by Anna Keeler
I dropped my sanity between the lines of the tile like acid, trying to focus on the pattern and abstractions through the tears. My palms tugged at the malachite beads on my wrist, the string expanding and constricting but never quite snapping. I had the urge to cause damage, but I was too scared of breakage. Even at my worst, I didn’t have the strength to destroy.
I don’t know how I got here. A second ago, I was fine. Just a normal girl taking a normal trip to the bathroom. But one pump of soap turned into two, then three after that. Just three pumps, then I could go, that’s what I told myself. But every time I stepped back to turn off the faucet, an invisible fear singed the lining of my stomach.
I had to wash again. Again. Again.
And those five letters camouflaged themselves against the lining of brain until I couldn’t tell panic from a rational thought because both sentiments wore the same skin. Irrationality threw itself around my shoulders like a coat until it severed the awareness from my body. I watched myself scrub the obsession out of my hands, I watched my eyes grow full of tears and rash over in pain, but I couldn’t stop myself from jamming my elbow into the wall and dry heaving into my lap.
Before I knew it I was on the ground, screaming against the walls and porcelain that weighed down on me. Body pressed against the cabinet door, I took breaths in and out.
I had to get up. Miyuki wouldn’t tolerate another meltdown.
She’d been as patient as any person could be that had a hallucinogen for a girlfriend; someone with a brain made up of fears that weren’t there. “If you could weaponize your trauma, think how astounding you could be,” her loving way of telling me to knock it the hell off.
The first few times she saw me melt down, she’d been conscious enough, trying to hug and bribe the maladies from my mind, ignorant to the inexorable temporariness of my recovery. As months passed, she shape shifted into the people I tend to dissociate for; screaming, throwing blame, threatening to leave me, this time for good.
No matter how mad she got, the thoughts pumped through my veins like dope.
If I don’t wash my hands, I’m going to die.
I tried to pull myself off of the ground, but the soap bottle flashed into my line of vision and had me running back to the toilet. Chunks of vomit bounced against the water, splattering across my chin and the ends of my hair. The second upheave came, as the water heaved back, I realized that I’d forgotten to flush.
My tarsal bones cracked across the base of the toilet. It hurt, but not enough to warrant my loud whimpers. My mind whimpered against the constraints of my skull like an emotional fibromyalgia. The emptiness of my throat juxtaposed the burn, all wishing to be alleviated with some kind of killer. A pill, a liquid, a syringe full of medically prescribed optimism, or even a back alley pipe, something to either numb or vindicate my pain.
If I’d taken DXM, I’d have an excuse for ugly sobs.
Dear God, please just let me die.
My arms turned to sweat and my cheeks were streaked with cheap mascara. I had to stop crying. Miyuki was just down the hall. If I kept it up, I knew she would hear me.
Digging my fingernails into my head, I scraped along the follicles of hair, wanting to pull off the skin and crack open my skull. Axons and myelin and the white and gray matter made three pounds of something that had the power to ruin my life. If the stem was a switch, I would reach in and rip it off.
Instead, I begged myself to stop.
An old behavioral trick that my therapists risked my life with, saying that if I wanted control, it took training.
“Stop.” Then louder, punctuated with a kick. “Just stop!” My whole body shook. “Please, we’re not doing this now.”
Footsteps came outside the door, a hesitance, then a dejected knock.
“Cordelia,” Miyuki said. “What are you doing in there?”
I closed my eyes and pressed my forehead onto the rim, ignoring the smell of urine up my nose.
“Cordelia,” she said again. “Open the door now.” When I didn’t respond, she came in anyways. Her green eyes sliced into my face, the exasperation radiating off her body. “Really?” She narrowed her gaze and crossed her arms. “I thought that we were past this.”
She stood there and waited for an explanation to fall out of my mouth, and failed to hide her disappointment when that didn’t happen.
I waited for her to get up walk out the door, to ‘leave me to my own devices.’ With nothing but the hum of the pipes and the afterglow of panic, I could curl up on the floor, and retreat – or rather – dissociate again until I was grounded.
To a place where the boys from my anime or the girls from my young adult novels would pick me up off the ground and carry me to my room. Wrap me in a blanket, dry the tears from my eyes, hold me close, kiss my concussed and blood cracked lips. Tell me I was here, I was real, I was safe.
Miyuki didn’t leave. She wouldn’t allow me that luxury. Instead, she lowered herself to my side.
Through a cloudy mind, I tried to register her actions. Grit teeth. Despondent eyes. A hand that reluctantly reached for mine. Her pulse raged hard against my own as she placed her wrist on mind. “You make this so hard, you know that?”
Sniffling down my mucus, I forced myself to speak. “Make what hard?”
She sighed. “Loving you.”
Her skin was a dichotomy over mine – warm, comforting, but with an evanescent tremble. My first instinct was to hold her close, to fight away the angst I wove into her psyche.
She crumbled into tears and inarticulate sobs. “I love you, I do. You know that I do. But…” Pulling away, she spat, “I have to walk on eggshells around you.”
The hidden meaning in those words crawled out of the conscious that tried to bury them, and regret pooled on my palms and legs. Because we never knew what set me off until I needed a Xanax, and seeing me in that state was too much for her to swallow.
She’d grin and bear it or scream in my face and use her nails to dig crevices into her voice box and fill them with that lurid things that she said now, but didn’t mean: “Cordelia, get over it. This is all in your head.”
It wasn’t until she repeated herself that I acknowledged her words, her loathsome eyes smacking me straight in the face. “You have to have some control. I know you’re hurting, but I can’t deal with this. I can’t deal with you.”
I watched myself sit there stone silent as her anger morphed into sadness and she tried to wipe her tears before they fell. I wanted her to pick me up the way my lovers do in my mind, and I wanted her to tell me I was safe. But safety only came with the promise that this was over, but what she refused to see is more than an illness, this was an addiction.
I wanted to wrap us in the truth until she accepted it as our flesh – my body craved the delusion of synchrisity. The pores on my arms and the buds on my tongue had secret openings to absorb any sense of an upswing. The tantrums I threw and the rituals I gave into would dissolve into my skin like an LSD strip and turn my blood into a psychedelic task force, blurring my vital systems into a mess of stale color.
I wanted to change, to be a girl she could love. I wanted to be someone worth loving.
The words formed on my lips. “Miyuki, I don’t want to be here.”
I cringed as she sobbed out, “Me too.”
It was my turn to cry, whimpers hugging the inside of my throat.
With a disgusted grunt, she stood up again. “No, you don’t get to fall apart too.”
I willed my eyes to stop, for the water to fall back into my head, and the toilet, and the sink, and we got a do-over on this entire evening.
Watching, expression mocking, she waited for the me to stop. With a roll of her eyes, she hardened herself and pushed any trace of sympathy from her mind.
“I’m sorry. I can’t help it…” I trailed off, because rationalizing my disorder would make her madder.
The chartreuse of her eyes faded to black and as she looked down I saw her faith in me break. “I told you Cordelia, this is all in your head.”
Peyote queen, you are too fragile to die.
Anna Keeler is a poet and fiction writer attending Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. Her work has been published or is upcoming in Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Red Fez Literary Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, Potluck Magazine, Leopardskin & Limes Literary Journal, The Merrimack Review, Outsider Poetry, The Chaotic Review, and Smaeralit.