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"I'm not myself these days."

A story written by Carlisle Sargent.


“I’m not myself these days.”

Note: This story has some triggering content included. It was written for Allison Parker.

Does it still count as an uncommon occurrence if I more often explain myself this way than not? My personality cannot reconcile or regulate itself these days. Can’t behave these days. Can’t leave me alone. And so I am left with a selfish, pleading conscience, cold-pressed and undiscovered. No lukewarm, no grey matter. Nothing just right.

The jealous longing I feel sitting on this train does have one simple remedy: don’t get off. A simple, reclusive, and cowardly response to the nature of whatever baddie I have temporarily let back inside of me. I won’t really stay on the train, but I can’t help fantasize about the idea because I still believe that there is value to being uncompromised, to being lonely and free. If I didn’t, the whole equation combusts and I have to return to the very beginning.

Maybe, as it was just pointed out, I am just sad because nobody that I have ever loved can seamlessly transform themselves back into someone I don’t. A friend. And with most of my relationships, a friend was often who I was seeking in the first place. But no, when it ends, each person prefers a certain quiet, angry distance, taking with them all of the sex and dinners and cursed, tangential compassion. Little pieces of me spread across the state. If I am lucky, the country. And I should consider myself lucky, he said once, “so experientially diverse”. But I don’t. I am disappointed, ancient, uneven. Bored by my own vitality and guilt.

And I know this isn’t what is making me act this way.

So, bored also by my bullshit.

Last night I dreamed of her. She was waking up in her bad that morning, her crumpled duvet something preppy like chevron, or perhaps just clean white down. The man who shot her watches her yawn and stretch and text her boyfriend hello. She doesn’t see him, looming and inescapable, but I do. The gun is already drawn and aimed, like a video game, like the video I should have never seen. She does her hair and has breakfast. I begin to whisper turn around, and soon I have said it so many times that the phrase morphs into a single word – turound – in the dream. Now screamed, still helplessly. He follows her to her car, his hands shaking from the weight and from something else. Turound please please turound please turound but she doesn’t hear and how would it help anyway? I am childish and furtive. On the drive, she sings embarrassingly to the radio and her personality suddenly immortalizes in my brain, bricked tight like a sister or a lover.

And later, when she does finally see him, her eyes dilate and she already knows how to disappear completely. When she is shot, I know she heard my screaming the whole time, and that she is not my sister, but nearly a stranger. Death greets her with more peace than the aftermath – but less than that morning, hugged in wretched white down.

I wake up from this punishment crying for my father, which is not something I knew humans really did – I thought we just lied and wrote about things like that for effect.

Death is full of surprises.

After Allison died, I promised myself to take back my mornings. Like she did in the dream. I promised myself that, when I could, I would wake up slow. I would wrap my arms around a lover, a friend, my children, myself - and I would find peace where she couldn’t. I am still trying. I am still here.