Five Years Out

You wake up feeling like a hairball. In the mirror: a eucalyptus fairy, frazzled by mud-bark and bed-hair. You wonder if it might be okay today to like yourself.

You put on your capris. Do they fit the same as last week? Last month? Last year? Can you trust your memory? The tag is slowly branding the skin where your hip bones should be but are buried under an aggregation of melting candle wax. You have committed the ultimate transgression – you have awakened, and you weigh a million pounds.

You walk downstairs and start down the sidewalk between the cherry blossom trees and the 2.5-kid sedans. The birds are above you. If anyone sees you, they are thinking you are worthless because you are fat. They shoot their thoughts through the air at you. Sometimes you stop walking and just press against the air, trying to break the wall.

You complain to the one person in the world who really knows, or half-knows. You say, into the phone, “The thoughts just come and I’m trapped inside my body and I’d rather be anywhere but here but I can’t – can’t – die.”

She says, “You know it’s in your head.”

You say, “I wish I could ask other people sometimes, just for a reality check, but I can’t.”

She says, “No. You can’t.”

You say, “Why can’t I?”

She says, “This subject bores me. Can we talk about something more interesting?”

You show up to class, and the star student is a snowy plover with a swan’s neck, dancing without knowing it across her page of musical notes and into the tortured graphite sprawling your own notes in your composition book: lopsided arms ripping at the sun in agony, gaping mouths swallowing or spitting balls of flame, feet crammed into pumps that would blister their skin,

if they could feel. You did like her, once, but today there is the wall, and you can’t tell who built it or how many there are. You hate her today because there is the wall.

You lie in bed and realize you haven’t taken off your bra. So you sit up in the bare sunlight, toss off the t-shirt and disentangle the undergarment from your body. It slips between the cracks between beds. When you wake up, you have magically risen like a layer cake in the oven; a gigantesque buffoon ballooning with cloudy pound cake flesh, cheeks chipmunk-stuffed with the invisible marshmallows of dreams of self-acceptance. You hate yourself so much that you can’t think about it anymore.

You show up to class. People are writing essays. Essays about pathological paranoia, about electroshock therapy, about being the object of inhuman laws. You are not writing essays. Your chipmunk is full; your brain is empty. You need to sleep. Again. You need to stop sleeping. You really should stop eating, too. If you stop eating, you’ll go back to the old days when all you needed was the absence of eating – no honors society, no music, no publishing poems. If you go back to the old days, you will fail under the train of time and get caught like a sleeve on a doorknob and you will embarrass God. You can never go back. You need to keep eating, even though you need to stop eating.

Everyone and every sun of every day is out to get you. They leave you standing, a husk, still eligible to attend class. But they’ve taken the buttercup from under your chin, and they eat it and leave you missing vital organs. But you are still not sick enough to miss class. Maybe you should make yourself sick again. Your selfishness makes you feel sick. Your body makes you sick. Your flesh force-feeds bitter apple and cottage cheese to your brain until it wants to vomit, but you catch the words in your mouth and swallow them again behind sealed teeth and closed lips. No one else needs to hear about it. But if they are all trapped in their own personal hells –

Today a boy asked if you wanted to hug him. You said no. This evening you feel like a fairy, disheveled, teetering on the edge of a flowerpot twenty feet into the sky. This evening you will not be trapped. Just don’t let the sugar of experience poison your knowledge that

it is not okay. It needs to be not okay. If it was okay, that would really not be okay. And when it is not okay, you are afraid of dying beneath the whip of your own brain. But you can’t –

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