My time with xxx was restless. I was contentious and paranoid. Hungry. Living with people triggers me. I’m constantly cleaning up after us and I don’t want to eat anything in the house. I let him smoke my weed and limited what I ingested in front of him; only coffee and tea. He was immersed in Muslim culture now and wore a makeshift hijab and even though it was a sunny day, 66 degrees when we went out, xxx covered himself head to toe. I remembered this from when he visitedd me in Colorado. He had converted while overseas and I had talked him out of fleeing to Syria to fight in the revolution. We were both obsessed with Syria and walking around the graveyard discussing the impact of the Arab Spring. I understood his need to be there. I also knew his sister.
“I don’t think you should leave,” I said.
He showed me all of his relics of Fatimah in a wooden box like I had except mine was filled with little flecks of cannabis, a vape pen and a pink glass bowl I had stolen from one of the women I went out with. She had stolen it from another woman. He had tons of beaded red and turquoise bracelets with the silver hand, hamsa, representing the third eye. I still had some from years ago that he made for me. He showed me Moldovan coins. Talked about the strip clubs in the army. Told me he was transitioning into a woman.
“Should I call you she?”
She blushed. I once asked her to finger me black out drunk shortly after she came out to me as being gay. I was on Four Loko. I had just declared to everyone at the party that they were scared liberals who loved abortion and stormed out into the night, xxx in tow. We walked the streets for a couple hours trying to put the fragments of me back together. The next day we met for green tea and xxx told me I needed to get a hobby. I said I had a hobby: writing.
“Write more.” Today she said, “I want to help strippers,” handing me a penny from England.
I had a hard time focusing feeling tiny breezes all over my shoulders. She told me about working in the orphanage in Moldova and the struggle to get on disability from the army. She talked of her brain trauma and PTSD. She attempted to bake weed butter in my kitchen as I watched but she also disappeared and spent twenty minutes in the bathroom as the whole apartment filled with the smell. The pot bubbled.
“The pot is bubbling,” I yelled.
“Just stir it!”
“Are you ok? What are you doing in there?!?”
She said, “Hold on.”
When she returned, we didn’t discuss the mystery of the bathroom. She didn’t use the bathroom. I checked because I was overwhelmed with entertaining and control. Probably needed a place to hide and I related. During school, I often went to the bathroom to sit in the stalls or masturbate. I masturbated several times in the girls bathroom in high school and for me, I needed to lie down stomach on the tile to do it. Almost immediately, the conversation turned back to mysticism. I said I felt more premonitory.
“I have this strong sensation of death. I’m going to die young,” I say proudly, almost boasting. “At 34.” I pressed my hands into my cabinets and felt two hands press back. I winked but xxx didn’t see it. Felt like a deal. “My landlord will be here tomorrow to collect rent. It is written in the lease in big block letters; NO DRUGS. Even weed.”
“Well, we won’t tell him,” xxx said.
“Yeah, but the smell.”
Having to abandon the project midway through, we wasted most of the weed. This was not well planned. She gave me a bottle of vegetable glycerin to bake with. I don’t know what to do with anything people give me but I sat it on top of my fridge and watched dust settle on the cap. My cat was moving stones all around and my friend told me she wanted to rearrange the house. I said she likes to cuddle a lot and she said she might want other jobs to do but XXX said it was hard for things to not want to be as close to me as possible.
“You’re a big light, Catarina, everyone wants to be next to you.”
This made me shiver.
I decided being sober with her was smarter. We went to a show with my friends that night for the New Year and I wore a ballerina dress and a black top and felt separated from everyone. I sat on the couch for a while with a friend from P.S. and wanted to make out with her. Our thighs touched and she leaned close to me several times to tell me how much she loved a song. Her skin had pock marks from acne. I’ve always wanted a scarred face, I think to myself. I did not want to feel my thighs with my hands and got up suddenly to dance. I swayed a bit and took a picture to remember. That night I felt ok with xxx. We pet my cat together and she told me more stories of Fatima. How warm she is. How she blesses those who say her name. Told me about incantantations. Na’ats. Songs you can write. The night before I had a dream I was walking through a shadow and kicking him out. My men handed me three guinea pigs to take care of and I also found a woman killing people. I began to rescue cats in the dream and take modeling pics with a friend.
The next day was long and arduous. The cat had continued to move objects and I left them alone only because xxx was there. She rolled my chrysoprase stone off the dining room table in front of the wooden altar in the living room. XXX asked what things represented. I said I don’t know but I had spent all of winter rearranging my house into altars.
“For Lilith. I just make them without thinking. My entire house,” I looked around. “ I started drawing pictures to her too. Pictures of her in a tree.”
I did not show her the pictures.
“I didn’t realize at first but that’s what’s happening. That it was her. The woman. It started a few months ago.”
There were pictures and objects everywhere in my apartment. XXX entered a stark transition here. I always liked things bright but suddenly everything was placed. Arranged. Nothing felt crucial but it felt set. Candles everywhere. Relics like she had: old coins, an old Polish dollar, my nana’s old crucifix, the booty she knitted me. Pictures of my dead dog. Rosaries. The penny from England XXX had just given me. Another hamsa near a shell from Norfolk. I was wearing my brother’s ashes around my throat again and then sometimes hiding the sapphire locket in a drawer, buried under socks.. Sometimes rejecting his spirit. Sometimes banishing things out loud and calling God out loud. Only letting that word in. I’d wave everything else out. XXX told me stories of himself sitting in Fatima’s lap and feeling light wrap around the two of them
XXX said, “Like heaven, one might say.”
She held her hands out to me. We were sitting on my couch which was more like a second bed full of pillows. The couch had no back to it. The mechanism to separate it from couch to pull out had broken. I slept there when I had insomnia. If you don’t fall asleep within ten minutes of laying down, you are supposed to get out of your bed and do something. Often, I will reopen Spotify to see what my friend feed says to me, but other times I just lay down on the couch out here and let the shadows move around me.
“How do you worship her?” She smiled, “You can become the apple of Lilith’s eye. She rewards her devotees.”
Shaking my head, I swallowed and could feel a swarm of bees inside of me.
“I just talk to her but I’m scared of her. Sometimes I tell her to go. Banish her.”
She looked puzzled. I told her about the vision of the slaughtered pig in front of my bookshelf when I laid down and the reptile thing pretending to be my brother.
“He pointed to that tree,” I pointed to the tree my brother had painted when he was a preteen.
“My oven timer sometimes goes off in the middle of the night also,” I said.
“Sounds like you might be possessed and need an exorcism. Have you contacted the Catholic Church?”
I shook my head and the bees dissipated. I asked her to leave. She had smoked weed so we had to wait five more hours. I tapped my knees with my fingertips on the couch. I could feel something towering over me. Not quite palpable but very very close. We made small talk as time passed. Refusing to discuss Lilith, we spoke of the tedium of my job, being a social worker, charity. She spoke of the video game she made about insurgent females murdering infiltrators.
“You’re an angel, Catarina,” she said.
Sometimes when I shifted, I could feel spiders move in my veins. If you asked her what I looked like, xxx would say vacuous and unmenacing. A cave in daylight. And alert like I’m ready to be punched. She left at 11:30 pm. I fell asleep almost immediately and in my makeup, just a little mascara and blush to perform myself. Feeling worn out from all of the talking, I was asleep in minutes but woke up at 1:30 to the oven timer. I was getting used to it. I went back to bed and felt my soul leaving my body. Feels like a vibration moving through you and upward. I was getting used to it. I grounded myself by imagining my back planted firmly on the mattress. Being sewn in the mattress. Willing my skin to touch the sheets and grow up them like moss. I am menstruating. I am unfraid mostly. I fell back asleep and dreamt I was completing something with her and using crystals. I don’t sleep soundly but hard.
I wake up tangled in sheets like I had kicked about all night.