“Do you remember when you were successful?” she asked me, turning her face to look at my hair separately out of each eye. I looked at the ceiling. Sometimes it’s easier to disappear with my eyes open, I thought. “Of course I do,” I whispered back, eternally obligated to answer even when I felt like turning over, wrapping myself in my fluffy cotton blanket and kicking her off the bed with my legs.
They’re strong enough to do it, too, even if I never could make them.
I saw an old man just now working a menial job, an old man way past retirement age, and I felt deeply unhappy. I felt for him, as they say, whatever that really means.
I gave him almost all the money I had on me, even though it wasn’t much, even though it was food money, I guess because the right thing to do is very often the stupid one as well.
It didn’t help that when he took the money, after he realized that it was for him and he wasn’t expected to do anything, looked at me. His eyes were clear and shone just like, well, I guess like a kid’s. Like I was doing something better than the decent human thing.
It didn’t make me feel better that he was so happy, it made me feel worse.
Maybe it doesn’t ever have to make sense because it doesn’t matter. All I know is I feel raw and ten kinds of miserable and when that happens I leave it here and not in my journal.
“I hate you,” I said, before I could stop myself. “Do you, Lola?” he asked me. “Of course I do! I hate you so much I feel my pulse rise when I look at you and my stomach tightens and – ” I looked down at my arm “and the hairs on my arms stand up, and – ” I bit my lip. He came over to me and looked at my arm, turning it slightly in the light. I don’t have much arm hair and what I do have is thin and blonde and not really visible. But it felt like it stood up, visible or no. He sat down and smiled faintly, and I noticed for the first time that he’s beginning to get lines around his eyes, not smile creases or crinkles but fine little lines. Wrinkles.
And suddenly he looked old, and tired, and lonely.
And here it is: There is a girl – pale, brooding – who gets bitten by a bat – dark, brooding – named Heathcliff that unfortunately carries pneumonia. Heathcliff is a pneumonia-pire and this was likely caused by flying in the rain and living inside a dank church bell but it’s probably also hereditary. The girl, whose name is Malady, would just like to not have pneumonia anymore. Or ever again.
I think the robots heard (saw?) that I was denouncing their robotic sex vending shenanigans (great name for a band) and now there is nothing but chaste spam in my folder. Really. It all concerns itself with search engine optimization, and it’s written with a very concerned tone, as if the spam robot is my concerned elderly aunt and I am wearing a hopelessly frumpy dress. You have a very lovely figure, my dear, if only you would show it. Let me take you over to Mrs. Schneider’s so that you can have your colours done. The internets will never ask you out or tell all the nice people googling ‘hard bitch daycare’ to come see you if you don’t do something about the way you look . . .
I can overcome this feeling, I told myself. It may be sadness but sadness can only exert so much physical influence, only so much – and suddenly I was lurching forward, reaching for the steps in front of me although there was no doubt I would meet them. I was falling fast, but it felt slow and the colours smeared at the edges.
“I think you’re depressed,” my doctor told me, has been telling me for a few weeks. I shook my head “I keep telling you I just can’t breathe,” I panted out. My old friends the fluorescent lights glowed wanly at me. “I can’t – I feel like something heavy is sitting on my chest,” I choked out. He frowned. “Classic, textbook depression.” he folded his arms, looked me up and down. “Why do you keep half-heartedly patting your chest? Sorrow?” I shook my head, again. “I tell you I just can’t – just can’t – ”
When I woke up my face had been commandeered by something they called a ‘nebulizer.’ I saw a new nurse looking at me with pursed lips. “Pneumonia,” she whispered, with a shake of her head, like I was a bad little girl who’d gone out and caught it against all advice, like it was an STD or a baby. I nodded, said ‘whatever’ but the sound was lost to the whirring machine.