I staggered sideways.
I dialed the number before I could think more about it. I knew I could still find his name saved under ‘Favorites.’ I shrugged to no one. I shook my head to no one. I listened to the ring tone, stumbled along, and cursed to no one.
Don’t hang up,Katrina.
I half hoped he wouldn’t answer. He did.
“Hey, what’s up.”
“Hey. You busy?” Already my voice broke. Motherfucker, you went to acting classes for four years to be this shitty at pretending you were alright?! I was more fragile then I thought.
I mean, I knew that I was coming undone, but this was pathetic. And yet, I knew something was really wrong…because I enjoyed it. Katrina, being all pathetic. Katrina, coming undone. I had front row seats to the shit-show so many people would love to see.
I couldn’t make out his answer over the sound of my thoughts. I think he said he was working on something, but “why, whats up?”
My answer spilled out as I spilled down the trail. I didn’t know what I was focusing on less, the coherency of my speech or the way my feet sunk into the dirt.
“I’m not doing well. I’m not, I just… can you pick me up after my class?” More words trickled out but I hardly remember what I said. I remember better how blurry green the trees looked. I remember sliding more than stepping down the path that led to the library. I remember hearing the sloshing in my bag and wondering if the bottle was open. I was wondering if my journals were sopped with it. I started crying because I didn’t care if they were. I was smiling because I didn’t care if they were. I hung up the phone.
He had sounded concerned. Someone sounded concerned for me! I wanted to yell to the trees, “TREES! Trees of SANTA-FUCKING-CRUZ! SOMEONE IS CONCERNED FOR ME!” My selfishness soared high above their reaching branches.
But the trees answered back before I could shout. They swirled around me, invading my air “No, Katrina. You called him. You asked him. He was concerned because you told him to be. Because you sound like a mess. You look a mess. You aren’t strong, you had to call someone.”
As my steps fell forward, as the wine sloshed, as the sun fell beneath the cold, icey gray sky that pushed and pushed and pushed down on my head….I simply let my eyes roll. I watched my feet and focused on the funny looking steps: one, two, one, two. It felt nice. It kept the blurry trees out of my face. It kept their singing out of my ears. They just kept whirling around, weaving in and out of my thoughts… you’re a mess and you aren’t strong. You’re a mess and you asked for help. One, two, one two.
I pulled out the wine bottle and chugged for a bit. Is this how it is to drink your problems away? It was wonderful. You suddenly feel so damn important. Suddenly you feel like you have legitimate problems.
And if you drink more maybe someone will notice you’re a fucking mess. And maybe you can drink yourself so dumb you’ll even admit to it. Maybe you can drink the locks (the locks holding it all in, all together) open. When you drink you can say “It wasn’t my fault” when all the dark rolls out.
Right then I just wanted anyone to ask, ‘Hey, are you alright?’ so I could let the locks burst off. I could say what I’d been feeling for months, boiling inside unseen. I wanted to cry to a stranger: ‘No, I’m not! Nothing is all right! Everything is wrong! I’m all wrong! I’m rotten from the inside out! Everything is pitch-black and writhing, inside and out! There’s only rocks in my soul! I’m dying, everywhere! There is nothing! We are nothing! Who are you! Why are you! Save me! ONE, TWO, ONE, TWO!”
But no one asked. I saw no one on my walk except one biker who whizzed past me. I sloshed. I needed to get to the library and get Stacy’s car-keys out of my hands. I kept counting my steps.
I suddenly needed lots of things. Including—if not most importantly—to text him and rapidly cancel the pick-up. I don’t need anybody. It was a moment of weakness. I felt myself turning into iron again–cold and emotionless, all the way through. I was too drunk to put on my usual mask of happy-go-lucky, but at least now I was in control. I hated my feelings. I would murder them later.
I looked up from my shoes. I was at the library, it’s interior lights glowing against the hollowed, starry sky. It beamed.
And while I knew I had to find Stacy and throw these keys at her, I realized there was something I had to do first. Something I’d really been putting off.
I walked inside, and started.
I’m not writing in a journal, like I did in France. This is in a notebook. A school notebook. How fitting? What a prime way to illustrate my regression.
I’m in McHenry. I’d planned to be in McHenry Café for this writing stunt, but I got tired and just sat here instead—somewhere on the first floor—at a table with a convenient outlet nearby.
I’d like to take this moment to recognize that conveniently placed outlets are severely underappreciated.
I’m on my second bottle of wine, and I hate having car keys in my pocket.
Their They’re burning a whole in my pocket, I must get them out. I must get them out.
I MUST GET THEM OUT.
I’m not talking about car keys anymore. Did you know I’m dying? I need someone, anyone.
What a funny, terrible word. “Need.”
N-e-e-d. need need need
I’m not okay on my own for this long, I need company.
I must go, these keys burn.
I shouldn’t have called. I don’t need anyone.
I was clinging to every word he said.
And that pissed me off. I doubled over and cried harder.
I was violently turning inside, and the uncontrolled heaving of my shoulders danced in motion with the sobs that ripped and tore through the air. The entire passenger side of the car was breaking, which contrasted with the perfect stillness of the driver.
“You’re the strongest person I know.”
“No, I’m not!” My new hair cut sliced my face as I yanked my head back and forth. I wanted my head to shake right off. “Look at me! Look at this!” I let it all break.
Finally, finally someone would see me, not Katrina. No smiles, no skips, no gentle advice. No small giggles, no flashes of light. No pretending, not an inkling of ‘strong enough.’ I was half-relieved at the unrestrained chaos because finally, finally…. I was too tired to keep up with my perfect responses, the automated tricks I played on the outside. This was a break-down on another level, deeper than I’ve ever fallen. I wanted, needed—someone, anyone to see me for all the ugly I really was.
I’m not a drinking girl by nature, but I was bizarrely grateful for the spontaneous, willing consumption of far-too-much alcohol; it was the wildcard event that successfully shattered the illusion as it never had before. I felt all my masks melting down the seat, blending with my messy waterfalls. Look at this, I had said. What I meant by that was Please see how lost, please see how ugly. I’ll never be understood until someone knows how I really look on the inside. I’m nothing like what you think I am.
And even though my insides screamed for this attention, I was also half-hoping this would scare him off. Because, yeah, life is that fucking confusing sometimes.
And yet he sat there—watching me invisibly whipping myself, invisibly caressing myself, invisibly delivering emotional blow after emotional blow to myself— he waited. He listened to my nonsense. He listened to the half-sentences filled with everything I had stored up. He took the flood he didn’t sign up for, and did nothing to dam it up. That was, until, he softly interjected between my jagged catching of breath:
“Drink some tea.” He pointed to object in the center console.
I picked it up so mechanically that we both minaturely flinched, surprised at my uncharacteristic obedience.
“Take a sip. Go on.”
It was a metal cup. It felt funny on my teeth; it was so unexpected that I couldn’t resist following directions. I took a huge gulp. The heat of it burned so beautifully. It was so welcome, such an unexpected thoughtfulness, so painful the entire way down… the tea was somehow metaphorical.
“Okay, and just take a deep breath.”
And for once, I didn’t roll my eyes. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t apologize for being a mess.
I took a deep breath, just like a child.The new air was soft and slow, and it seemed to settle clouds over the knives raging on my insides. I liked breathing. It felt like magic.
“And one more sip… do that one more time, alright?”
Without all those feelings binding my body, without all those tears blinding my eyes… I really looked at the person in the driver’s seat. I was shocked at what I saw.
I saw a friend. I saw someone who cared about me.
Why had I not seen it? What else have I not been seeing?
“Also, you should eat this Cliffbar I brought. I know how you are with Cliffbars.”
And then I laughed again, as I swore I never would.
Because when life is hard you get dramatic and start promising wild things like eternal suffering.
Because life’s fucking confusing like that.