The panic entered its crescendo the moment Therapist materialized on the screen. Sarah said a phone call would suit the conversation best and I said yes, that’s why I’ve been calling. Conflict, huge or puny, needs to be resolved quick–even at the  other party’s expense. I dislike the small cruelties I do when I’m not understood. Shy texted an axolotl and said she’d been meaning to call. Sarah understood “you don’t have to” as “do not” when I said “you don’t have to” as in “you don’t have to call although it’d mean the world if you did.” I sent Shy a string of  voice messages to demonstrate we weren’t having the conversation she thought we were having. I felt no coldness against my tooth, no electricity inside it, so I must get a second root canal before my cheek bulges with more pus. I messaged Jackie on Facebook: 

yo i cracked code of why so many of my friend being weird and cold 

it’s so simple it is dumb 

i need to express: “you hurt me. but not through anything actively malicious on your part. don’t hold any animosity toward you. it will take me some time to heal and regain trust but you are my friend and i am yours and i love you and things are normal.” 

And people don’t listen why i try to communicate that. there’s a talking over, cutting off, defensiveness

which frustrates me but my frustration isn’t directed towards them but rather just the situation of not being able  to make myself heard 

which ends up just reinforcing each party’s false  

perceptions 

(my friends are being neglectful and careless / steven is irrationally upset with me for something i have no control  over) 

when neither is the actual case 

but they become the case because i can’t express that they aren’t 

Rob told me the story of his teeth and I told him to read Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth. Myene and I’ve been meaning to drink tea over FaceTime but even though we talk six days a week, TeaTime has yet to happen. “Elton John will ‘Hit someone’ if  Phoebe Bridgers Doesn’t Win a Grammy.” Lorde’s online merch  store emailed that Going South, a book of her writings and her  friend’s photos chronicling their trip to Antarctica, would be  delayed until mid-April, which means the small but intense burst of guaranteed happiness I’d ordered for myself, as well as for Cory, would be delayed. I accidentally knocked out the dongle that connects my headphones to my iPhone and “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo played loud, inciting the gaggle of gangly teen girls,  also waiting at the crosswalk, to laugh at me. Sarah disclosed an anxiety she’s got about listening to music she isn’t familiar with and I wondered how, since the song-sending held such personal high stakes, I hadn’t considered the same could be said on the other end of the exchange: the tectonic plates of the unexpressed constructing an issue from nothing. Similar in nature is when someone asks what books I’ve been reading lately–an objectively  innocuous question that feels, to me, torturous. I reached out to Garielle asking for a cure considering it was her essay that cursed  me with my obsessive need to see everything a sentence is doing before reading the next–there was a hopelessness, hopefulness, helplessness when she replied that she suffers the same. I haven’t called, texted, checked in with Myene this past week because she’s been sad and I worried about being overbearing, but then I saw how not reaching out bore uncanny resemblance to my other friends’ not reaching out. Jacqueline C. stick-and-poked a tattoo of my Tumblr URL on her hand years back so she’d remember to call; we keep in touch in sporadic bursts; she texted a horse, said she worked on a farm, and I asked if I already knew that—she texted, “No we mostly talk about you.” She clarified the text had sounded sassier than she’d intended, but still it tapped into this hang-up I’ve got, this character flaw: I don’t like how often I participate in conversational turn-waiting, and I’m so anxious to avoid it that I cannot shut up. I tell Myene it’s ok to be mopey, cranky, irritable, and that it’s fucked we’re all taught to divvy emotions up into good ones and bad ones because emotions aren’t like that at all, and I tell her to be kinder to herself. I’ve made the decision to use a string of vacation days to recalibrate. When I step inside the Domino’s Pizza I can see out my window, I feel connected to all of humanity. I wish I could direct the energy, focus, tunnel-vision I get when I can’t find my COVID cow mask toward something more meaningful. I’m in constant, equal need of others’ company and solitude, so I will never be satisfied. I don’t think the vacation day recalibration is working. Sarah said there was a suicide on the island and the bullet, after exiting the  skull, went through the cinderblock wall, out of the house, and kept going. In a CVS, in a folding chair, I look at a wall of condolence cards for fifteen minutes as I wait to see if the vaccine in my bloodstream will cause spasming. The window situation in my bedroom is ideal for creating a synthetic outside and I think I’ll even get some plants to make the facsimile more believable. I’m finding it unimpossible to build boundaries in liminal spaces. For a long minute, I am the only living soul in the Domino’s across the street.

 

 

 

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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