I relay details of the games I’ve played inside my head since childhood to the therapist who will diagnose me with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’m seventeen. I assume it’s depression, or anxiety though I won’t know that term until my twenties when colors appear too bright and the world feels too loud after driving my boyfriend and his entire family over curling roads back from the Grand Canyon. His sister’s baby wants to see the squirrels. When we stop at my parents’ home, I don’t recognize my childhood dog.
I tell the therapist: I pray backwards to outsmart god. Please let everyone I love die. I try to think of possible early deaths they might face: house fire, drowning though I live in a desert. If I ask for their safety directly, it might not be granted. I feel guilty for the backwards praying. My thoughts are contagious or can be seen by passersby. I carry a duffel bag on every grocery store or mall run. The duffel bag is as long as I am tall that summer, but I pack it with my favorite dolls and stuffed bears, should the house burn to the ground while I shop for more popsicles from Smitty’s.
Older: I count the red letters on the digital alarm clock in long division. 4:24 PM is a good time. An even six. If it’s not a neat division, carry the one, map out the answers with an imagined pencil. My days are full of equations though I have trouble passing math in school. If this, then that. I envision flashes of terror and flesh for which I have no source document or incident, my brain projecting a highlight reel of tragedy I’ve never witnessed. I accidently touch my mouth to the arm rest while seated at the circus and, in a panic, ask my mom for a blue Icee. They don’t have the red flavor, and blue feels more antiseptic. Blue is the color in which medical instruments swim. I glug it down though I’m not thirsty, and I think I can taste the germs leaving my tongue to scatter so they can be neutralized by my lack of bodily knowledge or by wishful thinking. I close my eyes and trace names and words into the air in cursive without moving a finger.
After the thoughts have a name, my grandmother catches me tapping the inch of white wall just above the hallway cabinet at home as I walk past, a clean space against which to drag my fingertip. I do this to remind myself I’m in the world. I can feel the valleys and bumps in the paint though they are barely visible. “Just tell yourself, I’m not going to do this anymore,” my grandmother says, though she may be speaking to herself. I nod. I will hold it all inside my head, where I finally understand only I can see.
Suzy is a fiction writer from Arizona. She lives in Seattle where she works in college admissions. She’s a graduate of University of Washington (Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and certificate in Literary Fiction Writing). She also holds a Master of Education in Adult Education. Her fiction and poetry are published in Sledgehammer Lit, King Ludd’s Rag (Malarkey Books), Versification, Iris Literary Journal, The Nonconformist, and others.