Maybe it’s not a time, more a state of being. It’s not predictable, it’s not cyclical. It’s just a thing. A thing that happens.

Waking up, six AM, feeling like I’m the only person in the world. Everything’s so still, things don’t set in yet. Front desk, big smile, nine hours.

Welcome! Where y’all visiting from? Letting my accent flow free and wild, finally where it’s not out of place, light twang on the vowels and no distinction between a d and a t. Chipper, busy, keep moving keep moving keep moving bigbusyontaskmodelemployee with wide doe-eyes and a china doll’s mouth fashioned out of a dozen different bottle and brushes from the bathroom counter. Underneath, skin peeling from too many washings and pockmarked from hours spent with breath fogging the mirror when I should have been in bed. Picking, picking, picking because I just know something is there, almost got it but the damn thing won’t stop bleeding. My skin feels like clothes that don’t fit any more – too stained and holey to even give away. Too many dark scars, especially in the sloping triangle between hips and legs – god, what I wouldn’t give for those scars to be gone, to stop needing to make more.

Staff parking lot, into car perfumed with a happy little Tinkerbell air freshener to hide the lingering smell of my grandma’s dog who we just took to the pound to put down because he bit her so bad and even while I was dabbing hydrogen peroxide and unwinding gauze she kept making me promise to make sure he went to a good home when we took him away. My grandpa must be turning in his grave, christ, he loved that dog almost as much as he loved me. Not knowing how to cry when something reminds my mom of him, just put my arm around her and murmur “I know, I know” with dry eyes because I never know how to feel things when other people are feeling the same.

 

That time when I drive to the bait and tackle store after work shaking because god I hate driving, look for a new pocket knife because I left the old one at school thinking I was okay and no, god, no, I need one on me. Don’t eat for ten hours, days at a time, feel emptysafehappyclean then mama bakes a cake and I almost start sobbing because oh god what if I can’t what if I can’t eat it. Smile happy finish a big slice go upstairs and feel the lead-heavy weight of an abused woman’s rare expression of love sitting in my stomach refusing to break down into simpler sugars and then suddenly hungry again an hour later, eat more, watch my hips and toes and fingers round out into chubby soft curves with imagined weight that disappears in the next reflective surface.

 

Daddy stands outside with me watching a sunset from the back porch, says he wishes he hadn’t been so busy when I was a baby. Nudge his elbow, tell him I was a repetitive kid anyway, not like he missed much. Reassuring lilt to the voice. I can’t forgive him for what he does to my mother, can’t forgive myself for not forgiving, don’t know who to believe what’s happening I’m in the middle and I can’t decide if anything is real in this house. Pray for the day when my parents and grandma are somehow safe because that’s the only time I’ll be able to quell that horrible panicked feeling that comes with realizing that if something happened I might not be able to protect them. Wanting them to live forever, the only lasting connections I’ve had in this world, and feeling trapped by the knowledge that as long as they’re alive they can be hurt.

 

That time when I panic and delete my Reddit account delete everything because of one stupid troll, thinking someone will find me, find my family – not Him, not like my Rapist, because I know him, I can see him, could probably smell him or sense him – freeze up seated at white linen five-star table because what if someone put their blood in the food what if I get HIV what if there’s a dirty needle hidden in that chair what if what if what if I give it to someone oh god I’m filthy I’m filthy and what if I contaminate someone? That same thought every time charming boy from college climbs on top of me, wanting to hit my hands against his chest and tell him to get off of me get away I could hurt you without even meaning to or knowing I’m filthy I’m filthy.

 

 

Back to work in six hours.

It’s rare that I get this sort of insight into the sort of life I’m actually forcing myself to live.

 

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