things you’ve shared with the ghost in your dorm room (in no particular order) by shelby rice

xii.
you’re lonely and the only thing you’ve felt the touch of is the gutter-water splashing off a car’s michelin tires. one star. you wonder if the mona lisa would be as beautiful if she had a double chin. you’re empty and not displeased about it, but you know you’re going to put the frozen strawberry jam you made with your aunt last summer over cold rice instead of eating a real meal. you’ll feel bad about it later.

xi.
your roommate is doing n+60 jumping jacks a day for lent, and you wonder if she knows by the end that she’ll have to do more than 2000. it takes fifteen days before she folds. you’re not surprised, but something that burns suspiciously of envy crawls up your esophagus. you wonder how long you would have made it. the bass guitar you haven’t played in a month sprouts a mouth and tells you the wicked truth. you can’t sleep that night.

x.
you start to wonder if you were a changeling. somewhere between infancy and now, you stopped thinking about what you wanted to do tomorrow and started to wish it never comes.

ix.
you think the perfect place to work is probably in an aquarium. it’s probably not as glamorous as you make it out to be (if that’s even the proper word) but the darkness and the gurgle of the tanks and the flying floating swilling creatures which drift lackadaisical twilling in the currents. the funny way toddlers walk, little penguins tottering back and forth would be the cherry on top. but maybe that’s just the withdrawal speaking.

viii.
you have a boyfriend who lives off high street. he roosts with two other boys, both faceless entities who come and go as they please. you’re not sure you’ve ever fully met. they seem to exist in a transient state, sort of ever-unpresent, at the grocery or the bar or kicking back at a friend’s house, but never at work. you’re more interested in these boys than your demure, kind-faced boyfriend, but more out of curiosity than libido; you want to know how they live such fluid, ever varying but still listless lives. you wonder if you ever meet if they’ll sweep you up in their unending on-the-go living until you rush on autopilot for as long as they’ll keep you.

vii.
you wonder if you should pierce your own septum. it would do you good to see if you still bleed red like everyone else.

vi.
your godmother is a nun. she doesn’t wear a habit anymore and has licorice gumdrops at her house year-round. they used to burn your mouth but now you find the taste of them keeps you up at night. you buy them at the drugstore but they don’t quite hit the same. the sugar dusting isn’t grainy enough, the taste doesn’t quite clog your mouth the way it used to. maybe it’s because your cousins aren’t egging you on, your brother isn’t trying to outdo you with three more stuffed in his mouth. maybe it’s that he isn’t rushing to the green-tiled bathroom to throw up afterwards. after a fetid few, you let the bag go fallow; it takes root in your pantry and refuses to be disposed of.

v.
the scar on your arm reminds you of a fat leech, if the leech were purplish-pink and created by a miserable idiot and not billions of years of evolution. you tattoo over it, which bolsters you an embarrassing amount, but it hacks away at the quickly dwindling list of things in common you have with your mother. never mind the fact that folks have been tattooing for thousands of years, that it’s not a rash decision, that you’ve been thinking about it almost as long as you could breathe—you think she might have cried when you told her. you schedule a second appointment as soon as possible and wonder if you’re welcome at home anymore.

iv.
your mother and aunt don’t talk anymore, and your grandmother and her sister didn’t either. you wonder if you’re doomed to the same fate.

iii.
you receive a save-the-date and spiral something awful. buried for your own well-being under stacks of junk mail, you send your congratulations and regrets in one run-on message, unable to explain why the thought of a marriage guts you this way. just two people deciding they’re interested in living together for the rest of forever* or whatever it is folks tell themselves. she elbows her way to the back of your mind and you staunchly refuse to acknowledge it. the message you receive back is kind but you can tell there’s a pursed-lip edge to it. you’re glad you won’t have to defrost the summer romper in the back of your closet and try to look happy for six hours. you drink alone the night of the ceremony and shudder to think of what the you in an alternate universe is going through. you wonder if there’s an alternate universe you whose wedding this belongs to.

ii.
you take better care of your plants than you do yourself. you have a meticulously planned spreadsheet which tells you when to water, fertilize, repot; each leaf is examined daily to check for discoloration or spotting. the plethora of pill bottles scattered over your room go unorganized.

i.
you’ve developed a pavlovian response to playing pokemon go. you can’t smoke without it anymore.

 

shelby rice is trying to reach you regarding your car’s extended warranty. they won the Montaine Award for Creative Nonfiction in 2020 and have been published in Rejection Letters, Existere Literary Magazine, Thirty West, and more. originally from Dayton, Ohio, they recently acquired a cane with a sword inside and will tell anyone who will listen. follow them on twitter @orcmischief (if you dare).

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