Friday, November 22, 2013


   “There’s nothing you can do,” she said. “It’s already done.”
     Her voice always wakes me up when I’m trying to sleep, but when I turn on the light, when I’m still in-between worlds, I think she’s there. Until I look around and find no one.
     I think about killing myself for the third time today when the waitress gets my order wrong.
     I wanted my eggs scrambled, but they stare back at me. Two yellow, runny eyes. It’s raining outside, causing the sidewalks to swell up with dirty water. I wonder if it will turn into a flood, lift the diner off of its foundation so it floats away.
     On average these days, I think about death more than I think about life. I know I’m too much of a coward to do it. I don’t even know if I want to, not really. But thinking, I can’t stop thinking.
     The second time I thought about it today was when I was in the shower and started crying for seemingly no other reason than the fact that my face was already wet.
      The first was when I woke up, reaching my hand across the covers to find the rest of the bed cold.
      “Sorry, hon,” the waitress says. “Can I get you something else?”
      I tell her no. I’m not hungry anymore.
I thought we were mostly okay. We never really fought, neither of us liking confrontation. We were together for almost three years before everything died. Pictures on the walls shrunk, flowers crumpled in on themselves before turning black.
     The fourth time I think about killing myself today is when I’m back in my car and the heat stops working. The rain soaked through my coat and I’m shivering. I wonder if the water will rise more. If it will go past my tires, get into my car and soak through the upholstery. If I stayed in my car all day as the flood swept through, would it be enough?
     A month ago, for my birthday, she tried baking me a cake while I was at work. I came home to a smoke-filled house and her crying on the kitchen floor. “I can’t do this,” she said.
     I asked her what she meant, but she only went to our bedroom and slammed the door.
     I had only seen her cry a few times, mostly when there were things going on that she couldn’t control. Her cat died, her parents got divorced. Things she couldn’t stop or draw out.
     She told me the next day that she was going to visit her parents and would be back in a few weeks.
     She didn’t come back.
     I called, wrote, left messages. I went up to her parent’s house, to her friends, her job, and they all told me they hadn’t seen her. Wherever she was, she didn’t want to be reached. She didn’t want to be found.
     I call out of work when I get back to the house. They tell me that if I continue to take sick days, they’ll fire me. I say it won’t happen again, but the pause between my response and my boss’ tells me that we both know I’m lying.
     I crawl back into bed, there’s no other place that makes sense lately.
     She always had problems sleeping. She’d toss and turn all night. I’m a heavy sleeper, but sometimes the motion of the mattress would wake me. I’d curl myself around her and make her still. Sometimes she’d sleep through the night that way.
     When everything ended, all I got was a phone call. She told me what she was hiding beneath her smile, her personality, and clothes. I told her we could work it out. That I was upset, but that I still loved her.
     “That’s why I can’t do it,” she said. “I can’t be with someone that could love me after what I’ve done.” The silence on the other end of the line buzzed through my ears, splitting my head in half.
     But in my dreams, she’s still here. I don’t think about life or death, or the consequences of either one. In between being asleep and awake, I can see her brown hair in my hands, leaking through the cracks in my fingers as we both stretch out over the mattress.  She’s unaware of what she’s done. How we’re both on a sinking ship, her in a lifeboat while I’m still behind the helm. I don’t care if the baby would have drowned us. I would have been happy to drown.


     You just hit a dog with your car. You left the house a rage, and you didn’t see the large blond animal run in front of your bumper. It was dark—past midnight—but you weren’t driving that fast. You could have stopped in time if you were paying attention.
     Your immediate reaction is to stop, pull over, take a breath. It’s late, there’s no one else coming. You have some time to figure this out.
     The question is: what do you do?
     There are a few options. For one, you can stay in the car.
     If you stay in the car, you can let the stale warm air from the heater continue to blow in your face. If you stay in the car, you can drive away. You can leave the dog there and hopefully it will get up on its own. Hopefully, someone else will find it and clean up your mess.
     But you can also get out of the car.
 If you get out of the car, it will be cold—it just snowed yesterday morning—so you’ll have to bundle up. If you get out of the car, it will be quiet. The engine will be on, the headlights will be on, illuminating what you’ve done. You might see blood matted into the fur, making it stick up like bright red wax. You might see bone poking through a leg or two, reaching for help. And maybe you’ll be sad. Maybe you’ll be upset that you could do something so horrible. But you won’t cry.    
     If you get out of the car, you’ll have to check if the dog is alive. Maybe it won’t be—you hit it pretty hard. Nothing has ever sounded so loud to you—but in this case, let’s say that it is still alive. Maybe it only has a broken limb, but it’s most likely going to be struggling, stuck to the frozen rocky concrete. Its eyes will dart around so you can see the white at the edges, like it’s trying to turn them inside out, so it doesn’t have to see what you’ve done.
     But you’re both here in this place. And it’s your fault.
     You think about all of this as you sit in the car, foot on the brake, watching the heap of fur against the yellow lines as the orange glow of your hazard lights blink on and off. On and off. You figure that there couldn’t be a more perfect analogy for you and her—the person you say that you love—than your current situation. You fucked up. You’ve hurt something—someone—and now you have decisions to make. You don’t want to hurt anyone, you want to be the good guy, but that is simply not an option. If you hurt another living thing, people are going to get upset, her family is going to be angry. How will you ever be forgiven?
     Maybe you can’t fix that. Maybe you can fix this.
     If you get out of the car, you could try to pick up the animal. You could try to not get nauseous
 as the wet fur grazes the bare skin at your jaw when you lean down and try to grasp its weight.
   If you get that far, will you try to find something to lay on your back seat before placing the animal in your car? Will red blood, purple organs, and white chunks of fat and bone stain the upholstery? Not that your car is new or clean, but still. These are things you need to think about.
   Would you drive to the vet once it’s in the car? It’s late, so you’ll have to make some phone calls. Maybe you know someone else who would know what to do, but probably not. You’ll have to drive pretty far to get to the twenty four hour animal hospital up North. Are you prepared for the drive?
   And even if you get there, lay the matted mass of mangy fur onto the cold shiny steel of the table, what do you think they will say? Is there any chance at all?
   If it lives, you will be a hero. People will think you have done this helpless animal great service, that it would have died without your help. You could tell them that you found the poor creature on the side of the road, that it was a victim of a hit and run. You won’t have to tell them that it was your fault or that it would have probably been better off if you had not entered each others’ lives at all.
   If it dies, you will tell no one. You will not cry. You will not talk about it. In all honesty, you think it’s better that way. Less people will be hurt. Either way—if you intervene or drive off—you’ll have to eventually go home. Back to the one you say you love.  

    You will have to pull into the driveway and think about it. You will spend a lot of time wondering if what you chose to do was the right thing, and you will never know for sure.
   If you go home after you hit a dog, after you decide to take it to the vet or not in your car, whether the animal lives or dies, your girlfriend will still be in the house you fled from earlier.
   If you go inside, she may still be awake, locked in the bathroom and probably crying on the cold, dusty linoleum. Her eyes might be swollen and red. Her dark hair could be dirty from running her hands through it; strands of it sticking to her wet face. She will probably want to talk. She will probably want to know if she could have done things differently to make you change your mind.
   You will think about this too, but only for a few seconds. What you will mostly think about is if you really want to get out of the car.

Types Of Anxiety Disorders.
 1. Panic Disorder: Fear of having panic attacks is mostly what Panic Disorder is. Many times the person does not know why they are having an attack. Sometimes, it seems to come from “out of the blue”, but more often, it comes from your mother asking you what’s wrong every five seconds, your classmates believing that there is something wrong with you, and a general fear of every little thing around you.

panic attack is usually accompanied by shortness of breath, people yelling things like, “breathe” at you, dizziness or faintness (because you tried to breathe), increased heart rate (because breathing didn’t work), trembling (because you are going to die), hot or cold flashes (from the life slipping in and out of you), and a sense of detachment because in the ten minutes it takes someone to have a panic attack, their life passes before their eyes and they begin to accept their inevitable demise, and living after you know for sure you are going to die really messes with your head. Other symptoms include fear of “going crazy”, and the fear of “losing control”. These fears are irrational because you are crazy and you have lost control.

2. Agoraphobia
: The fear of having panic attacks in public places (because this is the only place you will ever have them).

It is anxiety-causing not to know when your next panic attack might occur because it will happen when you are at your grandmother’s birthday party eating cake, in the dark of a movie theater with your boyfriend, or when you’re especially lucky, in the middle of a really good dream as you sleep.
As the panic attacks occur more frequently and in different locations, the person begins to fear going anywhere as “unsafe”, which is anywhere that is not the bathroom of their home, where they can curl up in a ball on the cold linoleum without anyone telling them that “everything’s okay”.

3. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
: Excessive worries about more than one thing characterize this disorder. Many times the worries are unrealistic, such as “What if I have a panic attack at school and everyone stares?” or “What if I marry a man just like my father and he divorces me and leaves me with three kids and no money and they grow up to hate me and I hate my life because everyone I loved hates me and my anxiety and depression get worse because I have no one?”  All of us think about things like this, but people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder fixate on them and can’t get them out of their mind. 

Symptoms include (but there are a shit-ton more): body tenseness (what if I have to pee and get up in the middle of class and everyone stares at me), lump in the throat (what if I have to throw up in the middle of the restaurant and everyone stares at me), trouble falling asleep (what if I sleep in and am late and everyone stares at me), and difficulty in concentrating (everyone is staring at me).

Some people with Generalized Anxiety may have experienced panic attacks in the past (whatifwhatifwhatif) or become Agoraphobic (couldn’t go to school anymore because of the fear of everyone staring at them, making fun of them, and  they hate people in general anyway so the school nurse did them a favor in suggesting they go on home bound). Without treatment, they continue to remain restricted in their lives and fear going too far away from home (where the bathroom is).

4. Social Anxiety Disorder
: The constant fear of being criticized or evaluated by other people (because you always will be). Simply attending a business meeting, trying to find a job, or looking for their keys in a supermarket because they lose everything and can’t remember the simplest of things because their brain is too full of thoughts, can be highly nerve-wracking.  Although people (everyone except you) with Social Anxiety want to be social and fit in with everyone else, their anxiety keeps a tight hold of them at all times like a clingy toddler. They freeze up when they meet new people (or people they have already met, especially if they try to hug or comfort them).

They are particularly afraid that other people will notice that they are anxious (or not notice)—and this fear causes the anxiety to get worse.

Most socially-anxious people remember being called “shy” as a child and can name experiences from their past that correlate with the Social Anxiety they now have. (Like when their Mother made them join girl scouts and they never earned any merit badges because none of the other girls wanted to be in a group with them because they were that weird kid that always freaked out over nothing.
Things that contribute to this disorder include: your father leaving, your cat dying, your step-father dying, your goldfish dying, your mom getting cancer, your mom surviving cancer, your other cat dying, your father becoming a monster, your father living, and living, and living, and the fear that you will die.

Most anxiety disorders come from traumatic life events like rape, abuse, or wartime experiences. Of course, none of those things ever happened to you, so you’re fine.
Art of Kelly Colligan
 The Painting

I don’t know if I’m an artist
Or a magician.
And I’m tired of hiding
That under the coat
My skin is scraping off.

That when I see you,
Or any human,
I want to eat a piece
So I can resemble the person
I was before
More complete or finished. 

Some days I’m completely asleep,
I feel it slowly
Then all at once.
Ordering the pieces from largest to smallest.
Like a mosaic.
Like I meant to do it.
Pulling rabbits from my hat.
I wonder how much I have to destroy
Before I am satisfied.
How many times I must smash myself
Before the picture is whole.

Red Fish Blue Fish
(a character exercise)

            I can only go to the pet store for my supplies on Tuesday mornings. Amy is the only one who doesn't think I’m strange.  She goes to school full time, so during the fall, she only works on Tuesdays.  She has blond hair and wears glasses mostly. I think she’s pretty, even if she is never wearing makeup at nine AM because she works at a pet store and has to wake up early so why bother. I always get the same thing, but it’s always different. Thirty large feeder goldfish, but I have to pick each one individually. She is the only one who knows my secret, and the only person I would tell. When I first met her, she asked me the normal questions that everyone else did when I insisted to pick each one out: “What are you feeding?”
            Depending on whoever I was talking to, I would change the answer. But today, I decided I was feeding a piranha, so I told her so. And she quietly and patiently let me pick out the ones I wanted. Goldfish aren’t just gold. They come in all types of different color combinations: orange and black, white, or white with orange spots, grey, gold, and sometimes even yellow. The fins are always either long or short; their eyes can be black or blue.
            There is a lot of decision making that goes along with these variations.
           And then there are always things to watch out for. Does the fish have some type of disease that could infect the rest of them and lessen another’s chance for survival? Are its eyes cloudy? Are there any swimming with clamped fins? These are all factors that I have to take into account.
            But this girl has never given me anything but survivors. That’s one of the reasons why I chose her. The reason why I told her my secret.
             “Why do you have to pick each one out individually?” She asked me one morning with a smile. “If you’re just going to feed them to something else, why does it matter what color they are?” It was a friendly, curious, question, and she is always so nice to me, picking thirty specific fish out of the tank of at least seven hundred where other employees have either rolled their eyes or simply said no.
            So I answered her: “I like to name them all. Having different colors helps me keep track.”
            She laughed, a soft, happy sound that I hadn’t heard in a while. “But they’re just going to die. Why bother?”
            “I keep a notebook and write each one’s name down.”
            She looked confused.
            “That way I can write how long each one survived, if there was a particular struggle between it and the piranha,” I realized I might be scaring her, so I added on,  “It’s silly, but I feel the need to give each one something more than just death.”
            She took in what I said for a few seconds as she poured my fish into a plastic bag, filled it with oxygen, and tied it with a rubber band. “Well,” she said as she handed me my purchase. “That’s more than most people give them.”
            “Thank you,” I said when I took my victims from her small hands.
            “I’ll see you next week,” she said. “Have a good day.”
            I smiled and went to the register and paid for my thirty writhing fish. I walked to my car and checked the trunk to make sure all of my supplies were still there from last time. I dug the pocket notepad out of my jeans flipped to a clean page. I would have to buy more duct tape before Amy got off of work at three. I wrote her name down anyway, wondering how long she would survive as I drove to the hardware store. 


It was the summer, five years after
The Funeral.
We played a game,
Trying to guess
Which song would play next. 

You were always wrong
And holding onto sixteen as tight as I could
Only left permanent marks in my skin. 

You hit a baby deer.
The cops came
Before it could  stand on shaking legs
Shot it between the eyes. 

It was still alive. It would have been fine.

I never saw a gun before,
But I've looked death in the face,
Been closer than
That animal. 

We picked the fur
From your black bumper.
We fixed the dent
Good as new. 

It stared through the darkness,
My head ached,
My knees throbbed.

John Mellencamp was singing
About how life goes on.

But I still wish the deer had gotten up.

The Island 
My dad used to take me fishing when I was little
On the lagoons in his backyard.
He wold pick a fish from an empty pickle bucket, gut it
In front of me.
Claim it felt no pain.
I couldn't wait to get out.
For most of my life, I skirted around the town
Where I grew up.
I'd take e long way home to avoid my old street
Where twelve-year-olds push heroin.
Bypassed the next one over,
Where everyone knew the old man died,
But no one wanted to admit where the smell
Was coming from.

Maybe they hated this place as much as him.

He didn't tell his daughters either that the heart
Still beats when it slips out,
The scales picked off,
Long after the air has gotten to it.
And when I go home now I still have to look
At rotting stuffed animals
In the place
On the corner
Where the girl was hit by a car.