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Patterns of a Troubled Mind

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Count the little holes in the acoustic tiles until the ceiling fades away. Step on a crack and break your mother’s back. Wash your hands until the skin is angry and raw and scrub your arms while you’re at it.

Count your steps to the front door and back to your room where you’ll open the window to blow the smoke outside and your mother won’t know because she buys you the Nag Champa incense that she still thinks you like so much. Maybe you do. You can’t remember really liking anything.

Count the orange Tic-Tacs while you place them in lines. Two four, two four, two four. Ration them out. Write in your journal in tiny swirls that wind around in concentric circles so they’ll have to keep turning the book if they want to read it. But you know no one will read it unless your mother is snooping through your stuff again. Write that she’s a bitch and leave it for her to read, navigating the circle and squinting through her glasses. Through her tears.

Write something nice about her on the next page because you feel bad about that. Something that will make her laugh and think that maybe you’re OK after all. Something that will let her stop hovering. Stop snooping. Leave you the fuck alone.

Count the pills you’ve hidden to see if there might be enough. Line them up. Blue pink, blue pink, blue pink. Paint red spirals on your ceiling and write “keep your head above the water” even though you know that you probably won’t. It’s getting harder to keep breathing and you are really tired of the struggle.

Breathe in, breathe out keeping your heart going at its own rhythmic pattern, even though it’s not a part of you anymore. Count the squares in your floor tile — black white, black white, black white. Then practice your flute for five hours straight because you can’t get it right. You can never get anything right. Stop playing the flute because it’s pointless and no longer gives you pleasure.

Listen to your CD of the Gregorian Chants. Make it play over and over on a continuous loop. Let it take you away from this, at least for a time. Rest. Close your eyes against the pattern of the tile and the spirals on the ceiling. Quiet for a moment the existential crisis.

Count the thin scars on your thighs — two four, two four, two four until you ran out of skin. Turn on the tiny blue lights over your bed that you still think are beautiful in the almost total absence of beauty. Look for constellations there. Find Estella. Find Nova.Watch the smoke of the incense rise to the ceiling. Keep your head above the water.

Originally published in Wards Literary Journal Vol 4.1 Fall, 2019

Photo by . liane . on Unsplash

Originally published: March 25, 2021
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