by Didi Wood
Some nights I wake up and I don't know where I am. A paper that isn't mine is flung against my door. I don't know whose it is. When I hear it, I open the door, pick it up, and throw it towards the other apartments. The Wall Street Journal. There's a notice rubberbanded to it saying that its theft is punishable by federal law and could incur a fine of up to $500. I'm afraid that some night I'll pick it up -- just to cast it away, so it isn't found on my doorstep -- and suddenly searchlights will blaze and a bullhorn voice will order me to freeze, drop the paper, put my hands above my head. I'll be wearing my old soft flowered robe and satin ballerina slippers, and no makeup. And when I say that I would never read The Wall Street Journal, that I'm a musician, they will cram me into a police car and take me down to the station and lock me up forever.
Some nights I go through my address book, call people I know and leave messages on their answering machines. If someone answers I hang up. I hate when people pick up the phone after I have identified myself and started to speak; then I have to talk to them, and I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't want to talk. I want someone to listen.
I stand up too fast and bang my head on the cabinet door, hard. Days later my skull still vibrates with the shock of impact; I wonder if people around me can hear it buzzing. I have to brush my hair very, very slowly. I have never hit my head so hard. I call him to find out what are the things you should look for when you hit your head that hard, to make sure it isn't broken or concussed. He says, well, when you start calling people to find out what signs to look for, then you should worry. I could die, I tell him, I could lie down and go to sleep and never wake up from banging my head this hard. After I hang up I catch myself wishing I would die from this head injury. I am afraid to go to sleep.
I think about starving myself to death. I don't like food that much, anyway. I wear clothes that are too big for me -- jeans with holes in the knees, a sweatshirt frayed at the neck. I muss my hair. I rub dark eyeshadow in the hollows beneath my eyes, but it sparkles in the light so I wash it off. I put on Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. I cry. My face gets red and blotchy, but no one is there to see. Everything makes me cry: soft-leaded pencils and paring potatoes and Kandinsky and cars driving by. In front of the mirror, backlit by candles, I practice crying so that if someone ever is there I will be beautiful and poignant, and not this bedraggled miserable thing no one will ever want.
He brought over the rest of my things today. It has been seven weeks, and he's tired of asking me to come for them. Books, shoes, ice cream maker. Long dresses shrouded in plastic: prom dress, black formal (he ripped it undressing me after the concert, I can put two fingers through the tear), two pink bridesmaid dresses. Long dresses with layers of netting underneath, to make the skirts stand out, swish and sway. I thumb through them impatiently, shopping through my past and not finding anything I want.
It's raining now. Someone has turned on the radio. It must have been me: no one else is here. I fumble with the window, smear dust on the glass, on my cheeks. I can't open it. I'm trapped in here, alone; no one's looking for me, no one's waiting. I don't even have a bed. The wood frame splinters, paint chips fly as I heave the window up, up. Rain spatters my glasses. When I hear a Viennese waltz I want to go groping on the wet pavement for what I have lost. Something out there has to be mine.
I'm scared, I say. And I am. I am. But you're also scared of mushrooms, he would remind me. He thinks that's funny. He's not here to say anything now.
There are so many long moments between now and what I want.
All rights reserved.
Previously published in Northwest Review (1995) under my maiden name, Didi Shuff.