I told myself,
stop trying to write something new and write something honest.
Sandy is 25 years old and still living with her parents. She hasn't really left the house in four months. This bothers her. She has spent so much time in her room that it feels cold and sentient. She sits outside in the sun and lets her mind race in terrifying shapes. She sucks in cigarettes, coffee, beer, whiskey.
She knows that she can't stay like this forever.
She wonders if maybe she can.
Life didn’t used to be this hard. Sandy just can't pare it down the way she used to. She let it get too big, and she agonizes over the evil thing that is called choice.
Sandy knows that she is feeling this way because she is thinking too much and doing too little. But choice makes the veins in her arms spasm, and Sandy can't decide if going out will be an improvement or a detriment. She doesn't know, and she can't decide. She doesn't do anything that day and goes to bed feeling like the worst scrap of human life.
There are other days where she lies flat on her bedroom floor and closes her eyes. She doesn't want to see anything.
Sandy lies there for hours and undulates in the murky current of her thinking. Her fingers clutch to the carpet when her body tenses with the desire to flee. She can't flee her own mind. Sandy has tried. She can only smother it down with alcohol and fleeting desperate distractions.
She wrote about this in college. It was published in the school's literary journal. A friend told her that their class even analyzed it. Sandy had to stop herself from laughing too cruelly. The class had beautified the poem and said it was about metamorphosis and the desire to change.
Sandy can describe her poem in one word; self-hatred. This is what she wrote about then. This is what she is feeling again now.
If flesh could crawl
it would separate from my bones
and saunter away.
Leave me bare
leave me vulnerable
of the worst kind.
The world would rot me away with
and its plague.
Bones would turn to ashes
and I'd be blown away.
If flesh could crawl
it would separate from my bones
and kill me slowly.
Drive me insane.
Sandy is trying to remember how to breathe. She's trying to ignore what feels like a thousand eyes on the back of her neck. Ignore the feeling of worms wriggling under her skin like she's already dead instead of waiting in line at CVS and very much alive.
She thinks it's hilarious that a person can forget how to breathe. Sandy's choking on air, and it's better to find that funny than terribly sad.
Sandy has been planning this errand for two days. She has mapped out the possible routes and determined the best time of day to go.
Now she is waiting in line and silently, inevitably, falling apart. There is one woman in front of her. There is one man behind her.
Sandy relaxes her legs and leans back on her heels. She forces one shoulder to dip below the other. She refuses to allow her hands to fist. Inside she can hardly concentrate on a single rational thought, but it would be unforgivable if she reacted so badly that other people took notice.
Sandy doesn't want people to know.
She flashes a smile at the cashier and asks for a pack of Marlboro Reds. Sandy has to hand over the money with two hands in order to prevent her fingers from shaking too badly. Even still, they noticeably tremble. She smiles a thank you and waves a goodbye.
Sandy walks to her truck. She lengthens her stride to a steady stroll even though her mind is frantic with the need to flee. She tells herself to wait. There will be time when she is home again.
She goes straight to her backyard and sits on a crate in the back of her garage. It's impossible for anyone to see her from here.
She struggles to get that first cigarette out of the pack. And when she lights it, her hands shake so badly that she almost burns her own nose.
She smokes and shakes. Her mind is in an uproar. It is indignant that she decided to leave the house. It is furious that she panicked at all. It is so relieved that it's over.
Sandy's errand to get cigarettes took less than fifteen minutes. Sandy feels like she's just ran for her life. Her thigh muscles spasm at random moments.
Inside she quietly tells herself to shut up.
Sandy asks for help twice and doesn’t get it. Her mother can’t face the reality that Sandy is admitting to. It’s only when Sandy’s cousin, who is more like her sister, gets involved that Sandy agrees to see a psychologist.
She has two weeks before her first appointment. Sandy locks herself in her room, practically meditating in order to pull herself together enough to go.
Both her mother and her cousin, who is more like her sister, offer to go with her.
She knows she is falling apart. She knows she will be absolutely mortified later if she takes a chaperon with her now.
The day of the appointment and Sandy dresses up. She thinks it's silly and a sham. She knows that her therapist will analyze how she looks today. Sandy dresses up anyway because she wants to show the therapist that she's still able to try. She doesn’t have much left but her pride.
Sandy fills out paperwork in the waiting room. Her writing annoys her. It's jilted and uneven. It practically screams that Sandy is uncomfortable being here. Then she sits back and reads a book. It's impolite to stare at the best of times. Sandy figures that only people who are facing the worst of times would be here.
She’s at her worst.
Sandy makes sure she doesn't stare.
Her therapist calls her Sandra even though she signed almost everything as Sandy. She doesn't correct her. Sandy wonders if it's a test or if the therapist just doesn't care. She never finds out.
Sandy's therapist is a petite woman who wears black dress pants that flare widely over cheap heeled shoes. She has a soft and calm voice that must be her working voice. It’s immensely annoying, and Sandy wants to hear another voice. Preferably something real.
They sit and talk for almost two hours even though Sandy was sure it was only supposed to be an hour. Sandy feels embarrassed about it. She feels like the extra hour was meant to show how caring the therapist is. Sandy feels like she was just treated like a child who needed to feel special.
When Sandy gets home, she flings off her dress and slips back into her pajamas. She spends the rest of the day reviewing the whole ordeal until she's sorry she went at all. Nothing she can say will rationalize why she's turned out this way. Everything she can say sounds whiny and petulant to her own ears.
She's going back next week, and Sandy hopes for answers that can't really be answered.