• April 30, 2020 |

    what doesn’t close

    a confrontation with solitude

    article by , illustrated by

    Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I lay like a starfish on my bed, taking up the whole dang queen with my pointed limbs. Then, I pretend there is a half-bubble surrounding my bed, a little dome in which only my bed and I exist. I become my own world. Suddenly, grass is sprouting up in a thick green sway around me. I feel sunlight on my back, the warm pressure like a hand. Sometimes I hear music—a woman singing like no one else is home, or a trending song on TikTok.

    When I wake up, my hand is already on my phone. I am watching a video of Megan Thee Stallion doing anything. I am halfway into the Gmail app, waiting for my inbox to load before I get scared and hit the home button. I am watching a TikTok of an exotic pet owner stacking his designer frogs, shiny bulbous things in shades of green and yellow. I am getting out of bed with a neck sore due to my permanent slumping. I am brushing my teeth preliminarily. I will do it again after I’ve had breakfast and drank my coffee. Sometimes also a Diet Coke. My tooth enamel is on thinner ice every day, but it’s how I start the day. There’s a spot on my front tooth that is discolored. It got that way when I still had baby teeth and slammed my mouth against a scorching hot red plastic slide on the playground. The front tooth died. Not long after, it fell out with all its baby-ness. Now the tooth that has grown in to replace it has a little speck that shines more than the rest.

    I thought I knew the pink smarting of pain but this pain makes the pink pinker. The wound of my grief is constantly healing and reopening. The only thing I know to compare it to is when I first got my ears pierced and went to a birthday sleepover that same night. We were playing hide-and-seek and I got my earring stuck to the carpet, my panic pulling against my tender earlobe. The only way to unhook myself was to sit very still.

    Do you ever realize it’s 4 p.m. and forget what you’ve been doing? What a tiring thing, trying to be constantly entertained. I don’t think there was ever a time when I didn’t do this, but now I don’t have to put in as much effort. Sometimes I forget I even have the choice to turn off my phone. There are people in California who get paid a lot of money to think about my forgetting. 

    One thing I can say with confidence is that the trees are in love with each other. If you need proof, just look at them. They are coming back to each other after a winter of shrinking away and recommitting to their own beauty, to their own bodies. They amble back into their leaves. The trees think nothing of me, and this keeps me sane.

    Britney Spears is posting a lot on Instagram. She sometimes posts sepia-filtered videos of herself twirling in her living room. The room is all tile and marble columns; it looks like it gets cold in the artificial cooling but she doesn’t have any socks on. Some of my classmates have living rooms that look like Britney Spears’s where they Zoom into class from—siblings and parents and big fluffy blond dogs bumbling around in the background.

    My last meal of the last decade was a peanut butter waffle. The waitress said she had spent the past 11 years working the New Year’s Eve shift. She said Waffle House never closes. They were really very nice to me, the waitresses, striking up a motherish vibe even though they couldn’t have been much older than me. Somewhere in their twenties. They called me baby and kept checking on me. I said please and thank you and tried to love them right back. You don’t have to be your best. You just have to love back.

    Another day has passed, another dinner. I will sleep without questioning it tonight. This is a gift, when you catch a few days of gliding through life—the coast. If something catches, I can always return to myself, or look out the window. The trees outside sway in love, not knowing me.