COLUMN: DIRT CITY | 02.14.2022

Haunt (your brain a lone house anyone can break in for fun)
by Barbara Genova

               Trigger Warning: suicidal ideation, drug use.

Too long you believed you had one of those faces — you looked like a vamp hot priestess or someone’s uncle reincarnated as Helen Mirren — when the real end of the deal was, you were gonna get talked at by a wild range of individuals with zero boundaries who never learn, never get better about it, never take their pop pop medication, and, kind of crucially here, never follow through with their own self-elimination plans.

First time you dimed, you made the call, you were a kid (no excuse but you did), you dimed on someone who had stated his intentions to try again, and you called the police from a pay phone in the middle of a park, 2 am, Sunday night. (You were pill-high at the time, which, kids do not snitch when they play for keeps: remember that.) The guy in question had latched on to you because he was a broken man in the slippery world of indie comic books and his deepest prerogative was to damage others. He had blade thick horizontal scars on both wrists. They stirred no feeling in you, and you never kissed him, never led him to assume — still, he lingered. Hovered. You made no promises. (Movies had taught you well: if you want to see yourself out, you slice vertical.) As if you were gonna take care of a college dropout who went on the record in numbing endless phone calls just to say, he had spent the night in the bathtub, a portable radio in his hand, waiting to see if he was going to drop the radio. He told you this because he wanted you to inject his madness and love him, or, step in on a personal level, float to the window in a lace white gown, take the knife out and tell him it was going to be fine eventually and you loved him, but, you were never going to do that. You were sharp in the guts; you knew it was a gum trap lure to get the girl.

So you dimed on your friend and the cops got him on the landline, tried to hold his attention, hey Paul how’s it going, and later he showed up, livid, wanting a fight in the park, staring at you dancing in the shade of laser cold hate. (You met again years later: it’s when a man wants to kill you and he doesn’t hit you at first, no, he begins by staring at you, praying mantis that’s the stance, pray hard enough, you’ll get obliterated by a God hand from above.)

Suicide threats were made at you all the time — you were in the thick of psychosis. Another friend on a screen, their voice coming in stop motion, I’m gonna kill myself if I don’t get this job. Looking through you like they had to speak the plan into existence. You cut the cord and once in a red moon you wonder, did they see themselves out. You wonder but you never check. Checking is the first step to getting looped back into it and you are done.

Also, strangers! Total strangers on social media, they sent you letters. Deborah, do you recall? Detailed inventories of every single failure leading them to the present situation. Men who thought it was fair to share Instagram stories about razors and glass to be swallowed at 11:50 on a Saturday night ooh ooh. You got better at that: after the first of these communiques, you typed, go to the hospital and get away from me or I’m calling the cops on you.

What was the original fault on Naomi’s end: refusing to pick one cross to bear out of a field?

To you, wanting to die started with the fact that it was going to be easier if you died, making a calendar, an alarm set on your phone that would chime fourteen days later: today decide if — blood gone ice and tongue on fire, Christ, I forgot, I’m supposed to decide if I’m gonna kill myself today.

And when it became an urge — a steady room made of flesh, calling you on the direct line—it was a private matter and you knew you had to get right with it, one way or another, but it lasted years.

And you stopped it eventually.

And you never tell how you snapped free, only that it was a challenge. And you laugh like a bank robber in the sun.

Death hasn’t made you a compelling offer since, it feels like 2019(?), yes, August 2019. The offer body-slammed you in a hotel room you were casing at the time, jump out the window jump out the window, yet, you did not jump. You watched your slow walk, you kept your mouth shut, talking about it gave it power, you recognized the urge for what it was, searched for correlations and clues, found none — it just came back it grabbed me — couple months later, you discovered David Berman had killed himself the same week, and you’ll never know how close you had ever been to your own mind collapsing, how vulnerable had you been to a haunt. Your brain a lone house anyone can break in for fun.

Barbara Genova (she/they) is the pen name of a public woman who went private. Poetry and stories written as Barbara have been published / are forthcoming at The Daily Drunk, surfaces.cx, Anti-Heroin Chic, Sledgehammer Lit, Scissors and Spackle, The Final Girl Bulletin Board, Fahmidan Journal, Misery Tourism, Hallowzine (2021), Expat Press, The Bear Creek Gazette, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Roi Fainéant Press, Discretionary Love, and the Hecate Magazine anthology issue #2 (DECAY, winter 2021). She can be found on Twitter and on Instagram.

Image by AidaKhubaeva at Pixabay.

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