She presses her palm to the left side of her abdomen, and my flesh dissolves into her hand. Her left hip sinks beneath the pressure into the empty space behind her, and the string between her body and mine yanks my stomach out of my skin. No one notices. I quickly grab the pounding organ and shove it into its proper hiding place. As a child, I would hide my feelings underneath my blankets. Sometimes my feelings would lock sleep out of my bedroom, so I would drag my sleeping bag into my parents’ bedroom. I would place it on the floor, tuck myself inside, and hide. My parents would awaken to a bedroom full of 6-year-old emotions, but before they had a chance to decode them, I would snatch them all, stuff them into my mouth, swallow them, and sneak back into my sleeping bag. Out of sight, out of mind; what you don’t know can’t hurt you; and other such clichés. Unfortunately, too many secrets before bedtime can cause indigestion, and they don’t make Tums strong enough for that kind of acid reflux.
Her body twists in and out of the absolute potential surrounding her, and I watch as she deconstructs the 4th, 5th, and 6th dimensions until I have melted into her and the floor and the mirrors and the music and her movement and myself. I am the river, and she is the current. I am the rock, and she is the water. I am the möbius strip, and she is the enigmatic boundary connecting me to the universe. But I think it’s time to get back into that sleeping bag and consume consume consume until my stomach rejects everything and my flesh becomes slave to the porcelain altar once again.
I watch her watch herself in the mirror behind me as I sit with my legs crossed. Her eyes lift up and down, scanning the fluid motion of her ethereal body in a futile attempt to burn a carbon copy into her retina. But she forgets her movements a second after her body performs them. A millisecond. A nanosecond. A fraction of a second smaller than the human eye can see, hear, or taste. So I devour her insipid body, and it dances down my throat, down my esophagus, and into my stomach, where the butterfly wings flap back and forth around her flailing arms and legs and torso. I look down and lift my shirt. My stomach has turned red, bright red, blood red. No one notices. She keeps dancing, but I can no longer see anything but my bleeding torso. I have finally internalized her entire body, and my own red flesh stretches and pulls as her legs kick every which way from within. My stomach continues to stretch and grow until it feels larger than a woman pregnant with quintuplets, and I can finally see where the red is coming from. The stretch marks on my abdomen have opened, and I can see inside myself. No, not the metaphorical self; blood, intestines, tarred lungs, and my last pay check (I swallowed it for a bet one time, long story). I see myself looking up at me, and I fall into the stretch mark, down my skeleton, past my organs, and onto the grass, looking up at myself.
I watch through a fisheye lens, terrifyingly aware of the curvature of my surroundings. I look up from the bottom of my chemical snow globe and watch tiny white pills float around my spherical existence and disintegrate into blurry lines and invisible energy transfers. My neuron sensors wail and gnash their teeth as I fail to dispel any feeling floating through thick air. There is nothing I do not feel. I close my eyes and kick off. I reach my arms in front of me and press my palms against the oversaturated space, absolutely melting away as I spread my arms and push through time like a frog through the pond.
I rest my head on Mother Nature’s mattress and dream I am a freak. I paint friendships on my walls and speak to their paint chips about reconciliation. I carve ice cubes into tongues and swallow them whole. I confuse Martha Stewart with Sylvia Plath and decorate my entire apartment according to her poetry—stuffed wolves, rabbits, and fathers, accessorized with jade stones. I stand in my kitchen and laugh at the top of my lungs, wearing nothing but a ripped t-shirt she gave me years ago. I awaken in her bedroom and immediately vomit on her hardwood floor. At least it wasn’t carpet.
Please don’t tell me that was—
Yup! That was my first time with a girl!
Fuck; now you’ll never leave me alone.
She giggles and flirts while I put my on my pants. She only stops when I close the door to her apartment. I know because then I press my ear to the door, and her tears give me swimmer’s ear. My bike sneers at my ridiculous predicament, accidentally letting slip a tiny snigger as I draw closer. Fuck you, Beatrix, I tell her in an attempt to silence the laughter swallowing my eardrums, but she has no ears. She stands in silence and waits for me to tell her where to take me. I mount her sleek, shiny body, sexier than any woman I’ve woken up next to in the last year. Take me home.
Where? The house in which I spent 16 years enduring misdirected fists and foodless refrigerators? My first girlfriend’s flat full of hypodermic needles and queer fantasies? Or the apartment I built with my own hands out of sacrificial cigarettes, New Year’s resolutions, and my mother’s bruises?
My bike stops short of the last option, and I dismount into a world of overly sweetened tea, pounds of makeup, and thick drawls. I thought I left this hell years ago, but it followed me, as expected. I walk down the street and force myself to respond to glimmering greetings and uncomfortable eye contact. I drown myself in fake friendships and asinine acquaintances until the whiskey pours from my eyes like tears from my father’s cracked fingers. I retrace the events of last night, last week, last year, and try to recall how I got here. I can’t seem to remember anything anymore. How long ago did I live in Ohio? How did I get to South Carolina? What happened to California?
Are you going out with friends for your birthday?
I don’t really know if they’re my friends, but they’re people I know.
Enough with the negativity. You have lived in four different states since you left home. Will you ever be satisfied and just settle down already?
I fucking hope not; that sounds terrifying.
You’re an adult now. It’s time to start thinking responsibly. If you continue this behavior and this attitude, you’ll never amount to anything. What happened to the 8-year-old who used to want to be the first female president? Now you’re a nobody.
I’d rather be a nobody than an everybody. I slam my phone shut and throw it in the trashcan. I look past the trashcan and see a bus stop. Maybe it will take me home. I cross the street and see a southern gentleman sitting on the bench, pretending to be ignorant of my presence so he doesn’t have to stand. I lean against the bus stop sign and stare at the back of his shirt. “RUSH ΣAE.” He has on a backwards cap, with the Red Sox “B” staring at me and my lack of conviction. I walk up to him and knock his cap off. He looks up and pulls the cigarette from between his grinning lips. Hey sexy lady, he laughs as I grab the lit cigarette hanging limply between his two fingers and place it in my mouth. He fantasizes about throwing me against the pavement and boarding the bus, leaving me lying stunned, motionless, and freshly exhausted, and I realize I am in love with the girl I just left. I envision her still lying in bed, thinking of me, wondering when I’ll call and crying when I don’t. I see her two years from now. I see her gaunt complexion and sallow face from too many years of neglect and drugs. I want to tell her I am in love with her. I inhale and hold in the cigarette smoke long enough to eliminate my need to breathe. I think about flicking the cigarette onto his face and ripping his stupid cargo shorts off so he never makes the mistake of wearing them in front of me again. I turn my head and exhale. The bus pulls up; I flick the cigarette into the street; we board the bus, and the doors close behind us.