Sunday, February 21, 2010
It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body anymore, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch…
“So how are you?” Suspiciously well. At least ok.
“Happy, I guess.”
“Because happiness means depression isn’t far off. It might be a couple of hours, days, weeks, possibly even months, but it will come and the longer I’m happy and the better I feel, the worse it’s going to be when I come down. Besides, I can’t prove that I’m happy. I can only reject the null hypothesis that I am unhappy within an undetermined uncertainty. So, really I don’t know anything.” Am I talking really fast?
“You’ve talked about sleep irregularities before; How is that right now?”
“I am regularly awake.”
“You’re not sleeping?”
“Yes. No. Yes. Can you rephrase the question so it’s not a double negative?”
“You could just tell me what you’re trying to say.”
“How can I answer a question that hasn’t been asked?”
“You already know what the question is. But we’re kind of on a tangent here. So how have you been sleeping?”
“I – have – not – been – sleep - ing – much.” See, I can talk slower if I want to.
“Are you still taking zopiclone?”
“Yup. It slows me down some, but doesn’t make me sleep, unless I take a lot.” It’s annoying actually, when you’re body is forced to slow down but your head won’t stop racing. Paralysing. Like you’re trapped in someone else’s body. “It’s better if I don’t take the pills. It’s not so bad really, having the extra time.”
“What do you do with the time?”
“Sing. Dance. Jump. Paint. Clean. Bake.”
“And you don’t get tired?”
“Of course I get tired. But I’m still full of energy. Weird.”
“I just realised contradictions can exist. Something can be composed of opposites and still be true.”
“I think you’re right. Everything exists in its totality as a spectrum with certain aspects of its character perhaps being more pronounced than others at certain times. Right now, it sounds like you’re experiencing two extreme poles. What you need to do in order balance things out is add in some of the stuff in the middle.”
“It’s not really up to me.”
“Yes it is.”
“No it’s not. I can’t control what I’m thinking or doing. My body says move, so I move.”
“Then say ‘no’ to your body.”
“It doesn’t ask. I don’t get options. It functions of its own accord. I could no sooner tell myself to stop spinning in circles than I could tell myself to stop breathing.”
“Maybe you’re body is telling you it needs more activity and a way to control these outbursts would be to add physical activities into your daily routine. That way the body gets what it needs without having to take away from all the other necessities – like sleep. You can think of it as like taking vitamins. You have to take a little bit every day in order for them to be effective. If you take too many at once, you get sick.” Sick. “Are you still doing your morning walks?”
“Because I like my bed better. Outside is…too much information. It’s sad and cold. And my bed is safe and warm.”
“Maybe you could try incorporating a walk into your morning routine. If it’s not at sunrise, then first thing when you get out of bed.”
“That might be more likely to work.” But I’m not going to force myself despite the fact you just said I should. There’s no guarantee it would improve my situation and I can’t take the risk that it would increase my discomfort.
“How have you been eating?” I shake my head back and forth. “No, you haven’t been eating?”
“No. I can’t. I tried, but the food was wrong. I tried to make it right. But. I couldn’t. Came close once and tried to eat, but it wasn’t right when I ate it so I had to throw it out. Up. I threw it up.” I had made some vegetables and rice, but when I saw the food on the plate, it looked disparate. I tried rearranging the food by colour, size, texture, but nothing I did made it look less foreign and more edible and I ended up with a pile of vegetables mixed up with rice. It looked disgusting, like cheap Chinese take-out, but I didn’t want to waste food so I forced myself to eat it. Not all of it. I ate three mouthfuls before my stomach began to agree with my eyes as to the disgusting nature of the food. It was heavy in my stomach. Wrong. I knew it couldn’t stay there, but I also knew it wouldn’t come out on its own. I pulled my hair back into an elastic and positioned myself over the toilet. My finger pressed against tight ridges of my throat and I realised why men must like oral sex. Then I threw up.
“When was the last time you ate?” Not yesterday. Maybe the day before. Each day is the same as the next and the same as the previous, so it could have been yesterday. You want a number though, so on a wild guess…
“Three days.” That’s not right. I remember now. Kayla made me peanut butter and toast yesterday. I tried to help her, but every time I held the knife with its heap of peanut butter against the dry bread, the knife fell out of my unsteady hands. Laura sat with me on the bed as I picked off little pieces of bread, though the smallest crumb I could tear off still seemed too enormous for my stomach. It must have taken me an hour to eat that piece of toast. I couldn’t sit still long enough to chew and swallow repeatedly without boring myself to death. When I had finally finished one piece of toast, leaving a second behind on the plate, Laura kissed me on the forehead, took the plate to the kitchen and said we would try more later. Then she gave me one of the blue pills. I asked Kayla for another, but Laura said I was only allowed one.
“You haven’t eaten anything in three days?”
“No. Yes. Why do you ask questions I don’t understand? I had toast.”
“I don’t know. Eating is boring. I can’t be bothered to remember. Can I borrow that?” I am pointing at one of your many medical books on the tall shelf next to the filing cabinet.
“My neuropsychiatry textbook?”
“Of course. You’re welcome to borrow any of the books here.”
“I might wreck it.”
“That’s ok. I don’t consider a book to be well read unless it shows some wear. I guess this is a good time to end today. Have a good week. Enjoy the book.”
When I asked to borrow your book, my interest in the subject was genuine, if my motive was contrived. The pages were filled with pretty, colourful drawings of the brain, all the pieces labelled and explained in excruciating detail with additional clinical notes. Hypothalamus, corpus callosum, medulla oblongata. All things I used to know. It was like looking at a photograph of my lost memory. There was a vague familiarity of the subject matter that was difficult to attribute to any body of knowledge I currently possessed.
I tried to relearn the four lobes of the brain, repeating the names to myself – frontal, parietal, occipital, temporal, frontal parietal, occipital, temporal – but I couldn’t make the words stay in my brain, much less remember which part of the brain each label was assigned to. So I indolently abandoned the effort to locate pieces of who I was, who I thought I was, who I used to be, and instead looked for pieces of you.
You had underlined the more important, perhaps more interesting, facts with a red pen and a ruler. It was the ruler I found interesting. Your penmanship is poorly developed and it seemed odd you would take the time to carefully mark your book with such diligence. In some places, you had marked important paragraphs with a single parenthesis in the margin and, if you found what you were reading to be of particular interest, you added an exclamation mark.
Then there were whole chapters that had been left unmarked. You must have lost interest in what you were reading, maybe it was information you already knew and so you grew bored. But there was one chapter near the end of the book where you resumed your marking, only now it was with a blue pen and the wavy lines underlining your choice phrases were quite obviously not drawn with a ruler. It reminded me of the way I used to study, with a lot of effort and concentration in the early stages until I got bored and lazy and realised I didn’t even need the book. If anything it was slowing me down. It’s interesting how much a person leaves behind of themselves in the books they read.
There was also a bonus opportunity to leave an appointment slip with my name on it inside the front cover of your book. It would look innocent, forgotten, unintentional. But maybe you would flip through that book one day and see my name. Probably the little green piece of paper will end up in the recycling without a second thought. But maybe, you will see my name spelled out in your awkward handwriting and think of me. That would be enough. To be thought of. Even if only for a moment and even if I never know.
It was out of control today. I was desperate, like a junkie after more drugs. I had misplaced my ritual razor but needed to cut myself, so I ransacked the house looking for my favourite tool and, in the mean time, using anything else I came across in my hunt that was remotely sharp to injure myself. Only every other sharp object I could find wasn’t sharp enough to satisfy my need.
Nothing hurt enough. Nothing cut deep enough. Even my previous favourite, the serrated paring knife, was unsatisfying. I tried stabbing myself repeatedly with it, lightly. I tried using some shaving razor blades, but the safety guards made cutting deeply difficult. The house was torn apart from my searching – under the sink, at the back of drawers, behind books - for a razor that must be there. When, after half an hour of searching, I couldn’t find any suitable sharp objects, I looked through the house again, dispelling more contents of cupboards and shelves onto the floor.
My search for a knife, a razor, a pair of scissors, anything to cut myself with, became frantic. Each empty drawer and cupboard increased my anxiety until the room began to spin and I fell to the floor with my head in my hands. There was a noise, silent but deafening. Bright and white, if noises can have colours.
Then I felt hands on mine, gently pulling them away from the ears I was covering. There was a voice, a whisper in my right ear. I could feel the air move around my ear, gently bending the fine hairs around the canal with the sound of the words. Words soft and light, abating the harshness of the silent noise that was filling my head.
“Ssssshhhhhh. It’s a secret.” Kayla offered her hands as a support for me to pull myself up off the floor. Her hand was warm and the close contact of our skin caused my palm to sweat, just a little.
She didn’t have to force me to stand. She didn’t have to order me. She didn’t have to ask me. She had already provided me with quiet relief from the dizzying noises and for that, and wanting more of the same, I would have followed her anywhere.
She led me, the fingers of her right hand intertwined in the fingers of my right hand. It occurred to me what a perfect fit our hands were. Indistinguishable. One hand blending and folding perfectly into another. There was safety and comfort in that similarity; a hand so like my own could not harm me.
She took me to the bathroom and pointed at the medicine cabinet. The mirror had been covered with sheets of white paper a few nights earlier when I couldn’t sleep and the reflected image of my face was more disturbing than usual. I opened the little door of the cabinet and, on the narrow shelves, amidst blue plastic prescription bottles, nail clippers, band-aids, was a small yellow exacto knife. “Thank you,” I said to Kayla, grateful that there was someone in my little world who would take care of me.
Friday, February 5, 2010
One respect in which rabbits’ lives are less complicated than those of humans is that they are not ashamed to use force.
“So how are you?” I keep finding necrotic pieces of my mind. Septic, black, grotesque, and infectious. They begin to take on identities of their own, resembling and destroying what is left of me. Like any disease that threatens the whole, they must be removed. “Fidgety.” Too much coffee maybe. I’ve been drinking up to six cups a day. But it helps keep me calm. Calmer.
“What? No. Fidgety.”
“I thought it was another of your strange analogies. So what would you like to talk about this week?” You have a box of Kleenex with pictures of squash on it and another with pictures of spices. Maybe patients find food less threatening than the happy scenes of butterflies and pretty colours that usually decorate the cardboard boxes. I pick up the box on the table next to me and hold it up for you to see.
“What,” you ask as if it weren’t obvious.
“Your Kleenex has squash on it.”
“Yes it does.”
“The zucchini is a small summer squash approximately 20cm in length. Both the green or yellow fruit and the yellow flowers are edible and can be cooked in a variety of ways including boiling, frying, and grilling.”
“I don’t think the pills are working.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Well, on account of nothing has changed. Sometimes I can go as long as two weeks without cutting myself. But that’s really pushing it. I want to hurt myself long before that. Then for a while, I need to do it nearly everyday. But the pills don’t seem to have an effect either way.”
“It might be wise to stay on the medication for longer if your moods are on a predictable cycle. It’s like needing to have a slit longer than the wavelength of light in order to avoid diffraction.”
“I’ll stay on the pills, but I’m not holding out for any sort of relief. Happiness inevitably leads towards pain. It’s like a warning sign. I can’t control happiness any more than I can control any of my other feelings, but I least I know to prepare myself for what’s coming next.”
“Joy doesn’t always need to be followed by pain.”
“Yes it does. It’s a circle. And it repeats over and over again.”
“It’s not a circle. It’s a propagating waveform. It has predicable, regular oscillations, but the overall mood-wave follows a generally increasing path.”
“But I don’t feel any increase.”
“Then you’re stuck. All you need to do is readjust the magnetic field that is your perception so that your mood-wave moves in a linear as opposed to circular pattern.”
“The knobs are broken.”
“The ones controlling the settings.”
“Well, then, I give you new knobs. You just have to attach them to your machine.”
“Are they shiny?”
“You’ll have to put up a net to keep crows away they are so brilliant.” You tell me such beautiful stories, fairy tales, of the possibilities awaiting me. I want to believe you. You display ideologies before me and I feel like a child in a toy store who is not allowed to play with anything. But stories are no more than wordy illusions and I can only suspend my disbelief for so long, about fifty minutes to be precise. “What have you been doing this week?”
“You painted your walls?”
“No. A picture. Not a picture. It wasn’t even really painting, I just mixed up a bunch of different colours of paint on a piece of canvas.”
“Do you paint often?”
“Once in a while.”
“Why have you never brought in any of your art?” I didn’t think this was a gallery. I especially didn’t think you would at all be interested in seeing what I had created.
“They’re too big. It’s awkward and inconvenient. But I guess I could bring in some pictures of my paintings if you want.” Are you actually taking an interest in me?
“I didn’t say I wanted you to, but I do think it can be a therapeutic process to talk about your art.” No, I guess not.
“If you don’t care, I don’t see the point.”
“I never said I didn’t care.” These games of rhetoric always make me laugh. It’s as if you’re trying to trick me into believing the opposite of what you’re saying, but it’s just so damn obvious.
“No. You said you didn’t say that you wanted to see it.” Apparently, judging by your laughter, you are amused as well. Only you’re probably just embarrassed you’ve been caught trying to deceive me.
“I would be interested to see your art, and I do believe there is a significant amount of therapeutic value in sharing and discussing creative activities, but the motivation has to be yours, not because I asked you to.”
“I don’t want to be a disappointment anymore.”
“You’re not a disappointment.” You don’t know me well enough obviously.
“You can’t know that.”
“What makes you think I’m lying to you?”
“If what you said was true, that would mean I am quite possibly the most magnificent person in the world. If that were true then someone would have to love me.” Since you’re the only one who talks to me, that person would have to be you. Unless it’s like algebra where x + y = z doesn’t necessarily imply that z must equal x + y.
“There are probably a lot more people out there who love you, or who would love you if you gave them the chance, then you realise.” I think that’s supposed to be a compliment. Usually, compliments coming from you make me giddy, as if they actually mean something because they came from you. But this one just makes me feel lonely.
“I didn’t see a line of people standing outside my door this morning.”
“I challenge you to do a survey this week asking people whether or not they would like to get to know you. I bet you’ll find that almost no one declines the offer.”
“They would be lying.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Nobody is going to say ‘No, I don’t really like the way you come off and I think I would do better not wasting my time discovering that I don’t like you.’”
“Then make it an anonymous survey. Post an ad on the internet.”
“I’m not going to do that.’
“Because it’s pathetic. It’s one thing to need to external validation, but it’s quite another to be desperate enough to solicit compliments. Besides, I wouldn’t be able to trust the validity of the responses anyway since most men on the internet think that posting an ad is an invitation to sexually inappropriate comments.”
“How do you know that’s how people will respond? You’re fortune telling again.”
“No, I’m not.” I’ve been that desperate before.
“So you have posted an ad before?”
“And how did people respond?”
“I just told you.” Please try to keep up.
“I’m sorry your experience was less than satisfying.” Not having anybody interested in me only saved me time discovering I wasn’t interested in them. Not that I did anything productive with that time. “Well, that’s all for today. Have a good week.”
I had a dream about you again last night. I was early for session, very early, by about an hour. You had a patient coming in before me, but you said I could stay in the office while she was there. The woman you were seeing was young, with curly auburn hair, and was quite spirited and talkative. She sat across from you at the required distance of three feet, while I sat on a blue couch to the side. As the session progressed, I realized I was tired (it was early in the morning) so I lied down on the couch to listen to the two of you, mostly the young woman, talk. When she left, I told you that you had a great job and you seemed pleased by that.
The next thing I remember, we were both on the couch. I think you were lying down, possibly with your head in my lap. Maybe you were sitting next to me. You looked like you wanted to kiss me. You moved your face closer to mine with your lips slightly parted. Figuring I was imagining it, I made no reciprocating motion and you retreated. Fortunately, you made a second attempt. When our lips touched, there was an awkward adjustment period as we synchronized the gape of our mouths and the movement of our tongues. When we both accepted that what was happening was happening, you led me out of your office into another room. The lovemaking was unremarkable, but you were there, with me, and that assurance was fulfillment enough.
Afterwards, you took me to a dinner at your family home. The house was typical of a wealthy family – large and immaculate with a view of the ocean from high up on a cliff. The party itself was a large gathering of people. Most of the time, you ignored me, once to watch sports, which I thought was out of character.
There was a full service bar and when you bought yourself a drink, you didn’t offer to buy me one. I would have declined anyway as I don’t drink, and it was strange you were drinking, but the slight did not go unnoticed. Still, there were times when you showed me some kindness such as when you put a gentle arm around my waist.
There were children, of course, at this family affair and I was playing with a group of them, a young girl with dark curly hair in particular, having a wonderful time pretending to belong to a family to whom I was a stranger. I had never been introduced to anyone. It was simply accepted that I was there with you and was to be treated as any other member of the family.
At some point, it was daylight but I’m confident the following event occurred after the dinner scene during which it was night, we climbed to the top of a steep hill covered with patches of dry grass and bumps and holes. We were sitting, talking but I don’t remember what about, when you suddenly threw yourself down the hill, rolling as children do when they are playing, only much more violently with your head rebounding of mounds of dirt.
The dream ended before I had the chance to discover your intentions with me. You were, obviously, upset. You never told me why, but I had the impression your wife had left you. Most likely you were only using me as an immediately accessible comfort. Though, you may also have been using me as a tool of self-destruction. Whatever it was you were using me for, you pursued me knowing I would be willing. And I was, willing.
There was a spider in my bathroom sink when I went to brush my teeth in the morning. A big spider. Big, black, and scary. But as he was in the sink, I wasn’t able throw a shoe at him, the only defence I had developed against arachnids. There were alternatives of course, all of them involving me leaving the house. There was a coffee shop a few blocks away where I could use a bathroom. My toothbrush was out of reach being on the other side of the eight-legged horror, so I wouldn’t have been able to brush my teeth, but there was gum in my purse. However, if I left him unsupervised and alive, when I returned home there would be no way of knowing where he would be lying in wait, his sole purpose of existence of course being to terrorize me. Also, I really wanted to brush my hair. I was like one of those girls in the movies where there’s an attack and the good guy and the bad guy are fighting while the woman cowers until she, shakily, manages to pick up the gun that fell across the floor and kills the bad guy. Only I didn’t have a gun.
But I did have a shower hose. Eventually, the creature was destroyed with high pressured hot water from where I maintained a safe three foot distance standing in the back of the bathtub. However, shower hoses at that distance are not incredibly accurate and the bathroom floor also received a fair amount of water.
Flooding aside, the objective had been reached and the spider was dead. Only now there was the problem of removing his gigantic carcass, which was too large to be washed down the drain. Dead or not, I was not about to pick him up, not with any amount of tissue for any length of time. So, reasonably, I poured a bottle of Drano onto his corpse. Apparently, if your drain becomes clogged with dead spiders, Drano will not be the best method with which to clear the pipes, because half an hour later, his black, curled body was still in the sink, completely undeteriorated.
Still unable to gather my courage to remove the body with my own hands, I left him in the sink, figuring by the end of the day the cat would discover free meat and dispose of the body for me. Though, now covered in Drano, there was a risk of poisoning the cat, but it was a risk I was willing to take.
All of the commotion and screaming (there was a lot of embarrassingly feminine high pitched shrieks during the spider adventure) must have alarmed the man upstairs because shortly after the demise of the arachnid, he knocked on my door. Shyly, afraid of declaring my frailty, but even more afraid of not being able to use my bathroom sink ever again, I sent him into the bathroom on a search and destroy mission while I waited far away outside on the steps, in the event the spider had been religiously resurrected and was now invested with a purposeful vengeance directed at me.
I heard the toilet flush and, shortly after, the man reappeared to inform me that my bathroom was once again safe for activities of personal hygiene. So I carried on with my day, in quite a pleasant mood, as if nothing had happened.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I have learned that with creatures one loves, suffering is not the only thing for which one may pity them. A rabbit who does not know when a gift had made him safer is poorer than a slug, even though he make think otherwise himself.
“So how are you?” I wish I understood what was in your eyes.
“What about you is mediocre?”
“Apartment, occupational opportunities, artistic skill, academics, physical appearance…”
“That’s a good list. Keep going.”
“There isn’t much else to me.” Ankles. Two inches of conspicuous skin anchor my gaze. They’re skinny ankles, not at all indicative of the strength of your legs that are hidden behind the loose fabric of your pants. I keep my eyes fixed on that skin, still pallid from inexposure to sunlight over the winter months, and pretend I am staring at the floor.
“Maybe the only thing that is truly mediocre about you is your declaration that it is so. If you claim to be otherwise then you will have overcome mediocrity.”
“That’s not true. If it was, then I wouldn’t be unhappy. Besides, I have been proud before and I was just as depressed.”
“When what?” You ask me a question and it takes considerable effort to disentangle my thoughts from the dark hairs that lay curled and flattened against your leg. Realising my downward gaze might be misinterpreted as melancholy, I bring my eyes up, hoping to find some relief in the clothes that conceal your body, and smile so that you might take some pleasure in my company instead of being wearied by my unhappiness.
“When were you proud?”
“A couple of weeks ago. And a couple of weeks before that.” I wait until your gaze is diverted to recross my legs as my skirt has pulled up a couple of inches and though my desire must have been obvious, this was still an office and I saw no need to behave indecently. If the mind is going to wander, the body should be corralled. Still, in that brief instant where my legs were parted, I could smell the evidence of my thoughts and hoped the scent wouldn’t traverse the three feet of air to your olfactory senses to elucidate my frisson.
“I’ve been seeing you for a while now and I don’t recall any peremptory declarations.”
“Well last week you said you were incapable of recognizing changes in my emotional state, so your opinion isn’t really valid.”
“You defend your depression as if you are playing a chess game with me. In a chess game as opposed to, say, poker where players wear visors and sunglasses to hide their thoughts, it’s more difficult to ascertain your opponent’s next move through anatomical observation. You’re a very good chess player.”
“That’s not true. Reading body language in extremely important in chess…”
“I am not all that familiar with the game,” you say before I have finished my sentence.
“…I’ve never really played chess,” the discovery of a simultaneous commonality between us redirects my attention to the analysis of whether the similarity is significant, “but body language is important in the game. It’s a huge part of the game because, unlike in poker, you are vulnerable to intense scrutiny by your opponent during the intervals between moves. Body language is half the strategy – tension, eye movement across the board – you have to know what your opponent is thinking.”
“I wonder if you defend these negative aspects of yourself because you stubbornly want to prove me wrong.”
“I don’t have to prove anything. Just because you happen to be wrong doesn’t mean I am stubbornly refusing happiness.” I’m not trying to argue with you, I’m trying to educate you.
“Then if happiness came your way, you would accept it?”
“Happiness doesn’t want anything to do with me.”
“That’s what the depression tells you.” Yet, we argue. I make sure my sigh is extra audible, since you claim to not be able to pick up on subtleties.
“There hasn’t been any indication that anything good would want anything to do with me.”
“Depression doesn’t only affect what you believe. It affects all of the senses, so that if something good were to pass you by, its form would be distorted. This makes it more difficult for people struggling with depression to recognise the good all around them because they trust their senses.”
“Fine. Happiness exists. What difference does it make? According to you, even if I were surrounded by glowing, fuzzy warmness, I wouldn’t be able to recognise it. It’s the same as if it didn’t exist at all.”
“Depression is only a mask, sort of a pair of goggles that affect your vision. But the goggles can be taken off so that you are able to view life without all of the good being filtered out.”
“So normal people see life like bees see flowers?”
“You are normal. But you’ve got an accessory instrument that is causing you harm. The hardest part is taking the goggles off, but once you do your eyes will adjust to the new light. And once that happens you can begin to work on more healthful coping mechanisms.”
“I don’t know any other coping mechanisms.”
“That’s why I’m here.” Sounds reasonable enough. Except, what if you’re not there when I need you? And you won’t be there. Because you’re here.
“It’ll never work.”
“It won’t if you don’t try.” It won’t if I do try. Best to stick with what I know. There’s no point in setting myself up for failure and disappointment. “But we will have to talk about this more next time. Have a good week.”
I could hear voices flowing down from the suite upstairs through the vents in the ceiling, voices singing happy birthday. Not singing to me. My birthday had come and gone. There was no party, no singing. There was no cake. But there were delicate pastries I bought for myself because as much as I told myself I didn’t care that I was alone, as much as I told myself the loneliness would be easier to bear if I pretended there was nothing to celebrate on a day when a person should be surrounded by people who love them, I knew, birthday or no birthday, I was alone. The pastries were supposed to compensate for that. It didn’t work.
The joy in their voices sounded forced, contrived. But I wanted to be a part of it nonetheless, even just to pretend to not be so alone. Tomorrow, maybe, there will be leftovers of birthday cake. Not invited to the party, not allowed to mingle with the normals, but the man upstairs will take pity on me and bring me a piece of cake. Stale and leftover. An image of myself in flower and eggs and icing.
“You’re not alone,” Laura said as she lied down next to me on the bed and took my right hand in her left, our fingers interlocking.
“You’re not alone,” Kayla said quietly into my left ear before kissing my temple and taking my other hand. The three of us were lying in the bed on our backs, staring at the yellow glowing stars on the ceiling.
I had always thought I created Laura and Kayla to protect me, to care for me, to take the edge off the pain and lighten the shadows in my head. But feeling their fingers, delicate and soft and fragile, locked into mine, I felt them holding on to me and I realised they needed me as much, if not more, than I needed them. The three of us somehow thrown into this life together, trying to stand against the darkness, and each one of us terrified it wouldn’t be enough.
Mornings can be peaceful. Sometimes. For a short while. If I wake early enough, I can be up before the noise and the voices living inside my head have time to develop. They are always there, of course, but more dormant in the early hours of the morning.
It never lasts long, this alone time, because the voices always know when I’ve woken, and begin to do so themselves. They stir, slowly at first, rolling over in the moments before their awakening. And then they’re there, suddenly and in full form, and I can never recall the exact moment when they entirely filled my mind.
The not remembering is the worst part, especially when I’m driving. I know I must be conscious of every moment otherwise I would have died a hundred times over. I think I notice most when driving because I am forced to pay attention to the details of the road, particularly in relation to what just happened a few seconds back, which car was behind me, how fast was it approaching, and so on. But then there are these dangerous seconds, where I can’t remember how I got to where I am or what just happened. This is when I am most at risk of crashing because the not remembering is a split second unconsciousness which, at 110km/hr around a corner can be disastrous.
Mornings can be peaceful, that was my point. This was one of those mornings. The man upstairs did bring me leftover cake. I tried to pretend to myself that I was insulted by this act of pity, but the truth was I was grateful. I was hungry.
As I sat down to write this, about to tell you that I would try harder if you could assure me there was some possibility of a future, I started crying. I want you to help me, but I don’t know, despite my best efforts, if I will be able to hold up my end of the bargain. I don’t plan on stopping my haematic indulgence this week, at any rate, and my razor does wonders. Hardly any pain at all and that can be redirected. I just wish there was more area on my body I could cut on without being obvious.
Sorry. It’s difficult to be happy in the realm of you without also being torn to pieces. I wonder what will happen to me when you’re gone. You’ll move or retire or die or tell me to leave. The best I can hope for now is that I will die before that happens. Please don’t tell me you expect me to leave soon. I don’t want the process of separation to start just yet.
I would like to see one of your lectures. Not a new thought. I’m not asking to, I know I’m not allowed, but I am curious and I take pleasure in your positive attributes. But so do many people, so I guess it doesn’t mean much coming from me. I was going somewhere with this. The things you say I should do, I might be more willing, able, to accomplish them if I had more time. I’m too tired most days to pursue any healthy activity.
I don’t want this to sound like a negotiation. I’m not trying to barter or give ultimatums. I’m crying again. I don’t think it will work. I don’t think any approach will readjust my perceptions. But you do. So if you still want to help me, I promise (I NEVER make promises) to do my best to challenge my stubborn beliefs and undertake a few of your suggestions.
However, as it stands, my life is dismal at best. I refuse to engage in it because I refuse to suffer it. Maybe I have a new life starting. I would like this to be a good thing and I want to get better before it starts or I fear I will get lost in the routine and commotion of daily life and never recover. So if you will assist me, I will use my time constructively to pursue all sorts of joyous activities like learning to accept forgiveness instead of what I was going to do (wallow in misery and hope I die).
I’m glad you won’t ever read this. I wanted to believe it. I think I did when I first starting writing, but already, only minutes into my promise to be a better person, I know I’m lying.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Now as you all know, the Black Rabbit of Inle is fear and everlasting darkness. He is a rabbit, but he is that cold, bad dream from which we can only entreat Lord Frith to save us today and tomorrow.
“So how are you?” You say what’s expected of you and I’m supposed to say what’s expected of me, only I don’t want to be expected.
“Fine, I guess.”
“You’re a little under-dressed for the weather. Where’s your raingear?”
“My umbrella’s in my purse.” Maybe I am trying to get your attention, and I’m glad I did as it might not ever happen again, but that wasn’t my primary motive. I don’t like wearing pants when it’s raining. The hems always get soaking wet and muddy and they don’t ever dry in this air. At least by wearing a skirt, I can dry myself of with some paper towels once I get inside. “It’s gone.”
“There was a shiny piece of twisted metal on top of your filing cabinet last week that caught my attention and I wanted to steal it when I left, but I didn’t because I thought you might catch me.”
“I’m glad you decided not to steal it.”
“I’m not. It probably didn’t mean anything to you. Most likely it ended up in the trash.”
“So you think it’s ok to take other people’s belongings because you want them more?”
“Yes.” My eyes caught sight of your cheekbones and they were so beautiful I had to close my eyes. You probably just thought I was tired.
“Do you often steal from people?”
“No, not from people. I steal from jobs. It doesn’t matter what I take or whether or not I want it, I just like to take stuff.” I want to feel I’m a part of something, some piece of the world existing outside my head. So I collect small tokens to prove I was there. A paper clip proving I was in an office, with office people, making office talk. A napkin proving I could sit still, in the company of another person, for at least an hour, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to the waiter. Souvenirs of a life I’ve only visited. Proof. Verification. I was there. It was real.
“What do you steal?”
“Whatever is available. Food, stationary, magazines, toilet paper. Nothing major.”
“Have you ever been caught?”
“I don’t think anybody is going to miss a few pens or post-its.”
“Do you steal out of retribution or defiance to your employer, or because you enjoy the risk of being caught?.”
“No. None of that. There’s no real sentiment attached to it. There is an anxious fear that I will be found out afterwards and I’ll often tell myself I won’t do it again because it’s not a feeling I enjoy, but once that has worn off I steal again.”
“What were you hoping to accomplish by telling me about your plans to steal from me?”
“It wasn’t a plan.”
“Did you think you would be rewarded for your confession?”
“Yes. Shouldn’t I be? I was going to do something bad and I didn’t. Shouldn’t I receive some acknowledgement for that?”
“No. All you did was what you should have done, which is to not take things that belong to other people.”
“It’s always like that.”
“Everybody else gets rewarded for their achievements, but whenever I accomplish something it is disregarded as expected. It doesn’t matter how good or perfect I am, I never get any credit for it. Instead, like just now, I am condemned for it. And if I do falter, the chastening is exemplified. All I ever got for being good was ignored.”
“Do you think I’m ignoring you now?” Not me, but all the pieces that go together to make me.
“You think you know.”
“What I am.”
“What are you?”
“If you knew, you wouldn’t have to ask.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Exactly.” It would be nice if you did though. Sometimes when you are looking at me, I pretend that you are indulging yourself in an intimacy not yet banned by ethics. For a while I can believe you genuinely care about me. At least until the end of the session when you let me walk away so easily and we separate into worlds where we are not allowed to know each other, into worlds where we would never speak to each other if we passed on the street. I politely close your office door behind me when I leave to return to my empty house. Soon, you will leave too, me already erased from you mind, and close the door behind you, to return to a home filled with family.
“I have difficulty at times ascertaining whether your mood has shifted or if you are being ironic for the sake of rhetorical debate. What you say doesn’t always correlate with what I see or the behaviours you describe.” Maybe you should pay more attention to what is happening. I can’t be that difficult to figure out.
“I’m ironic and you’re irenic. You being irenic is ironic and me being ironic is irenic. Maybe you need to entertain the possibility that I am telling you the truth and if my behaviour seems contradictory, it’s because I am trying to be less of a burden or nuisance to you.”
“You’re not a burden. And you’re not difficult.” You’re lying. You must be lying. “You expressed dissatisfaction with your job before. How is that going?”
“I don’t have a job anymore.”
“Any particular reason why?”
“Someone ordered a half-caff-non-fat-no-foam-extra-hot-sugar-free-vanilla-latte.” You’re laughing. I wonder what kind of coffee you drink. My guess, two sugars, no cream. Simple.
“Not your kind of coffee?”
“People talking for the sake of hearing themselves talk. Pretending what they are doing is important. Forcing others to listen. I don’t get paid enough for that kind of auditory rape.” Nobody is ever really listening.
“Do you think you’re maybe being a bit dramatic?”
“That was a quick reply. Don’t you want to take some time to think about it?”
“We don’t have time.”
“No, I guess we’re done for today. Have yourself a good week.”
It didn’t make sense. I thought it was me. Some distortion of my perceptions. Miscalibrated intuitions. There was an absence. I wondered if you felt it too. If you really thought I was empty and shallow. Mostly empty. Because you can’t be empty and shallow at the same time. To be shallow would indicate that you have some substance, where I lack any. You seemed angry. I suppose it’s possible it was something I said or did. Sometimes the things I say are not reflective of what I’m trying to say, but I don’t think it was that. Then I started putting it all together. [Aside: was it my lack of “raingear” you noticed or the amount of skin my skirt revealed?]
You were late. You don’t usually go behind the reception counter before you call me in to your office. Did you forget whom your appointment was with? Your hair was dishevelled. The weather was terrible, but you must be used to that from riding your bike to work everyday for the past few years. And you do have other shoes that you wear when you’re riding, I saw them underneath your desk, so why are the ones you wear in the office so damaged? I never say the things I want to say.
Or I was angry with you. For not being there with me, because you did not hold me in the same regard I reserved for you, because you won’t talk to me. Wow. That’s terribly wrong of me. What have I made of you? This has gone much, much too far. And yet, sometimes when you are creating metaphors, in your head, not in mine, I see you beautiful and I don’t see that in many people. Maybe I’m not looking. But I don’t want to let that go. I don’t want to let you go. Here I am grasping at ideas made of fog as if I could somehow make them tangible if I could only catch them and hold on to them. But I can’t. That’s my point. I can’t hold you. How do you contain that which doesn’t even exist? Except you do exist. I like that you exist. Maybe that doesn’t have to mean anything.
There are these moments where time is lost, like the minutes existed for everyone else, but, somehow, I missed out on them. These moments have an air of importance to them. It’s not just anything that was lost, but some incredible, life altering, world changing event that will never occur now because I wasn’t paying attention. This happens too often.
But time isn’t discrete. So, can it even be lost? Is time a wave? If it isn’t time that’s being lost, it must be life. Which, I guess means, since it’s being lost, life must be composed of discrete units. That doesn’t make sense.
Maybe, when time interacts with and is observed by life, it becomes discrete. Like an electron. Or a photon. Then it can be lost. Or maybe the waveforms of life and time interfere destructively. That makes more sense. Like spherical standing waves. Except time and life aren’t matter. I’m confused. Whatever. All I know is there are huge blank spots in my brain where memories should be.
Sometimes, I think I have told you about what is missing, but because I can’t remember what is missing, I can’t remember telling you either. Sometimes, I think you really are paying attention and you know all my secrets. Secrets so secret, I don’t even know them. Unless I’m wrong. Then you don’t know anything. I found some blood on my wall. Did I tell you that? I don’t know how it got there. I mean, it obviously came from me. I remember making myself bleed. But that was when I was in the living room. And the blood I found was on the wall in my bedroom, next to the window. I don’t remember standing by the window.
I do remember lying in bed. My bedroom has become the hospital room that I am so terrified of being condemned to. I have been sent home to die in peace. No, not in peace. So much of my time is passed staring at the ceiling. It’s an ugly ceiling, made of square pressed-board tiles that were once beige and have been incompletely painted over with white primer. I should paint some clouds on it, to go with the glow in the dark stars I glued up there. Something more comforting to look at when I’m paralysed by fear and depression, waiting to die.
Anyway, I was lying in bed, staring at the plastic, yellow stars still faintly glowing from when I turned out the light, thinking of all the ways I could use to describe depression when I remembered it doesn’t matter how any depressed person describes their situation, no one can understand, and the more you try to convey the horror, the less they believe you could actually be experiencing it. So, the more people talk about their illness, the more they lose credibility.
But it is horrific. A strange place. It reminds me of how they describe death in fantasy novels. A Pressing, unending, vacuum of darkness. Yes, vacuums can press. Only in this special place. And when you’re there, it doesn’t matter if you’ve ever experienced a trauma or not. The experience itself is a trauma. And there, in that place, you are subjected to every anguish any person has ever experienced - hurtful words, rape,
Well a cat is a horrible thing with a long tail. It’s covered with fur and has bristling whiskers and when it fights it makes fierce, spiteful noises. It’s cunning you see
“So how are you?” I’m not sure we’re on the same side of this fight. That might be good. I’m not sure if I’m on the right side.
“What is that?”
“What is what?”
“That.” I’m pointing right at it. Turn around and you might see it.
“It’s a portable computer.”
“It looks like a camera.”
“It does have a camera on it. Two of them actually.”
“I don’t know. The company just likes to put extra features on their products.”
“Is it on?”
“No.” It looks on. The lights are on. The screen has a menu displayed. But I shouldn’t be too paranoid. I’m not interesting enough to record.
“What would you like to talk about this week?”
“I killed a cat.”
“What made you say that then?”
“I had to say something.”
“Do you have a cat?”
“What’s his name?”
“Her name is Petri, but I always call her Snowball.”
“Petri like a small, plastic dish for growing bacterial colonies?”
“Yes. But not that gross.”
“And what about Snowball?”
“I just called her that one day because I thought it was funny since she’s all black and now that’s her nickname.”
“That is quite funny.” Do you have a cat? I could picture that. At least if you were to have a pet, it definitely wouldn’t be a dog. Dog people are obvious. Cat people are curious. Or lazy. “What did you do this week?”
“Went shopping.” Hence the new designer dress I purchased while I was downtown. Not that you would notice.
“What did you buy?”
“This.” It was too expensive. Pouring coffee earned me enough to pay bills, but nothing extra, and the money from my father’s house was only budgeted to last me through school, so that was long gone now. “Stupid.”
“I am.” As if it’s not the most obvious thing in the world.
“Sorry, why are you stupid?”
“Because I shouldn’t be spending money. I complain about not having enough money to pay the bills. Or eat. And then I go out and spend what I don’t have on frivolities.”
“So then why do you do it?”
“Because it’s pretty.” It is pretty. They all are, all my purchases. Despite the fact I know I don’t have money, I still spend like I do. It seems a waste to live a useless life without at least being able to have beautiful things. And it makes me smile.
“I think it’s good to allow yourself these extravagances. Aesthetics plays an important role in healthy living.”
“But I’m irresponsible.”
“So.” It makes me a bad person. I’m unstable. I can’t take care of anything. I can’t take care of myself properly.
“Forget it.” You are forever doodling on your paper. Don’t you know you’re not supposed to let it go. You’re supposed to question me, find out my secrets. Not that that would change anything, you knowing. But if it’s not going to change anything, why does your ambivalence irritate me so? I can be ambivalent too. I’ll just sit here and wait until you have to ask me a question. And wait. And wait. At least you have looked up from your absent doodling. Sit and stare and wait. This is stupid. Why won’t you talk to me? It just occurred to me that you probably have no idea that I’m only two steps away from sticking a knife in your stomach. If I had a knife.
“What’s the laughter for?”
“That’s a good sign.” No it’s not. Fuck, you’re dense. It’s a very bad sign. People don’t just laugh spontaneously. At least, when I do it around other people they look at me strangely and ask me what’s wrong, so I figure normal people don’t do it.
“Laughter is an indicator of happiness.” A false indicator. “It shows you have a natural tendency towards living well.”
“Yeah, because I totally live well.”
“You do. It’s easy for a person in your situation to surrender to the symptoms of depression. But you are able to take care of yourself - eat, wash, dress. And more than that. You find yourself easily attracted to beauty.” You’re beautiful. “If you were incapacitated with a mood disorder, you wouldn’t see the details in life as poetically as you do. You wouldn’t be smiling at all, despite what might be your cynical interpretation as to the cause of your smile. You have a salubrious approach to life.” Your voice is soothing. Calming. I stopped listening to what you were saying at ‘symptoms.’ I already know what you’re going to say and I don’t particularly care to hear it. I won’t believe any of what you try to tell me anyway. I couldn’t believe you if I wanted to. It makes more sense for me to sit here, close my eyes and just let the sound of you pass through me, wrap around me. Comfort. Like my blanket at home in bed. I don’t want to go back there. But you’ve stopped talking and I can’t sleep here.
“Sooner or later there will be an accident and I will end up in the hospital.”
“That’s a bold assertion.”
“It’s the logical conclusion. I’m not going to stop cutting myself.”
“Self injurious behaviours can be viewed a lot like an addiction.” You’ve told me this before. “You have to want to stop.”
“I don’t want to stop.”
“Then you are you have some more work to do.” I don’t know what that means, but I don’t think you’re being nice and I don’t much like being talked down to, so I am not going to participate in this line of conversation anymore. If we start fighting, you will win and where will that leave me? “Well, it looks like that’s all the time we have for today. Have a good week.”
With a full day ahead of me and nothing to do, I prepared myself for the worst, but the afternoon passed pleasantly and without incident. I sat in the sun and read. It wasn’t until early evening that I felt things shift and the shadows seeped into my mind separating me from myself. Laura and Kayla took their protective places at my side, but I decided this evening I would take the offensive. I was not about to go to that place of confused exhaustion and terror, not for anything, so I took five sleeping pills, knowing the induced unconscious would protect me for a short time. All I wanted was to not think, not dream, not exist.
The alarm woke me at nine for work. It sounded muffled and distant, but irritating nonetheless, so I turned it off and returned to bed. At , I knew if I didn’t get out of bed I wouldn’t be going to work at all. It took considerable conscience effort to dress myself in the somnolent wake of the zopiclone.
I arrived late for the staff meeting at work. As people watched me enter the room and take a seat near the back, I hoped no one noticed I couldn’t walk properly. I shouldn’t have been driving. The sedatives sure were taking their time working their way out of my system.
The manager, talking about company protocols at the front of the room, was pointing to something on a board, some piece of paper, but instead of his finger, he was using the razor he carries with him everywhere as a pointer and all I could think about was how I wanted to cut myself.
Coffee samples were passed around and whenever the tray came my way, I took two hoping the sugar-caffeine combo would help alleviate the after-effects of the drugs still in my system. At one point during the meeting, the manager was reminding us about the equality and tolerance policy and I laughed. It wasn’t supposed to be an audible laugh, but people turned around to look at me. I just thought it was funny that people had to be reminded, and that it took two pages of the employee manual to teach them to respect other people, but obviously my amusement wasn’t shared.
The rest of the day passed without event, mostly because I was still too sedated to roll myself off the couch. But a few hours of staring at the ceiling did put me in a more relaxed state of mind. Sometimes, like this evening, when I’m in one of my better moods, I will contemplate the shape of a sleeping cat. They always look so much smaller when they are curled in on themselves, like a sphere of fur. A flattened sphere. Fragile. Vulnerable. Disembodied. Beautiful. Even people are beautiful when they are sleeping. They hardly possess the miasmic qualities they so viciously use to define their humanity when they are awake. No defences. No pretences. If I was to become a serial killer, my pattern might be to kill people in their sleep.
Kill the cat. The thought wasn’t mine. It came from somewhere behind the shadows. But once it was there, in my head, it became mine and I wanted to kill my cat. He hadn’t done anything to offend me, he was simply lying on the floor as cats do when the impulse to kill struck me. That’s all it was, a curious, instinctive impulse. I didn’t desire to kill him. Nor did I feel any need to unbind him from his life. It just seemed the natural thing to do.
For a minute, I watched him sleeping and breathing, his tiny head void of any idea of what I was considering inflicting upon him. It would be easy, to make the breath stop, even I could accomplish such a simple task without any instruments or tools. He was so small.
Then I got up from the couch and stepped on his neck. Little bits of black fur poked out softly from the space in between my toes. His body, his blood, was warm against the cold sole of my foot. I stepped down harder. Discomforted by this, he bit my foot in defence. In just return, I grabbed him by the neck and choked him with my left hand while I pinned him to the floor with my right, to avoid being scratched as he attempted to struggle out of my grasp.
It was disappointing, how quickly he surrendered. When he had abnegated, I held him a moment longer with a slightly loosened grip. He looked at me, directly in the eyes, and he was not sad or angry or afraid. It was almost as if he wanted me to finish him. Can a cat be suicidal? How long had he been waiting, wishing, something just like this would happen so that he could end his pointless feline life of sleeping, shitting, and eating? We bonded there, in that shared gaze and contemplation of death. So I released him. If his death was to be as insignificant as his life, to him, to me, I might as well not have to deal with the chore of double bagging a dead cat body for trash day.Today, as last night, not a single feeling has been evoked in regards to the event. No remorse, no guilt, not even the desire to repeat the episode exists. Absolutely nothing. I though this must be how the dead feel, but quickly realised my error. The dead are better off. They have no consciousness of what they can’t feel. They don’t have to endure this cold separation of their minds from their bodies. The dead are better off.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
…now that they were actually committed to the adventure, felt dread and apprehension.
“So how are you?” Please help me. Three simple words. I want to say them, but there is a force compressing my voice. Kayla. She’s watching me from the corner by the door, behind you, her dark eyes speaking threats. If I tell you what she does to me, she will hurt me. You can’t see her.
“Fine, I guess.” Please help me. I try to say it loud enough in my head while looking you directly in the eyes so that maybe you will hear my thoughts. Or, at least, see the fear in my eyes. You don’t hear. You don’t see. You are writing something down. The paper. Maybe I could write you a message without Kayla interfering. But then I see my wrist, a red vertical line made by a marker running down the artery. Kayla’s promise. I lift my hand and turn my wrist towards you. You will see. You will understand. You will help. I only hold it towards your view for a couple of seconds before Kayla grabs me, her fingers tight around my wrist, though I know her grip will leave no mark. She knows what I was doing. I will bleed tonight.
“What would you like to talk about this week?”
“My door was unlocked.”
“Was it supposed to be?”
“No.” The last time the door was left un-locked was the first time he found me. Upon entering the un-locked house almost a year ago, I made the usual search of rooms, with a large knife in hand, for any intruders lying in wait. There were none, so I readied myself for bed tucking the butcher knife under my pillow, just in case there was still someone lurking in the house. It was impossible. There was nowhere for a person to hide. There was only one closet in the whole place and it was full of boxes. I had checked under the bed. There were no other hiding spots. I was safe. Unless there was someone outside. The door was locked now, no one could get in. Unless they kicked the door in. It wouldn’t be difficult. There was no other exit. If someone broke in, I would be trapped. There was no one. There was no one. I was safe.
My pillow was soft and my blanket was warm. I was safe and ready to sleep. Then he came, the same big, bald man who still terrorises me. He covered my mouth with his hand, which was large enough to cover half of my face. Accustomed to such situations, I assumed the submissive role. It was the only time he ever touched me so intimately, using only his hands, never removing his clothes, and, in a manner, gently.
His large hand stretched the skin between my legs as he pushed his fist inside of me. It was painful, to be sure, but I didn’t complain. I was good. It would be a lie to say I didn’t partially enjoy his hand in me.
The hand covering my mouth to silent my screams moved behind my head to grasp at the hairs at the base of my neck. He pulled purposefully, stretching the skin covering my skull so that I had no choice but to tilt my head backwards to ease the pain of hairs being pulled out of their follicles. He pulled. I bent. He pulled. I bent further until my neck was at such a painful angle that breathing was near impossible and screaming even less so. I began to choke on my heavy breaths and moans. He didn’t release me. Not even when my mouth gaped open and closed like a fish struggling to consume enough oxygen for one more breath, one more second of life.
It was only when he had succeeded in fully pleasuring me that he loosened his fist, untwining his fingers from my curls and removing his other hand from inside of me. His only goal in forcing himself into me had been my gratification and yet, I had insulted him with my fear. After this first encounter he became a sporadic, but regular and violent, visitor. I still don’t understand why he doesn’t like me.
“So what did you do?”
“I locked it, of course.” Then I checked the house, returned to the door, unlocked and re-locked the deadbolt, turned the handle to check the lock was in place, unlocked and-relocked the deadbolt, checked the handle, went to bed, went to the door, unlocked and re-locked the deadbolt, checked the handle, returned to bed. Despite my conviction the door was locked, I doubted the reliability of it actually being closed. I was entirely confident in my memory of locking the door, but fully doubted the ability to recall an event where I may have unlocked it. But the sedatives I had ingested began to outweigh my anxiety and I remained in bed, eventually passing into an uneventful, dreamless sleep.
“So there was no suspicious behaviour associated with the door being unlocked?”
“No. Everything was normal.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m here for a reason, right?”
“I don’t like to label people with specific diagnoses. In my experience such diagnostic labels tend to increase the duration of symptoms the patient is suffering from as it can provide them with an excuse to continue with their unhealthy behaviours. Instead of trying to adjust their perceptions, they justify their actions by claiming the title. ‘I’m depressed, therefore I am justified in sleeping in,’ type of thoughts.”
“I’m not making this up.”
“I am not at all suggestion that you are. I think that your pain is a very real sensation but the attenuation of your discomfort lies in not overemphasising its existence. I don’t usually condone denial, but this is a circumstance where refusing to give your pain attention and thereby reinforcing it, is beneficial.”
“Ignore it and it will go away?”
“Well. Not ignorance so much as a delicate balance of comfort without over indulgence.”
“That sounds kinda difficult.” You’re laughing at my light-hearted, but not untrue, dismissal of your advice.
“It doesn’t have to be. It’s like going through withdrawal at first.” And that’s not difficult? “The mind automatically resorts to unhealthy thinking in response trauma because of negative early life experiences to the point where the response becomes depended on. But if such defence mechanisms are ignored, the mind will begin to look for new survival strategies.”
“But I don’t know any other strategies.”
“I can teach you.” So teach me already. Less talking, more making the crazy go away.
“What if I go through this withdrawal when you’re not around and my mind replaces the current survival strategy with something worse?”
“Do you want to kill yourself?”
“No.” Yes. But Kayla will do it before I get the chance. She’s good to me that way. Absorbing the pain so I don’t have to.
“You have a choice in the actions you choose to take.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“What if I don’t want to die, but someone else kills me? It’s like that all the time.”
“I make a choice and bad things happen anyway. I might as well not resist.”
“Everyone dies. Choosing to live forever might be a little bit of an unrealistic goal.”
“What do you mean?”
“I am a member of the first generation that could theoretically live forever if medicine keeps advancing at the rate it has been.”
“Exponential curves are typically discovered to be S-curves when enough data has been collected. But it’s an inspiring thought, to want life.”
“Who said I wanted it?”
“No I didn’t. It was a hypothetical situation.”
“So you do want to die?”
“I don’t see that I have a choice.”
“You might not have a choice in the details of your death, but you can influence the outcome by making better choices in your life and thereby increasing the probability that you will live longer and happier.”
“I don’t want to be alone.”
“Nobody is ever alone.” And neither am I. But I could be. Without Laura and Kayla, there would be no one. “It looks like that’s all the time we have for today. Have a good week.”
Kayla is punishing me, for my thoughts. We were together today, like before. There was dancing and violence evidenced by bruises on my thighs. I think she’s crazy. She came to help me and I believe it is her intention to save me from suffering. Her methods are…violent, but she needs to get my attention is all. She is only trying to protect me.
What if she is right, that we, the three of us, are happy except for when I try to live out in the real world? I am scared. She is always watching me, censoring my thoughts and my words. I can only write this because she thinks I will never let you see it. I want to believe that she is wrong, that I can show you and you won’t ignore me and you will help me, but I know she is right. You said I wasn’t crazy, so then I must be making this all up.
Kayla laughed as I wrote to you. She let me write, secrets, knowing you will never see a word of it. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you anyway, and then I would lose standing with you. Or you would miss the message. It’s a plain message, but if you missed it, it would mean you weren’t listening and then you would lose standing with me. All of you would have to be discredited. All your advice, your philosophies, would need to be re-examined for lies. That would be worse. It’s better for me not to be heard.
Later that night, after playing with Kayla, I became transfixed by the red ink running down the length of my wrist, where Kayla had marked the place to make the cut. She outlined with a red marker how to cut down the artery, not across. I could bleed and bleed and bleed and sleep. Finally.
I looked at your face today and wondered if I would get tired of it if I had to see you everyday. I have to tell you this. Not the part about your face, I have to tell you about the part of me that wants to die. Do you remember that building you told me about? That’s what my life is, never changing but always different.
Your hair looked brown this week, dark. I thought it was lighter. I think I might be making you up.
I was driving the other day. It was day, not night. I don’t remember where I was going. I was driving, too fast as usual, when I noticed a dead cat in the middle of the lane up ahead. I could tell it was dead because there was red blood spilled around its body on the grey pavement. I came up on it fast, before I had time to swerve around it. It was already dead, I didn’t need to swerve, but I didn’t want cat pieces on my car.
There wasn’t time enough to avoid it though and I felt the bump of my front tire as it pushed the dead cat body further into the pavement. I looked in my rear view mirror. I don’t know why. Maybe I thought the cat would get up and walk away. Zombie cats. It could happen. Only, when I looked behind me the cat had turned into an umbrella. A red umbrella. Can cats do that?
I was going to the skytrain, I remember now. I had wanted to go downtown, but couldn’t afford the parking and didn’t want to pay to take the bus, so I drove and parked near the skytrain which I could ride without having to purchase a ticket. It was possible I would get caught skipping the fare, but unlikely. I was only going a few stops. And I liked that I could get caught. Maybe somebody would notice me.
This particular station had two rail lines. One ran high above the traffic and the other ran well below street level, though it wasn’t underground. You could look down upon the rails and the train cars and the people from the street above. Kayla was walking on the guardrail separating the sidewalk from the steep walls of the man-made ravine in which the trains ran. The top of the guard rail was square, about four inches wide, wide enough to easily place one foot in front of the other. But the steel fence looked treacherously slippery as small puddles of water had gathered from an earlier rain.
“It would be like floating,” Kayla said as she turned her back to us, Laura and me, to gaze down at the steel tracks and the plants growing up the sides of the ravine. I wasn’t sure it would be like floating. It would be like falling. The terminal velocity of a human is over 50 m/s and that’s only if you’re falling parallel to the ground. To jump straight down, the speed a body could reach would be closer to 80 m/s. 80 m/s is, 80 divided by 1000 times 360, 288 km/hr. That is not at all a speed corresponding with floating.
I wondered if it would hurt when she made contact with the ground. If her legs struck the bottom first, the bones would most definitely break and that can’t be comfortable. Of course, the pain would only last a second before her skull would crack against the ground and that injury could result in a death quick enough that any pain it inflicted would be negligible. Still, when I saw her feet move, just the slightest, closer to the edge of the rail and its assurance of support, I took her hand and pulled her gently, almost unnoticeably, towards me. She resisted, her fingers refusing to grasp mine and moved again closer to the edge and further from me. Maybe it wasn’t my place to intervene. Maybe I should have let her have her peace, but her hand felt so frail and warm and soft in mine that I couldn’t bear to let her fall alone and unprotected. Yet I lacked the courage to go with her. So I pulled on her hand harder. She turned at her waist to look down at me.
“Please come down,” I said. My voice was flat, but my eyes were earnest and were locked on hers.
“Sooner or later you will have to let me go,” she replied.
“Later then.” She regarded me quizzically, as if unsure to trust that when the time came I would let her have her death.
“Come, let’s go,” said Laura breaking the trance of our eye contact. Kayla looked briefly to Laura standing beside me and the muscles of her whole body relaxed as she jumped down from the fence onto the sidewalk. She gave me a quick kiss and a brilliant smile so intoxicatingly full of life that no indication remained in her face or body of the graveness of the situation that had just taken place.
Kayla took hold of my hand as we continued our walk to the train station. I glanced at Laura who was walking on the other side of me and looking forward into nothing disconcertedly. Kayla was ok now and happy, but Laura was still unsettled. I understood why, of course I did. Kayla understood as well. We all knew, one day, she would have to die. There was no avoiding the inevitable and there was no means of ascertaining the moment when such an event would occur. It was awful to have Laura’s sad face reminding me that when that day came, we would be quite incapable of protecting the person we loved. So instead, I looked back at Kayla, who was smiling, and smiled back
Monday, November 30, 2009
They limped and stumbled through a bad dream to that terrible place they were bound for.
“So how are you?” Embarrassed at what I’m becoming.
“I got a job”
“That’s good. What’s your new job?” Something is wrong here. The lamp is sitting half off the filing cabinet and the shade is slanted. The kleenex box is lying on its side. It shouldn’t be like this. I could fix it. No. That would be giving in to my delusion. If I look away for a minute, I’ll see that everything is normal
“I count change and steam milk and put pastries into paper bags.”
“Are you enjoying it?” Are you serious?
“It pays the bills. Some of them, anyway.” The lamp and the Kleenex box haven’t returned to normal. Somebody did this. Somebody angry. Unhappy. Or, it could be a trick. You’re testing me to see what my reaction is, to see if I’m crazy. I don’t know what the right answer is to a question without words. I hate being tested.
“There’s something positive.”
“There was something positive in that?” This lamp-Kleenex scene is beginning to feel like deja-vu, like I’m living in a loop. A mini groundhog day. If I could only figure out what it is I’m doing wrong, I could make it stop.
“Yes. You said you’re able to pay your bills. That’s a life affirming action.”
“Yes. Poverty is awe inspiring. I do hope to spend the rest of my life being grateful that while I may not be able to afford to eat, I can at least keep the telephone company at bay.” You always find my sarcasm amusing. I wasn’t trying to make you laugh. It wasn’t supposed to be a joke. I’m not sure if you’re laughing at me for being cynical and pathetic or if you think I was genuinely trying to be jovial. Nobody has ever laughed at my sarcasm before. People tend to find me abrasive and annoying. I make people unhappy. Yet, you’re laughing.
“There seems to be a habit of all-or-nothing type thinking in your evaluation process of accomplished tasks.”
“I haven’t accomplished anything.” Or maybe none of this is real, with the Kleenex and the lamp. It’s just a dream, but my brain is broken and can’t form the images properly.
“Why is that?”
“Because I never reach my goal. Either a project is abandoned before it is finished or I reset my goals before I’ve reached the original end.” Or it’s a movie, only the prop person made a mistake and didn’t place things where they are supposed to be.
“That’s not all-or-nothing logic?”
“I guess. But I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel accomplished with achieving a goal that I should achieve. All that can ever be is fulfillment of expectation. There’s no pride in behaving as required. I can’t expect to be congratulated for paying a bill or taking out the garbage. Nor do I want to be. These are not things I am proud of. They shouldn’t be difficult and just because I am debilitated doesn’t make them a triumph.” Maybe it was me that disorganised the office accessories. When would I have done this? Not today, I’m sure of that. Last week? But if I did this last week, he should have fixed it by now.
“Any prevalence over a hardship is an accomplishment that merits acknowledgment. This doesn’t mean you can’t keep progressing with other ambitions.”
“It might what?”
“Prevent me from progressing.”
“If I am satisfied, I may not want to progress. Satisfaction will lead to complacency. I mean, why continue personal development if I’m already content with simplicity?”
“Isn’t it possible that simplicity and pride might make establishing and reaching your goals easier?”
“Yes. But if I’m happy, I might forget that the person I am isn’t the person I wanted to be.”
“If you’re happy, what difference does it make?”
“It’s a waste of potential. My life is enough of a waste as it is. If I have more character to develop, it would be ridiculous to stop the process in an embryonic phase. You don’t have an abortion because getting pregnant was happiness enough.”
“I think that’s very insightful and your determination is admirable and should be encouraged, but I also think it is important you discover ways to enjoy the simplicity of the life you find abhorring. It’s as if you’re standing on a football field, holding the ball and you can see the goal, but instead of making a bunch of small passes to get the ball from your end of the field to the goal line, you keep trying to throw the ball eighty yards in one pass and so you keep regarding yourself as a failure. You need a new game plan.”
“Is a football field eighty yards?”
“I don’t actually know. My sports analogies aren’t the best.”
“I’m on the wrong team.”
“What do you mean?”
“The end zone is too far away anyway. The defence doesn’t want me to get there. If I even try, all that will happen is I’ll be tackled and they will take the ball away from me.”
“Then you will have to take it back.” It’s just me against a whole team of burly, angry men waiting to take me down. How can I pass the ball if there isn’t anyone on my team to pass it to? Even if Laura and Kayla can play, we’re still outnumbered. Time to change the subject.
“I’m a saint among segmented worms.”
“Is that a line from a poem?”
“No. I am capable of coming up with my own stuff. After it rains and the sidewalk starts to dry and the worms stick to the pavement, I pick them up and put them in the grass so they don’t dry up and die.”
“That’s a gentle demonstration of investment in life.”
“Well, I don’t really place them in the grass. I sort of toss them.”
“It’s still a kindness.” I used to sing to dying fish. When one of the fish in my aquarium became ill and I wasn’t able to treat them, I would take them out of the tank and put them in a glass of water where dying would be a less stressful event. Then I would sit in front of the glass and sing until the tiny tetra had passed. Nothing should have to die alone. It never occurred to me that by putting the fish in a glass I was suffocating them. “It looks like we have to stop for now. Have a good week.”
“Where am I?” The kitchen lights were burning with white light that reached into the backs of my eyes, filling up my head with millions of photons that bounced around the inside of my skull, each one eliciting a small pain as it struck bone and all of them working together to fill my head with a dizzying pressure. The bulb was bright, like hospital lights, but I couldn’t look away. The cold, not unlike the cold metal of an operating table, seeped through the floor tiles into my back and legs and still I couldn’t move. My immobility must be a result of anaesthesia, was the thought. There must have been an accident, and a bad one too, because I couldn’t remember anything happening. I searched my memory for any missing time, but I was able to recall every event of the day immediately up to lying on the floor. There had been no accident.
I had woken late and slowly, defiantly refusing to stop dreaming and face reality. It was a morning dream, the content of which was somewhat under my control. That you were in my morning fantasy made confronting wakefulness all the more afflictive because not only did I have to face my life, I had to lose you at the same time.
In the dream it was your birthday and you were having a party. I don’t think I was invited, but I was there, barely noticed by you. You were smoking a joint and asked if anyone else wanted any. I thought if I spoke to you, you would have to notice me, but when I said I would like to partake, you passed the half burnt joint into my hand hardly even looking at me. Figuring I was to be ignored the whole night, I took the joint you gave me and went outside to get high with some guy I didn’t know. You had a beautiful house on the nice side of town. There was a large open room which rose a few stairs to another part of the same room where a black grand piano sat on beige carpet. Your wife, beautifully poised on the bench, was playing for a small group of your friends. Somewhere, I found a note or a card that had ‘I love you, daddy’ written on it. I might have been able to convince you I was worth the house and the wife, but there was no way I could compete with the strength of those words.
Eventually my legs moved to kick the heavy cover off the bed where it would be out of reach of my hands which were threatening to pull the blanket back up to my chin. For a moment, in my lazy slumber, that’s all I was – a pair of legs and a pair of arms. The rest of my body required too much effort to move. Even though I knew it would only take a few seconds to retrieve the blanket from the floor, I remained where I was and held tenaciously to the dream that was quickly fading into reality and out of memory. The discomfort of the cold, damp air biting at my skin finally outweighed the comfort of the tiny remnant of dream still in my head and I forced myself, awkwardly, out of bed.
The extra sleep had the antagonistic effect of increasing my somnolence and I stumbled lazily to the bathroom using the walls for support along the way. Once there, I went through the usual routine – toilet first, teeth second, bath last. The water in the bath was, as always, hot to the point where it turned the skin on my legs red. By the time I pulled the plug to drain the bathwater, the bathroom had filled with a fine mist of steam clouding the mirror above the medicine cabinet.
I towelled myself dry, dizzy from the hot water and still tired from the extended sleep. The cold tiles of the kitchen floor felt refreshing against the soles of my warm feet as I made my way back to the bedroom. Only I didn’t make it back to the bedroom. Instead, I stretched my naked body out on the cold tiles in an effort to bring my body temperature back down to a tolerable level.
So there I was, knowing how I got there, but not knowing where I was. Terrified by my confusion, my body began to tremble and I could feel tears pouring down my cheek and hanging in thick, tentative drops under my chin before falling to the floor. My skin was damp with sweat, despite the cold shivers I was experiencing.
“Where am I,” I repeated, still staring up into the bright white lights.
“You’re with me,” Laura answered. I turned my head to the side to discover the soft features of her face above mine. Her dark hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, as if she had quickly tied it back in a rush. She knelt on the floor sitting back on her heels and she bent down lower to run her long index finger along the side of my cheek. “You’re safe.”
“I can’t move my body,” I said in an almost curious, off-handed tone. I wasn’t afraid anymore because with acceptance comes detachment. I was an invalid and I didn’t care.
“Yes you can.”
“No, I can’t. There was an accident and I was hurt.”
“Yes. But you can walk.” So there was an accident. I was in the hospital. I thought I was in the kitchen. The confusion started all over again and brought with it the accompanying tears. “But I need you to help me. You need to get into bed.” I had thought I was in a bed, or on a table, but I obliged pushing myself up to my knees with great effort and then putting all my wait against the kitchen counter (so I was in the kitchen) to pull myself to my feet. Laura led me as I walked with heavy, slumbersome steps back to the bedroom.
Back, safe, under the heavy blanket on my bed, I stared at the space between where the air met my eyes and where it met the walls. I had no desire to sleep, but I also lacked the energy to so much as roll over. I was comfortable. These moments of comfort never lasted long and I relished the time I had now by slowing my thoughts as much as I could in order to make the moment last longer.
I remembered how nervous you were when you first told me I was pretty. Followed quickly by some insult on the size of my ego and my abuse of beauty over my fellow human beings, I think. What would you think of me if you could see me now, sitting in the same spot on my unkempt bed for hours staring at the mismatched socks strewn about the floor with a filthy curtain shutting out the daylight?