I’m the roommate that she didn’t get, the girlfriend you never met. I’m the statistic in your Psych 101. The life I was supposed to have is sediment at the bottom of a poorly stored red wine. You are in perpetual motion reaching milestones, making your dreams come true. I’m in suspended animation. Phantoms of the worst me eke out to make a spectacle, but these are just shadows, haunting the girl floating in stasis. I cannot make a real move, a solid contact. I am impeded by the misconstrued silence of my former self. I am trapped. A symphony of screams echo in my head, whether I am manic or suicidal or homicidal. My suspended animation makes my hell my own. To you, I am neutralized. But it is “Kadir beneath Mo Moteh,” – failure to understand. I open my eyes. You meet my gaze. “Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel.”- successful first contact between two alien cultures. Star Trek-TNG is playing softly on the television. I can see it from the kitchen, and I know what they are saying I’ve seen it so many times before.
You came in with Kim. I was making cucumber sandwiches. I had the counter covered with 52 cucumbers. It was in honor of Rosh Shoshanna. I should be at shul, but I could not face the yentas with their well-meaning inquisitions. Where have you been? I have a nice grandson for you. I needed solitude, even on this joyous day. I was trying not to tip the scale.
“What’re you making,” you asked.
“For a party?” you asked.
“I’m giving most of them away. I’ll go up and down the hall and leave them outside the doors.”
“Leave them outside?”
“Yes. I don’t really like to get to know people.”
“Okay, I can take a hint.”
“Not you, I’ve, I’ve met you before through Kim.”
“So, what do sanctioned people get, if near-strangers get cucumber sandwiches?
I was my bold self. I gave him a side-long glance. A come fuck me look, despite the fact that Kim had been trying to rein him in for three weeks now. Zach knew Kim was in for a package deal. I just threw signs that meant a good time.
We were young. I was raging sex. It was never enough. You recharged to perform again, again, and again. I’d heard Kim come home, the creak of the front door, drop of the keys in the blue porcelain bowl. That didn’t make me quieter, but louder. I felt so powerful to take away what she had valued. I intended to flaunt you like a new kill. I knew you would stick around. But I was surprised when I wasn’t bored with you. That summer was like a Tornado, I couldn’t place anything in time, but episodes of sex and Star Trek – TNG. Like always, my striking mania crashed. There would not be any sandwiches of any kind. You would be concerned, that’s all you could be but perhaps frightened. What had changed, you wondered? How could you help? You realized you knew nothing about my illness. You sick son of a bitch were drawn deeper into me than before. You seemed all kinds of wrong to me. You were the day, and I was the night. Your surrender was a whirlpool of what you confused to be depth. My horror was in lights at the carnival. I longed to drown in the barrel of bobbing apples. I could not get a bite of knowledge. You held on tight to my hair so I could not drown. I resented you, but I hated me.
I was the roommate that she didn’t get; the girlfriend you started to wish you never met. I was the forgotten statistic in last semester’s Psych 101. The life I was supposed to have was sediment at the bottom of another poorly stored red wine. You were in perpetual motion reaching for unattainable milestones, chasing dreams. I was in suspended animation. Phantoms of the worst me eked out to make a spectacle, but these were just shadows, haunting the girl floating in stasis. I cannot make a real move, a solid contact. I am impeded by the misconstrued silence of my former self. I am trapped. A symphony of screams echo in my head, whether I am manic or suicidal or homicidal. My suspended animation binds me to my own hell. To you, I am neutralized. ” Shaka, when the walls fell,”- failure. I close my eyes. “Darmok on the ocean.”I am isolated, alone.
Leah Holbrook Sackett is an adjunct lecturer in the English department at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, where she also earned her M.F.A. Leah’s stories explore journeys toward autonomy and the boundaries placed on the individual by society, family, and self. Learn about her published fiction at LeahHolbrookSackett.com