“Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.”
“I love the ones who suffer, and
they love me.
They love to see me sitting on their
nice Italian furniture, and they love
to see me cry.”
Marisol turned to look at Jack then David. She smiled big and clapped her hands back at the woman.
“You don’t know all of our names! I was gonna say we haven’t even introduced ourselves.” She pointed to Lilian first, then went around the circle. “Lil. Davey. Jack and me, Marisol,” she ended with her thumb pointing back at her chest and bright.
Marisol had sparkling white teeth and smiled often. She also had big almond eyes outlined in black so she had an Egyptian oligarchy air about her. When she walked, it was on tiptoes, sort of bouncing. When she spoke, she gestured to the air a lot. The two women sat directly across from each other. When she bent over, the stranger could see Marisol’s cleavage. The stranger made no attempt to engage with her flirtations nor did she try to understand them. Holding her goblet protectively, the stranger did not bear her teeth even once. When she smiled, it was close-lipped. She didn’t lean forward or blink or take a sip or show any change in expression. She had the room’s full attention including Lilian’s who, for the most part, remained detached from the group. Not slightly, but overtly. Without anyone noticing, she had even slid her armchair back a couple feet, closer to the island, away from them. She sat tall and willowy, about 5” 10’ shoes off. She was thin with long, fine dirty blonde hair and nothing remarkable about her save her eyes. They were bright emerald green and glinted with each sidelong glance. Almost like she was staring at a ring light, they had a little circular glow around her irises. Or at least that’s what the woman saw when she looked at her. She wore no makeup, had a bit of a pallor and was wearing a plain gray fleece, jeans and white socks. She was average looking by objective standards and in outfit, though, the stranger felt her presence stronger than Marisol’s who was objectively stunning, commanding and used to being the center of attention.
Lilian’s green eyes bored like little shooting spikes. She had stopped knitting and was waiting like the rest of them but held eye contact. The stranger paused to take her in all the way. David was staring at Lilian staring at the woman. Jack stared at Marisol whose mouth was ajar, also staring at the woman. We don’t know her name. Holding her chalice in front of her like a shield, the stranger began darting her eyes back and forth between the four.
“You get one question between stories.”
They all nodded in unison except Lilian who resumed, almost automatronically, with her work. Picking up her forest green quarter scarf, the needles returned to their metronomic dance, tapping together in rhythm like a clock setting the soundtrack to the room.
“I heard them say that the following morning as I waited for my special consult. I was excited for the consult and this new shiny name. Sadia Smith,” she repeated, jumping back into the story immediately and looking back at Marisol.
Marisol’s eyes were wide but she said nothing. The couple on the couch leaned forward. Lilian’s needles tapped and she didn’t look up again. David felt his shin wet and looked at the blood on his finger, suddenly enthralled with the tiny red dot as the walls began to make way for trees.
“They had tucked me in a room with an older white woman who screamed randomly in the night. She didn’t scream all night, just whenever the urge came over her at unpredictable intervals. I felt I deserved that. I liked that I couldn’t sleep.”
David liked that he couldn’t sleep. That he wouldn’t sleep.
“The next morning a very warm and fuzzy glow masked my eyes as I walked the unit avoiding drinking water, avoiding breakfast, avoiding camraderie. Me, with my freshly shaved head,’” she gestured to her hood, “and blue gown and the word “courage” written in permanent marker on my skull.” The stranger leaned forward eyeing David. “I wanted to see if it would make a good tattoo, and avoiding everyone. I felt giant honestly. I felt like laughing in their faces. Sure, I’m thirsty. Who isn’t?” She shrugged.
Who isn’t thirsty, David thought, not grasping a single thing that was happening as the walls began to turn into the lake. He took a sip of water and watched a pine tree grow from the lamp in her table. Who isn’t brave and giant? He took a large gulp and felt the word Clark had written on his hand that night in the warehouse: seamless.
“Everything becomes seamless.”
“The previous evening was mostly blur. I had arrived unrested, unkempt and dehydrated, not to mention completely apathetic to the presence of everyone around me. The fluorescent lighting didn’t help. It felt like day but how long had I been in the ER? They gave me an IV of water, took my vitals, made me answer questions.
“When was the last time you ate?”
And the pause between the question and the answer alarmed them.
“I didn’t eat today actually.”
David was sitting back in the tree peeling an orange watching everyone watch her. Except Lilian. My girlfriend is knitting the murderer a scarf, he thought and laughed in the tree, looking at the lake. The howl still far away but getting closer. Licking the citrus from his fingers and taking a deep breath, he cocked his head back and began to scream back.
this next section is called LMAO
“My face was bare and so was my head. I’ll interject to admit I could have been a little dramatic about the heat but I felt like I was peering into the center of the sun and so did my skin. My forehead and face were streaked with sweat. Walking for miles, my knees hurt and my legs hurt. My back hurt and I was tired. Not just tired, but consumed, oddly barren but so heavy and so hot. I carried nothing in my hand. I hadn’t drank anything for hours. Obsessed with the way my mouth felt, I was constantly opening and closing it, feeling how dry my tongue was against the roof. Opening and shutting my jaw to hear the click, to see how much I could open it, to feel it tense and lock near shut. Rubbing it with my hand, sort of humming, cajoling it to open, it was on the verge of close without my input. When I arrived at the hospital, I was on the verge of collapse anyway so the entire process went faster.
My knees buckled from over exertion and anxiety when I walked in. I could barely stand so the attendings swarmed me to help. They brought me water and that’s when I spoke, for the first time to anyone all day.
“I can’t. I’ll choke.”
I fainted. I was so proud of my body for fainting. I can’t lie. I feel the constant need to confess so I had walked for miles until I fainted. They tried to ask my name. I whispered and they repeated back: Sadia? I could only nod. When someone has no ID, they use Doe or Smith as a last name to keep everyone separate. I was Sadia Smith. I was admitted to Pennsylvania Presbyterian Hospital for severe dehydration and exhaustion and later admitted to Presbyterian’s acute psychiatric unit for a dissociative fugue. The name on my file said Sadia Smith. “Manic. Possibly psychotic.”
“Wait,” Marisol held her hands out.
“No, you can only ask one question in between stories.”
Her counter was sharper than Marisol’s interjection. David grinned again. A robustness. I knew it. The flames had leapt from her shoulders to head to Marisol. I knew it. She’s the howler.
The woman studied the empty piece of foil as Marisol stood on tiptoes to reach the extra wine glasses. David was staring at the scrape on his leg and Lilian was immersed in knitting but Jack and the woman met eyes. He had a lightness to him; jovial face, always smiling and bright, blue eyes. He seemed unaffected, at least no negative effects, by the drugs. When he saw her looking, he grinned. Her mouth was slightly open, jaw set. She closed her lips together and let out a wan smile, a concerted effort to show apprehension, not warm. Not fear, but confusion. No wonder they were so cheery. They’re all on drugs. My presence is exciting.
“Here you go!” Marisol handed her a completely full glass of red wine.
Not half-filled, but filled to the brim and then walked away, her ponytail bouncing. The woman cradled it carefully back to her seat, not wanting to spill, but really not wanting to be a spectacle. Setting it carefully on the lamp table next to her, she could feel eyes again. It was one of the only lights on in the room; a square wooden table with a lamp attached dead in the center; gaudy, but practical.When people fear attention, they generally attract it.
“So, could I ask what you guys are doing here?”
She didn’t drink any of the wine yet but sat back hands folded, curious.
“We,” Jack turned to Marisol for assistance. “We decided to get out of town for Halloween. We…rented this on Air Bnb.”
“Well,” Marisol cut in. “We are actually going to a Halloween party after this.”
“Yes, but we wanted like our own thing.”
“But it’s not exactly for Halloween, cuz we have a party we go to.”
“Yeah, but this was like…..” Jack waved his hands in the air. “Like our own Halloween.”
David continued to scratch the scrape on his leg and it was bleeding slightly. People on drugs can’t keep linear thoughts, she thought. Don’t bother asking them too many things.
“We just wanted to have fun,” Marisol twirled her ponytail and looked past the woman out the window.
“Are we making you uncomfortable?” Lilian didn’t stop knitting as she asked.
Lilian set herself apart from the others. She was cooler though matronly to the stranger, she was disaffected.
“No, but now that I know it’s just a Halloween party, it may help me direct my story. I do realize you are all on drugs also.”
She waved her hands to the room and the room nodded except Lilian who kept knitting. I don’t know if she is actually.
“You gonna make it scary?’ Marisol giggled a little and looked back at Jack.
“I’m just gonna have fun,” she shrugged turning her attention to David and smiling, big with teeth.
David let his mouth stay open watching flames rise all around the woman not knowing if he should warn her or if he should just run. He let a smile take over his body. She’s wearing her lips tonight like waves.
“This will be fun,” he turned to Lilian smiling big and she returned his affability with a reproaching look instead.
The woman picked up the glass again and began making the conscious decision to keep an eye on all four of them equally. Have fun, something said. Yes.
“And you will know the difference between the two?”
“The difference between a truth and a lie?” he asked to clarify.
“No,” she said. “The difference between how I got here and the weirdest thing about me.”
Part 3: The Act of Taming Things
“Being born again and again has ripped your smile into pieces.”
once upon a time
we were ghosts
draped in human furs and
red felt flowers
to keep ourselves warm and
using illness as an anchor,
I was a grave when I wanted to be
twirled to the sound of my fluttering
lashes: broken and
the way you glanced towards me
on street corners.
I could tell by the
way you held yourself,
and your heavy eye contact,
a light coat and no gloves
and no verbal complaint
about the term addict
being thrust upon us that
you were cold
didn’t just act strange,
you possessed it,
the leaves are turning,
I sniff patiently. sip hot water with
lemon and basil.
someone sang on a makeshift stage of
upside down milk crates.
you looked sidelong, gingerly,
an afterthought that led me here.
I played with my hem and revocation,
silence that halts
you make me feel young, I mouth
to the ground.
you returned the gesture with
a prepared grin and returned to
the ground fell away and
I was a picked thorn;
some perspiring flower,
I knelt in a corner
stem growing from a red plastic cup,
cowering and open
knowing this crowd rocked you
in her drunk cradle.
you walked by with a glass
and no one else and
first sight and I’m swallowed,
swollen with ideas of our
come first light
I will be buried in drool,
wandering around squinting,
tiny eyes and barely a
move, I watch you pass
like my continual gap years.
turning to give each other one last glance
over our now bronzed shoulders,
I adjust my strap so you think about skin
(I’m swimming in it)
and that chilly way we do:
show a little set of teeth and move on
in a pool of cool air and unresolved
disorder, I keep coming back
to the idea
i need that.
like a shark
Saturday, and the sun is out:
you lick the salt from the crest
on the underside of my elbow
where I would like to live
“throat pt 2.”