Tonight, Chad and I had finished dinner and were sitting in front of the TV, not really watching it, and for whatever reason I mimicked the TV, “undeniable,” and Chad mocked too, “Un–” and then sipped his smoothie. Knowing I was waiting for him to finish, and he was going to do it when I least expected it, to make me laugh.
What he didn’t understand, what I can’t explain to him, is that every second that joke goes on, I was in pain. I wanted him to finish the word. I needed him to finish the word. It’s definitely a compulsive thing and I’m not proud of it, but I begged him to finish the word so we could just move on.
Thinking I was playing into the joke, he refused. I crawled into his lap and tugged on his shoulder, continuing to beg. “Say it, please, say ‘-deniable,’” I whined. “Please say it, you didn’t finish it, please finish it.” He refused, chuckling, shaking his head, sipping his smoothie.
It was funny. To anyone else but me.
In utter frustration, I rapped Chad hard on the top of his head with the flat of my fingers. Not hard enough to hurt, but definitely enough to get his attention, like we make thumb and middle-finger thwacks on Zen’s nose when she is being Very Bad. To get her attention, not to hurt.
But it did hurt him. Not physically, but I saw his hurt in the way he looked at me, and then refused to look at me, and then mumbled, “-deniable,” and turned back to the TV.
I hate that I did that even though I apologized and he said it was okay. His sense of humour, his sense of fun, amazes and thrills me, cheers me, calms me. But he just doesn’t know when to stop playing sometimes. No time seems to be serious-time for him and although I want to play, I also want – need – to be taken seriously.
I don’t believe anyone believes a word I say.
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Dr. Doctor said today, “Maybe it’s not about other people believing you; maybe it’s about you believing other people.”
I don’t believe anyone. I am always waiting for the punchline, always waiting for people to laugh and say, “Wasn’t that funny? And you bought it.”
The Dr. Doctor in my head asks me what happened, when did this start, what crucial, traumatizing event fucked me up forever. I shrug at him, Always been this way, Doc. That must get lonely, he murmurs. Lonely. It echoes in my marrow.
Truth is, I’m happiest alone. Because I’m not shitting me; no one is around to shit me. When I get around other people, that’s when it starts. And I realize that no one really wants the whole Halsted-package, neuroses, insecurities, sensitivities, and all.
Who would really want all that?
Some people insist they do.
And I do not believe them.
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I used to believe I believed in god, that he would want all of me and never turn away from the ugly parts. It’s not important that everyone likes me, just that they believe me. But god wants nothing to do with me unless I play by his rules, unless I prevent myself from thinking women are just as wonderful and loveable as men are, unless I marry whomever I choose to live with, unless I have babies now that I am married, unless I go to a specific building once a week to say hey god, I’m still here, and I still dig you.
I used to think I was going to hell. I’ve certainly been told so, more than a few times. You cannot convince me I am going to hell because I live there. I have everything I need to be happy, and I am unhappy. What is hell if not that?
There is no void waiting to be filled. I am filled. I am full. There’s just the belief that no matter what I ever do, I am not someone who anyone really wants to know.
Lonely, lonely, lonely, Dr. Doctor crows inside my eyeballs now, scratching to get out. Lonely, lonely, inside my gut, roiling my bowels, making me choke on nothing at all.
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I can buy a world map, put it on my wall, and with those tiny red pins I’m so fond of mark off the locations in which I have people who say they love me, and believe me. Birmingham, Alabama. Madison, Wisconsin. Seattle, Washington. Chicago, Illinois. Meadville, Pennsylvania. Marianna, Florida. Atlanta, Georgia. Tornio, Finland. With the white ones I can mark off all the locations in which people live who know who I am and might miss me if I were to disappear. New York, New York. Baltimore, Maryland. San Diego, California. Tucson, Arizona. Vancouver, Canada. Detroit and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Australia. Great Britain. Germany.
And I’ll look at that map, and I’ll repeat to myself over and over again, “Look, stupid, look at all the places in the world your presence has visited. Look at all the people who would hug you and tell you it’s all right if you’d only believe them.”
The pins pulse at me, my heart thump-di-dumps and I realize they’re both in syncopation with Dr. Doctor cackling, lonely, lonely, lonely. One by one the pins pop out of the map and fall and perhaps Zen will eat them, she eats anything inedible, until there are just miniscule holes in a meaningless piece of coloured paper on my wall and somewhere a cat burping plastic and metal.
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So I write this, in two places. One place, my bound journal, I carry around with me every day, although more often than not I don’t open it outside the house since I’m convinced that someone will find something inappropriate about me and fire me, fire Chad, burn crosses on our tiny townhouse lawn. The other place goes out to whomever wanders across it, or to whomever knows so-and-so who knows whosisface who knows me. I turn the cam on and send out pictures every two minutes, faint flaps of a semaphore flag that no one recognizes.
I overheard someone at work talking about webcams the other day: “God, I feel so sorry for them. How lonely for attention those people must be.” Lonely, lonely, zipping and unzipping my spinal column in a cascade of crackles.
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“But can’t you just believe me when I say it?” People are incredulous. No, I can’t, I really can’t. I see the good things about myself; I’m starting to see even more these days. But I still can’t let go of the fear that I’ve learned this language late and some things are just getting lost in the translation; you say “I believe you” and it’s really a conditional tense that I haven’t conjugated properly, “I only believe you on every other Tuesday between 9 and 10 a.m.”
Lonely, lonely, lonely. That word always means the same thing.