My apartment was a mess. For being a girl, I did a shitty housekeeping job. I had a card table for a dining table and it was sticky with wine, from several sloppy nights. My kitchen was foodless but managed to be stained with condiments and the stove had caked on remnants of previous cooking attempts when I bothered grocery shopping. All I had in the fridge was an empty beer box and a box of rotten strawberries. My living room carpet had all kinds of crap scattered across: knitting needles, unraveled yarn, a keyboard, scrapbooking stickers, a TV set, bag after empty bag from fast food joints, pens, sheets of paper, a hammer, broken CD’s. The living room and the kitchen were all connected so it was a one-shot view of mass catastrophe. Through a door in the living room was my bedroom though, and then through a little mirrored-closet hall in my bedroom was my sink and mirror. Then through another door was the toilet and shower. That was probably the cleanest room in the house. Probably because it was the smallest. Anyway, that whole area had clothes and undergarments strewn all around. Even the sad window by my bed had a bra hanging from the curtain holder. There was a burgundy stain in the corner of the room where I had vomited wine one pretty awful hungover morning. I had no good solid explanation for this mess except that it seemed less lonely if it was covered in my stuff. When it was clean it was just a lot of empty space for me to roll around in, I felt lost in it. The rooms seemed bigger and lonelier than they did already and I couldn’t stand that.
It was my little death trap and in it, I had drowned myself in gin every night for as long as I had lived there. How’d I get trapped in there? I lured myself in. No good cause or justification for it, either. Usually, you hear about people putting themselves into seclusion for spiritual or artistic reasons and they’re able to romanticize their drudginess and loneliness. I did it just to be alone. It was offered to me and I took it. Just to see what it was like. Just to get drunk and not have to worry about stumbling over anybody or breaking $300 guitars. You could’ve given me a closet and I would’ve been just as content. As long as I could pop myself in there and sit in the darkness and not have to talk to anybody.
But the truth of my life was I had to talk to people all the time, and constantly. I had a job other people would’ve loved and I guess it was alright but it wasn’t really my deal. I sat alone for 9 hours in an office, tucked into buttoned blouses, A-line skirts, black pantyhose, and kitten heels. Most of the time I was by myself when my boss wasn’t in the office next to me hollering into her phone at people. Then, of course, I always had to answer the phone and listen to people complain about a busted water line or if we wanted to use them as a cleaning service or did I put an alarm on test. Did I put an alarm on test or was it just going off? I don’t know, dispatch the police. Oh wait, nevermind, I did it put on test.
I was one of those office people, dull and bored. Most of the time it was slow and most of my time was spent surfing the internet, figuring out what colors I’d want to decorate my apartment (that was ironically provided to me through the property management company I worked for) if I ever got around to cleaning it. I liked researching rare diseases and convincing myself I probably had all of them, regardless if you could only catch it through a rare South African moth biting you in the first two weeks of August in the depths of some remote jungle that took a month-long hike to get to. I was dying of it, I knew it. I would also spend large amounts of time texting ex-boyfriends random things, such as how I was dying of some rare South African disease. Or that their horoscope said not to say yes to any foxy ladies today. Or I’d write letters to people I wish I’d had as lovers before they moved three states away, “Dear you, I miss you. Perhaps you should come back down and visit me for a kiss. It’s your birthday this month, isn’t it? You know I don’t keep track of those things. Are you and your girlfriend still swingers? Then I guess she won’t mind. I love you, right now. Sincerely, Love.” And I’d spritz the expensive stationary with my expensive perfume (both of which I kept a hearty supply of in my desk drawer) and would slip the fragranced letters into their wardrobed envelopes and slap a stamp on it and go to the post office with my stacks of letters to drop off on my lunch break, which I always made longer than the hour I was alotted. A productive employee.
When I wasn’t being bored or annoyed by people at work, I was being harassed by my father who had never been so preoccupied with me until after I moved out. How was I doing, what was I doing, what did I think about the weather, did I hear about the accident on the 91, did I know that kid that got killed in some fire in Perris, the economy is bust, and newsflash: your mother says hello, call her will you? why don’t you ever call your mother, you should call her and let her know how you’re doing…. What on earth? Why? Usually, I would pick a fight with my dad so he’d stop talking to me, then maybe give my mom a call to vent just so he wouldn’t think I was calling her just because he’d asked me to. I was a good daughter in that way.
Beyond all my charming qualities, I had a bit of a troubled side. Due to my being so unhappy at work, I had really bad drinking binges… meaning, I’d get trashed every night then get sloppy upset about it which lead me to drag myself into work sloppy hungover the next morning. After a while, I was like, what the hell I’m going to see a therapist. It was kind of funny. We had to sit in an orientation meeting first, just to brief us on what therapy would be like. The thing about some (most) mental illnesses is that they were just ridiculous. All it means is you’re not well adjusted because you bask in your inability to adapt and you like being titled “mentally ill” because that gives you license to act like a baby and stalk your boyfriend when he calls ten minutes later than he promised. And then throw beer bottles at him. Anyway, the lady giving the orientation was a wackjob herself, as most of those in the mental health industry seems to be. She was some tall, frail-looking woman who was no doubt beautiful but an outcast in her youth and thus had developed strange nervous laughter and self-conscious way of speaking which included making long, steady, studied, pensive stares with each patient as though to make sure we were all paying attention to her. Oh, yes, yes… we’d politely respond. And she’d nervously giggle.
I had hoped that my therapist would be some sage, scholarly, white-bearded man with a smoking jacket in a dark room full of leather-bound books. But alas, all I got was some tight (but kind) faced mid 30’s Filipino man who only probed my answers further when they involved sex. In our first meeting, I cried the whole time. I was in an awful place at the time, I felt that all the sunshine in the world couldn’t touch my black, sad, cold soul. I could be sitting right on top of the fiery ball and my heart and soul wouldn’t even glance at it. I was just some carcass of myself, floating along in life. All the bad poetry in the world that I wrote every night in my apartment couldn’t even begin to express just how black, sad and cold my heart and soul were. And when I cried by myself in my filthy apartment after bottles of gin and wine, it just wasn’t the same as having someone see you. It was like all the crying wasn’t really existing unless someone was there to see it happening. Maybe like, if a tree falls in the middle of the forest with no one around, does it make a sound type of thing. As soon as I plopped my pathetic self in his plastic vinyl chair, I just bawled my eyes out between sobbing out yes and no answers to his questions that seemed so ludicrously shallow that I couldn’t even believe I had shelled out the $30 for this measly 20 questions game and then I sobbed some more because my phone bill was due next week and I had already spent my paycheck on expensive creams and perfumes online that I didn’t even end up liking, much less needing.
Have you ever abused, molested, how is your relationship with your mother, your father, are you sad, are you anxious, have you been raped, I see here you’ve had a lot of sexual partners… The eruption of sobbing. Who cares if I’ve had a lot of sexual partners, my life is meaningless! We are all going to die and I have no say in it and all the hard work and talent I might have had that I haven’t discovered is pointless! Are we going to talk about how we’re just sitting here wasting time until we die? I could be some sociopathic serial killer and in the end, all I’m doing is speeding up the process for my victims. Just making someone else’s destiny come a little sooner. Oh, the families, the lovers, the secrets– boohoo. They were all mourning and grieving for their own selfish reasons. It’s the victims that are relieved, joyous and revered: FINALLY, done with their stint on earth and they don’t give a shit about their reputation now. The dead are always angelicized.
“Love, you’re crying more right now. Tell me what you’re thinking, are you seeing images of all your sexual partners?” He asked, concerned and curious expression slathered on his face. I sat up straight. Stopped crying.
“Nope. Do you have any tissue?” Of course, it was occupying the seat right next to me. That box was like a second therapist in the room, a silent one that was there merely for physical consolation. The mother therapist, carefully dabbing moisture from my eyes, ensuring my mascara didn’t run out of control. The tube of mascara, an online purchase as well, $40 for the tube, it was supposed to be waterproof and flake proof and bomb proof or whatever. I looked at the tissue– saturated in black. I burst into tears again.
“So….” and he said this in such a way to avoid awkwardness, in a way that told me, I’m-not-judging-you-but-we-should-try-figuring-out-why-youre-before-your-hour-is-almost-up. I looked up at him and collected myself and waited patiently for him to ask me something, to bring up some deep philosophical soul-baring issue that would enlighten us both and shed light on why I felt so awful all the time. But he didn’t.
“What sign are you?” he asked. I laughed.
“Hmm… are you into astrology? Let’s check out what your sign means.” He flipped through some thick astrology book he had on his bookshelf and read me a few pages of my personality, omitting all the negative parts which were the parts I had my ears perked for but was disappointed when I realized he was just skimming for the good stuff. The negative parts of astrological signs are always the funniest part to me, and there he was, the therapist, being so serenely sensitive to my emotional state. I decided not to bully him for it and asked him what sign he was, to which he replied Capricorn. To which I groaned. All the past year I had been smothered by the presence of Capricorns and it never turned out well. And on the relationship front, they were the main heart offenders. They were always so charming at first but after that, their claws came out and they sunk their teeth in you and tried yanking your soul out your ass. That was when I decided I couldn’t take this therapist seriously and I stopped crying and asked him why he was a therapist.
He had a long story about being a stockbroker and reading self-improvement and motivational books which were really just psychology in disguise. Then he quit the stock exchange and worked at a burger joint while he went to school to be a therapist and now here he is, happier than ever and so glad he’s not in a business suit every day. Our hour was up and I was relieved. My dad was waiting outside the old wood building in his car to give me a ride home. He knew better than to ask me how my appointment went so the only words he said to me were when we pulled up in front of my apartments and I got out: Hope you feel better. I slammed the door shut and holed myself up in my apartment the rest of the weekend.
During that time, everything that shouldn’t have bothered me definitely bothered me. All the things that were actually important though and should have bothered me, didn’t seem to make much of an impact on me at the time. But I guess it just accumulated itself in some filter of my mind to come unclogged later and sifted through. For example, I hated watching people with disabilities on TV because they afflicted me with too many emotions and I was already overwhelmed with too many of my own. I sat watching some program on disabled kids and felt bad for wanting to laugh at their goofy grimaces and nauseous watching them eat. At the very same time, I felt such a profound sadness that they were born this way. In another sense, I was completely proud of them and wished them nothing but the best, yes you there son with down syndrome good going putting that peg into the circle you show them how far you’ve come! It just seemed like such a mockery of human existence to see anything plastered on a television screen, especially the suffering of someone who’s ailments came from birth. It upset me in too many ways. So I watched the marathon of whatever sick program that was and finally came to the conclusion that the correct emotional response to these images was to feel nothing for them at all. They were temporary, they would die too someday, it should not affect me.
I became that way about everything, even myself. When something “bad” would happen to me or someone would mistreat me it was like I was watching someone else. This guy I was dating got me drunk on Christmas Eve and we had sex and I said something that pissed him off (I still don’t know what) and he spit in my face and I spit back and he kicked me out. I never even got mad at him. I called him the next weekend and we did it all over again. Somewhere along the lines, I had trained myself so well to not feel bad for anyone or about anything that I didn’t even feel bad about me either, pity wasn’t exactly a quality I aimed for perfecting anyway. Finally, I had mastered the art of humanity, I’d tell myself. I looked down at homeless people and teens with their kids in strollers and I didn’t feel bad about it and I didn’t want to help them because they were not my lives and I didn’t have to worry about them.
For a while, I thought that this was freedom: lack of attachment to anything and everything. Apathy personified. But that sugar cube idea quickly dissolved one day that I was sitting at some bookstore staring at people looking for knowledge in heavy squares made of pages of paper filled with black-printed words. All those people in all those aisles, skimming and skimming, just reminded me of little ants crawling all over one another and here I was just a little ant off to the side, refusing to participate. Crossed my antennae, sat on my red behind, not moving. Not following that leader, no way. I even brought my own thermos full of black coffee (or gin) so I didn’t have to buy the expensive cafe’s coffee. I was pretty bitter every time I’d go to that bookstore, but it was the air conditioner worked well in the summer and the heater worked well in the winter that kept me coming back.
*This is half of a short story I’ve worked on while I distract myself from my main boo[k] for the moment. Shrug. Let me know what you liked and hated about it if you read it.
Title is a lyrics taken from “El Condor Pasa” by Simon & Garfunkel 💜