Purge and Binge

On  the floor, her note lays in dozens of ripped pieces. I can’t even glance at them. Each shattered word reanimates the sentence it belonged to; every reason she left echoed in her apoplectic voice. Without her things, the room barely changes. It lived as my representation; my confections, my ropes lassoed to the past. Hers wedged themselves between, found homes on the edges of ledges and the bookcase, and without them mine appear cozy.

I run through our memories together, pissing the good times away with the stroke of a thought. I’m a time-bender, and in each place I find her grazing, a bottle of alcohol smudges presence and she becomes blur. Her voice. Her voice. It lifts above the liquid. It does not drown. It stirs inside me, and the words I tore again come out to play. My hands curl to fists.

I want her things back. The bottle-opener from Peru, a wooden Incan tribesman, stares at me. Its mouth is drawn wider with a little more room to spare. Her little vial, some mysterious creamy liquid, is a hole in the dust. I storm over and rub against the ledge, rub away the dust and rip the tribesman from its peace. I don’t hear a voice in it, hers or anybody’s. Like her vial, it was a gift. It conjures the memory of one-time use and reshapes as wood. I don’t speak to him anymore. Its weight settles in the trash.

There are other spots, more vanished items. At each place I stop and stare, try to recall the piece that once mingled with other litter, and hoist the nearest object into the trash. Where is she right now? My things can vanish, too.

There’s no reward. No escape. Every book, candle, gift, and little joy is attached to invisible rope, bound around my neck. From the moment they found me, I them, I know what they’ve done; how they performed. Where they fell once. How they were replaced. The trashcan does nothing. It sits closed, with ropes oozing out and to me. I’ll know where they wind up. Not her. Throwing them away does nothing.

I catch myself before the floor turns mosaic, staring at bits of paper that follow me around the room. They’re bound to me, too. So stupid. Why did I rip it up? In the trash, too, they’ll follow me. I’ll think of them. It will break my heart. She’s gone. I want to scream, but for what? For who? She’s gone. I let the floor turn, and teardrops trickle off the ridge of my nose. But only for a moment. I stop without want. I cannot cry. My eyes well, but the tears remain with me. She’s gone.

On hands and knees I begin to ball up each piece of note. I like the feeling they have between my forefinger and thumb. I like the smoothness of their roll. Each tiny ball, I place lovingly on the bed. I feel happy for the first time since I walked into the room. Since I first noticed her vial missing, and thought nothing at all of it. Since I saw this damned note and let it, and all things, lasso me to this room.

26 tiny balls. I smell my inky fingers and count again. Still 26. I pluck one from the group and toss it into my mouth, swallow. 25. She can’t take this. 24. This one is mine. 23. And so on. After the last piece is stuck with me, I take the trash bag and pull the door closed behind me. I’ll never speak to anybody about this. She never left a note. I never had a bottle-opener. You haven’t seen her? Lent the book to a friend, oh, you don’t know them. A coworker. Think I’ll move somewhere warm. We just weren’t right for each other. Here’s a candle. You can have the ropes.

Cursed

A young Nathan wiped sweat from his face after an intense lunch break game of Wall Ball, picked up his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunchbox and made his way across the gravel and towards his classmates. He was stopped by an older kid who, with another older kid, accused Nathan of stealing the lunchbox. Now, Nathan knew it was his, and even noticed that his lunchbox sat next to the exact same one – an easy confusion. He snapped plastic latches open as evidence; Nathan knew he’d find a spent Hi-C juice box and empty ziplock bag. It wasn’t enough to quell the feud. His loose blue shirt grabbed, Nathan quickly found himself with a knife to his throat. Everything spun, slowed down, and the already hot day became excruciating. Paralyzed, Nathan stood there without control, waiting for this to end.

“That’s his lunchbox.” The older boy with a knife asserted, motioning to his silent friend. There was no longer any question, Nathan was getting robbed.

“N…no. This is mine.”

He flipped back the knife and shoved it deep into his pocket, instead taking Nathan by the head and forcing him to the ground. While down, his face continually met gravel again and again. Nathan lost consciousness around the third meeting, hovered above himself and the two bullies by the fourth, and kind of just stayed floating up there for the 5th and attempt at 6th – until Mrs. Mutchler rushed the crowd and ripped the boy away from Nathan’s literally lifeless corpse.

Nathan watched it all from above, panicked and desperately trying to get to ground level and stop the assault. Though he wasn’t exactly aware of what was happening to him, he knew something strange was afoot. Above, everything held a golden glow: people, trees, animals. Shimmering silver diamonds replaced eyes and mouths, and the longer he remained up there – the heavier the golden glow, silver turning metallic. No matter how he tried, he was incapable of doing anything – Nathan could only watch himself get creamed.

It’d take four weeks of intensive care for doctors to give the OK for Nathan’s leave though he’d made his way back to body en-route to the hospital. It’d take years before he could get over what happened to him that day at school, however this was the first of many such experiences for Nathan, an extraordinary ability to lift above his own body. With it, he had no idea what he could achieve.

Things certainly didn’t get any easier. Throughout the evolving chapters of his life, Nathan found himself in varying levels of stress and anxiety as we do. Unlike each of us, however, he met increased stress with a fast launch from his body, a quick and startling experience of gold and silver hues before rescinding back to bones. Things got out of control fast, and soon his bouts to keep himself inside himself weren’t limited by much at all. By 20, Nathan could barely sneeze without jolting from his body, lingering above for a few moments, and returning from whence he came.

By 25, Nathan was sick of that shit. He’d undergone intense therapy, spoken with specialists. Each told him it was all in his head, that his vitals remained unchanged during his temporary paralysis. He was given a cocktail of pills that made him lethargic and empty, emptier than his body felt without his presence. Nathan spoke with two friends about his condition, who in turn recoiled and excused themselves from his friendship. Soon, most people knew about Nathan and disregarded him as another crazy in a sea of nuts. Alone and without answers, Nathan turned to death as a way out from his situation.

There were always problems. Something always went wrong. How does a train manage to stop in time? How did he manage to wake up refreshed after swallowing a bottle of pills and bleach the night before? Life clung to Nathan, only offering him moments of freedom before he had to return. It wasn’t fair. Everybody else could die when they wanted – or when they didn’t – but Nathan was stuck between worlds. If there was a way out, however, Nathan was determined to find it.

He began exploring peculiar interests, namely cursed household items like dolls, paintings, furniture, or anything else that might bring with it untimely death. Each piece was rigorously researched, fact separated from fiction, and purchased with the excitement of a kid in a candy store. Each mirror, each painting, each accent was accompanied by a twisted story of death and decay, suffering and murder, trapped souls and lost loves, curses and karma. Yes, when he leered into a mirror supposedly responsible for five deaths, Nathan was met with the undeniable presence of a mother and daughter who seemed to have been stabbed quite a bit. But who cared? The showboats only worked to make Nathan jealous with their silverless, lifeless eyes – those jerks.

And the cursed doll? Yeah, it managed to slap Nathan once – which, to its merit, temporarily threw him from his body. But again, that was precisely the problem. Nathan paid damn good money for that Raggedy Anne looking piece of shit, and for what? One experience? What’s the return policy on eBay?

But that was just it – Nathan learned that if, somehow, he could find a way to launch himself farther than he’d ever been from his body – there’d be no turning back. He’d be stuck in the ether, his body would decompose, and he’d finally be nice and dead.

Nathan knew that he tended to leave his body before it received pain or injury. This could work in his favor, he thought. If he could figure out a way to scare himself from his body before his body worked out the details, he’d be long gone from that sucka. It hadn’t occurred to Nathan before, but he could just jump from a cliff and probably see those results. In a world of plains and tall grass, Nathan had to travel over hundreds of miles to find a cliff suitable for his efforts. There, above the world, Nathan closed his eyes and took a final step.

The golden haze was thick like fog. No silver to be found. Nathan levitated high – maybe – he couldn’t really tell where he was. He looked for his body, his security blanket during out-of-body experiences, and panicked. From wherever he was, Nathan realized it was he who determined a return to his body all this time. Nothing forced him, nothing made him do it. He simply located his corpse and entered it. Without knowing, Nathan wanted to be with-skin. Now lost, he couldn’t really tell what he wanted. All these cursed items, all these attempts at suicide – it’d all been about death to him all this time. There was simply no time to think about life.

He drifted for a long time, maybe years, in a smoky haze of gold. Like the cursed objects, it got old fast. By now, his body was long gone. Somebody either stumbled upon it or it slowly dipped back into earth after all this time. Alone, Nathan remained above the cliff without knowing he was. Giving up the search for his body, he rested without ever feeling a thing: no panic, no stress, no more in-body-experiences.

If there was something good to be taken from his ability, Nathan would never know. The stress of enduring his difference made it impossible to see it differently. Now he was lifted eternally, in a beautiful golden glow, unable to care and instead focused on somehow returning. Like his life, Nathan spent his death searching, uncomfortably, for resolution.

“Those lucky assholes.” Nathan thought of the mother and daughter in the mirror, probably shuffled from home to home since his disappearance staring into many different silver eyes. In the ether, Nathan only managed to drift aimlessly and find jealousy in trapped ghosts.

No Names

She knows way more than me – better than me, too. Sitting on a bench before the New York skyline, I comment on feeling like we’re in a tourist area, that I shouldn’t light a cigarette. “It is.” She responds, and points to butts filling gaps in the sidewalk. “Everyone else smokes around here. Nobody cares, dude! What’s the problem?” Each word leaves her mouth with conviction, every response has been thought about before our meeting, long before she even knew me. From the simple to the sublime, I can’t manage to say a thing she can’t learn me on. In the sun, her hair looks purple – but I’ve been told I don’t know my colors. She laughs, “It’s mauve ya dummy!” To which I reply, “But isn’t that pretty much purple?”

From our bench, people pass and glance our way. Her skin is much darker than mine, her hair up, flashing streaks of white against a cloudless sky. My hair, held down by a dime-size of goop, looks removable; fake. Though without control over it, I’d panic and press down with each gentle breeze. Always patting it back down, always conscious of it. Unlike me she’s mostly motionless. The heat is killing me, but sudden wafts from the Hudson cool us down for a moment before a blanket of heat and humidity regain coverage.

For hours we chat and sit in silence. Sometimes there’s just not much to say, other times, the world. When she mentions friendship, I quiet down – it’s never come easy for me. I’m headstrong, pushy. My principles bind me – and those around me tend to believe I project ideals onto them. Though it’s not an intention, it is something I do. I’ve been called everything from the waist down. Other times, I’m expected to be OK with something I fervently stand against. When that happens, I understand it’s time to go. I make myself OK with their behavior – while I’m expected to change my own. She knows all of this. It’s a lot. “So are you finally done being friends with that group?” “Yeah, I’m done.” I say half-heartedly. Three minutes later I’m retracing my words, “I’ll never be done, I guess. It’s complicated.” She shakes her head, her upheld curls wafting a cool breeze my way. “So what if your only friends are me and Gina?” “No, there’s no problem with that.” I say, but I’m nervous. It’s a mask I live in.

She talks about her father, family, and relationships. I keep focus on my friends and father. Unlike her, I have nothing to offer when she finishes speaking, no deep well of knowledge accumulated over years of difficult experiences and enlightenment, just nods and “I hear ya”s. Without getting over my own garbage, I’m garbage at offering anything to the friends I do have. It’s a padlock I’ve placed on my mouth. When removed, a flash flood of words stream from my mouth until I panic and stop things abruptly. “It feels so weird smoking with my left hand. I’m a true righty.” She says. It’s nonchalant. In response, I catapult into a steady stream of things I do with my hands, because I don’t know, “I’m OK smoking with either hand. I throw a baseball with my left, hold a hockey stick with my left. I write righty, though. Most sports stuff, with my left hand.” Aware of my words but incapable of controlling them, I conclude myself, “I’m all screwed up.” Friends before have told me they know nothing about me, only to use precisely what was said in response against me at a later time. Whether it be depression, familial problems, or various issues, it was a trap then, and my brain continues to think it’s a trap now.

Oh, my brain. Gotta stop worshipping thoughts and instances of bleakness. She’s in a similar boat, but she knows much more. She’s been through this, she’s seen the difficult. She’s faced it. I’m still here, I have too. But she’s reserved; I’m reactionary. She’s comfortable with the uncomfortable, I’m bound by emotions. I worry myself because I know I need her in my life, but I’m not sure she needs me. I don’t know what I bring to the table; and if I don’t bring anything – is that OK?

We’ll figure it out. After a few hours we get up, a rush of intoxication flows back into me and temporarily the dull becomes interesting again. Medals shine off adolescent baseball uniforms. Shadows collide with people. It lasts a block and a half before sleepiness sets in and I’m back to thinking too much, seeing too much, wanting too much. In the car, she balls her hand into a fist and places it gently against my cheek. This happens often. Maybe she’s fake punching me because I’m an asshole, or maybe because I’m one to myself. “Enough deprecating humor. You’re a smart person.” She’s wrong, but she knows way more than I do. I don’t know.