Winter is almost here again and I begin getting ready. There are good days and there are bad days. I believe it is important to highlight both. On a good day, I am up by 830 or earlier, sometimes 9:30 if my dreams were extremely vivid as they were the night before. Regardless, it is a good day if I hop out, kiss the cat’s head, jog down the steps. I have my routine: you always feed the cats first, then begin the hot water, then the litter, then sun lamp and dreams. I am trying to quit coffee so I only have two cups. I cherish those cups and then I do yoga and then I begin.
I cheat: check messages, reply, but I try not to until I have written my dream down. It is important for me to write my dreams down. It is the most steady unwavering habit I have held. Journaling, sure, you process how your breakup is related to the chocolate which spikes your mood which leads you to stifle your tears which leads you to lash out at Fed Ex for fucking up a delivery but I usually only write something like “I feel fine.” I don’t trust my journaling. I trust my sleep. Last night, as I clawed through the dirt to get away from the annex in the house where the man was hiding, I had the thought that this was it, the same dream. I climbed the tree and the voice said “it will be the scariest night of your life but if you stay in the tree, you will survive.” They were looking for me and I had to count on them thinking I tried to run to the street for help, not further in the backyard. People blame victims because they want a reason for violence so they don’t think it can happen to them at any given time. Whether you run deep into the woods to camouflage yourself from the bitter man hoping the crunch of the leaves won’t give you away or try to make a run for it in the streetlights is really incidental, not causal.
I like to complete my routine but switch it up. If it’s a writing day, as today is, yoga can come in the afternoon as a welcome break. Morning sun envelops me instead. The walks are important. I take vitamin D and use a sun lamp but depression hits when the sky changes earlier than usual. Darkness is both navigator and enemy force. So I skip yoga, set my mind on my to do list and plan to use the time later. Now I have to remember to eat.
It is the first cold day so I wrap myself in my brother’s sweatshirt and my big black coat, bright scarf and whatever hat I have been wearing for days. My head is always cold. My neck always needs protecting. The coat is functional: warm, black to match everything, polyester and slick so rain and snow fall off of it. I walk in snow and drizzle and often get caught in rain due to poor planning, frenzy, sudden obsession with rain. This is a need, a real need. I wear sneakers or combat boots only. I wear heels for show and resent anyone who demands them. I say the same thing, “I’ll wear stilettos if you walk around in them for ten straight minutes first.” Same with anal. You show me you can take a dick and I’ll show you how much being a woman hurts.
I had to buy a new coat and I wanted one that resembled the old one because I am quiet in appearance, lightly hushed, plain. I had to get a new one because it had developed holes in the lining so my keys would get lost which frustrates me. I hate losing things. In fact, I show temper with loss but that’s not it.
“I found this,” my friend held it up.
I was in need actually.
“I’m sure you can wash it. It was in the psych unit.”
“I like it,” I said taking it from her, touching it, squeezing it.
A new thing to cherish and live by: luck. Black with plaid lining, buttons only, pockets galore, can hide things. I can’t lie, can’t make things up so appreciate the strange as it happens. I loved telling people the story.
I didn’t think it was. I though it made me look ordinary but I was always receiving compliments about.
“My friend found it in a mental hospital.”
They usually nodded, unsure of how to now manage me.
I knew if it had been a library or store, they wouldn’t have had the same reaction. No one ever asked any follow up questions either, like why didn’t your friend return it or do you feel bad vibes, just wow. I’m incessantly needy. The coat was warm and dry.
But I did abandon it for a new shiny coat and today I could wear it. Smoked a tiny tiny bit, just enough to relax the neck, and began my walk around the neighborhood heading one particular way to avoid another. I had the same eleven dollars in my back pocket that I take with me every day. There is nothing to buy; nothing to consume. It is mere safety. My keys are in my front pocket. My phone is in my hand. I begin to practice.
“My name is Catarina Kacyrek. May I come in?”
I stopped carrying my backpack as it began to hurt my shoulder and back especially as I filled it throughout the day. Found myself having to stop at the store or go out of my way for a trip to justify the hours spent in reverie, in crypt. I liked purchasing holistic things, like Aloe Vera powder or probiotic gummies, or ice cream when I could have it. I liked makeup, but I liked stealing that more.
“You can never have enough chapstick,” I say to the attendant who ignores me.
Men never ignore me, I think leaving her there, not carrying on the conversation. I didn’t carry ID either. You can say I’m paranoid. My friends did. I can’t lie. I find it nauseating and am overcome with remorse after. The purge comes. I look for a man to confess to. I might as well not lie. To worsen things, it’s not that I don’t like committing crimes because I really, really do, it’s just the tale is hard. I don’t know, I’m clever. There’s guilt that’s leftover but then there’s the serial killer theory. They always go back, confess, get caught. You have to remove your ego to get away with things, but I wanted to be right, prove rightness and might and con. I wanted to be giant and the truth was bigger. The truth was captivating. I was traumatized.
You name it: car accidents, concussion, rape, fondling, molestation, arrests, witnessed deaths constantly since the age of seven. I was gifted never ending obituaries and souvenirs to hold people close, not flesh; family, friends, neighbors, clients, coworkers missed. My three neighbors died in a fire when I was nine, all children, under the age of seven and my other neighbor was found dead in her bed later. I believe they proved natural causes but it didn’t help the child to overhear they were investigating the husband for murder. Anyone can turn on you. A guy was murdered on my doorstep in Kensington. Shot to death on my doorstep. My uncle turned on himself, shot his brains out in his father’s old house over a woman. My aunt had a man turn on her once, when I was six or seven, this was the first. She was found run over several times somewhere in Texas. I was almost hit by several cars walking. Only once was it my fault;, I was usually following the green, or at least very careful. Yes, I am paranoid, vigilant, overwhelmed by the world so selfish and careless, I screamed the other night in the rain, my red parka partly covering my face but every single part of me could clearly be seen.
“Do you not see me? Do you really not fucking see me?”
His phone on the dash, I couldn’t make out his eyes but I knew just now was the first time he looked up. I can forgive and pull from a deep place of wounder, the harmer, the perp. Once, I cut a motorcyclist off with my mom in the car. I hadn’t seen them coming and it’s true about cyclist visibility–they were hard to see. I’m not justifying it, I’m telling you the story. I pulled into the lot and the two surrounded me to say the same thing, screaming.
“You almost killed us!”
I actually didn’t.
“What else can I say, I’m sorry?”
Petrified, I was also trembling. I’ve been in four car accidents now. I hate driving. I was in one bike accident. I hate biking. I was almost hit by, let’s say, fifteen different cars since I moved to Philly, plus a pick up truck in Virginia. My mom said they just needed to process it. They needed to yell at me because they were scared. My mom knew I wasn’t going to hit them either. And in the rain, his van two inches from my waist moving forward, I screamed too.
“Do you really not fucking see me?”
I pace cars, point at reds, am smarmy and alarming in height when you finally meet me. Today is a good day. I took my vitamins. I peered at the sun through my slightly scratched but still usable aviators. I smiled at strangers and pet their dogs when they’d have me. I stopped at crosswalks and waited. In no particular order, I recounted all the ways my body has been attacked since I was young because the only way out is through. The only way out is to see clearly and walk, crawl, run, jump or f r e e ze if that’s what survival requires.
This is the scariest night of your life, but if you stay in the tree, you will survive.
It’s true, I am waiting for something. I wait three extra seconds before stepping off of the curb after the bright white person flashes on the screen.