“Live! And have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.”
“Live! And have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.”
I understood the tenets of harm reduction before I really knew what that meant. That is, I understood things without academia’s interference by being the rum soaked gerbil not the man with the microscope. My carpal tunnel sort of gripped my forearm forcing me to take the pen and sign up for a monthly membership to Massage Philly. Harm reduction is not dropping the straw but the way you spread your fingers sometimes with it tucked into your waistband or bra to wash your hands or to stretch or to pet a stray cat.. Harm reduction isn’t throwing away the headphones, it is keeping them in your bookbag for as long as you can. Harm reduction isn’t stopping the walks, it is fitted Nikes, hydration, knee exercises and trying to breathe without turning the volume up, or on a good day, there is nothing in your hand or on your back. You don’t wear the bookbag that day. You put some cash in your pocket. You are not purchasing that day. You are smiling at dogs. You are friendly to children. You are feeling the weather. It is the way you craft each playlist to be disposable after a certain amount of use. It is not the deactivation or deletion but the constant removal of the phone from hand, or the removal of the headphones
“I have never relaxed,” I tell the technician.
I am not embarrassed or ashamed of the things my body holds or the way I wear my fright honestly and boldly. I never tell a lie. I don’t think it is possible for me to do this. Due to my submission to truth in this way, I become more wiley.
“The trick is you can’t get caught,” I tell her confidently walking into the store. I turn around to grin, “You know me.”
I push the double doors open with my back.
“I just may confess everything”
If there’s anything I placed too much value on it’s an external locus of control, i.e. luck. He tells me to lay down face up to start.
“We will start with your neck.”
That’s where everyone always starts. With my throat, my neck, my jaw line.
“I have dysphagia,” I say to someone else filling out paperwork.
They always start with the throat.
But it’s hard. Not hard like sore or stiff but hard like a small bouncy ball is stuck in there and shrunk a little so you can’t see it but things get caught on top sometimes and
“How much water do you drink?”
“With meals, I try to drink at least three small glasses.”
The doctor looks at me, discerning. I do not tell lies.
“Ok, here comes the lavender.”
I feel some light pressure at the base of my skull where every thought got caught in webbing.
If a man breathes near me, I tense so I begin to list things. Things I have to do when I get home. Things I have to get from the store. The next section of the house to clean. Things that I can no longer swallow. How much money I have in my bank account. Ways to double my bank account. Seven alternative endings to an email. The time I shouldn’t have said anything but did so now I am reneging or backtracking, but only internally.
“Ok, I am going to stretch your neck.”
Things I need to remember, like memories. Things I am supposed to let go of. Open your palm.
“Good,” he whispers and I do let my neck drop to the table and lift up with his hands without him even saying relax.
When a man touches me, I tense. What men don’t believe is anything and I have a plan to prove it. I begin to list the ways that men have traumatized me. I put my thumb up so he knows I’m serious.
1. When I was five years old, my babysitter’s brother raped me.
2. My older brother terrorized me as a child, bullying me as a form of affection but also physically crossing boundaries while teaching me how destructive boys could be.
3. My dad’s friend used to comment on my appearance all the time.
4. My dad forgot to pick me up at the pool one time.
5. My dad forgot many things.
6. A kid kissed me on the school bus without me agreeing to it once. My brother taught me how to punch a guy in the chest so hard he loses his breath after that. He also taught me how to kick their nuts.
He begins to work on my forearm and we both hear it pop.
“Unfold your palm.”
I walk with a bit of a stalk and tall but I do always carry something. I sleep with a grinding jaw and clenched fist. We both feel the pop near the thumb.
“Wow,” is all he can say.
I continue to list things but the fox interrupts me. We go to see the bear and I know what that means.
I don’t want to see the king.
But you’ve been asking to see the king.
I am scared.
I fall through the water anyway and when I emerge backwards through time, I see him on the island in his red and white garb, smiling. Time for favor. Yes, bear, you are right. I have begged.
“You have one wish.”
Let that rage go.
I feel him in my shoulders.
“This is a tricky spot,” he says.
I feel it like a black misty armor. It’s on my right side.
“Your right side is tighter.”
My right side is barbed and ready and dark. A viscous fog wraps my back, bicep and shoulder. You know how it may feel to carry a shield all day?
“Oh yeah,” and I jump a little
Let that rage go.
“I want whole body healing,” I say to the man on the beach.
But then I stammer, panic, is that right? I am doubting although arrogant in public. Should I say freedom? Yes of course. I get it. He waits.
“I want whole body healing.”
“Ok, sit here, rest and take your time getting up. I will be out front when you are ready.”
I do take my time in the room with the pink light that day. Even if I lay only a minute longer, it is a minute longer than usual. He gives me chocolate and water and some ideas. I promise to come back and remind him of the contract. I walk outside without fixing my hair. The sunlight is bright. It is hot and I am an infant. Pausing for a moment, I find my feet.
It’s always like this. Not the incessant male interruption, although it
but the synthesis. The way the stories come in three folds and I can’t keep up. It’s like this. I want to list the things they’ve done and I also want the king. I begin to walk away when I feel him grab my arm.
Let that rage go, Catarina.
If I had more time, I’d scrub my house daily. from bottom to top. I’d do nothing but sweep and mop the floors as I tracked in dirty from my long walks. I go nowhere, I just walk the city. Sometimes to get things. Mostly to gaze at the cracks in the walls or the litter in the curb. i see syringes every time and i find spiders scurrying across or I am also obsessed with windows, even if they don’t reflect back. broken or taped, I always feel drawn by them.
I love sparrows. My house is always surrounded by them no matter where I live. I knew I’d missed the stained glass windows. unsure if i’d miss the house itself; it’s mold or my pacing thoughts. also i did too many rituals in that place and needed a fresh start. i didn’t trust the infrastructure. when i moved, i took what i needed. i was not going to leave suddenly but with care.
I am speaking out loud as I round Pine Street unaware of how far I walked and with so much to do. If it were up to me, I’d make the bed neat. Pillows to match. The toilet, tub and sink would be porcelain white and the smell of citrus and bergamot throughout my house. Pine-Sol when I am out of town. Incense. The basement would be organized into perfect squares with everything labeled.
Then I decide it’s more honest about my time and my journaling as I succumb to the urge to confess anyway. asunder. I’m always thinking of words I’ve read used and heard as a means to encapsulate me. i am also mendacious and just dissected the reckless driver in me. Everytime the moon is dark again, I’m ready to set the best saintly intention but then I just fall back into myself. here are my notes in no particular order.
Nursing home massacre; choking on peanut butter sandwiches, an aid just kills them all by giving them peanut butter sandwiches and no water.
Dream maze. touch the shower walls.
Next: childhood of violence dirty and bullying other kids. introduction of the con you present to him a con artist am I who I say I am and so you trust me
A large crowd had gathered waiting for brunch. I thought this place had rats I exclaim out loud in front of green eggs cafe.But I actually didn’t know
i would just walk behind men, peacocking sometimes for a whole mile or for however long I could away with it. But i wanted to rob them. More than that, I wanted them to feel frightened of the stature I held calmly and only two feet behind them rounding every corner with them. I just began following different men around town. as I felt called to when one passed by me. it is with no regret I write anything i say.
Electric sentience joins music.
my therapist has asked me to keep a more accurate daily journal. she suggested a food log but that doesn’t work for me. i do actually eat what my body needs, it’s more about choking but I decide to do what she asks.
I begin to feel some remorse for my actions but also deeply puzzled by how that could be. i also have ignored some more disturbing thoughts and visions of me leaping to my death and me smiling covered in oil but walking out as if it was just a splash of water. It feels like I have just touched something spongy and it has spit something out. It’s damp and breathing like a black coral or something deeper and it’s porous.
I never celebrate I just see it. there is an overturned rat under the bridge off third street and my friend says it’s been there for days.
I have begun memorizing the street signs again and which direction I am walking. I begin today with mendacious. I mean for memorizing words. this is why i don’t keep journals to keep track of circular thoughts. it’s sort of a spiraling of information . this is how cerebrals may dance through life, fascinated by both synthesis in electricity, musical ensembles, cadence, an unrehearsed togetherness in packs that travel and how they hunt, the jaws of an alligator. I mean the sheer strength of an alligator.
I have not booked my ticket to my grandmother’s house because an alligator lives on her property. I’m in awe of this dinosaur and am far too young at heart to ignore it. I am scared of my clumsiness but I want to see it hiss and back up jaws open and I think,
I will go to Mallorca but I will not tempt a shark.
My therapist wants me to keep an honest daily journal, a toll of things and this is it:
I’m in bed by ten now and it feels familiar; waking up at dawn to clean the house. I suddenly feel the urge to organize my spices, my basement, wanting everything labeled. I have hoards of things and drawers become full of batteries, rubber bands, paper clips and safety pins, closets full of blankets, sufficiency in motion, but first i give up and re-take up caffeine. Also, almost choking to death but actively repressing it. I sort of skulk down the street hidden by a hat and scarf and sunglasses. My spine pulsating with distant light, or today mushrooms and marijuana, to re-experience the way sun felt the first time I managed to look up and revel. I’m surrounded by birds and their noises. After asking an Amazon Prime shopper if they were in line for the bathroom, I turned to the mirror, the camera, and pocketed the banana I was holding. I stretched my legs and checked my phone.
I start the morning eating three tiny mushrooms and packing a very small bowl of marijuana after testing the strength of the shrooms on my walk to get coffee. Also drinking water, blowing my nose, taking care of the cats.
I love pushing the line of absurd and mendacious to seeing suddenly the line beneath my feet as a practiced reality. I am lucid but also sidestepping the edges of trees underneath the concrete but somewhere else, not here. I have no music in my head. There is nothing in my hand. The staff member holds the bathroom door for me. I leave without paying for the banana and satisfied at how well I operate in crowds. Prouder now of the ability to document it as factual as possible. I prepare my stories to my therapist leaving room for sudden emotional burst. But mostly I am cerebral learning how to pronounce things perfectly.
“I do everything at once, “ I say.
Because I have done drugs my wrists are covered with tiny black hearts.
‘I can keep track of every hour, if I mark it. Then I can look back. “
I’ve only eaten bananas today. I am covered in Raven anointing oil, a gift from a friend. It is rare I follow rules or directions or advice but I heard my cats ask for mice and they are both sitting peacefully.. I begin eating an avocado and I prepare my throat for the dal I made. i don’t do well under pressure or with too much time so I jump off a bridge one day hoping to land perfectly in the center of a patch of ice and wishing. I was actively wishing as I fell that perhaps I would make it out alive.
this is a more honest look.
i begin to draw the queen of cups in the corner in blue marker and i also decide to actively burn any bridge left between us.
Everything I thought and did the world gave me and I gave back. But the sea won’t be taken in. The sea won’t let tracks be made on it. It only holds you upif you flail you’re arms and legs till you’re worn out, and then it lets you slip down as if you’ve never tried to swim.
–ursula le guin, searoad
or Moon Trine Uranus: be exactly who you are.
this next section is called Mercury Trine North Node one who can manifest the future
quite a few false narratives, i bet.
ohh sure, yeah.
David took his walk early that day. They had arrived around nine am and he was out by eleven with a pre-rolled lavender spliff he stole from the coffee table.. It was only about an hour drive to the park and they had all driven together. His head was pounding by the time he got there.
“Ok, but I want to listen to something with like flavor, like something to kind of move to,” Marisol began to roll her shoulders, nudging Jack. “Come on, Davey, put on the playlist I made. I made it just for you.’
“Ok, well that’s not 7:15 and we all have coffee.”
He glanced at the clock again.
“Oh my God,” she playfully hit the back of his seat, knocking Lilian’s seat too.
She widened her eyes and glanced sideways at him. She had been staunchly opposed to the entire trip and he could see it in her profile, the tiny twitch of her jaw, when Marisol’s elbow hit her seat.
“Ok,” he said. “Ok.” He removed his phone from the usb and waited.
“Ohhhh shiiiitt!” Marisol began swaying in the back seat, tossing her phone, chord attached, into the middle of console. “Guess the artist, Jack!” She hit him in his side.
Jack was affable, good-natured, pleasant to be around. He chuckled.
“Princess Nokia?” he guessed.
“Oh, shit. You remembered? But no, no baby, not this one. Actually, really wrong. Not even close to accent. Not all rappers…”
“It’s Megan Thee Stallion,” Lilian interrupted and then looked at her phone.
“Ok, bitch,” Marisol snapped her fingers.
“She Shazammed it.”
“I did not,” she waved her phone at him first and then to Marisol. “I’m playing the card game.”
“Let me see your Shazam.”
Lilian tossed her phone back to Marisol, willingly.
“I don’t see it.’
“I don’t have it.”
“Well, bruja, we need to talk about your love for female rappers. You always struck me as a Bon Iver, kind of Keane or what’s the one?’’ she asked Jack.
“Nooo…the like magician looking one?”
“The White Stripes?”
“I go out sometimes,” Lilian interrupted.
She smirked in the sideview, catching Marisol’s eyes.
“I think you’re talking about My Chemical Romance.”
Marisol snapped her fingers, “YES.”
“I’m offended,” Lilian nodded.
“They’re also really old,’ David added.
“Not as old as The White Stripes,” Lilian said.
“I’m old,”Jack laughed.
“White people music is all the same to me,” Marisol sat back in the seat, bobbing her head and taking Jack’s hand.
The car quieted.They listened to rap the rest of the way. Occasionally, Marisol and Lilian would murmur the lyrics under their breath but the rest of the ride was quiet.
David still had a headache: too much coffee, not enough water. lots of bobbing and bumps and Marisol’s screech and demands to turn the music up at the bridge. He grabbed the spliff off the table and left yelling a quick “I’m going for a quick walk!” before letting the front door slam again. He hadn’t unpacked or offered to help with breakfast. Vanishing into the woods, he followed the trail nearest to the cabin. Never having been here before, he knew the rain wouldn’t come til later. He knew that none of the other cabins were rented, and there were only three, because Lilian made it clear to the group over the group chat that they would be alone.
“Just nerves,” she told him.
“There will be six of us. We aren’t alone.”
“Rich said there are privately owned cabins scattered about but this was the only cluster to rent on this side of the lake. The more popular camping area was the south side we passed on the way in.”
“Well, that’s why we are doing it. Privacy.”
“But for what?”
She was folding her underwear neatly in half and lining her blue canvas roller bag. It turns into a backbag and is perfect for hiking, though, he already told her they wouldn’t be doing any serious hiking.
“Light. You don’t need that. I am only bringing my duffel.”
“Have you packed?”
They had their suitcases side by side on the bed and she could see it was empty.
“I am,” he left the room and returned with a small ziploc bag and set it down in front of her.
“What’s that?” she began to place her socks, neatly rolled, all bleach white next to her underwear.
“You don’t have to but we are.”
She was in an oversized tee, Pine Grove Track, gray with green lettering and black leggings, her hair up and her face plain as day. He didn’t despise her. He also didn’t love her. He also resented her the night before they left for the trip and remembered on the walk in the woods going east he reckoned, remembered advice.
“Only take acid when you’re in the best frame,” Clark said drawing doodles on his hand with marker. “Otherwise, it can get tense. It’s 12 hours long. You gotta ride that shit out. Worse if you’re tense or nervous or sad. My girlfriend confessed to having an affair once while we were on shrooms.”
“Not a great way to go out.”
“Most definitely not.”
David lit the spliff after he was about fifty or so feet away, not wanting to invite Marisol or Jack on this private walk. She rolled plenty of joints. She wouldn’t notice but he needed the time. The clarity. And away from Lilian who was growing more insufferable daily. She was stalwart, modest, humble, lacking any avariciousness and infrequently kinky. She would have these great flairs of role play and domination and then fall completely flat, unaffected, like a cold. long chamber you had to sit in, sit through, until she turned back on the power. She came home once with a rabbit mask and matching shiny black bikini but she only wore it once and David had to sit through a long lashing just to touch her shin.
“But it’s not enough,” he said out loud.
He had already smoked a quarter of the joint and wandered aimlessly. Pausing to turn around to gain footing, he saw the cabin in the distance; the two empty cabins behind it, spread out so there was a decent few yards between each. From here, he couldn’t see the picnic table between them, a common meeting eating area, but he knew it was there. There was also a private one closer to the cabin and a water spout. Suddenly recalling these things helped him ground. Turning to keep walking east which was now moving slightly south, he missed the boulder with the large red spray painted dot on it.
He was alone out here about two miles from his cabin, his Dad’s cabin, when the thought first hit him; that he hadn’t locked the door. He patted his cargo pants and felt the key on his left side but didn’t remember actually doing it. He stood on the front step to examine the window before his hike. The hole was covered with duct tape that he had criss crossed into a new flimsy pane.
“This will have to last until Monday, “ he said aloud to himself
Standing on the front porch, he could see the holes where he didn’t affix the pieces together correctly; pin-sized and almost tiny but not, and enough for air to freely flow back and forth. Every time a breeze blew he felt it. It was Saturday afternoon. He had two more days before he was leaving.
“This can wait until Monday.”
Looking at it only a few seconds longer, he nodded to himself to affirm and began walking west towards the boulder with the blue paint mark. It was warm enough. There may be another sudden gust this weekend. There may be more windows to patch depending on the direction of the storm. For now, all was still. He heard a couple crow calls earlier, around eight am, and then nothing. There was no wind or sound or movement in the woods.The cabin stood at the edge of the lake in the middle of a trail, not the mouth of the hike. Because he only hiked when he visited the cabin, Milo was always forced to start with The Blue Trail. If he was feeling up to it, he would cut north and wander the three miles through the Red Trail and decide later if he was game for the Black Trail. He was tired and hadn’t slept well because of the shattered window at 1:00 am so he doubted he would make it there. He never ruled it out though. The Black Trail was a beautiful hike through the middle of the forest. In the summer, it was lush and colored by unidentified evergreens, pines, full blue spruces, oaks, and fir. In summer, it was littered with people and birds: sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, finches, hawks, owls, the occasional eagle, and tons and tons of goldfinches. Milo loved birds. He loved listening to them during his days at the cabin with his dad.
“Look!” He would nudge his father every time they saw a cardinal. “Look!”
Cardinal,” his father said.
Milo would nod. His father would walk in front of him.
“And what’s the black and white bird and the long tail that sang to us this morning?”
Milo would look sheepishly at his shoes.
“Good son,” he would say without turning around.
There were other animals; deer, beavers, frogs at the edge of the lake, turtles on the logs. Sometimes he would feed the squirrels old popcorn. He would pass chipmunks, the occasional fox, and even the occasional coyote. He heard that wolves sometimes roamed the perimeter but he never saw any. In winter, that’s when he usually took the time to visit, everyone abandoned the area and all animals moved south to eat or north to hibernate. In fall, they began the migration. It was lonely and Milo decided to catch the last of them this year. He had reserved the cabin every January since his dad died five years ago. Usually holing up with Bourbon and weed or, on his wilder years, acid or shrooms or even cocaine, he would begin to go through old letters slowly developing a manic need to fly through the forest at night. Watching himself tread the snow-covered floor, he wanted the sound of the morning birds: the magpies and the sparrows, the coffee maker, his father’s cough from the living room, the shower starting. Last year, he sobbed on the frozen lake willing it to crack. He cherished the couple of spiders nesting in the corners of his bedroom. He was completely alone again and spent hours rehearsing one of his father’s old plays with them, pretending they were an audience. Pretending he wasn’t alone.
This year he came in fall, tried to grieve in sunlight. Find all the magpies. Find the last herd of deer. Feed any animal, even raccoon, that would pass him. This weekend was remarkably warm but caught in the center of a wild storm. The wind had shattered one of his windows the night before. Today, sparkly and sunny. Last night, heavy gusts kept him up all night. He had paid attention to the weather reports and knew the storm was coming back: heavy rain, wind, lightning but this was the only weekend free.
“I should have fucking patched the window.’
He took a sip of water from the bottle in his right pocket and then paused. About two miles in and past the tree he always noticed; the one with the X carved neatly into it from some bored kid or illegal hunter’s buck knife, he paused. Suddenly not remembering if he locked the front door, he was overcome with a sensation; something unfamiliar, the sensation, and a thought pattern he had never had to soothe before. It started at the bottom of his spine and traveled upwards through his shoulders. A sharp squall hit his back and he turned around but all he could see were trees. When he turned around, he felt no breeze and saw only brown trunks and white ground. The cabin was out of sight and it would him take him too long to circle back, yet he stood there, frozen, waiting for the door to answer. He thought to himself: I didn’t lock the door and the thought reverberated. It seemed strange to even question it but he was used to coming in winter when no one else was here. He hadn’t hear or seen anyone else was here. I own nothing of value. The cabin had a typewriter, a flashlight, some snacks. The thought lingered.No, it wasn’t that passive. It wasn’t lightly on his mind; it was gripping his mind. He felt anxious. He patted his pocket to feel for his key. I must have, he thought. He turned back around to face the X.
“I must have.”
Yet, he couldn’t remember doing it; actually taking the key out of his pocket and turning the lock, checking to make sure that the door was locked. Milo stood silently on the trail and thought about it. He remembered standing on the front porch to examine his window. He remembered taking the bottle of water out of his pocket to drink. He remembered walking towards the boulder. He did not remember locking his door. Milo waited another few seconds for something to interrupt: a rogue squirrel or light breeze or late morning dew drop from a branch. Nothing shook him. He held the key in his pocket and stared at the X. Let it go. A crow called in the distance. It must be noon, he thought. Let it go.
It was October thirtieth, 12:02 pm, and seventy-seven degrees outside when he heard the first cry.