At the Reading

He wore the same
blue jacket they all wear.
The kind that
disappears into ink
wells, that sneaks
into handshakes and
strange languages
and begs not to
let go. For hours
on end, I imagine
what it would be
like to watch a
stranger unravel.
Behind a computer
, he says,
you are capable of
teaching any man
how to be afraid
Doing it in person
would make my
illness indisputable.
In my pocket,
there is a little piece
of paper that dismisses
my existence every day.
I play with my jewelry,
fumble around in my bag.
My mom tells the man this
is how I communicate
my innate mistrust of
strangers. It is
easier than having
to explain the narrative
of my manic episodes,
my rape, the time
I tried, and failed,
to drown myself
in the bathtub.
Every time I talk,
my sobriety becomes
a private spectacle.
Two years ago,
I was drinking German
ale, alone. My bag
contained no antidepressants,
no drug warnings about
the hazards of mixing
beer and Lamictal.
Any acknowledgment
of my body felt
like a kind of
violence somehow,
the way everything
in life feels when
you are performing
for a stranger.
Even during the
suicides, there
was something
immensely enjoyable
about the act of
becoming insane.
On my medication,
I have tried to
reconstruct myself
in the context of
old myths. Science,
however, does
not allow for the kind
of grandiosity
that is required for
either my happiness
or sadness. Several
times, I have tried
to understand
what it would take
to wake up and be
honest when I say
I am not bipolar.
Maybe there is something
in my genes that has
made me unable to
imagine stability without
the presence of
some adult figure
in my shadow.
I just know that this
strange man’s hug
feels like
the kind of house
my father used to
promise me, the one we
said we’d mess up,
but never, ever leave.

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