I am here right now. I am real. 7/11/2003, 8:27 p.m. @ coffee house on Danforth, alone @ small round table close 2 mic, scribbling on pad, pretending 2B reporter, maybe music critic, instead of fat skag with 0 friends. Had friends B4 they got tired of me. Headline: Sooner or Later, She Pisses Everyone Off.
Aussie songwriter s’posed 2B on by now. New Bob Dylan, they say, 1 w/decent voice. Who’s Bob Dylan? Ha, ha. People queuing up @ bar. Booze = sugar = fat. Order chai tea, bottled water, 0 cal. Pigged out today: Bran Buds, strawberries, skim milk, 160; hard-boiled egg, 80; celery, 10; PowerBar, 206. Needed extra 1/2 hr. on bike. Middle of July & I’m in bulky black hooded sweater, long black pants. Can’t get warm.
Crowd builds, voices hum like a million fridges. Place full of phonies starving 2B seen; unoriginal fashion whores in lime green, this summer’s Jell-O colour. Bald man @ next table doesn’t fit: too old, too grey & doughy like my shrink.
Talk 2 your body, Dana, Dr. Shedletsky says. Tell it what U want. Want it 2 disappear, Doc, vamoose, amscray.
Doc look-alike scarfs down salad. Circles plate w/index finger collecting last bit of greasy dressing. Flicks tongue like cat, licks finger clean. I’m staring, so rude, can’t help it. His hands spider across table searching, finding—ta da!—another plate w/sandwich. Shit, he’s blind. Doesn’t know I’m staring. What’s it like 2 feel invisible? Close my eyes. Just makes me dizzy. Can’t pretend people don’t stare @ me.
Of course they stare, Mum says. Only 1 Dana in world & she’s special. God loves U very much. (Everyone else thinks you’re an asshole, ha, ha.) Why R those jeans so baggy on U? Mum wants me 2B fat. Headline: It’s Free Country. Have right 2 my own lifestyle, I say. Big mistake. Don’t talk back. Don’t say anything that matters. Put coins in pocket when she weighs U. (Mum’s Snap-Out-Of-It Tip #1: Take bubble bath.) Things no longer eat: salad dressing, bread, butter, beans, potatoes, rice, corn, peas, pasta.
Waitress brings tea w/lemon. Real leaves. Smooth porcelain pot. Warm cinnamon steam makes me want to cry. Smells soak into my skin lately; sounds into my brain. Colours too bright 2 wear.
New Dylan @ mic. Whistling, cheering. Can’t B total unknown. Early 20s same as me, shaved melon head, fatigue pants, olive T-shirt. Good bod, slim, muscular.
Thanks 4 coming. Really appreciate it. Something I wrote 4 some bird. Hope U like it. Some bird, some Sheila. Aussie asshole. Hey, new Dylan! Know my dad? He’s Aussie asshole too. Gone 10 yrs. Left me his grey eyes, big bones & double-edged Bowie knife w/buffalo horn handle. Good 4 making little diamond cuts on my boobs. Coffee house floor has diamond pattern on scratched vinyl, dusty under my ECCOs, my butch shoes, per Mum. (Snap-Out-Of-It Tip #2: Watch funny movie.)
Never cut deeper than skin. Big pain, little damage. Blood flows in little streams. Like tasting it. The new Hannibal, ha, ha. Too salty? No worse than nipple or tongue piercing. More original. New Dylan: 1 pierced ear. Mum: 2. Dana: 0.
Blind Letsky finishes sandwich B4 end of first song. Rubs napkin over mouth like eraser, hard, over & over. Jeez, man, it’s clean! Don’t go self-conscious on me. Licks finger, scours table 4 crumbs. Lick & scour, lick & scour. Gross. How many people there B4 U, doofus? Guys who took leak & didn’t wash hands. U just licked someone’s dick. Things no longer eat: bacon, sausage, waffles, pancakes, dicks, ha, ha. Cutting better than sex, maybe. Never know what hand will do w/knife. Feel fidgety, tense right B4; relieved & powerful after. (Snap-Out-Of-It Tip #3: Hug yourself.)
Not normal 2 still B virgin, Doc says. Who defines normal? Who says my weight 20% “below normal”? Not mirror mirror on wall. I look the same. Ask blind Letsky, he’ll tell U. It’s conspiracy. Headline: Fashion Pimps Get Kickbacks From Fast-Food Nazis. Fatten us up & label clothes smaller. I used 2 wear 10. Now, 0. That’s a lie, not a size.
Don’t step on scale every day, Doc says. He doesn’t get it. The numbers matter. I’m good @ losing weight. Doc won’t last. 3 GPs, 4 dieticians, 5 therapists B4 him. Good way 2 meet people, ha ha. Fat nurses = meanest. Dieticians = most useless. Nobody tells me what 2 eat. Best breakfast when Mum not around: Cold pills, aspirin, coffee, grapefruit juice. Not hungry rest of day, almost.
Don’t like most new music except Chicks on Speed. Prefer shit Dad left behind: Meatloaf, Sex Pistols, Billy Idol. Mum says they’re hers, but she never listens. Hard to concentrate on new Dylan. Sometimes lose time. Headline: University Valedictorian Can’t Get Job. Focus, Dana, Mum says. U can do anything U want. Where does money I give U go? I dunno, Shoppers Drug Mart? Internal Flush (1 month $29.99), Sudafed (3 weeks $13.49), Bayer aspirin (bargoon! 2 months $6.79), Tums (25 days $10.99), Advanced Healing Band-Aids (10 cuts $6.89). Saving on Tampax. Don’t get period anymore. Need more body fat, per Doc. U want 2B 12 forever so Daddy will come back, he says. He’s full of shit. Dr. Shitletsky.
Antsy. Can’t sit still. Grey plastic chair sucks, hurts tailbone. Blind Letsky full of himself in stuffed tweed armchair. Moving head back & forth, singing along w/new Dylan. How’s he know words? Left arm shoots straight up like he needs 2 go 2 washroom. Hum louder now, crowd milling around bar. Rude bastards, ignoring new Dylan. He slaps crap out of guitar, sings angry words. Somebody shouts, Kick ass! So unoriginal. Nobody coming 2C what blind man’s hand wants. Puts it down. My hands dry, itchy. Nails keep breaking. Mum: What will I do w/U, Dana? Sometimes UR too much. Her nails perfect. Should say fasting for Jesus. She’d get off my case then. Feeling mega tense now. Have 2 eat my lemon wedge. (Snap-Out-Of-It Tip #4: Do something nice for someone else.)
Dylan intros photog w/huge, repulsive mammary glands. Her blow-ups on wall behind him. Shot of him in muscle shirt. Another of shitpill-skinny blond on toilet, knickers around ankles. Abusing diuretics & laxatives profoundly stupid, Doc says. Profoundly. Wants me 2B fat. Wants 2 control my excretions. Things no longer eat: pizza, chips, pretzels, cheese doodles, cashews. Can suck on frozen grape 10 min.; make 20 raisins last 1/2 hr. Sometimes chew apple slice then spit it into napkin.
Blind Letsky raises hand again. Wants someone 2 describe photos? Ha, ha. Tall, thin black guy comes up, crouches beside him. Correction: girl, not guy. Short, curly hair, flat chest under dark green T-shirt, boy hips in tight, black jeans. Want that body. Have short hair already. Falls out in black clumps on pillow, in shower. Used 2B wavy. Stringy now, smells like dead fish. Maybe I’ll shave it, like new Dylan. B new Sinéad O’Connor. She still alive? Dad left her Lion & Cobra cassette behind. Music 2 cut 2.
Boy-girl goes away, comes back w/waitress who crouches down, sticks ear up 2 blind Letsky’s mouth. He barfs words into her bobbing head. New Dylan sings: When U feel ugly, the world’s just too much. Somebody else wrote that. Definitely not original. Waitress leaves. Comes back w/2 pieces pie. Apple & cherry, 800 cal easy. I would explode. Feel disgusting when not hungry. Refuse 2B food slave. Things no longer eat: pie, cake, candy, cookies, ice cream. Correction: sometimes hide cookies in room. Candy too. Sugar-free cocoa mix + hot water okay, 35 cal.
Headline: Dominion Open 24/7. Could buy cherry pie on way home & sneak it in. Eat it over bathroom sink then puke it up in toilet until chest wants 2 cave in. Maybe I’ll cut instead. More private. Don’t have 2 run water 2 cover sound. Doc says: UR determined, Dana. A take-charge person. I like that about U. Yeah, right. Feeds me bullshit 2 get me 2 talk so he can put me in a book. Refuse 2B case study.
Blind Letsky devours pie in 3 min., 14 secs. Both pieces! Finger lick/table scour. Pushes chair away from table. Head back, empty eyes to the ceiling, mouth open. Asleep just like that. I can’t sleep more than few hours. Profoundly stupid stomach eats me alive. Just as well. When sleep, dream about food & wake up ashamed. Rather B dead than fat. Clean my room all night instead, rearrange things. If too tired, watch Weather Channel or go online. New Net friends can’t see me. Don’t know I cut. No one does. Sometimes play the 15-min. game. Tell myself wait 15 min. B4 cutting. Then another 15 & another. Visualize a stop sign. Mondays = no cutting. What does blind Letsky dream about? If spoke to him, would he hear real me? (Snap-Out-Of-It Tip #5: Make new friend.)
Dylan sings: Life unreal, gotta get past the pain, slap, slap. He doesn’t get it. Pain = the goal. The trick = controlling it. I’m the only 1 allowed to hurt me.
Guy w/big slimy smile coming over. Piss off. Oh, just wanted chair from my table. Sometimes overreact. Perfect Mum says: Make lip stop quivering. No reason 2B nervous. U have good life. Headline: Perfect Mum Never in Crappy Mood. Can’t be her fault Dad left. Getting tense again. Focus on breathing in, out. I must be real. Wouldn’t be breathing if I weren’t. (Snap-Out-Of-It Tip #6: Read book w/happy ending.)
Last song, Dylan says. Some asshole yells Take your shirt off! Like it’s strip club. People clapping, going crazy. Blind man awake now, laughs, shouts Yeah! Wants something he can’t even see. Can he smell the rain like I can? Can’t C or hear it yet, but the smell, like just-picked corn, is right outside the door, past the crowds. Can’t go home. Today not Monday. Hey, blind Letsky! Ever think U just can’t stand it anymore? »
from subTerrain #73 (LUSH Triumphant ’15 Runner-Up)