wanderlust

On Being Medicated

Pills

Previously published on Thought Catalog

You function “like a normal person.” You take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and make it out the door in less than an hour. It used to take you the whole morning. And two to three cups of tea. And a handful of songs that glistened on your ears. If you made it out at all. You used to lose time looking out the window because everything was beautiful, and everything in every season had a hazy glow attached to it. In the summer you’d go out to see what the plants looked like after the heavy sky left drops of rain on the leaves. In the winter the fresh snow would cover everything and fill your mind with soft corners.

But now, none of that. There are only dirty sidewalks and messy gardens and more fucking snow. The world is a place you are forced walk across to get to work/school/home. At work you answer emails and make phone calls and order supplies and tie up loose ends and find solutions to problems. Under fluorescent lights you go to meetings and cross things off your to-do list. Your hair is combed, your tights don’t have runs in them, and your boss praises you. You smile because you have forgotten that this is not you.

No, the You you’ve known all your life would not feel good about completing a purchase order or remembering which folder a document is in. The You before the medication had dreams about doing more than this. It was always Which city am I going to next? And now it’s When is the microwave in the breakroom free? During the day this doesn’t seem like a big deal because you are focused and productive. You see clear goals and paths carved out to get you there. You are medicated, and everything is linear.

But when have you ever been a fan of straight lines? At night you remember how you used to love the twisted ones best. How much time did you spend just wandering, even if it meant not getting where you were supposed to go? You would always find something better, or at the very least you’d see/touch/taste/feel something amazing on the way there. The world was not something you were forced to be in; you wanted to be in it, badly, and wanted it in you. You wanted to put your hands on it and breathe it in. What was that like, again?

It’s too hard to remember because every morning you wake up and swallow a blue capsule that pushes all that out of sight. It gives you tunnel vision, and during the half hour it takes to kick in you can feel the narrowing like waves crashing over you. Soon this part will be over, though. Soon you won’t be reaching out to grab the hand of the person you used to be while the tide pulls her under. You’ll forget her and you’ll forget the way the sun hit the streets just right this morning and how the breeze brushed past you whispering “Follow” as it disappeared around the corner. You’ll be fine, and you won’t dream.

It’s ok because this is what the doctor says is “fine.” This is what your parents and teachers and bosses say is “fine.” But you know this is not fine because fine is having space for your thoughts to breathe. It is thanking the stars or the lord or the Smiths that you are not like the others. It is what you were before you were medicated. It can be yours again, and you know it, and each day it’s harder and harder to hold your breath and go underwater. One day you won’t do it. You’ll just stop, and you’ll live again. You’ll stop, and you’ll see and feel and be in love with the world again. Any minute now.

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This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 16 (or The End)

Part 16: Time Zones

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I couldn’t ignore it if I tried—the lightness of unfettered freedom settling in my soul as I step off the train and onto the pavement. A new city. The air is warm and sweet and all the colors are faded like they’ve been left out in the sun too long.

I don’t recognize anyone except those I’d been in the same train car with for more than twenty-four hours now, and even so I make sure to walk a different direction than they do once we leave the station. I wheel my bike to the curb and adjust the backpack on my shoulders as I look down the road in both directions, deciding which one to take. The roads are bigger here, much bigger, but somehow there’s less space on them and they turn up at the corners like they’re sneering at me, like they’re telling me they’ll swallow me whole if I attempt to ride them.

Good. The sun is on its way to the other side of the world and shadows from thin, twisting palm trees cross my face. I think my sister lives somewhere near here. I put on my sunglasses and walk across the street to a little restaurant with outdoor seating. It says it has coffee for one dollar and that’s all the change I have in my pocket and I want to watch the sun set and to feel the gold.

The people here look happy. I’m thinking this as I put my feet up on the plastic chair across from the one I’ve chosen. The people here are pretty and they have families and cars and they are happy. Why wouldn’t they be? They have California in their skin.

My coffee gets to me via a waiter with dark eyes. His t-shirt is very white and his skin very tan and I thank him for the coffee. I will empty out my backpack to find some more quarters to leave him a tip when I’m finished. I have to.

The coffee is just right: a little burnt, very hot, with substance. And my tongue adores it. A soft breeze brushes past my skin like warm breath before a kiss and I get goosebumps for no reason. It’s not cold but I’m shivering. It’s all perfect but I’m crying. I’m understanding everything in the last folds of light on a coastal evening.

But soon I’m moving, again. Leaving, again. Putting tires to pavement.

And this is where I’m invincible. This is where I can fly. The wind doesn’t catch or snag my body but streams past it in clean lines. Nothing holds me back: not the holes in the road or the dark of the tunnel or the vehicles that think they can do better than this. Watch me take your lead from you. Watch me till I’m out of sight. My lungs feel like they might explode from the air pumping in, and my legs are burning deliciously from the effort. I’m intoxicated from being alive.

And nothing happens! You’d think one day I’ll get what I deserve for being stupid and reckless and overconfident, but I don’t. I’m switching lanes and flying forward at speeds I shouldn’t know, and I have no idea if this is heaven or hell or reality because most days life is one or the other anyway. And they all thought they needed something after this.

This is Fiction I Swear: Part 11

Part 11: The Fox

Houses in the Hills

My sister’s package came in the mail today. She sent me this bronze fox figurine that stands about half as tall as the mufg of coffee I set it next to. I don’t know where she got it or how much she spent or anything but it’s so perfect it makes me sad, standing there on all petite fours looking at me with its little fox eyes.

When we were kids staying at our uncle’s place in the country we saw a fox in the woods and that’s the first time I decided I loved them. The fox wasn’t red like in movies. It was more brownish and was so busy digging a hole in the dirt and dry leaves that it didn’t see us standing there watching it. When it finally looked up it stared at me for a full thirty seconds before turning abruptly and scampering into the woods.

But this one can’t go anywhere. It’ll look at me forever from whatever shelf or table I put it on. I pick it up and turn it over in my hands. It’s heavy. It’s solid. It’s meant for staying. How different it seems from human beings! Always in motion, always in the process of leaving somewhere and arriving somewhere else, and no one ever puts their feet down on the ground somewhere and says I’ll think I’ll stay, I think I’ll be here tomorrow.

But people are not things and we must move or our bones will fuse with the walls of a place and we’ll be stuck forever, looking more and more like the place each day till they start building bricks around us and over us and sealing us in. The image of such a fate takes shape in my mind and I start making arrangements. I know how I’ll get out of this, all of it: I’ll go to California. Like so many before me I’ll head to a coast and brush the sand off my feet and find the fresh start I’m looking for.

I’ll take Graham with me. He’s still scared of this shooting nonsense so he’ll go, right? We’ll stay together in a cheap room until we can find jobs and get a real place. Somewhere where I can smell the brine in the sea and where I can keep the windows open all the time and walk around in bare feet. Yes, that’s what we’ll do. And Graham will be there by my side looking fresh and we’ll wake up each morning and drink coffee together until the cool haze evaporates and the sun comes out to tell us it’s time to start the day’s work.

And I won’t be scared of the sun anymore. I won’t be scared of anything. I’ll forget about my landlord with his truck and the alley where a man lay in his own blood and the girl with the medium-length hair, and I won’t miss you anymore. The sun will set late and rise early and we’ll be its children, warm and happy and we won’t tread water every day, we’ll float.

I’ve got to tell Graham about this. I rush out of my apartment and the gate shuts behind me louder than I intended and I’ll tell my neighbors I’m sorry if I see them later. The walk to his apartment isn’t long and I realize when I get there I forgot my phone to call him so I just knock several times on the door. Twenty seconds. I bounce up and down a few times to keep warm in the crisp air. Where is he? At work? What day is it? I knock a few more times and still nothing and now I’m concerned because my nerves are so excited and I’ve no outlet for them if he doesn’t answer and I can’t tell him my plan right away.

I look down the sidewalk and see that old guy who always stands outside of bars in our neighborhood and talks about weird Japanese stuff to all the smokers. He’s ambling my way and I just cannot talk to him right now or I’ll go crazy or my organs will rupture or something. I turn and duck into the nearest restaurant for shelter. It’s a little Mexican place where they always have hot peppers and spicy pickled carrots on the table. The waitress asks if it’s just me and I tell her yes and order a horchata and some tacos. I can see the sidewalk clearly from my booth by the window so I’ll be able to tell if Graham gets home.

Suddenly I notice the song playing on the speakers and my throat closes up. It’s a pop song, top 40, and the DJ’s played it all the time last summer. Why is it only the pop songs that make me want to cry? Only the stupid ones I hear on the radio a million times. They dig in somehow, grind their heels into my sternum and twist and twist until I’m gasping for breath.

It’s the same thing you did to me, did you know? The very same thing! You were always so innocent, always said it was me who wasn’t ready, that it was me who fucked things up and played games, but friend: I see more clearly now and you are not faultless. You are co-conspirator, co-contributor, co-author. We did this together. See what we’ve made? Isn’t it grand? Isn’t it beautiful and wonderful and perfect as it stands crumbling right before our very eyes?