost as badly as they did in my August underground. (but the space the antlers made put him too far away to touch, so I spent years trying to push his body closer to me so I could wipe the rivulets of blood from his face) The house is quiet. (and nobody could see us) I begin my day, quietly, quietly. (but one night while trying to embrace him I ran across the road and saw God’s light coming towards us to pull us apart, and I held still so He could get a good grip and I could clean the body in a makeshift funeral rite) Blood gets wiped off the face with rubbing alcohol, the sore side of the neck gets stretched, the sheets get put back into place. (but God lied and I collided with his grill hard enough to mangle our bodies) I don’t say a word in the next two hours, silent and vacant, trying to will the feeling of phantom blood away. (and the roadside service chucked our bodies into the woods where we rotted into one skeleton and then into nothing) Oh, Lady Macbeth, how did you feel when you realized that Dunsinane deserved to fall? Could you bear to watch those branches creep towards you?
The sun didn’t come out that day, but I never stopped waiting for it. I sat in the dining room for hours facing the window. I never stopped waiting.
I am starting to understand Ophelia much better— Ophelia, and Jesus Christ in Gethsemane, and the deep blue sea. I get it now. I see it like they did; I see the end. Of course, it’s always been like this, the end has always been this way, but I see it now. It’s just a matter of how long I can carry the weight before it breaks my body.
There’s nothing I can do about that, though.
I prepare myself to go to the store. Skirt, boots, the legwarmers I’ve had since I was 11, leather jacket. Everything I need gets written down on a crisp sheet of torn-out lined notebook paper. Wallet and headphones and sunglasses, even though it’s not bright out at all. The walk is endless and cold enough to make you push your hands as deep into your pockets as possible, and the CVS smells like detergent and burnt out tungsten. The electricity violates me, but it’s a familiar violation, so I shed tears out of nostalgia and nothing else.
Take my time with the store, I investigate every product and smell perfumes until my head throbs. I don’t want to go home right now. I can’t bear to face my laptop full of suicide notes, my journals full of suicide notes, the little trinkets of my life that act as suicide notes. Do you see? Everything I’ve written is a suicide note in it’s own way, a happily ever after above the dotted line. Rome fell in a day but that sure didn’t stop them from leaving all their shit behind, did it? No matter how light I’ve walked on this Earth, no matter how soft my steps, I leave bodies in my wake. If I was in a better mood, I would say that it’s not my fault, but I’m not and it is. Heat-seeking still makes me into a missile.
I never prepared for this, you know? I never thought I wouldn’t be able to put something down. Besides, this isn’t supposed to happen to girls like me. The youngest daughters. I’m the fifth youngest daughter in a row, dating all the way back to the early 1900s, and the fairy tales said that the love we give to others will always come back in a threefold and they lied. I thought it was enough to be good. I thought that if I kept loving this world it would love me back, but it never did because it never cared. And I’m well aware that I could fill a football field with all the people who love me and want me to flourish, but for some reason that’s not enough for me today— no, I need the love of the field and the sky and the ugly fucking sports field lights. It’s not enough to be able to be here. I need love.
Hypocrisy was never a good look on me— here I am, banging on castle doors in the middle of the storm and sleeping badly even though the queen gave me twenty mattresses. In this version, I’m the princess, the mattresses, and the pea. I am an intruding microscopic speck, completely irrelevant and unimportant, and I take myself and form it into a pearl. Something beautiful.
Sunglasses on, I walk home in the dark of the night, letting the rain lash against my skin. I live in a storm city, a city where the rain hits the pavement so hard it bounces. It’s so dark the sky glows orange from light pollution, making the sirens wailing in the distance and the clanging of the wind chimes more ominous. I watch the clouds move across the sky. It’s so dark.
I know the sun will rise again, and the darkness will be gone until the sun leaves. I know it. One day, I’ll step out of the pool of blood. But tonight I give up. Tonight, I light a candle in the window, saying over and over— come back. Come back to me.
As long as we love. As long as we love.