Fish & Feral Dogs

Yes, I have memories. Yes, they make me insane. I drive in circles through my neighborhood. I see people I know in strangers’ faces. I walk through a fluorescent convenience store. You know how it is.

I’m at Walmart. It’s past midnight. I’m walking through the bedding section. I need a new comforter because my current one is disgusting. It smells like sweat and someone else and such. I don’t want to stay up late enough to wash the old one and put it through the dryer. But I need something heavy on top of me to sleep so I don’t float up through the ceiling, into the clouds, like the balloons my customers’ children release in the parking lot. But balloons don’t go to Heaven. They drift back to Earth and land in the ocean, and birds eat them and die.

I find a comforter. It’s actually a quilt. I think of “Everyday Use,” the short story I read in the last literature class I took. The quilt doesn’t have a barcode. The Walmart employee instructs me to go get a different one. They all look the same. I don’t even know what size my bed is. Is it a queen or a full? It’s not even my bed. Someone I used to love left it at my house, and I still sleep in it. The patterns on the quilts and comforters and sheets dance before my eyes, like my body writing in pain or pleasure. It’s so hard to tell the difference sometimes.

Getting into a new relationship is so exciting. Getting out of it is not.

I have felt like I need to cry for weeks now. No tears come. “I should hit myself in the head,” I think as I walk to my car from work. “Perhaps not,” comes the voice of common sense. “Someone might see you. Someone you know might see you. One of your coworkers might see you.”

I made chili the other night. I’ve never made chili before. I don’t even like chili, except this one I made is actually pretty good. And it’s easy. I have a whole Crockpot full of it, and I can eat on it for weeks. Deciding what to eat for dinner is sometimes harder than trying to solve for X.

When I saw my psychiatrist on Monday, he asked me to fill out a borderline personality disorder assessment with no warning. I was pissed. I fudged the answers. No, my relationships aren’t unstable because of me. It’s always their fault. No, I’m not always angry. No, I don’t feel like my sense of self changes all the time.

But everywhere I go, there I am. There I am, with my mercurial identity, my deep-seated rage, the fire that burns inside of me all the time. Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, I actually want a man to cat-call me so that I’ll have an excuse to go apeshit. I imagine screaming, “Fuck you, you stupid fucking asshole!” I imagine punching him in the face, kicking him in the groin.

Every time I see a homeless junkie, I hope it’s my rapist.

One time, I became obsessed with a boy named Kevin. It was because he told me I looked nice in a t-shirt that was far too tight. I wrote poetry about him. I wrote and wrote and wrote about him. I talked about him and only him. I drove all of my friends nuts ranting about how amazing he was.

But he wasn’t. He was just some boy who liked to drink possibly more than was healthy. He had his own goals and dreams, and I had mine. I accidentally called him a few months ago. I was trying to call my mom’s mountain home, and I said to my phone, “Call cabin,” to which my phone replied, “Call Kevin?” “No! Don’t call Kevin!” I exclaimed. “Calling Kevin,” said Siri.

One time, I became entangled with a boy named Anthony. His hands got tangled up around my throat. His tongue got tangled up inside my mouth. My words got tangled up in my head, and I told myself, “This is normal. This is what grown-up girls do.” Somehow, he never left any marks.

October begins the season of breakdowns, of hard times. I hate Halloween. I hate the idea of opening my front door and not knowing who’s there. Sure, it’s mostly little kids who want candy, but there are ghosts out and about.

My customers, most of whom are senior citizens, keep telling me how nice the weather is. I complain about the heat. But I hate the cold even more. I’m like Goldilocks. I want to be just right. But as winter approaches, it feels as though nothing is right.

I used to have a therapist who told me, “The body remembers.” And while my memory is hazy, my body definitely knows what’s going on. Except when it doesn’t, except when I am hurdling through space into the past, wondering where I am, what is happening to me.

I go back to Walmart. It’s nearly 11:00 pm. I walk through the toy section, and I want to cry. A motion-sensitive toy makes a giggling sound, and I nearly scream. I find stuffed animals. I hug them all. I leave with a rainbow unicorn. The motion-sensitive toy laughs again. It laughs at me.

I feel as though I have befriended a feral dog. He wants to be my best friend, to sleep in my bed. Sometimes the only way to get rid of such a creature is to scare it away. But feral dogs have seen a lot. They’ve slept in the rain, eaten out of trashcans, narrowly avoided being hit by cars.

Sometimes I feel as though I am the feral dog. Sometimes I wish I were.

I sleep until nearly 1:00 in the afternoon today. When I wake up, I feel disoriented. “I’m late!” comes my first thought. I realize I am not working today, I have no appointments, no commitments until class in the evening. My mom has texted me. My former companion has texted me eight times after saying he’s going to give me my space.

My mom takes me out to shop for work pants. I am down four sizes since the beginning of the year. I do not feel proud. I feel as though I look exactly the same, if not worse, than I did at my higher weight. Does it even make a difference? I don’t usually care what happens to my body these days. It shrinks, it expands, it hurts, and it feels good.

I can speak Spanish. I can read Hebrew. I am a published author. I am learning American Sign Language. I am a gifted singer. So why do I feel I’ve come to a dead end in my life?

I am rereading the personal essays that meant so much to me in high school. Anna Mcconell changed my life. I want to be a good influence on the younger girls at work. Not just as an employee, but as a person. There is one young girl in particular, J. She is so smart, and so sweet, and she is going places. I let her borrow my anthology of Sappho translations, and she says she’s enjoying it.

I go to an AA meeting after class. They are talking about boundaries and self-care. Not in those words, but that’s the gist of it. I imagine putting myself first. I imagine taking care of myself. How strange, how foreign. But appealing. I imagine having a full cup from which to pour, so to speak.

I go home. I cook dinner. I eat. It feels good to bite into something I’ve prepared and enjoy it. I usually smile as I eat these days.

I have a little betta fish in a tank on my dresser. His name is Nacho and he is blue. I leave his light on while I sleep because I like to watch him swim around as I drift off into dreamland. Betta fish are sold in tiny cups and many people keep them in bowls on their counters. They can survive this way, but they do not have quality of life. Nacho is in a five-gallon tank with a filter. When I saw him at the pet store, he was lying on the bottom of his cup, but flared at me when I picked him up. I knew he was feisty, I knew he was the one I wanted. Now he swims all around his tank, constantly exploring, maybe looking for snacks. I have a little tree in his tank with some kind of Tibetan monk looking thing attached to it.

I will sleep alone tonight. And I will dream.

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