A phone call to my parents gets redirected to a police station and then a handful of government agencies. Finally, a monotone voice recording tells me my entire family is dead. My schizophrenic mom shot them all and then herself–siblings, cousins, the whole gang. I listen to the message three times and then wind up staring wistfully out of the window of my high rise apartment in Manhattan, admiring the sad skyline. Then I snap awake. I lay in bed and stare at the ceiling awhile. I don’t live in Manhattan in a high rise apartment. Dammit. Oh, and my family is alive (technically). Double dammit. No excuses for ignoring my dad’s texts.
Clanking sounds draw me from bed into the kitchen, where my boyfriend’s messing around with silverware and shit. I grit my teeth and snap. “Hey, keep it down!”
He glances at his watch. “Babe, it’s eleven in the morning.”
Rolling my eyes, I retreat to the bathroom for a long shower and think about my bad dream’s secret meaning. One of these days, I’ll have to buy a dream analysis handbook or something.
Nightmares like this one haunted me throughout my 20s. I thought I was done with them until this one. Back then, my fears had real cause. It was entirely possible my mom could go off her medications and kill my dad and brother. Everyone in my extended family is a piece of shit, so I’d get stuck having to plan three funerals by myself. All day, I try to dam up that welling in my chest. I do that thing where girls tell the guy, “I’m fine.” I listen to music with angst.
Some families can be poisonous. I’ve survived mine, functioning as an adult for about a decade now. This isn’t pretty to admit, but I feel a little secret pride when chatting with one of our student workers. She’s my age, still a student, and complains about her family all the time. She borrows money from me and starts fights with our other student workers. We might have to fire this hot mess soon if she can’t pull herself together. At times, I wonder if I could help this woman. Could I coach her on how to clean up her life and extricate herself from these family problems? Maybe. If I could, I’d tell this woman the strategies I’ve developed to throw a quick pity party:
- Drink a lot and listen to heavy music with lots of yelling and screaming.
- Drink a lot and watch Netflix. Reflect on the meaning of life while you watch the credits.
- Watch a David Lynch film. Realize your life’s not nearly as bad as the guy in Eraserhead.
- Do the above and don’t drink, especially at my age. I can’t afford the calories.
- Lay awake on the couch and stare at the darkness.
- Post a cryptic message on Facebook. Ignore comments.
- Weepy gently.
- My special pep talk: Grow up. Everyone has problems they think are unique. You’ve already learned that nobody cares about your problems more than you do. So sulk for a while if you must. Then get back to work. You’re white, attractive, and smart. You’ll be fine as long as you can keep these pity parties short.
- Go the fuck to sleep. It always helps.
Back to my weekend. Magically, I manage to hold it together for sex, thinking love-making will make us feel better. Sort of. The mood lightens. Afterward, we snuggle and joke and watch Netflix. We eat Chipotle.
Yes, you’ve truly given up on life when Chipotle becomes an option. Still, I eat the Sofritas bowl. Moderately healthy. We watch a comedy special. I look at him on the sofa, flipping through my mental Rolodex of his family members–stable, ordinary people who’ve semi-adopted me. Does he want to hear about my dream? No, I’ll spare him and just keep acting like a bitch for mysterious reasons. He knows enough about my past. Whenever I talk about it, I can see his brain working, trying to get his mind around it.
Here’s what we damaged people know: Nobody ever understands. There’s nothing they can do with their eyes, face, tongue, or body that really makes us feel better. In fact, sometimes it just makes things worse.
My boyfriend has never even smoked a cigarette. Meanwhile, I’ve made out with crack addicts in dive bars, thinking “He’s so hot. I’ve got to get a piece of this before his teeth fall out.”
One time, a friend tried to cheer me up with literature. I texted her that my mom was in the hospital again, and she read transcendentalist poetry at me for almost an hour. She started to act hurt when I didn’t respond. So I had to get buzzed on wine enough to pretend that she was helping me. I faked all kinds of emotions. When she left, I switched to bourbon, screamed inside myself, and listened to industrial metal until passing out on the couch.
The meaning of my dream: My family’s dead after all, in a metaphorical sense. It took this dream to make me recognize that and deal with it. My grandparents have been dead for years now. My mom’s side of the family is brimming with white trash I haven’t spoken to in years. Telepathically, I know they’re voting for Trump. They use the N-word weekly but then describe themselves as tolerant patriots. Why surround myself with these people? I cut them out of my life a while back. My brother is 25 and never had a stable girlfriend; he may never even start college, much less earn a degree. He has no friends. He’s lucky to hold down minimum wage jobs.
One of my uncles, who I used to adore as a child, started stalking various women and wound up with a bouquet of restraining orders. Another one tried to involve my dad in a pyramid scheme that would’ve cheated him out of $20k. They haven’t spoken since I was 10.
Some people seek therapy for these kinds of problems. Me? I ask myself, “Why don’t you blog about it for a bunch of strangers?”
And I answer, “That sounds like a great idea! I bet this one will get tons of clicks.”
My boyfriend says, “Who are you talking to?”
We answer, “Mind your own business!” I’m kidding. I think I just grunted and asked him to start some coffee.