An excerpt from the novel I’m currently writing about Samantha Stosur, a 13-year-old American girl living in the 3rd Millennium.
Can she feel the desperation in my eyes? But the annoyance, hurt and anger shooting out of hers immediately absorbs and dismisses whatever’s coming out of mine. She has squashed me without thinking.
Who is this being? She’s talking (I know it’s my mother), but the words are muffled like she’s on the other side of extra thick glass, even when she’s holding me. The rock-hard coating around me prevents me from feeling her. I know her hair is shiny because I can see it, but I can’t feel it under my fingers. This is what an anxiety attack feels like.
My tongue feels so swollen in my mouth that I think I can’t talk; the evening continues in silence.
What do you do when your tummy’s flipping like when Uncle Ross tosses flapjacks three feet into the air and they smack back down into the frying pan, only to be flipped again and again even though they’re crying out, “I’m done. I’m done!”
Is that what Mrs. Doweel feels, her tummy squirmy as she’s walking her fingers along each nub of her rosary beads? Or, does her direct line to Jesus (Hay-soos) bring her inner calm? Where’s my Haysoos when I need one? Uncle Ross ain’t playing that role. Melo may look the part, but he has too many voices in his head already to be able to make room to hear mine. Maybe Nancy could be the female version, be my La Haysoosita. But when she’s stoned, it’s like she’s trekking in some land and I don’t have the proper I.D.
I’m just afraid. I feel like I’m shivering from the inside out. No one can see anything, but I know I’m shaking uncontrollably. Rattling inside, like Mom’s car engine that started to knock around, faster and faster, getting louder and more ominous—until it stopped. Dead. Right in the middle of the highway that stretches from the Guadalupe Mountains to Santa Fe. One of the goddamnedest strips of road you ever saw; no structure of any kind in sight from horizon to horizon—and that includes straining to see any teensy-weensy sign of human life or dwelling while slowly, slowly turning in a complete circle. All this with the sun setting and darkness slamming down like a final curtain. Frosting on the cake: Mom was off her meds and had no scotch. I’m feeling that kind of scared.
This body is a shell I hardly know I’m inhabiting. Sometimes, if I reach really hard, stretch out my leg as far as it will go, my big toe can briefly touch Mother Earth, and momentarily I remember what it feels like to feel grounded, solid within myself, my body a vessel to fuel my brain and feed my mind, intellect, thoughts, emotions and decisions. But when life cracks wide open, what’s left to decide?
My big toe breaks from the earth and I am untethered. Why should I care what I do with this body? It’s now not even a shell, but a dry, brittle husk—and I’m no longer the tenant.
© 2011 Excerpt from Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations by Kat Ward