by Nina Martucci
Artwork, “Baby On A String” by Deborah Kern
I think it was the first time I wore a pink shirt and it wasn’t even mine. The girl who did my chart last year said Libras like pink because it’s symbolic of harmony and balance. Harmony in a bottle. Balance a shot in each hand.
I set out to do myself in, never more ready to end up strapped to a gurney, hopefully in a tiny room with no sharp objects so I could surrender responsibility. Wouldn’t it be comfortable to lay there and stare at the stained ceiling tiles in absolute silence? Peacefully mad.
No. When I went crazy it was anything but quiet. At first it was good to have tongues feeling my teeth as I worked my way around the bar. A shot and a slimy, ugly kiss from each man I wasn’t even glancing at. I saw myself, only bigger, a stretched out shadow waving around and changing with the angle of the light.
Someone said, “Time to go.” They always do, but if it were up to me I’d circle the room indefinitely, sucking down tequila and warm, unfamiliar saliva. Games to make me feel better. I won the bet and didn’t have to pay for anything. No one else was playing.
The poor girls, they wanted to dump me at my house and leave me to my coma and hangover. The sidewalks teemed with people and I was crushed inside a car, inside my tiny world, beneath a mountain of crap I’d created while trying to climb to the moon. I got the urge to run through the crowd where no one would recognize me. Instead I’m lying in the street. Hot, half melted tar and air so humid I’m still being crushed.
Alone inside, outside blocking traffic when the light changes to green. So numb, too numb to feel the enormous pain that traps air in my lungs. Eyes open. An ambulance came to save me, some vision of them taking me to that magical room where nothing outside mattered. They locked me in their metal box instead; tied me down. The wailing siren called to everyone about the helpless, broken soul inside. I joined in my own wailing. I had to release the immense pressure from inside my sick little head, get it out, crying and crying.
I knew I didn’t want this but it was far too late to take it back. I did it on purpose and now, under the fluorescent lights, the huge relief of vomit which I willed since before I’d arrived at the bar. Maybe if I drank enough I could turn myself inside out, scrape and pick out all the sad pieces I don’t like. Now they were all out, the pieces of me; I could physically look at the dark, hideousness that plagued every cell.
I kept screaming for my Mom, sure she would look at me and instantly get it. Not about the alcohol, just a means to an end. Nobody else could see. My friends said I was drunk. The paramedics rolled me in a drunk. The doctor diagnosed me drunk. All I am is drunk, sloshed, snockered. Fucked up is more like it. Am I allowed to be more than drunk? Mom knew that sensation many times. The world is crashing, spinning and you have to catch up. Overwhelming. My parents came and got me, took me home in the morning with a reeking head of sticky hair, taped up arms from needles, stumbling in a hospital gown. Mom didn’t see, because she didn’t demand my quiet room. She saw the drunk too.
I slept on the couch while the TV hummed and dreamt about my ugliness. That week the bruises on my inner arms morphed from blue to purple, brown to green. My story became a number, my blood alcohol level. I wear it like a badge of honor since no one wants the truth. The truth is too sad to admit, so I tell it like an adventure rather than a tragedy. I returned the pink shirt; I’m certain she never wore it again. I apologized to everyone except myself and choked back down the pieces I hate.