My grandfather slept with talk radio on because he was terrified of dying in his sleep. When he and my grandmother were both still alive and we went to visit them in Barto, Pennsylvania (the state where I was born) I slept in a room in the attic on one of two twin beds. My sister slept in the other bed. Sometimes we would try to watch a movie or TV show on the small black and white set at the back of the room, but it didn’t get any channels, really.
The beds in the attic were directly above the twin beds in my grandparents' bedroom. When my sister was asleep I would lay awake and listen to the strange radio shows insisting their way through the floorboards. Politics, aliens, men up too late with strong, strange opinions. There is nothing lonelier than searching for a voice to keep you from your own head when the rest of the sane and normal world is sleeping.
Last night I stayed up late. I watched a Tom Cruise movie where he died over and over and over again, the familiar panic and worry coursing through the tendons on the sides of my neck, making me feel as light-headed as a strong glass of wine. My top lip was split and red, my eyes were piggish and swollen. I chomped my teeth up and down in my mouth and tried not to think about today, tomorrow, or yesterday. I remembered going to look for my shoes in the attic of my grandparents’ house and finding them under my bed, next to the dust covered hunchy-crunch of a dessicated mouse carcass. I don’t remember it having any eyes left, but if it did they would look like Tom Cruise’s in that movie: dead, black, shark eyes.
For the first time in my life, I couldn’t sit down and write. I managed a few assignments early in the day, but then the guy I’ve been dating let me know that he wanted to take a break (inarguably, no matter how good the sayer's intentions, the worst phrase in the history of the world) and my usually facile flow on the keyboard became just as jammed up as everything else in my life. I had nothing to say. I felt numb and stupid and hurt and stupid and angry and stupid and and and and.
I looked at my face in the mirror and I didn’t look the way I felt. What if who I really am is someone with nothing to say? He wanted to know what I felt and what I was thinking and when it didn’t come as easily out of my mouth as it does when I’m sitting here, I could tell looking at his face that was waiting for there to be more -- for there to be more of me. There isn’t really. I’m the girl who worries and writes.
Today I hate the girl who writes because of what she has done to the girl who worries. I cannot tell you, I do not think I ever could, the terrible fear that feasts on your bone marrow when someone you are falling in love with wonders if your writing is part of what brought you together too quickly. The girl who writes might have tricked him into thinking I am someone I'm not and I didn't even see it coming. The girl who writes, the manic pixie dream girl who gets her portrait painted by a lover, who is called a superhero, and cute and funny -- she’s more interesting than I am. She’s worth hushed and private declarations. The girl who worries is quiet and watchful and slow to warm and quick to cry and seldom trusts because she’s the one who is left when he figures out that the manic pixie dream girl doesn’t have the dimensionality he was looking for.
I drink enough coffee and eat enough fat throughout the day in the hopes that I’ll upset my ulcer, even though I know so much better now. There are beasties barely kept at bay inside my head and they have been waiting for this, for a big hurt. I scream without opening my mouth. I consider my face in the mirror and decide that sh-tting blood to achieve some sort of release doesn’t differentiate me from the girls who burn their skin and hack themselves to pieces to stop the tidal wave of crashing feelings that they have no control over.
I wonder if scorching my finger on the lighter in the bathroom will help. I wonder if I should ask someone on the street to hit me as hard as they can. I want to feel anything other than what I’m feeling. “I have no control,” I don’t know who I’m telling. “This is real, and I have no control.” But I don’t burn myself. I don’t get into a hilariously awkward street fight. Instead I retch yellow bile into the toilet. How do people, normal people, meet someone, make a connection with them, and not melt away into their own self-loathing when that connection is tested or severed? I feel like I don’t know how. I feel like an idiot.
It’s harder to cry now that I am on antidepressants. Which sucks, because I’m a crier by nature. I savor the way a good weep will soften my palate and clear me out and leave me feeling empty and centered. On Prozac, it is harder to cry, by which I mean, it sneaks up on me. I am saying that I am fine and then I am bowed like I’ve been punched in the stomach. I am walking the dog and the air smells like bread baking and fall is coming and then I’m scrambling to get home because I hear a terrible sound and the sound is me coming to pieces. This is me medicated.
I take my pill and try not to panic as the movie winds to a close. My roommate is asleep. One of the last times we had a casual conversation on the Internet about nothing, I told him, the guy, goodnight. I said, “I’m going to watch cartoons,” and he thought that was cute, patently me. “Yes. I watch cartoons as I fall asleep because I am seconds away from a full-blown panic attack, and I fear death, and I feel alone, and I’m scared and these are the colors shapes and voices that soothe me.” But I don’t say that, because I can see that who I really am is changing in his mind’s eye. My dimensions are melting and I am easy, unemotional, ambivalent, cute, and fine.
I can’t listen to music without a wellspring of tears exploding from my sockets. I can’t watch the movies or television that I love. I try to read and the letters dance around the page like they are on fire. I stare at my ceiling and think about how he’s never seen the way I rearranged my room and suppress a shudder when the tears leak into my ears. “That’s why people write sad pop songs, chickie,” says the girl who writes. She chortles darkly and asks me if I’d like a cigarette. I say no.
“F-ck him if you’re too much, or not enough, or if he thinks he can fall in love with me and not you too,” she says. She’s put on pasties and red lipstick and is swinging her tits around to Tom Waits for my amusement. It doesn’t help. The girl who worries doesn’t say anything. She sits on the foot on my bed and looks out at the skyline. She’s tired, sad, and doesn’t want to write anymore, at least, not tonight.