Fiction · Stream of Consciousness

The Muse

I volunteered to take over the department inventory. This led me to running between office spaces and jotting down what was kept in what room, what occupied which filing cabinets, and what was housed in which cubbies. At the end of it, I settled that things were too spread apart. Items went missing before I took over, falling between the proverbial cracks. 

I printed the list of items we should have and just went at it. I counted single, loose items and jotted down the amount we had coupled with the amount still packaged. I reorganized the cubbies and shelves, making sure to compartmentalize the items within the columns. 

“You’re good at that,” Evelin said. 

“Let me walk you through,” I responded, dusting off my jeans. “In the first column here, we have repressed feelings. Secret affections on the top, followed by inner anger, pride, and sexuality. Right on the counter underneath that, we have, of course, fear of rejection that comes with each. As you can see, that’s way too much to shelve with the other items.”

“And what about these?” she asked, motioning to the pile I have laid out on the tables. 

“The first table here contains the memories I don’t know what to do with,” I shrugged. “Minor things that hold no significance to the Host. Bits of trivia that aren’t conversation starters. Really don’t know where to file these away.”

Evelin assessed the cluttered and the organized and nodded. “Seems like you have a better knack at this than the last person. This job really drove them up the wall.”

“What can I say,” I said. “I’m a natural.”

I kept up with work, making sure to sort anger in the proper receptacle, labeling the serotonin and dopamine properly, filing away the important, life-changing memories in their proper storage bin. I cataloged conversations by subject and audience. Archived text messages and letters. And tucked away the sentimental value of objects in their proper exhibitions.

But one day, something happened. 

Continue reading “The Muse”
Personal

“I’m exhausted by my heart”

It’s complicated,” she whispered softly the other night. Several nights ago. And I never knew what that meant all those nights ago. In these sleepless nights, I stare at the oblivion unraveling before me. The darkness has crept in, hasn’t it? And I understand what she meant.

“Why do some people insist on staying in a toxic relationship,” I ask my friend one night.

“Because they’re used to being in it and change is hard. And scary,” she responds.

Maybe it’s that I’ve forgotten. Forgotten what it’s like to be in a relationship. In a romantic relationship. The need of having someone who you can wrap yourself to and just let all the heaviness fade away. It’s been eight years since Jeanna, nearly as long apart as we were together. I tried to remember how it was in those days. Feeling empty. Abandonment.

“I miss you,” her text message read. And a part of me wants to respond with a cynical line: It would be hard to miss me if you stopped leaving me behind. But I don’t have the nerve. Because somewhere along the line, I stopped being the self-centered, selfish asshole. And I start thinking that this is some sort of self-issued penance for the years I was a terrible person to those I loved.

“I feel like this a healthy relationship for you,” my friend texts.

And I bite back the tears as I respond: “So I ask again: Why do some people insist on staying in a toxic relationship?”

“I don’t know how you do it,” my supervisor tells me. We’re in her office at work and I just broke the news that I want to leave the library. After everything I’ve been through in the last two years and now COVID-19, I’m feeling less and less content at work. Every morning it’s a fight to convince myself to go in.

“Do what?” I ask. But I know what she’s going to say. Because I ask myself that every day.

“After what you told me about the accident. Your father last year. I think I would have broken down already.”

“And yet I smile,” I say, rolling my eyes at the fact that I just quoted a zombie show. “The smiles aren’t for me. They’re for everyone else. Because if I crumble, the I feel…” and I let that fade into the silence.

“A friend one told me,” I continued, “that I carried the world on my shoulders. That I made everyone’s well being my responsibility. And maybe I do. There’s Jeanna. There’s Shaun. There’s you and there’s Doris. I do it for others and rarely for myself.” And before I go too far into the good guy complex, I fall silent. “I’ve been thinking of seeking someone,” I end my part of the conversation.

Six years later, things are still complicated. And after a lengthy text conversation, she ends it with, “This could be the wine speaking…” And the oblivion wraps its arms arms around me in a welcoming embrace, an old friend falling back in step with me. And as I close my eyes and welcome it, my mind whispers, “Is this all there is?”

Personal

An Analog Hopeless Romantic

My mother told me I had a tell. Something she used to ascertain whether I liked person who was on the other end of the phone call. Mind you, I was a teenager when she told me this.

“You cover your face with a pillow,” she told me.

“Mom,” I said, rolling my eyes, “I cover my face with a pillow all the time.”

At least I thought I did.

Then I noticed, I didn’t always cover my face. Speaking on the phone with my friends differed vastly from speaking to whoever I happened to be crushing on at the moment (I went through a lot of crushes, mind you. I was a bit of a crush-slut). With someone like Binx of Doll, I spoke out in the open. In the living room while doing my homework. Or in my bedroom with the door open. Or sprawled in the hallway (our phone line was really long). But with someone I liked, I took it as private as I could. Covering my face to mask all the smiles and starry-eyed looks were, possibly, my last ditch attempt to hide what made me human.

I can’t pinpoint when this stopped, but it was during my relationship with Jeanna. Two reasons I know this: 1. Jeanna is the last relationship I had and, 2. The way I communicate changed significantly. While Jeanna and I still continued talking on the phone, the amount of time lessened. It only made sense. We went from being two teenagers in love to being two twenty-something-year-olds in love to being college graduates in love. No one told us that our last young love relationships would also be our first trial at an adult relationship.

The women that followed didn’t linger for too long. But while they were around, we communicated mostly through text. We had a phone call at night, but nothing too long. Half the time, I couldn’t think of a single thing to talk about anyway. So I’d just ramble on until it was time to say good night or something. (If there’s something I excel at, it’s talking about absolutely nothing for hours.) With the exception of Katie, because we always found something to talk about (mostly complaining with a few jokes sewn in for good measure).

“The only thing I truly miss from the 90s is the lack of cellphones,” I admitted via text one day.

“Why?” she responded.

“Because, I dunno, I guess it’s because there’s no romance in the way we communicate today. I miss phone calls.”

I guess it’s all analog. Kids these days won’t know the hardships of waiting by the radio to hear the song you want to hear. Or: Kids these days won’t know the hardships of having to fast forward through previews before watching a movie. But, for me, it’s more like Kids these days won’t have the pleasure of hiding their face underneath a pillow while talking to their crush, studying their every word and cadence. They won’t know the twirling of phone cords. Or they won’t know the uncertainty of leaving the house and worrying their missing a “very important phone call.” I dunno. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic in that sense.

Doldrums

“I don’t know what compels me to do the very thing that fells me” *

Never been the spoken wordsmith. These things take time, I suppose. There was a plan, and the plan didn’t pan out. Not like I could say anything before the trip, and after it just felt too cliche. It’s a practice, getting the right words down. As a child, I practiced every syllable in the mirror. As a teen, the smart remarks came to me late. Day later, actually. Plagued with zingers and one-liners after the fact.

Each word carefully selected for the presentation, but the day came and I stood frozen before the class. Words blurted out in the moment always felt wrong. Out of place. Misused. Uncertainty rules my decisions, which is that I’m usually not making them.

How many times have I backspaced on this sentence? Or this one? Or this one? How do I used pauses to create some sort of false symphony of sound? Each word is important. Each placement proper. There are beats in my writing, right? A cadence, at least? Maybe. But who knows?

I just want to say the right thing. Find the perfect words. Because all these silences are becoming too unbearable.

*I know “Bad Ideas” by Tessa Violet has already been used, but it’s a damn catchy song by a damn catchy artist, ok?

Doldrums

Work & Other Bad Ideas

What’s that old adage? Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Yet, I love what I do. On paper, it’s the best damn job. At the end of the day, week, month, year, it’s taxing. Draining. My mental health is on a decline. Think my blood pressure shot up tenfold this morning alone. On the brink of tears, I sat on the cold cement bench pondering the repercussions of just walking away. Just leaving. Not tell a single soul where I was going, what I was doing. Just walk and not look back. I haven’t felt this low since the field manager of a baseball team threatened to choke me. The fact that the harassment endured matches the level of the threat of physical harm proves the toxicity of the workplace. 

Happiness

When I think about it, I overspent my time in the pursuit of happiness. That wasn’t living. I overcompensated for my shortcomings. Held on to dreams after they reached their shelf life. Not every dream is worth chasing. I learned that too late. 

I kept wondering when I’d start feeling like an adult. And the answer is, whenever I stop worrying about it. When I stop asking about it. Maybe I’ll never shake the feeling of being a child playing dress up, but who cares? I have half my shit together. That’s better than some people who still strum their guitars and dream of making it big on stage. And if that’s your life and you’re content with it? Who the fuck cares what I think, right?

Happiness is clutching a new book. Buying the new Kindle Paperwhite because you can afford to make a small splurge. It’s surround yourself and building memories with people you love. 

Phase 4

And it’s ok to feel like you’re growing out of your comfort zone. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not time to divorce myself from this blog. From my apps. Maybe a trial separation? Or maybe it’s time to return to my original pursuit? Return to my roots.

Sometimes it’s fun to just explore what’s out there. Find a new experience. Allow yourself to just take a risk. Damn the consequences.

Does that mean what I think it means?

The more I hold back, the less likely it’ll lead to ruin. That’s what I tell myself, right? Because would it really be that bad if things don’t go as planned? The best laid schemes usually don’t. What is worse—the failure or the wondering?

These movie nights are less about the films we agree upon. They’re just my way of being close to you. Spending time with you. And maybe that’s all I need right now. And maybe somewhere down the road, it won’t be. And I wonder if you feel the same way. 

If I’m really honest. There’s only one way I’d like this to work out.

I hope that you don’t think I’m rude…

Personal

“You make it difficult to not overthink”

“Maybe you should try being alone for a bit,” she said at the end of it all.

It’s true. Chasing others occupied most of my adolescent and post-adolescent lives. A syndrome inherited from someone who preached my importance was measured by those who loved me.

The three-year road leading to this peace of mind was forked, unpaved, and pot-holed. There were those I hurt and those who used my vulnerability to raise their self-esteem. I gave myself freely to anyone who gave me an ounce of attention. I fell for every smile. For every woman who made me laugh. I became the type of person who once made me cringed. I became that long, greasy-haired high school kid.

In the end, I came out scathed with a better understanding of myself. Of what I wanted. Of who I needed to become for my son. I focused on that world. And I grew in my contentment of being on my own. I learned, if you will, how to measure my worth by loving myself.

Then came you, the proverbial monkey wrench in the cogs of my machinery.

And I’m just tryna play it cool now

It happened slowly. And sometimes I find myself wondering if this was somehow orchestrated. As if that night that drove me to know you better was by designed. That someone meddled with my blossoming contentment of being alone.

Others painted you as aloof. One called you his arch nemesis. So when it came to interacting with you, I paced myself. Tested the waters before I cracked a joke. I wasn’t sure which way you’d lean. Of course, I rarely spoke to until you were invited to join in our reindeer games.

Then you gave me a ride home. And I got to know you as you are and not as you were made to be. I gave you my number without any thought later. A just-in-case for when we planned our next hang out.

I tried to ignore that pang when you confessed to me that your cat desecrated my copy of Bloodline. I failed to hide my smile we spoke in front of others. It shocked me that when your hand brushed mine, albeit accidentally, I didn’t flinch. Your touch didn’t drive my anxiety like so many others. And that scared me. It worried me.

I’m pretending you ain’t been on my mind

I’ve never been one to hide my feelings well. Never been one who wanted to talk about them either. So deniability worked well for me even though I reminded transparent on how I felt about you.

There were moments I felt we were on mutual ground. So I admitted it to you. And you panicked, so I panicked. And it was never brought up again.

But you filled up my free time. When not thinking of Shaun and being a father, I thought about you. I wrote cryptic passages on this blog, journal entries. I asked friends to help me figure you out.

I took an interest in the things you liked. I gave shows and movies I never thought of watching before. If we were a romantic comedy, the ending would be obvious. Inevitable.

“So why are you still single? I thought you were in a good place,” they ask.

There are moments when I over think the possibility  of an us. I’m not an easy person to be involved with. There are moments when my depression wins. There are moments when I become withdrawn. Where I ghost the people I love. Where I allow myself to fall into the abyss and stay there. There are moments when I feel undeserving of love. Moments when I realize how much of an asshole I am. There are moments when I drive out those who love me most. I play all the scenarios, seeing all the possible endings. I fall in and out of love. I’m selfish. I’m unkind.

But I like you. I like us. I am comfortable in this moment. I like texting you. Telling you that i like texting you. Sharing my peanut butter cookies with you. I love our conversations in the dark of your car as we leave another game/movie night. I like critiquing movies with you. Sharing those pop culture videos with you. Nerding out with you. Venting to you. I like sharing my truest self with you.

I just fear that one day I might become a source of your misery. And it scares me.

Maybe I’m just getting accustomed of being on my own. Maybe this is the doubt that I need to show me that I’m not where I want to be in life.

But I like you. And I think of you constantly. And I brighten when I receive your texts. So wherever this may lead, I’m glad that I met you.