At 7:30, I am dry and dressed. The gown is long and flowing: burgundy, velvet, full sleeves with an obtuse triangle cut down the back. The entire back is exposed except for one thin strip that is hung at the top between my shoulder blades. My back is my best feature. It is taut and strong and firm. It is the mask I wear as I walk away from everyone. I am playing with the corded belt that separates the bottom from the top and twirling for the antique mirror I lug everywhere I go. Nodding, an ok is all I can manage. That is better than usual.
. Teasing my hair in a way that flatters the right side of my face, for about six minutes, I stare at my profile from different angles. This is incredibly frustrating to me. My hair is naturally messy and I want to “figure it out.” I want you to see me a certain way when you see me. Ok, I say again. Everything I do is rehearsed. I move my bangs back to the front and let the hair fall as it may; in waves to the top of my shoulder. It is thinner than it looks, auburn when there is sun.
“I am the great illusionist,” I hold my arms out in front the oval mirror and form an old-timey overdrawn smile, the way carnival workers grin to lure someone into their games. It is wide and sickly. This is for my own enjoyment. “The magician and her gown.”
I twirl one more time admiring the dress and then I return to my makeup bag to apply my mascara slowly. The weed makes everything take longer than it naturally should. I don’t look at the clock because for once I forget and I have nowhere to be tonight. I am dressing up to get in an accident. I want you to take this in slowly. I apply my eyeliner slowly. I have nowhere to be tonight. I pucker my lips. I am dressing up to get in an accident. I close my eyes and open them suddenly. When I open my eyes, I want you to see everything including my long wet lashes fluttering like drops of lighting at your doorstep. If there is anything I want you to remember, it is everything about me.
I’m stoned and I decide to drive. It’s irresponsible and I don’t do it often, but it’s a blizzard and I am wearing combat boots underneath my gown. This makes me feel rebellious and thoughtful. Sometimes I pretend I am carrying a pocket knife at my side. I picture it emblazoned with the name Hecate down one side and the great herself on the other; her three heads and two snarling dogs at her feet ready to enter the night. I grab my side sometimes when I walk past groups of men as if I am getting ready to pull it out and slice their little fingertips. Just for fun, I giggle in the thought which makes me laugh in real life as I am passing one of the only other people out walking on the street. He catches me. Nothing makes me feel safe.
“I am a sociopath,” I say out loud to the snowfall and the man keeps walking.
At 8pm, I am sitting inside of my car as it is warming listening to Jeff Buckley because it is good and depressing and I am in constant turmoil. Music delivers what men have always promised but couldn’t: an expansive climactic escape. As it heats, I stare at my reflection in the rearview. The blush is too heavy but my eye makeup is light so I feel balanced. I slowly apply the lip balm before I apply the lipstick I bought to match my dress. My lips are desert dry and I am thirsty.
“Fucking marijuana,” I chirp in a sing song voice and reach for the console blindly.
I take a giant gulp from my canteen and savor the cold water on my tongue. It’s like I’ve been eating sand. I stare at the green ring around my pupil.
“You’re a narcissist, Cat.”
“Does that also make me a sociopath?”
“You just want to be crazy! You just like to malinger for attention. You want everyone’s attention all of the time.”
“Malinger, Jay, that’s a good one. Were you reading my diary again?”
“You’re cruel. Everything you say is barbed or loaded. You’re such a fucking bitch sometimes.”
“Maybe I’m a sociopath, babe. Maybe you’re lucky it’s only words that hurt your itty bitty baby feelings. Maybe you should be grateful I don’t rip you to shreds in your sleep with my teeth.”
I continue to apply the eyeliner and listen to the front door slam.
“You know what, Catarina,” Jay throws the door back open.
“Fucking clockwork,” I exit the bathroom to greet him with a full face and tooth.
At 8:20, I am sitting in my car filled with fear. You’re stoned. There is no reason to be afraid but I am. This is how premonition works. It takes over and starts to drive. It repeats the feeling you will have when the time hits. This is instinct. Many people ignore gut feelings and those people waste my time. I know what a chiming church bell symbolizes. I know what a year turning means. I know I am an hourglass. I am a wilting forest. I am going to be late for something and on time for something else. It is 8:21 pm when I begin driving.
I am one of the only cars on the road. Everyone else is an Uber driver. In protest, I refuse to take an Uber in bad weather. It’s mean and even though they will get paid a lot, I am always afraid that what I carry with me in my hand will be dealt with them. What a senseless death. Unless, of course, it awakens that person to trust their gut in their next life. I snicker.
“I am not a REAL sociopath,” I say out loud to the rearview trying not to spend any more time lost in the reflection.
No, this is between me and God. I don’t feel high but I am driving 2 miles an hour and openly talking to myself with vigor. This is not that unusual except the same conversation is replaying over and over which concerns me. Oh, that little tug about instinct and remorse. Sometimes one begets the other.
Why don’t you tell me again?
I told you already.
No, in linear order.
WHAT THE FUCK IS LINEAR ORDER?
It doesn’t work. I’m shaking. I’m tense. I have to drive over the bridge and it’s a snowstorm and I’m slightly stoned. Fuck. Why did I choose to wear such a ridiculous outfit? The light is turning yellow and there is no turn on red on Spring Garden. I am relieved but there are cars pulling up behind me. I turn on some music. It is slow and long and sullen. What is this? A playlist I made called Space. It’s not soothing but I don’t change it. My reaction time is slow and unusual. I am in a trance. I am in a trance in a car moving over the bridge that will tumble right in front of me. I am in a trance in my car driving over the bridge. I am in a trance at the next light waiting to get on the interstate. Then I snap out of it.
“Thank you God,” I say out loud.
I have driven over the bridge with incredible speed, or without any memory of it. I start telling myself a story so I’ll continue the game. Once, when I was younger, a small girl, I went to my mother for comfort. I said, mom, I can’t seem to make friends. She said, Catarina, you’re a bully. I said, that’s not it. She said, I’ve seen the way you talk to Leana. You treat her like she’s your servant. I said, that’s not it! Except I screamed it. She said, you never let anyone finish saying anything. I said, I’m trying to finish something now and you won’t fucking listen. She said, you are a precocious bitch and you will not talk to me like that. I said, that’s not all I am, and I slammed the door so hard that a picture fell and broke in her room. She stormed out and chased me with a notebook and slapped me across the face. It was the only time she hit me. I may have deserved it. There are many parts of the story that I left out. More importantly, that was the last time I tried to open that conversation. I sulked for days, resentful, embarrassed that I was worth hitting. I had never been hit. I had been touched, but I had never been hit. My resolve changed after that. I knew what it felt like to have someone use force against you; power, braun, words. I had none of that. I was only about nine or ten years old. My defenses were down. I think I played Kirby’s Adventure alone in my room for a week straight. I didn’t call Leana even though she called me. I didn’t watch TV with my brother or ask to play double on Mario Kart. I didn’t even go outside. It was summer and I was sulking and opening the darkest part of myself inside of my own mind.
Without noticing, I am in a different neighborhood and I am I losing control. Not of the wheel, but with my whole body. I start to panic. I start to shake. I understand the thing I am dreading is happening. I decide to turn down a random street and then another random street so I am far away from other headlights. I don’t want anyone else involved. I am shaking and whatever Brian Eno Hammock soothing devil mix I made in an attempt to quell my bloodlust at an earlier moment is backfiring and I feel like I am on Mars as the car careens across the street and immediately crashes into a brick wall. It’s weird what we protect in panic. I let go of the wheel to lean into the crash and immediately grab the locket hanging around my neck.