[A history of truth and credibility]
*Note: Names have been changed to protect privacy.
By: Dasha Sominski
“This reluctance, he began to realize, was a product of fear. But fear of what? Of walking back into his own past? Of discovering a present that would contradict the past and thus alter it[…]” –Paul Auster
I took the battery out of my smoke alarm with a plastic cafeteria fork. It was a bother to force myself into shoes and abandon my sultry cubicle every time I’d need to go out for a quick cigarette. That fittingly somber Sunday evening, lights off, I listened to an entire album of The Strokes and, very thoroughly, I cried myself into self-oblivion again: I liked to cry to “The Chances” best.
Not even a week ago, I’d spent the night at the NYU psychiatry ward down on the corner of 33rd and 1st. I felt little but composed and quiet. Between the several sessions I had with the doctors I passed most of my time looking steadily at a filthy scrap of prescription paper (chlorpromazine, 200mg, take one pill daily for 3 weeks) stuck in the air conditioner and quivering.
“Sorry?” I had to pretend I was rubbing my eye because it was twitching and it made me uncomfortable.
“I said I think you are an intelligent young woman. I’m sure you’ve got this under control.” A young resident doctor, he looked like Pierro in his nonsensically dichromatic scrubs. He was looking at me tiredly. The clock on the wall read 6:20am. The night shift was over in 10 minutes. “I mean, I see you are reading Truman Capote. Is it a good book?” He flipped the weathered paperback in his hand as if trying to measure its weight and put it back on my pillow. “Can you speak a little more about what happened?”
It’s 8am and we are in my Brooklyn apartment, toast and jam and butter and the blanket is wretchedly hot and the hair on her temples is wet and sticky because we forgot to close the window, again. I resent the term but M. uses it all the time—we are ‘best friends’ and she sleeps over most nights. I’m subletting a room with inordinately high ceilings for June-July, and I have three uber-bohemian roommates. Jesse, a fervid socialist activist goes to meetings and does 25 pull-ups every morning. There is a colossal red C on his door, it glows in the dark and terrifies the hell out of Kenji, the cat, and if you listen intently at night you can hear him whimper. Jesse’s twin sister Eva occupies the corner room with her boyfriend Jay; they have two imposing-looking rubber plants that they water in the bathtub every other week. Everybody is outstanding about washing their dishes on time; we drink cheap Trader Joes wine from teacups and leave sticky notes for each other on the fridge. “Fuck-this-weather-baking-campaign” was recently introduced at apartment D1, and there is apple pie left in the kitchen from yesterday’s storm.
It was a film-still perfect summer, and I never felt so close to anybody before. It was like I didn’t know where I ended and the other person began, you know? And yet, we were unable to figure it out then, no matter how trivial the codes. My cozy Ikea blanket—“a size of the Atlantic ocean,” she once said—enabled us to hide from each other for so irreparably long; it muffled all the deep-drawn sighs and made mornings irritating and confusing. We both dated women and men alike and were fully aware of each other’s sexual tendencies; notwithstanding, our respective bodies remained forbidden territory. It was a tacit agreement: not to devastate things between us. For whatever reason we both felt acutely that if we would acknowledge it, we would kill it.
I follow my ripped garland of memories, trying to fix that which has overtime grown loose—because this is all I have left. There was one day that was particularly important. There I am, in a short dress, leaning on a granite monument, covering my thighs with my hands—where do those bruises always come from?—waiting. I see myself several hours later—hand pulling fabric down by the neck, I can’t breathe, red trace on the collarbone. Why is she not picking up? Why is she not picking up? Why is she not picking up? There, head of security telling me to “please, keep calm, miss” and showing them photographs—her Facebook profile picture—“have you seen this girl?” There I am, reports, papers, looking under her bed—maybe there is a sign there, how absurd, now, I must really calm down. There I am, reading a simple message saying everything is ok but everything is not ok, it will never be ok now, how can it be ok. There I am, vomiting four consecutive times, by the toilet bowl. Thunder, thunder—in my head—my mind—lightning and thunder.
I never entirely understood why I reacted that way. The emotional paralysis that followed turned me so unobservant that I managed to earn a second-degree burn the next day after biking absently for several hours. Being stranded in my room (the burns looked so repulsive that I felt embarrassed to go out in the kitchen and Jesse always worked from home) only deeper augmented my general sense of hurt. I sustained myself with coffee and saltines and would fall asleep only after several bowls of weed, both arms supported by throw pillows to minimize the soreness.
After two days of my echoing silence, a decisive, hysterical knock on the door revealed M., wearing flip-flops and a long t-shirt. She had taken a taxi from Manhattan, mid-shower. She said I should please forgive her, because she didn’t know, and it was the first time I saw her really cry. “I even bought you wine and a card, Dasha, I forgot all of it, I just couldn’t wait.” I think, without recognizing it, I found her apology profoundly offensive even then, because, after it all, she was still prepared to keep up with the conspiracy: “a sister, a friend” I was, and I felt destroyed and diminished and maybe I was a self-involved idiot, and I was mistaken about her feelings and mine, and that was what I wrote in my notebook that evening when she was asleep—“your murderous vanity.” For the first time, she felt foreign in my bed, and, for the first time, I burnt the toast I brought in on a tray the following morning.
It turned out, we would both opt for vilifying the other party—I cringed at the contrast of how secure I once felt with her, and she disapproved of how vocal I was about my hesitations. And so, we didn’t speak for a month, with the exception of one disastrous coffee rendezvous at which I was indecently sulky and walked out blatantly just as she began sharing with me—something about a new hairstylist, she would refer me if I wanted to and I would get a 10% discount and oh, this guy she was seeing and then, Central Park, the trees. We would both admit later that it was one of the more surreal encounters we’d had.