I told them I quit smoking but I didn’t. The reasons don’t matter, I mean, they do matter, and I’m just saying that to try to lessen the blow. I get it ain’t the biggest deal in the world, this type of relapse. I can explain.
It was mechanical, the cause and effect inevitable. As blatantly obvious, retroactively, as the market crashing or Donald Trump or my cat growing older and pissing on the wood floors and going blind and deaf and dying.
I’m stressed. Constantly. Everyone says they are but my neuroses are different, mine are worse. (Again, says everybody.) Not that’s it a competition (They all say.)
First date etiquette: let’s compare grievances. Violet left me with copycat anorexia and a carnal knowledge that one day everyone leaves, unexpectedly. You can love someone but they’ll never forgive the compulsive skin ripping, the glitter pen lists, the tying and untying of shoelaces. Where’d I get those bruises?
I’m running into counter corners. I drink two liters of water a day and say, airily, “Apple juice has so many goddamn calories”. I buy a pack of Camels as a dinner substitute.
Let’s face it. It’s always a competition around here.
Sitting front row in Moral Philosophy fucked me up. Now more than ever I’m aware of my motivations and their moral implications, how maybe I’m only saying I love you because I’m insecure and I want to- need to- hear it back.
Do I love you because I love you or because society says this is the word I’m supposed to feel, this word so laden with nuance and expectation and gender rituals I don’t understand? Would I love you if I’d never heard of the concept before? And taking into consideration my penchant for always blurting the words first, trying to create my own movies and never hearing it back- the screen flicks to black. We’re all wondering how it ends and lemme tell you the three magic words don’t make a celebrity cameo in a voice not my own. I go home to my apple cider vinegar and South Park and don’t shower for weeks.
I get it. You want your money back.
Some psychologists believe that all our adult mental problems are rooted in our childhoods and situational upbringings. How we form attachments to our primary caregiver(s) comes to directly impact how we act in romantic relationships. This is called “attachment theory”.
Freud, in a similar vein, believes we attempt to recreate our pasts. He says I want to relive the boys following me home off the bus, the shaky crying in the locker room, discovering everyone had been mocking the sound of my voice and I hadn’t known. Freud says I want to prove to myself I’m meant to be alone. He says I’ll be comfortable with the familiar.
(He also says I want to bone my dad, so. Grain of salt.)
Pushing Jeremy or Mark or Whatever-His-Name-Is against the wall in the basement, some rock band being misogynistic in the corner, seems extra punk when I taste like an ashtray because now Whatever-His-Name-Is knows, without me having to voice it, that I like to self-destruct. I like to wallow. I like the way black feels.
I told Eric that I’d gladly take his mother’s cancer if it meant she could be alive again. My motivations weren’t to make him pity me, squeeze me tighter, tell me I’m amazing and beautiful and nobody should hate themselves the way I do. Can I do anything to help? I’ll stay with you no matter what and we’ll get through this together. Let me kiss you. You’re so strong baby- no. My motivation was that I meant it and I needed to air it.
So I did.
Time isn’t linear. I didn’t experience the assault while it was happening; no, I felt it months later in a packed Target parking lot, hair sticking to my forehead sheen of sweat, Goodwill Doc Martens rubbing red welts into the backs of my ankles.
I recounted. Told my best friend how I couldn’t see behind me and didn’t grasp what was happening until Stephen said something romantic along the lines of “damn”. I remember crumbling to the floor afterward. I thanked him for being so gentle. I said, “Other guys wouldn’t have been that nice”. I said, “I love you”.
In real-time, saying it all aloud, I realized what had been done to me. I recoiled from myself and then realized the impossibility of such an action- I cannot escape my own body. I am stuck with my shame and my ignorance, my blind worship of a man it turns out I didn’t know.
Sometimes I still feel him. He sits across from me in the easy chair as I type this. He’s naked. He’s not smiling.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m in a horror film and don’t know it.
Yorgos Lanthimos uses the body as a means to explore the fleeting notion of freedom under oppressive governmental institutions. If he’s right, if our physical existence is a proxy for the level of autonomy we have, I should be paralyzed. I should be in chains. I should be locked in a basement, decapitated in a crawl space.
Tell me if I’m wrong: I have no power. I’m a dandelion. Blow me away.
Unfortunately for health nuts and/or the American parent, smoking looks cool. Makes me feel like maybe I could be the Hepburn to your Dean.
Cigarettes let me imagine for one second that I’m a little lemon bar with a pastel aesthetic Tumblr account and a healthy relationship with my genitalia. I don’t have a stutter; I don’t have a scar on the inside of my left thigh; I’m not a future statistic. I’m lightheaded and gorgeous and don’t listen to The Used. I don’t hesitate before picking a restroom. I’m a girl. I am confident in this. I do not stop to think about it.
Lung cancer would be a good excuse.
Jumping off a bridge just to jump off a bridge? Confusing. I might as well have a reason they’ll take seriously, something physical. An illness of the mind, they’d take it seriously if I had a penis. They’d say oh his brain is afflicted, he’s a tortured soul, he’ll be a genius one day. But I don’t have a penis; instead I have this disease of the brain, this worm gobbling up all the serotonin and they call me crazy; they call me a hot mess; they blame my menstrual cycle.
The doctors examining my empty carcass won’t focus on the lack of light there, they’ll notice the effects smoking had on my corpse. The smoking, yeah. The cancer. Must’ve been too much for her. The bridge makes sense now.
Long story short, we use drugs to forget things.
I guess there’s a lot I’m trying to forget.