Got slapped with a $150 fine because I missed a psychiatry appointment because my sleep schedule inverted because of this weird new life. I am biologically prone to exist nocturnally in the absence of external responsibility and structure. I work for a utility company, which is as essential to the upkeep of society as it gets, but my position is not essential. My department, however, which repairs its vehicles, is essential, and it was decided we split into two groups, switching off biweekly between who stays home and who comes in. I’m nervous that I must go out into the world tomorrow but count myself lucky I’m still getting a full paycheck. The windshield from the totaled truck looked like crumpled paper in the trash can. The businesses that remain open have large panes of plexiglass hanging from their ceilings to keep the cashiers safe from customers who have come for burritos or coffee. I’ve had to revise habits, such as shooting snot rockets and picking up and pocketing every coin I see glint from the sidewalk. Almost everything I see or hear or think can kickstart a train of thought that delivers me to Pola. Her mother reached out on Instagram to let me know she read the March excerpt of this project, that she thinks my prose is powerful and precise, but said nothing of its content. I’m realizing more and more the nature of this thing, that it goes beyond the bounds of a writing project, sinking its fist deep into my personal life and twisting the entrails it finds there. I was so constipated I was convinced I was dying. I stood in pummeling rain, waiting to cross the street, cradling a new prescription for Klonopin, and the wind violently tore my hat off my head, smacked it into the much-taller-than-a-human sign for the collision center, off which it bounced and plopped into a deep puddle; I picked it up and put it back on despite its sogginess and crossed the street and unlocked the front door to my building and something compelled me to open our mailbox for the first time in days and there I saw Pola’s name handwritten in the sender corner of an envelope sealed with a piece of yellow tape. The woman sitting in the chair snapped at me when I walked through the automatic doors, demanding I stand behind a piece of red tape while she ran down a checklist of COVID-19 symptoms, which I understood was highly important and necessary, but I was desperate to shit as soon as I could, and I needed a doctor’s help to do it because the laxative suppositories I had been shoving up my ass did nothing, and I was trembling and on the verge of filling my whole surgical mask with vomit, so, nothing personal, but I really hated that woman. There were too many tropical fish cramped in the tank in the waiting room for the emergency room. The pain subsided when the nurse IVed me and when the doctor finally came back and said the problem was not my bowels, but a 4mm kidney stone, I think he made a pregnancy joke, but lack of sleep paired with whatever powerful pain med the IV dripped into my hand had left me in a fog, so I can’t say for sure, but I know he made a pregnancy joke. The stone was revealed by a CT scan machine that slid me in and out and the operator instructed me how to lay but I don’t think I comprehended her because I ended up being slid in and out with my arms bent at angles right by my ears, the elbows almost touching, in a way that made me self conscious enough to realize maybe I should have held my arms flat by my sides, but by then it was too late, I would lose face if I switched positions, and this woman, whose daughter she said shares my birthday, would look at me with even more ridicule. In the course of three days, I’ve drank nineteen 28 FL OZ bottles of Gatorade. I’ve been spending most of my time in the bathroom, looking and sounding and writhing like an animal while the kidney stone knives my urinary tract. I had a dream my parents were having a second marriage, not marrying other people, but marrying each other again for some ceremonious reason, and there was a big fuss about it, high stress, anything to make sure the wedding went without a hitch, and in the dream I was also missing a row of four prominent teeth up top and had four different prosthetics to fill each gum hole. The dream didn’t make sense as my parents are a major case of “staying together for the kids” which, like the divorce it tries to avoid, comes with adverse consequences for everyone involved but is often even worse. But when I woke from it, I brushed my teeth with the most vigor I have ever brushed them with in my life. I felt like I wasted a therapy session by talking about nothing but Pola the whole time slot. But then I realized there are things that need to be tackled and untangled before we can be productive in helping me relearn how to read books in a way that isn’t despairingly hindered by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I haven’t read a single book since December because my need to reread every sentence until I’m sure that I’ve milked it for every detail, meaning, shape, and sound, before reading the next sentence has become an unbearable chore for me. A similar thing happens when I watch movies, I pause and rewind and take breaks because I need to make sure I’ve understood the text of the dialogue, as well as the text of the camera angles and cuts and lighting and score and sound mixing, as well as the color, as well as the nuances that all of these things come together to create. Ever since someone said that someone said that COVID-19 can enter through your eyes, I have been feeling an acute sense of physical vulnerability on top of my emotional vulnerability. I’ve never before truly realized what wind can feel like when it brushes bare eyeballs. The mail from Pola included a letter and the Hellman’s packet that had become a tangible symbol of our romance, and so this changing of hands of the mayonnaise felt highly symbolic too, whether of closure or a door ajar to a continuation, I couldn’t parse out, and as for the contents of the letter, my guess would be that it was intended as closure but continuation trickled enough through her word choice that confusion set in and made me unsure how to reply, and I want my response to hit all the right notes and I haven’t yet figured out how to properly do that so I haven’t sent or said anything back. Although the kidney stone has caused no pain for a week and a half, I haven’t witnessed its passing through my penis, so I continue to piss through sifters.

 

 

Steven Arcieri lives in Boston. He is writing a sentence about himself every day for a decade. Read em and weep, boys.

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