ADD has nothing on oxytocin, adrenaline, and displacement. It’s hard to stay focused on another
Sheila Uhulay is crying. She is screaming, sobs ripping out of her throat with a force that makes her little body look like it’s being pummeled by an invisible and cruel playmate. She stops occasionally, eyes too crowded and wet to see her mother’s hand, her face puffed, lips straining in the wide oval of children’s violent grief. Sometimes, as if she’s run out of spirit, the wail dies out, and her face is frozen in this too-big emotion. Then the cry returns, halting and stuttering, until the sound begins to really flow again.
A few minutes ago Sheila was carrying the commemorative green Duckworld Bouncy Playland cup with matching crazy straw. She was tired of carrying it. She has attempted to get her mom to carry it 15 times, but Mom had been adamant, she was carrying her cup herself. She had carried it through two train transfers in busy and hot tunnels where all the huge grownups crowded down on her and only her Mom’s hand had kept her going the right direction. After all of that they had emerged onto a sunny and clear street. Sheila had walked over to a tall trash can and circled it looking for the hole. Eventually her mother pointed to the top and she pitched the cup in.
She turned away, took three steps, and panicked. A few moments later her mother was trying to reach down into the trash to retrieve the cup as she pleaded for her mom to somehow make it reappear. Her mother, unable to reach the cup, eventually took her hand and lead her away.
Now she is walking down the street, the crying calmed to the point of speech being possible. “Why did I do that?” she begs the wall, the ground, her mom. She rounds on her mom. “Why didn’t you stop me?” “I didn’t know what you were doing,” her mom replies, shrugging the shoulder attached to the hand that is holding Sheila’s hand. Sheila says it over and over again: “Why did I do that?”
Sheila is six, and now knows that she can betray herself.
Hetchman Noe is writing a real actual paper letter. He is telling the object of the letter that he has recently moved to Portland, OR and since he
Since looks wrong. Sinse? sincse? cinse? Definitely not cinse. He stares at the letters he’s written. s i n c e. A cognitive paralysis begins to move down and throughout his body, beginning at his tight cheeks and pinched brow and continuing until his hand aches from an over-tight and immobile grip on his pen.
He knows how to spell this word, so this is ridiculous. Was it right he first time? Since, is it since? This is a first grade word. He stares at it, all the words around it melting away into the gibberish of inattention. It still looks wrong. Cince. That looks possible, but somehow unlikely. Hetchman closes his eyes. He looks for it on the page of a memory. He has the page up, he can see a jumble of other words, and where it belongs, there a five letter blank spot. It’s not there. Somehow it’s escaped the page, fled his memory. At least now he knows it’s five letters. He grits his teeth. “I have known this word since first grade,” He says quietly, never opening his teeth, “I know how to spell since.”
He stares at the words he’s written. He picks up his phone, flips to the editor and punches in his first spelling. S I N C E. He spellchecks. Since is the correct spelling. Even his dumb phone knows that. He turns back to his letter. Since still looks wrong. It looks so wrong, as if those letters cannot possibly add up to a word in English, not any word, much less since. He’s beginning to panic a little, he’s telling himself this is stupid, of course that’s how since is spelled. But inside him is a feeling, a feeling of wrongness that can’t speak, but if it could it would be yelling “Fuck the dictionary, that is not how you spell that word. It’s not!” He’s upset, enough that he can feel it in his throat, a large knot tying inside his neck, his own muscles choking him. Why the hell, he starts to wonder, do you have muscles in your neck that can choke yourself? He puts the letter down and takes a break. He will come back to it when he knows again how to spell since.
Ananda Panek doesn’t like peanut butter, but likes Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the particular end note of salt they give the chocolate. Also, they don’t really taste of peanut butter. She doesn’t like them enough to sneak her roommate’s whole precious supply at 2am, while unable to sleep. She is often unable to sleep. She takes one out of an actual desire for the pleasure of eating it- and her roommate wouldn’t mind that, either. As the taste goes a bit stale in her mouth and she looks at them, she knows there isn’t much pleasure in eating the rest. When she does eat them, it is out of compulsion. The experience isn’t devoid of pleasure, but neither is it really worth much.
After disposing of the wrappers and promising – promising she will replace them tomorrow morning, perhaps even before her roommate discovers they are gone, she lays down on her bed, feeling guilty and weak and not at all good in her stomach. She holds the pillow a little too tightly to be likely to go to sleep. She switches out the last light. A few moments later something flashes in the dark room. She sits up, and it happens again. The room seems to brighten in a grey, fuzzy way, but she can’t see anything much more distinctly than before. She feels warmer. More flashes. This time, she recognizes them.
“No no no no no please no,” she whispers quietly, throat tight, tears welling up. “Oh god,” she says, “The chocolate. Oh no, why did I do that?” She gets back up and without turning on the light and walks quietly to the kitchen, Trying not to pay attention to the continuing flashes. She returns with a bowl and puts it beside her bed. She lays down again, reaches out to touch the rim of the bowl, and confident that she can reach it without trouble, closes her eyes and waits for the pain that will slowly sever her head from her body. It begins from the left.