I stood on the upper most parapet of a parking garage on Wall Street in Asheville, NC, on a very grey evening or early night with a light drizzle falling form the sky and beading the outer layer of my adopted father’s woolen great coat as it whips about my legs, exposing my opera best, black satin alternately snapping like a sail and sticking to my dampening skin as the winds tear across the exposed upper deck of the building and the rain paints the cars several dozen hues making them shine like precious jewels and glow preternaturally beneath the city lights. My hair is longer, about midwinter length and my glasses are gone, I am wearing contacts or have perfect vision, I am not sure which, but know only that my face is bare.
In my dreams, I am male, not an odd occurrence in my dreams, but I am still dreadfully ill. I still wear my med alert bracelet and can feel the weight of my epipens in my inside breast pocket as the coat ticks and tugs against me.
And then I am outside myself, watching.
I see my hair fluttering against my temples, and the effect of coat and scarf, and the audible snap of my pants cuffs give me not a nautical impression, but rather create the effect that I am watching a scene in a Japanese anime, one where the tortured and handsome hero having long stood and fought against impossible odds has finally grown weary and wishes only to die.
There is a corona about my body, the ambient glow of a large city and its neon as refracted by the turbulence and creating a haze of aerosolized rain, mist, and radiant body heat from this still living person poised on the edge of a Schrodingeresque moment that is in itself neither dead nor alive, but in stasis, waiting.
I see this all from outside myself. I sense that I am sitting on the still warm hood of a recently parked car, and that I could intervene if I chose to do so, but the other me, the one on the ledge has an unnatural power to it; its lines are stark and speak of fatigue, of overbearing grief, of pain fought and pain accepted, and pain surrendered to.
I do not want to break the spell. I choose instead to wait…
…and am back inside myself, damp, cold, miserable, looking out my own eyes again upon the beauty of the city, at the hypnogogic streams of light and warmth and people below. I can hear the cars below, engines muffled but the swift swish of each tire on the gleaming streets of symphony of urgency and purpose. I can hear muffled laughter, murmering voices, the heat tick of a still warm engine behind me, the soft susurration of the rain, the occasional metallic ping.
Sounds of life, sights of anima, persona, flora, fauna, mechanica.
And I can hear my own demons as they whisper and taunt.
“There is nothing here for you. You smell that? That’s coffee…and pizza…and there that woman has a pretzel – warm, soft, salty. You’ll never taste that again. You’ll never stroll arm and arm with a lover, or duck into a shop for a hot chocolate, or share a stolen kiss beneath the lamp light. You’ll never laugh as freely, or have a drink with friends. And they will never understand. They are not allergic to life. Not condemned to your half life of food allergies, and chemical sensitivities. Ha! They’ll always think you weird, and smelly. You’ll never wear deodorant again or brush your teeth. Toothpaste may make you asphyxiate but their looks hurt more don’t they? That easy scorn. That disdain. The assumptions of ignorance, poverty, and lack of self respect. Forget your cashmere scarf, or that you wrote a book, or own your car. Never mind that you are debt free. You live out of pocket. You don’t work. You are always always sick. You will never be one of them again. You will never walk those streets without fear or caution. Never relax. Is that woman wearing perfume…yes, hold your breath. Ah, there see the look she gave you. Her perfume is poison to you but you are less than garbage to her. And what if they did understand? What then? You’d still be different. You’d still walk the streets inside the nested bubbles of your disease and your fears. You’d still be unable to kiss your boyfriend on the mouth, still be unable to hug him. You’ll never have sex again. You’ll never nest in a loved one’s arms without a voice asking you if it is truly safe to do so. No more restaurants for you, no more movies in the theater. No popcorn. No iced tea on a hot day, or hot tea on a cold one. You’ll never sleep with the cat on your chest, purring you to sleep, never breathe easy. You are already dead. You are dead. They don’t care for you, even those you love don’t care for you. You are nothing but pain and fear and weariness. End it all. End it now.”
And beneath my feet the parapet, and the rough dirty concrete that I fear to touch with my bare hands, not knowing what else might be there, crying freely only because the rain washes the salt that normally would raise the searing welts from my skin off my face, breathing freely only because the air is washed clean by the sky’s gift of water, feeling the wind tug and pull and coax and wondering if it will feel like freedom when I jump. Wondering if it will feel like flying before it feels like nothing. Before I rest.
And then, I gather myself and jump.
I awakened today, this first day of the new year, old year, same shit, different day, in my sweated knotted blankets, my face afire with salted tears and stumble into the bathroom careful to keep my feet nested in my slippers so as not let them touch the wax on the floor .
I wash my face with the hottest water I can stand and note that I am alone again, my roommates off to work, so there will be no food as I am not supposed to eat unobserved, no comforting words and the cat is asleep so won’t be asking to go outside, and so decide that my choices are to read yet another book, or go back to bed.
I decide to go back to bed.
After all in some of my dreams, I feel no pain.