What’s in Your Pockets

For what it’s worth, the way you’re doing it is right, precisely because there’s no right way of doing it. So there’s that. Nothing for you to worry about, really. No, I’m not hiding my derision behind my smile, it’s just how I look when I smile at people, I guess. No, I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic with the “I guess.” It’s just how I talk. Yes, I’m here because I care about you. There isn’t any other reason. No, I know it’s not like what they show on TV. I know it’s a personal experience that I can’t begin to insist I, like, understand at all. I can just see how it affects you. All I have to go on are your words and your appearance. No, that wasn’t meant as a dig against the way you dress. Again with the whole no right way of doing it thing. Yes, I support you no matter what. But if you’ve fallen off the wagon there will be consequences. No, I’m not trying to threaten you. I just want you to know that your actions have consequences. Okay, that was a bit patronizing and bitchy of me to say. I see that now. I apologize. No, I’m not apologizing just to placate you. I mean it. I just think there’s a time in a person’s life where they get down into deep psychic hurt, like bottom-out hurt, like plunging into icy water with no land in sight hurt. Yes. It is. Yes, that’s where I see you right now. And it’s– Yes, it’s scaring the shit out of me. Because I look at you and I wonder which picture of you they’ll use when they talk about you on the news. No, I’m not trying to be dramatic. Yes, I know you can make it through to the Other Side because you’ve already been to the Other Side. No, this isn’t any different. The only thing that’s different is the time and the place. I know you have memory issues. The Fog. I get it. No, I’m not trying to play doctor, it’s just that you’ve had a set of recurring symptoms that come back every time you use again. No, it’s– Yes it is. It is using. That’s the word for it. That’s the nice word for it, if anything. Yes, I do believe it accurately describes your situation. I just think that you have no concept of, like, how to get out of this black hole that you’re spaghettifying towards right now, as we speak. Spaghettification is happening and I’m worried that we won’t be able to un-stretch you this time. It’s just a chance. An opportunity. You don’t have to call it by any other name. You are the sole keeper of you. All I can do is darken your door and stay by your side. It’s like when I found you in the snow that one winter, how you nearly frostbit your ass, your hands. You stayed off for six months after that. And we were proud. Are proud. I am. But listen. You have to hand me what’s in your pockets. You have to rifle through your hiding spots and give me everything. All of it. If you’re in this, you’re in this. Because. All right. Let me tell you a story. When I was 4 and 5 and 6 my dad molested me. Made me put on dresses that he had to “adjust.” Would belt me when I resisted, so the welts were like little inching worms. I called them my little gummy worms and would watch every day as they burrowed under my skin before finally disappearing. It stopped for a few years. But then I’m 13 and developing. Mom’s working late more and more. Dad’s beer breath makes my eyes water. When it happened I was in the shower, singing some Christina Aguilera song. He opened the door quietly. I didn’t know to lock it then. It happened in the shower, his clothes soggy and sticking to me as we both slipped around and took down the shower curtain, nearly smashed our heads into the wall. The bruises on my wrists didn’t go away for weeks. So I report him. Tell them everything. Dad goes away and I go to the Center. At the Center they make you do groups and art therapy and meds and the whole nine. Mom got diagnosed the first week I was in there. I stayed so long that I could chart her cancer fight through how much more hair was gone this week, when she started to wear hats and bandanas. You get it. Mom says we’re fighting this together. Whatever this is, we’re fighting it. Every day she visits I’m losing more of her, like she’s fading away into the background. I ask her how she feels and she says big and strong. Every time I ask her, even when her body is caving in on itself, this is what she tells me. “I’m feeling big and strong.” Then one day she doesn’t show up. The doctors are too-nice to me. I know before they tell me. Graduate from the Center the next week. Woohoo. And you know the rest. Foster care. Group homes. Working. Getting my own place. All of that. Anyway, I don’t know why I’m saying all of this. I don’t know the reason. But I do know you. I do know you. Yeah? You mean it? For real this time? All right. Okay. Let’s start with what’s in your pockets.

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Just Be a Person

Just pick yourself up out of the snow, plowed into a heap, next to the fallen nest in the street, waiting to get erased by a tire. Just wipe the frozen vomit from your shirt, coat halfway off, one shoe gone so when you walk you’ve become a Frankenstein. Just shield your eyes from the haze of the streetlamps, becoming two in your eyes, the sky a pepto pink behind it, buildings as knives to cut it open. Just end up at the back door of the halfway house by some cosmic luck, knocking loud enough so the cool guard can hear but not loud enough for the director to. Just end up with the one showerhead that halfway works, stepping in and out of the icy water till you can’t feel anything. Just tap a handful of sleeping pills into your mouth, the ones you snuck in, body still frozen, and try to figure if the whiskey will interfere. Just go to sleep anyway. Just wake in the morning, amazed, and shake Larry in the next bunk over till he wakes up, tell him it’s visiting hour even though it isn’t cause that’s the only way he’ll get out of bed. Just walk straight into the dining hall and don’t stumble, especially not in front of the director. Just fill out a crossword while your skull pulses into a thousand pieces, your head filled with against the odds stories of your sobriety, finished manuscript, Pulitzer in hand. Just go back to your room and do a hundred pushups, pray to god in the sunlight, dump the sleeping pills down the toilet. Just scream into your pillow, stab it with the blade you snuck in, hide the feathers on Larry’s bed. Just send her texts in between groups, insisting you’re clean, haven’t touched a drop since you got here a month ago, that you’ve got a stack of pages written, that you’ll see her in no time. Just swish mouthwash to get rid of the whiskeystink. Just down the mouthwash and wait for it to burn in your belly, to swim in your head. Just stuff paper towel down your throat, one after the other, till you can’t breathe, and try to hold it there, sliding down the wall, now lying on the floor, eyes on the bathroom’s flickering bulb, listening to yourself choke but it sounding like it’s coming from someone else. Just cough it all up and see spots in your eyes till you get up and clean yourself off. Just dream in scenes of a life you’ve never had, the one you’ve written about, keeping yourself from the edge of the bridge you’ve been eyeing since before you got in this place. Just realize that the only reason you haven’t finished writing is cause you can’t see your life past the story, a big black nothing after THE END. Just tell the director what he wants to hear in groups, bum cigs off Larry, convince the cool guard to hold the door for you while you “go for a walk,” stopping at the liquor store. Just pocket a couple plastic bottles, pants bulging, and head for the door like you’re on a lazy stroll. Just run when the alarm goes off. Just get stopped at the door by the cool guard, one of the bottles falling out, him asking you what in the fuck you think you’re doing. Just tell him you’re joking, only kidding, and throw a bottle in the snow, another against a tree, the rest into the street, bouncing off parked cars, bottlecaps cracking, splattering alcohol. Just walk past him as he shakes his head. Just delete the dealer’s number from your phone, then search all your texts, your call history to find it again. Just give up. Just wake in the night, shivering even though it’s warm in your room, sweating through your sheets, Larry snoring in his bed and a sickle moon letting light in. Just consider holding a pillow over Larry’s face but search through his dresser instead. Just find his mouthwash. Just pop off the cap. Just walk to the bathroom and look in the mirror. Just pour it all down the drain and apologize to Larry while he sleeps. Just pull out your notebook and open it, pages untouched. Just start writing, filling up pages, flipping, not stopping, not letting up. Just let Larry sleep in. Just take a cold shower. Just eat breakfast. Just watch the way the sun fills up the room. Just cry in the bathroom when you have to. Just be a person.

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All Right And

The pills, when dumped, from a glass, drying in windowlight, on the table, leave little whitish traces like geologic strata unburied in some exotic place. These are for imbalances, and your daughter sees a tightrope walker who hands out balloons on the way down. You eat an ice cream from a vendor who has more physical problems than you, but maybe not as many mental ones. It’s hard to say. The pills are vacating the seat of responsibility. They make you: calm, kind, balanced, and your toes monkey around the tightrope. They also make you: not you. One thing to be done is to talk to people who aren’t there and use a set of symbols to depict them on the dead skin of a once living thing. But when you do this, everyone will think the stories are all about you. You can use “you” not as a stylistic choice, but because the “I” doesn’t make sense anymore. The “I” is far away from you. So the pills, when flushed, down the toilet, reflecting moonlight, in the bathroom, spiral into pharmaceutical galaxies and medical-stellar nurseries that you’re now the creator of. There is life on the pills and the few seconds it takes to flush them down is enough for civilizations to rise and fall. You can read all the books you see and run till your shadow lies down behind you, shadowlegs moving to keep up, but more like writhing; convulsing; seizing. Monday will be it’s your responsibility. Tuesday will be you have a problem. Wednesday will be the middle of the week because a week has seven days in it. Your daughter will sit with you and cry with you on the floor, but her crying will be fake and she will laugh to see you laugh. Billions of years have elapsed to bring you your daughter, a human, sitting on the floor with you and laughing to see you laugh. On Thursday you will love life and everything in it. On Friday you will give yourself a sobriety test down tracks overgrown with weeds, where the antique trains are sometimes kept, next to the real thing, where the commuters pass, because their tracks need to be maintained, and when you hear the bells closing in you can imagine that just this once they’ll be coming for you. Saturday and Sunday will be when you see him. You will spend the other five days preparing for these two days. You will spend Saturday and Sunday in the bathroom, swiping through your feed as he swipes through his in another room. Silence can be a different kind of silence. In the silences you will be alone together. Words can be pills you connect when you give up swiping through your feed. Fifty milligram words can pile on the page where you sift through and choose the ones you want to take. Your life is your daughter peeking around the door, waiting to see if it’s crying time or angry time or what. There are many different times. So there are choices. You can see him Thursday, and Wednesday too. You can pick the flowers. There are so many flowers. And the flowers, when picked, in the sun, feet in a mud puddle, look like petaled bridges to the daughter that you have because she is yours, green stems and yellow petals, and the thorns sometimes, but the thorns are all right, and the mud puddle’s all right, and the sky’s all right, and you’re all right and

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