I feel like a Linkin Park song

Sometimes the noise in my head is so loud I just have to say fuck it and surrender to the tears that are pushing and shoving their way through my tear ducts. They all want a turn to star in the show. Me, me, pick me, Sarah. Cry me! I’m next in line.

Today I cried in my car parked in front of a Subway. I’ll take the 6’’ inch turkey with chips, and a cup full of snot, please. There was this guy in a dark Mustang parked next to me who looked startled, then squeamish—like he just saw a squirrel get run over, and he was trying not to stare directly into the pool of glistening guts. So warm and gooey.

Subway is long gone. I’m home alone. I reactivated, then deactivated my Facebook at least five times. I tried to change my profile picture to something less morbid, less “feel-sorry-for me.” But then again, I don’t know what face I could possibly make to convey all of what I’m trying to say. It’s known in my circle of friends, co-workers, and family that I’ve shied away from social media and why. After fumbling around on Facebook again and again and failing to speak up for myself, I went to the gym.

The gym is one of the few routines—that and my beautiful drop of delicious sunshine a.k.a writing group—I have to my name. Zumba always makes me feel GOOD. Like I’m one sexy, strong mama with a slammin’ pair of hips. Like the flaming-bird-spirit-child I’m supposed to be. If I could stare at my ovaries in the mirror during Zumba, I would. I would ask them out on a date and get to know them.

And then the adrenaline dripped like a hose that’s just been turned off. And here I am. Alone with myself. It doesn’t help that my pits smell.

It’s 10 p.m. right now, and I’m forcing myself to write. Even though I detest writing when I start to dip this low.

The truth is I don’t want to sound like a Linkin Park song.

I’m sorry if you like Linkin Park. I like Linkin Park, too, actually. Back in the day, Meteora was my jam. But for some reason I thought I was light years away from Meteora in terms of my life. I thought I only had room for Bob Dylan, for Iron and Wine right now.

It’s not only the lyrics (Somewhere I Belong, Breaking the Habit, and Easier to Run, if you want to get all technical about it). I also feel like I’m made of Chester Bennington’s voice. I’m the hairball covered in shards of glass scraping on your tongue. I’m like swallowing a blister that explodes in the back of your throat. I guess I just want kind of want to break things. Or run.

I told everyone that I need some alone time because I truly do. I told them because I’m not one of those people who just disappears. My brother tells me, “Dude, Sarah, you sound sooooo emo right now.” One of my cousins thinks I’m pulling some bomb ass Edgar Allan Poe shit. My friends and boyfriend support me, but linger in the shadows just in case I need anything. My parents have no idea what planet we’re on, and that I live in it.

I’m not blaming my parents for this. Even though they have a lot to do with things. In fact, I have this ancient biblical-like scroll I could pull out and read to them. But I have never blamed anyone for my problems, and I’m not about to start.

My wanting quiet time is supposed to be a good thing. I set out to work on my writing, settle the racing thoughts, figure out where I want to go next. YOU ARE HERE on the map. But I’m having a rough time with it because in the silence, I’m finding yesterday’s news. It turns out I’ve been hoarding newspapers for years.

I’m reverting back to the gurgling, black pit of insecurity and helplessness that we so cherish in our adolescence. And the worst part is I’m not okay with that. The steaming bitch inside me is not onboard with letting me feel this all out. Even though “feeling this all out” is a part of the plan.

Because the same hustler, the same back patter who has been working with me, inside me, for years is also the one handing me my ass, my severed head.

Here’s what you don’t learn sitting at a desk or find staring at you in the middle of the notes you wrote in your college rule notebook: sometimes you sweat blood to get out of the dark cloud of your home life, you push yourself, you come ploughing through the other side—and you realize that it kind of feels the same. Except there’s nothing there. There is no broken home, no screaming match, no violence on the other side. The nothingness itself is what eats away at you.

You move into an apartment. You feel the wind in your hair of being on your own. You find a full-time gig, a window to your career, something to do with your time. You have someone to share it with, who understands what it’s like to be a 20 something on your own in 2014, someone who will hug you through it all. You think, I’m ready to begin my life, but wait…

And suddenly, IT is there. IT never left you. IT rings like a bell reminding you what you left behind. (Speaking of Poe) BELLS BELLS BELLS; to the rhyming and the chiming of the bells. There’s nothing touching you. You can’t feel it on your skin, taste it on your tongue. You try like it’s your religion to phrase and re-phrase it the best way you can. You try to outrun your past, and you find it here waiting for you—sleeping in your bed, sharing a cup of coffee in the morning with you. It says, “hey man, remember me?” with a nod of its head. It tells you fuck off in between red lights.

My parents are cropping up in casual conversations. It’s almost how I introduce myself, how I recap my weekend. How was your weekend, Sarah? Oh you know, my mom wants to live in my living room. The usual. How do I tell people that that she calls me weekly, pleading in pain, while I’m at work? I don’t. Because that shit doesn’t fly, dat shit don’t pay rent. Sarah, please help me. Please help me, Sarah. And I feel ready to cave, to just give it all up. To move back into the cigarette-stained apartment, to suffocate again with her. All in the name of HELP.

If you read my pulse, you’d find my family there. If you listened close enough, you’d hear something bleating like a half-wounded sheep. I used to have this on lockdown. For a long time FAMILY was the one genre of honest writing that was off limits for me.

I desperately want to ebb and flow in front of my siblings. They after all lived through the same thing. But I’m too stubborn to show them, too scared to get black ink all over their clothes. My brother is a young dad now. He’s found a way to outsource his rage, through scream-o music, and my jaw drops in awe whenever I hear him scream. It’s thrilling to me—like the feeling I get on the Giant Drop. My sister has a new boyfriend she’s really pumped about. And apparently she’s what the kids call “a boss” at her job. The other one is going to school after silently digging holes into herself and straggling from house to house for years. I worry about them as often as I click on a link, as I type a sentence, as I turn a tight corner. I also well an ocean of pride for them because I know what it takes. It takes everything just to move an inch in the muddy waters of poverty, of pain you wouldn’t believe even if you lived it. Because trust me, I don’t believe my eyes.

Being the first to graduate in your family sounds like a big fucking accomplishment. It is, don’t get me wrong. But there’s something so pathetic about coming out the other side alone. There’s no one at the finish line to share this with me. I left people behind. When I come back to visit, there’s this artificiality, this distance, this need for them to understand me. I miss my people. I need my people. But I’m afraid to get close.

Let’s get back to Linkin Park, and why the bitch inside my head is not okay with me feeling the music. When I was 13, this was expected. I just let myself feel whatever I had to feel, and then moved on. Mostly, I felt angry. I felt suffocated. But as soon as I opened the sliding door, when I left the dingy, cigarette stained apartment, shit was funny again. I turned to my friends and teachers; I didn’t push them away or push the button on self-sabotage when my open life was staring me in the face.

Sometimes I wish I could just inject funny into me. I used to see directly past pain, and a lot of that had to do with my ability to open my mouth, hear the sound come crashing behind my tonsils, and laugh with my entire body. My defenses are down. I’m so good at making myself laugh, at laughing at myself. But right now my humor sounds like a radio playing muffled music, short-circuiting under water.

I try to move on, but really what I’m doing is distracting myself, over stimulating myself—with the Internet mostly. With the opinions and thoughts of everyone else, so I don’t have to be alone, truly alone. At home and at my desk, I’m living in this hyper sensory bubble. When something happens—not just to my family, to people I hardly know or don’t know at all—the bubble I’m living in zaps me. My hair stands up straight from the electricity. When a journalist is beheaded. When a comedian kills himself. When an entire population is led to an edge at gunpoint. I suddenly can feel that, too.

I feel like a dandelion that’s being plucked over and over. When did I become such a delicate, little flower?

And then there’s the whole what am I going to do with my life thing that plagues us all. I figured out a long time ago that I’m not okay with doing something that isn’t meaningful to me. What I really want to do depends on if other people think I have anything legit to say. It has to smell new, feel new. It can’t be covered in chocolatey clichés. For the love of god, I want to be a writer. A WRITER. I usually follow this with a punchline, chortle, a snort. Why of all things, does it have to be that? Why couldn’t I have picked something else to fall in love with?

I don’t even know what kind of writer I want to be. My boyfriend tells me I need a niche. Hey babe, you’re good at movie and book reviews. Hey babe, you love poetry. I know I need to narrow things down, too. The trouble is I have this professorial snob in the back of my mind who is wagging HIS (because let’s face it, most known writers are men) finger at me, telling me I’m not smart enough to be a writer. He speaks in a British accent of course. He asks me what I know. I tell him I’m not sure. And he laughs a merry laugh that only a well-esteemed, well-accomplished old, white man can.

I know a million people around me who are feeling the flimsiness of being a 20 something in 2014. As my best friend said to me last night in between my large gulps of air, our parents, people before us, don’t know what it’s like now—to graduate from college, to write a resume, to encourage yourself, to find a job, to learn the ropes of a new one, or to be stuck in one. It’s a miracle that I still have my best friend, that I have friends to share these raw sentiments with.

In a sense, this is why I’m sharing all of this. I know I say I want alone time, but this does not mean I’m truly alone. I know you are on the other side feeling some of these things, too.

Here’s the advice that I’m telling my wide-eyed, sleep-deprived self this morning. (It’s no longer 10 p.m. I woke up. It’s 7:30. I have to be at work at 9.)

The advice I tell myself is nothing fancy. It doesn’t wear designer clothes. It’s what I tell everyone else. Here it goes: just roll with it. If you feel pain, fucking let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Girl, don’t push it down. Where do you think that shit goes? You can’t simply have a bowel movement, and out it goes. Wrapping up insecurity and pain and stamping a frilly bow on top of it all is not the way to go about things. It has never helped anyone. Hiding breeds bad adults. Plain and simple. Say something. For fuck’s sake, wake up, speak up. Turn around and look. We’re all bleeding around you.

Monsters in your rear-view mirror

“Most of American life consists of driving somewhere and then returning home, wondering why the hell you went.” ~John Updike

It’s 8:50 in the morning, and I’m sharing the road with the bag-eyed stragglers who have yet to make it into work. The coffee I shamelessly slurped from a lidless mug has yet to kick in.

Stopped at a light, I peer into my visor’s mirror and use the inside of my sleeve to wipe off yesterday’s leftover makeup. I check the clock again. 8:51, splendid. If I keep this pace up, I can waltz into my place of work on time and grace my co-workers with my disheveled appearance.

My attention staggers to a blue blur in my rear view mirror. Someone is coming up on me fast. My instinct is to move, but instead I check my speedometer. I’m going 50 mph in a 45 mph zone.

No, I will not move, I say in my head to the woman in the four-door blue Mazda. And surprise, surprise, there’s a car on the right side of me that I am keeping pace with.

Sound familiar? Go on, admit it. I won’t judge. I know you have blocked in a speed demon on the road before.

Time for my own confessions: I am not a meek driver. I am usually going at least 5 to 7 mph over the speed limit at all times save for school or work zones. In other words, I won’t mow down a senior citizen crossing the street. I make an ample amount of left hand turns out of risky driveways and bulldoze through yellow lights if I believe in my heart of hearts I can make it. Maybe I’ve had one too many Taco Bell burritos behind the wheel. I’m not an aggressive driver, but I’m also not a purring pussycat.

I will also admit that I am not immune to getting angry at other drivers. Have I ever truly endangered anyone’s life before? Not yet, no. For this, I still have time.

But lately, I have gotten this curious buzzing heat in my ears that I can’t seem to shake off. I have noticed a slight moldy gray color on my knuckles when I grip my steering wheel a little too hard. I sometimes feel something twitching underneath my face, a facial expression of pure constipation. The face of “I’m so angry I look like I need to shit.” What I am describing to you are the beginnings of road rage.

A few times I have even let it possess me. I can’t help myself. Even in traffic, when I know I’m not going anywhere, when I know glaring at the person next to me won’t get me home any sooner, I feel the need to let everyone know that I am just a miserable as they are.

During these times, phrases like: “No, no. By all means, you first, fuck face” and “Wow, you’re a flying douchebag” have left my cynical lips. No one can ever hear me, of course. It just makes me feel better in a pathetic sort of way. Speaking these words to myself somehow sobers my rage.

I have yet to let it escalate further—being drunk behind the wheel without prior alcohol consumption. I’m sorry, but some people who drive the way they do, intoxicated by their own anger, might as well be drunk. It’s a special form of bat shit crazy.

The woman driving the blur of Mazda behind me resembles a winged, fanged creature that probably escaped from Hell. She wears a pair of sunglasses, but I can imagine her eyes rolling Exorcist style into the back of her head.

She begins to cling to my car’s ass, willing it move faster. There’s a line of traffic further down the road and a car right next to me. Like Melville’s Bartleby, I prefer not to, and choose to do nothing. I continue to drive the same speed.

She’s livid. I can see her mouth reciting incantations in my rear view mirror. I would be lying to say I don’t get some satisfaction at the sight of her babbling mouth starting to foam.

Her car begins to rock in between the lines of the left lane. I check my mirror. Her mouth is wide open now. I can see her teeth, white as shark teeth before they’re covered in mealtime blood. She looks hungry for Sarah flesh.

When that won’t move me, she lays into her horn, and she doesn’t let off. By this point, my exhaustion has officially worn off. Her horn screams and wakes me up from the sleep I haven’t even had yet. For half of a mile, this woman holds her horn. I feel like my car is getting raped.

This is the part where I would normally back down in order to save my life, but there’s nowhere for me to go. Because we’ve stopped. There’s a wall of traffic in front of me and on the other side of me.

Cruella de Vil skins ten puppies before she rolls down her window to call out to me. “Hey you stupid bitch, if you don’t know how to use the left lane, don’t drive in it! Some people have to get to work!!!!!” I watch her beat her steering wheel like a drum at the beat of every syllable she spits outside the window like an enraged camel.

I give her the benefit of the doubt when I wonder if she’s on her way to a hospital or crime scene. As she stuffs her neck more outside her window to scream at me, she reveals a long strand of glossy pearls dangling in front of a ruffled blouse. She probably works in an office like me, not anywhere she’s saving lives. I wonder if there’s any amount of money in the world that gives someone the thumbs up to drive like this.

“Learn how to fucking drive the speed limit! It’s the left lane!! THE LEFT LANE!!” Her voice is hoarse by now. I swear I can actually hear the scratchy, rawness in the back of her throat.

I watch intently. I’m entranced by the monster in my rear view mirror. I think about taking a picture of her so I have a visual aid to accompany this story when I tell it later.

She visibly heaves. She pauses for a second, most likely collecting her breath and saliva for the next round of obscenities. She was burning herself out, screaming, flailing, and savagely pointing to the left lane. She looks like Gumby on fire, all lit up in my mirror.

I talk myself out of whipping around and telling this lady to forget about work, and to drive herself to a facility where she can be assessed properly. Don’t saying anything, Sarah. Keep your calm, woman.

My stomach quakes with acidic hatred as I grip my steering wheel until my palms hurt. I can’t take it. I roll down my window. “Are you serious right now?” I ask her.

That sets her off even more. I watch her throttle out of her seat belt. This is it, I think. This is the part where I die. I have heard stories about people getting out of their cars with a baseball bat, crowbar, or weapon of some kind and using it to smash another person’s car.

The man in the white Honda next to me intervenes. He’s as shaken as I am. “Hey lady, where the hell do you want her to go? Do you see?” He waves his hand, spanning the view in front of us. “We’re all stuck in traffic! No one is going anywhere!”

She won’t bother with his logic. It doesn’t make sense to her. “THE LEFT LANE!!” she bleats raggedly.

Finally, traffic begins to crawl forward. When she gets the first chance she breaks away from behind me. As she passes me on the right side, she shoves her French manicured middle finger out her window.

Further down the road, I pass her up as she gets sandwiched between two trucks. She slams her fists into the steering wheel again like a toddler who just won’t get her way.

5 minutes away from work, I replay the scene in my head. I think about the bulge in her neck, her bugged out eyeballs. I don’t think I have ever seen a woman look less unattractive. What is it about driving to work that makes some people so ugly? Is the job really worth it if this is what you look like going to it?

Nope, not one bit. Luckily, I found a way to curb my own road rage. Whenever I begin to feel that familiar homicidal gurgling in the pit of my stomach, I will think of her. So thanks. Thank you, Ms. Mazda. Thank you for giving me a terrifying taste of what I can become when I begin to let my job, my time, my life control me.

drive