A BELL RINGS

 

The wind doesn’t speak but it doesn’t have to.

Its gust tells you all you need to know.

You’re in a forest.

The forest.

The world is you.

You could raise the earth as easy you lift your finger.

You could shift a storm by breathing.

The energy is electric.

It rattles your brain, in-between your eyes, shredding through your nerves like the ringing of a bell. Immediate & reverberating.

It fills you. Not with life. You’re not even sure you are alive.

It’s a power, to be sure, but not the power to create.

The power to absorb. The power to harness. The power to destroy.

The power of death.

Light the candle.

Become the reaper.

 

NOT MY TYPE

 

Before I knew to simply judge someone based on how they treated me, I thought you could read people. I thought people were a type, or an energy, or you could just predict how they were in general. I would walk the mall & think that every person I saw I was seeing so much clearer than they could even see themselves… & in a way I was, but we’ll get to that. Suffice to say, I wasn’t seeing them as clearly as I thought I was. I was seeing what was there, sure, but I was seeing it because I was looking for it. You can find any quality in a person if you look for it long enough & I mean any quality. Once I learned to really read people, really read people, & to judge them in a way no average human can, I realized how wrong I had been about so many things. That’s the scary part about being a human being, isn’t it? You have to trust your instincts & guesses as fact. Animals just go with their instinct, they don’t trust them — there’s no process by which they choose to move in one direction or another, thus trusting, there’s just reflex, action. Think about how many relationships have been destroyed because someone did or didn’t trust an instinct they knew they had no way of confirming — life is the worst... says the girl who can’t die. Ugh, I think my privilege is showing again.

Look at that, I’ve rambled so much I’m back home, & already in bed…

 

SUCKING FACE

 

"Hi Bricks."

"Hey babe, how’re you feeling? I heard from—"

"It’s a lie. Whatever you heard, Dizzy doesn’t know what she’s talking about."

"Whoa, I’m sorry babe, I just thought you were sick & wanted to check on you. Chill, okay?"

"Yeah, okay, I gotta go, Meg is waiting for me."

"Hey Meg! …see, she’s fine, she’s not even paying attention, she’s too busy sucking face with Steve Balsam."

Meg had a knack for ditching me at the very worst times. She also had a knack for sucking face with Steve Balsam. You can’t necessarily blame her either, he was bread-crumbing the hell out of her back then, only we just didn’t have a term for that at the time. We just said you were a jerk.

"Okay, fine, look, I’m sorry, I’m just really tired of being talked about because this freak show town is freaking me out, alright? I’m not the weird one, this place is, & honestly, I felt totally normal four years ago before I moved here. Ever since then though it’s just gotten worse & worse. You remember my birthday, don’t you? That pain was so serious that I thought it would actually tear my skull open & everyone got mad at me when it was my birthday that was ruined!"

"Listen babe, I get it. Some people are jerks but I do remember your party this year & if you do too, you’ll remember it was me who stayed all night, even when everyone left early. So yeah, crap on Dizzy Dalton all you want, just leave me out of it. I was just worried about my girlfriend."

"Bricks, wait, that's not what I meant! I—I… damnit…"

He lumbered away without turning back. ‘Lumbered’ is quite fitting too as his frame dwarfed mine, I mean, there’s a reason everyone called him ‘Bricks.’ His name was Bradley & I never appreciated him enough... ever…

 

FORGET ABOUT ME

 

Oh, that’s right! Back to the John Hughes movies!

I’m not sure what school he went to but there were a lot more than five people in detention with me that day. Meg wasn’t even in detention, she just wanted an excuse to gossip with me some more. It was basically a glorified study hall because the room was full & we were all just talking or working on something. Whether or not it was school-work is a different story all-together. I think this fascination with High School being something it’s not is really… well, fascinating. What is it about this time period that everyone feels the need to exaggerate or idealize? Just telling it like it was will be messed up enough, trust me.

Maybe that’s what everyone’s afraid of though, telling the truth. I know I was. I certainly hadn’t told Meg the whole story about my sleepless nights lately. I haven’t even told you yet & you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t expect some weirdness. Old habits die hard, I suppose… at least they die though...

"Psst! Hey Jane, check it out."

The way Meg gestured her head toward the door of the classroom & I saw Bricks standing there waiting for me is almost slow motion now. He must’ve heard about my "almost passing out" from Dizzy’s stupid friends & came to check on me. He’s sweet but he should know me better than that. I really hope you’re not getting this idea I’m some idiot who complains about everything but has this really great life because, ugh, I’m totally not. I know I keep having to say that, I just... don’t know how else to explain it. I felt everything — sights & sounds & smells, words & phrases, reactions & expressions, they were all energies that I absorbed from every person at all times… or at least that’s what it felt like. So sometimes even the best people & the best situations wouldn’t be good for me. ‘It’s not you, it’s me…’ kinda thing... & that may the first time that’s been said where it’s not a complete excuse.

 

CHILL PILL

 

I have a boyfriend but I honestly couldn’t care less.

I thought it might make life easier for me so when Bricks first asked me out I said yes right away. I’m not really into to him like that though. Hell, I’m more attracted to his sister. He’s just kind of my shield? That makes me sound like a jerk. I don’t not like him, I just don’t like him like that. He’s a good person & fiercely loyal, just not the sharpest knife in the block, & definitely not my type. 

Meg certainly did her part to convince me too. Meg is great, I love her, she’s been my best friend since we started middle school together, but we’re just very different. 

"Well, what is it then? Because you’ve been a little off the past few days & I heard from Dizzy Dalton that you nearly passed out in Algebra today—"

"Not even! …I just startled myself because I wasn’t paying attention & Garibaldi caught me, that’s all. Not everything I do is meant to be analyzed by Dizzy Dalton. Like she’s so righteous…"

"I mean, she is dating the cutest kid in school & her parents make like, a bajillion dollars & let her do whatever she wants &—"

"I get it, Meg, I get it, I guess I just don’t care, ya know? All she has that I want is a brain that doesn’t hate her…"

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

"I don’t know, it’s just that lately I can barely think straight? Or like, I’m thinking too straight? Everything is so heightened, it’s like I could hear a fly landing on my shoulder or something, but not hear you screaming in the other ear… it’s weird, Meg—"

"So you are losing it, then?"

"Take a chill pill. I didn’t say that. I’m just saying the past couple of days have been extra weird for me & I’m not sure if it’s just natural progression or if I’m just not getting any sleep…"

"Maybe invite Bricks over & have some—"

"Meg, I’m being serious here, I’ve had some really weird dreams lately & I think I just need to pass out for once & not wake up dripping sweat."

"Was that a dream in Algebra? When you almost passed out?"

"I didn’t almost pass out! …but yeah, it was… only I wasn’t asleep…"

I almost forgot how Meg puts another piece of gum in her mouth whenever she gets nervous. I say another because she was always chewing at least one. If only she knew what was going on she might’ve finished the pack right there. If only I had known too…

 

BARF ME OUT

 

"Jane! Psst! Jane… Jane, answer me!”

"Oh, ha, yeah, sorry Meg, just a little distracted lately”

“You don’t look so hot. Why are you sweating? It’s like negative thirty in here, I could cut glass…"

“Weird dreams."

"Daydreams… let me guess, Bricks is being a jerk again? We all couldn’t see him flirting with Crystal right in front of you, like barf me out, I would have decked him for you if you let me!"

"Meg, it’s fine, it’s not that, I’ve just, been a little sick I think, that’s all…"

"Oh say no more, I’ve got Midol in my purse if you need it."

"No, it’s not— …never-mind."

"Did you see Burchfield's notebook? What a loser, I mean sure, Rob Lowe is so choice but desperate much?"

"Ha, yeah..."

"Oh, also, Lacie Stevens is having a party this Saturday when her parents are out of town & we actually got invited!"

"Seriously? How? She never even talks to us."

"Steve & Bricks got invited & they're taking us!"

Whatever you’ve learned about high school from John Hughe’s movies isn't so much wrong, but rather a simultaneous dilution & exaggeration of the reality. Not that I have to tell you that if you actually experienced it yourself. While undoubtedly great films, they are so wildly reductionist it pains me. I am by no means popular, nor am I an outcast. Sure I’ve smoked pot, but I’m far from a stoner. I don’t wear Jordache & I’m not on the cheer squad, but I’m also not asking out Robert Smith anytime soon either, ya know? You don’t have to be just goth or prep, a nerd or a cool kid, I mean, this isn’t Sixteen Candles.

 

DISINTEGRATION

 

You see everything & nothing.

The world at once presses in & moves away. Everything is out of focus. Life, set in a state of calibration. The lens is blurred but the subject is still visible. Still understood.

Your body disintegrates.

You are thought & consciousness — cortex alone, hovering. Held in the ocean of your energy — finally at peace — finally calm. There is nothing else but you.

Completely still, a whisper comes from behind you, so close you can feel it’s breath.

‘Just let me drown.’

Thunder, in the distance, is your only reply.

‘Let me drown.’

The trees don't move & neither do you.

Answer me.

"Jane! Psst! Jane, answer me!”

 

PRETTY BRAVE

 

That look on my face is me wondering what the hell I’m going to do.

In every panicked situation I go into a singular mode of locating the path that leads to the least amount of humiliation &, or pain. When you start hearing voices in your head & you’re cognitive enough to know that what you’re hearing isn’t coming from your own brain, that’s what the professionals would call a "break." Oh there, you see that furrow in-between my eyebrows there, that’s the moment. That’s the moment I thought, "Well, what the hell? Maybe I can just answer this… thing… in my head" ...& yes, my shoulders relaxing & me leaning back is the moment I said, "screw this… "

"Um, hello… strange voice in my head… what exactly can you end?"

Your suffering.

"Suffering? I mean, sure, life is a constant series of disappointments & reasons to be paranoid… but suffering? Are you sure you called the right brain? You might actually be looking for Meredith Butterfield, she’s a few desks over crying on her Rob Lowe notebook."

You have to admit, for some reason, in the face of what should’ve scared the pants off me — I was pretty brave. I mean, come on, I’m talking to a disembodied voice in my head claiming to have the power to end suffering so... clearly I’m bad ass, right? If only I knew how to shut my mouth… fortunately for you listening to this story, I did not.

The next response came as a thunderous, continuous reverberation in my being — & I don’t say in my head or in my bones or in my soul, I can only say in my being because it was everywhere. Everywhere in a way like your body in the vast openness of everything to ever exist, & that to say it was in you would be the height of arrogance.

It spoke slowly & clearly & said:

I know your suffering. I can end it. Follow me. Tonight.

It was like the world fuzzed out for a second, like the static on the TV, & I felt all the matter in my body warp & re-configure back together in an electric swirl, but apparently I was the only one who felt this & I re-smashed my knee into the bottom of my desk & yelled out my favorite expletive, on reflex of course.

"Jane! The office. Now."

The Principal was literally the very last of my worries.

 

CRASH INTO ME

 

I know I shouldn't blatantly be sleeping in class, let alone giving my teacher attitude but it's not for lack of trying. I try very hard actually, it's just nothing works. If I know something already or if I'm not interested, I can't fein like I am. I can only pretend if I care, which doesn't usually help because if I care then I normally don't have to pretend. It's just a hard switch to find in the darkness of my mind. I show you these parts of my life not to further display how cranky I can be — please, don't hate me yet! — But this was to show you just how lost I was that day. How someone can feel so solid & rooted to who they are & what they are, but still be wrong. Still be on the cusp of a revolution — & the first shot was about to be fired in mine.

I can end it.

Bodiless & effervescent, this voice came flooding through my ears like an ocean wave crashes on the shores; effortless & calming & powerful. It managed to be both soothing & uproarious, causing me to jolt suddenly at my desk & slam my knee into the corner.

"Is there a problem, Penelope Jane?"

"Just Jane! & no, I’m okay, I just… thought I heard something"

"So as I was saying, what can we discern now that we know X is equal to…"

This is the kind of thing my Mom was worried about before. All the voices in my head are mine, I know that. I’m not crazy. I’ve been this way my whole life. Hashing out conversations in my head before they happen. Realizing that I’m preparing for a future that is totally unpredictable & sometimes, yes, I have arguments with the voices, my own voices. But it doesn’t normally sound like that did. It doesn’t normally sound like anything... you know what I mean, like when you think things, even in different perspectives, it’s not sound, it’s thought. This wasn’t thought. This was heard. It just seems like only I heard it.

I can end it.

Maybe Mom was right all along, I should’ve just taken my stupid pills. Maybe all of this could’ve been avoided. Somehow, I still doubt it.

 

CLASSHOLE

 

"Jane! If you don't unlock this door right now, we're going to break it in! Can you hear us? It's me, Ms. Fry! Are you decent? I'm coming in there!"

"I—I'm here! I'm here! I'll be right out, I'm sorry, I feel sick, I'll be right out!"

Don't feel too bad for me. No one else is going to. It's 1988 & a lot will have to change before what's happening—or rather, what I stop from happening—makes sense. In their defense, an earthquake had evacuated the building & when they were came back in to do a sweep, found me standing over the sink in chem lab, the door locked, refusing to respond. They saw me through the glass opening in the door & called out but I wouldn't move; I wouldn't even flinch. I was somewhere… feeling something… so it was real, I'm just not sure what kind of real it was, or what it was at all, really. I know more now but I can't say I'll ever know everything about what it is, but we'll get there, in time. I'm starting at the very beginning for a reason; the beginning of my memory, anyway. 

Memory, in so of itself, is very unreliable though. Much of what you'll get from me is conjecture. A connecting of the dots, if you will, of an image I'm unsure of. I haven't been given the subject or even the theme, but rather told, "This is an image, go ahead & construct it again." The hippocampus is a flighty temptress indeed. The stories I tell you now are from so long ago, I can't help but feel like I'm trying to form smoke with my hands into some concrete visage. I have to try though. It's too important not to share this. It may be happening to you too. In fact, if you're hearing this, it likely is happening to you right now. That's why speaking it aloud is so crucial.

The stories must be told.

"So tell me, Jane."

"I just did. X is equal to 24."

"Yes, but I asked what was wrong with how you answered this question?"

"Nothing. X is equal to 24"

"Yes, I know, but you didn't show your work."

"Why do I need to show you how I did it if the answer is right? That doesn't make any sense."

"Do I need to send another note home?"

"You divide 96 by 4 to isolate the x, okay? X is equal to 24."

"Watch your attitude, young lady. Don't get smart with me."

"I am smart…"

"What was that?"

"Nothing."

 

UNLOCK IT

 

The sink is holding you.

Porcelain expands to fit every crevice of your clenched fists, stuffing full in your fingers to exert the pressure you cannot. The translucent ceramic cements you there. 

Held & whole.

The tiles stretch to fill the floor & catch you. You have no shin, no knee, no thigh, no peg or prop to lift you.

You're falling without moving.

The world holds you.

Nothing can hold you.

The mirror is shaking. You can't lift your head to watch it. You can't move to know for sure but you notice it in a way that requires no confirmation.

The rattling tears through your bones like lightning.

There's no feeling, no sensation; only through the tethers to your soul.

Rooted in the nape of your neck & escaping into nothingness.

A tree so solid it's invisible.

It's your forest. The forest.

The vines extend through everything. All is built on the soil you're standing on; standing within.

Lifting your neck is like shaking off years of ice & snow.

A relic awakens in you.

Lift your head & unlock it.

Unlock it.

 

CLICHÉ MOM

 

"Have you been taking your medicine?"
"We've been over this, Mom. You already know I'm not."

"Then why am I still paying for it? & your doctor visits!"

"Search me."

"You know, I get it. No, don't roll your eyes, I'm certainly not being the cliché mom who says they remember exactly what it was like to be your age because honestly, I don't. The world is so different today too, hell, a celebrity is President so I won't go there, but I remember enough to know it's not easy. I'm not trying to make it harder on you either but this. Talking to you—"

"How about listening to me?"

"I try to but you have to admit, it's hard to understand why you don't want to take the only thing that can help you."

"Because they don't help me, they numb me. There's a difference."

"If someone were screaming in your ears & you wanted me to make it stop, I'd cover your ears. I'd suppress them. I couldn't stop the screaming. I couldn't take away the noise, so I can only compress your ability to feel it. Isn't that what the medicine is doing?"

"If you say so.""

"I'm asking you! Tell me. Please."

"We're almost at school, I'm going to be late."

"This conversation isn't over, young lady."
"I didn't think it was! I'm just late for class, okay?"

"I love you!"

  "Love you too."

I promise you I'm not always this big a jerk. I just have been having the weirdest, most realistic dreams for the past week; to the point where it doesn't feel like I've slept at all since they began. I don't have time to explain that to my mother though because as you can see, she's already worried my head's going to pop off any second. Her concern is not entirely misplaced but the pressure it causes only adds to the weight I put on myself already. I can't think about that now though because I need to focus. It's a lot of hard work to pretend you're normal. 

I think we all can attest to that in some way or another.

 

SUBURBIA LITE

 

"Did you forget to set your alarm again?"

"No, Mom, I just don't want to go. Can't I go to work with you again? I don't make any noise & I honestly probably learn more there than I do at school."

"Well, you'll want to go when you pay taxes, but no, honey, you can’t come to work with me. You've already missed enough school this year & I can't be going in front of the school board every semester or you'll never graduate."
"Why, exactly, would that be a bad thing? You didn't go to college either & you're rich."

"I've also been very fortunate. I don't want you to rely on luck, I want you to earn it outright. The world is a lot less forgiving now than it was even ten years ago."

"Well, I told you voting was stupid, but you didn't listen to me."

"You're a child, Jane, like I said, just wait until it’s your money."

"I know more than you do though…"

"What was that?"
"Nothing! Ugh! Can we just go already then? I want to get this over with."

"Let me grab my purse, I'll meet you in the car."

I don't slam doors often so I apologize that you’re meeting me in a moment where I am not at my best. Since we're outside already though, I can't give you a proper tour of the house like I should have but I'll do that later. We have time. You're not going anywhere.

Take a look at this neighborhood though. You might recognize it as every affluent suburb you've ever seen where condo towers & mansions run rampant. Maybe you've never seen one though so let's asses together. Here you'll see my mother's luxury sedan, complete with state of the art flood lights, memory seats, & even a car phone. So cool. You can't see me right now but I'm rolling my eyes. We're the last house before the cul-de-sac where, as you can see, every house looks the same. Slight tweaks in the shape of each frame but they're all bland, all familiar. Why yes, we do have the same car as two other houses on the block, how wonderful of you to notice! Sorry, I'm being an asshole & I shouldn't be. I know that I am very privileged to have all that I need; the security of my family & the community, but sometimes I don't feel very grateful. I know I should be & I know that I am but I don't feel like it’s enough. Why does everything suck to someone?

 

MORNING RITUAL

 

Wake up.

"Jane, wake up! Don't make me come upstairs again or you're in trouble. The bus won't wait for you & neither can I!"

"I'm up, Mom, I'm up!"

As you can see, I am not up. I hate waking up & not for the reasons you might think; at least not for the reasons most people do. I don't care to sleep longer. I don't have dreams. There's nothing enticing to me about being in pajamas. I don't want to wake up because it's just… too loud. There's too much noise, everywhere. 

Before you get excited, I'm not psychic, I can't hear voices, & no special powers are trying to reveal themselves. It just feels like noise. Don't worry, it'll make sense, we have time. Be quick now though or you'll miss me finally lumbering down the stairs.

There I go.

I guess this is where I would describe myself, huh? My hair or my eyes, my skin tone and my body type — any details to help you better get to know me. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that's just not going to happen. To be fair, I couldn't if I tried. I can't be objective with myself long enough to give you an accurate description. I would either present some monstrous, self-deprecating depiction or — inversely — craft a wildly generous image of what is an otherwise hideous appearance... wait, I still did it, didn't I? Oh well. "Why can't you just tell me your attributes plainly?" you might wonder to yourself, to which I would reply, "what does it matter?" Would you relate to me more if I had your hair color? Or your skin tone? If the answer is yes, for whatever reason, then that's how you should picture me. This story will only make a difference if you don’t just understand, but empathize; if you put yourself firmly in my skin — in my soul.

 

DIRT & BLOOD

 

The trees don't move & neither do you.

The clouds hover patiently, scattered & dark. Auburn leaves lay still against the sandalwood. It is damp.

My coffin rests. 

The fog cascades over the hills, gliding silently & ceaselessly. The grass is wet with dew. You hear nothing. There are no scampering feet of a woodland creature, no footsteps, no life. The wind waits. The earth is still. 

The world is you. 

You're in a forest. The forest. You look down at your feet. They're covered in dirt & blood & debris & all you've carried here with you. The grass & pebbles twist in your toes. You press them firmly against the soil. 

You smile. 

You close your eyes & take a long, slow breath. You smell it all around you, unsure of what it is. You exhale & your shoulders roll forward, back down. Your chest settles. 

You have arrived. 

Where to is a mystery but from where, even more so. Nothing is familiar, but everything is known. This is there & that is here. Everywhere is anywhere. 

The trees don't move & neither do you. 

My coffin rests.