Don’t.

I’m staring so relentlessly at the floor, I’m almost surprised when my eyes don’t burn holes into the tiles.

Don’t listen.

They keep speaking. I stare at the floor. At the table. At another person. At my lap. I stare anywhere, as long as I can avoid looking the one place I don’t want to look.

Don’t listen.

But I have to.

Don’t cry.

Don’t cry.

Damn it, don’t cry!

I keep my eyes on the floor, my gaze becoming more intense, as if staring at ugly floor tile could staunch the tears threatening to form in my eyes. Already forming in my eyes.

Damn it, stop.

But I can’t. When you’re a crier – a real, unrelenting crier – most things set you off. Being happy. Being sad. Angry. Frustrated. Disappointed.

Frustrated with yourself for crying because you’re sad and disappointed.

Don’t listen.

Don’t cry.

Just don’t.

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Changes, Promises, Empty Words

You’re just like a politician, always making promises you can’t keep.

“I know you’re not happy the way things are. But don’t worry. I’m going to make a change. Just stick with me. It’s going to get better.”

I do. And it doesn’t.

You speak of changes like the word means something to you.

“Things will change. I promise.”

You don’t even know what a promise is.

Lies. It’s all lies you tell to keep me hanging on, hanging around.

If I just hold on, it will all be OK. It will change. It will get better.

Weeks turn into months. Months turn into years. There’s no change. You promised me change.

Like a lost puppy dog, I follow you blindly. I do what you ask. I don’t complain. I believe in you.

I sit quiet, hopeful that one day the change will come.

I’m still waiting.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

My arms hurt. For as long as I can remember I’ve been doing the same thing.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

My hands fumble with the bottle, pouring shampoo into my hand. I raise my hands to my head.

Lather.

My hands travel ferociously across my scalp. I tilt my head back, the cool water hitting me.

Rinse.

I pick up the bottle again.

Repeat.

I pour shampoo into my hand, and lift my hands to my head.

Lather.

Why am I doing this?

My hands continue to move as my brain fights against the repetitive actions. As I tilt my head back into the stream of water once more.

Rinse.

And that’s when I notice them. The strings. Pulling my hands toward the bottle.

Repeat.

The grips on each finger forcing me to pour the shampoo into my hands. The strings then tugging my arms upward toward my hair.

Lather.

The strap jerking my head backward to force my head into the water.

Rinse.

I’m stuck in a never-ending cycle of nonsense.

Repeat.

crushcrushcrush

My stress is a corset.

Each task pulls the strings tighter, crushing my lungs. I panic, grappling at the ties, trying desperately to free myself. My vision wanes, the lack of air creating a haze.

I feel hands reach out. Blindly — afraid the hands will pull the strings tighter and bring about the end — I pounce, clawing at the predator. I hear him cry out.

It’s only then I realize what I’ve done. Those hands, mysterious hands, longed to loosen the corset.

And they have.

But the hurt hands back away slowly, turning away from my hands, which can only cause harm.

The corset is gone, but the weight remains. This time, it’s not just crushing my lungs, stopping my breath.

This weight pushes me deeper into the ground, where it will leave me, alone, as it does best. The weight is a tricky beast. Sometimes, I need help to lift it. But it gets into my brain, and it makes me drive away all those who are willing to help.

The weight leaves me, alone.

Superiority

I feel your gaze upon me, and I know what it means. A combination of pity and disgust, apparent in your eyes as you look down upon me.

“I’m better than you.”

You don’t speak, but I feel the impact of your words, pressing down on me like a boulder, round, hunching my shoulders further forward. My hips dig further into the ground, the sharp, angular bone grinding against my skin.

This is who you are now.

I crumble under your disapproving gaze.

The Encounter with Mr. Creep

“Come on, bud. Go potty.” The girl pulled on her dog’s leash. She hated walking the dog at nighttime, worried about strangers who could be lurking in the shadows, crouched and ready to attack.

The dog looked up alertly into the distance. An elderly woman and a middle-aged man walked toward them. The old woman, the girl realized, lived in the same building. The girl had seen the man with the old woman before, so she thought nothing of it.

As the old woman and the man approached, the dog tried to run toward them. The girl reined in the dog. The old woman proceeded to the door.

But the man stopped.

The man, looking ragged and dressed in dirty, torn clothing, came at the dog, crouching, threatening.

“Oh, be nice.” His voice sounded curious,  slightly menacing.

The dog calmed, approaching the man, trying to lick him. The girl breathed a sigh of relief.

Until the dog tried to jump on the man — in excitement or aggression, the girl couldn’t tell. The man hunched back over, growling toward the dog. “You better be nice.”

The girl picked up the dog protectively and held the dog in her arms. She watched as the man reached out to the dog again, worried how the dog would react — the dog always became more aggressive when restrained, a defense mechanism. She watched as the dog tried to lick the man, as the man leaned his face in toward the dog, almost allowing the dog to lick him there as well.

After what seemed like an eternity, the man backed away. “I have a cat that could kick your ass.” The man muttered something else, then walked into the building.

The girl waited for a moment, then peaked into the window of the building’s door. She couldn’t see the man. She quickly entered the building, ran to her apartment and locked the door behind her.


I hope you enjoyed this piece of creative nonfiction.