Guilt and happiness are just bedfellows.
When I was a child, sometimes when I could hear crashing and screaming and the terror of what was to come, I would play a CD sang by much bigger girls and feel safe. I knew the lyrics and I knew the tune and that was enough because in that story I knew what was next, in that 3 minutes — I would be cocooned. Nothing was smashed and nobody was hurt in ‘Wannabe’. I dreamt in leopard print and glitter nail polish.
And then once when eating giant egg rolls and char sui pork with my fat teen face smeared in sauce, a man dressed in a stetson and spurs set his arm on fire on the gaslight plate warmer on his table. His wife screamed and jumped back and the flame grew, bright white against the plaid of his shirt. Waiters rushed over and flapped napkins, the man on the next table threw his glass of water. The entire restaurant craned their necks to see the commotion, and I with nervous volcanic insides began to laugh and laugh. The wife looked at me with disbelief, my brother smacked my leg and told me to be quiet.
I’ve always been terrified of vomiting. It has been my biggest fear since I can remember. Hell is a dirty animal screeching for relief, doubled over, erupting the acid from its belly. I cried when a man was seasick on the ferry, and buried my head in my mother’s lap. “Tell me when its over”, I wept, trying to press my face as far into her stomach as possible as if it would let me in and I could be un-born and wombed until the man had stopped the dreadful yacking.
In 98' when the world cup was on TV, Dad was angry because Argentina were beating England, and the crowd were just roaring watercolours running and running across the screen. I was smack in the middle of my puke phobia nightmare and was refusing to go to a birthday party, I lay rolled up in my pink dressing gown on the sofa. I hadn’t eaten for a while and was pretending to be poorly so nobody would force me to. The party was at a local gymnasium and there would be food there, children laughing and playing games and dancing to smash hits compliation CD’s. I couldn’t trust anything that my mother hadn’t made. Certain foods made me scared of being sick, like sausage casserole. When Argentina scored the final goal my Dad threw a glass at the television and anxiety ate ate ate away at my innards.
One time a girl in my glass got sick, sat in the corner of the room with a big red bucket whilst the rest of the class obliviously sat on the carpet for story time. I couldn’t understand how they could exist, so calmly, whilst my world was falling off its axis. I clamped my hands over my ears, whimpering. Nobody was paying attention to her or me. How could they not hear the blood pulsing through my body like this, bang, bang, bang? I started to screw my eyes shut and whimper like a dog with its tail trapped in the door. I was sent outside for being disruptive.
Now I feel guilty whenever I’m happy. Driving through tunnels off the freeway late at night and the sky is lilac and there’s a warm hand on the back of my head and I shut my eyes and remember all the many faces of my hurt. I trip myself with sticks. I remember that my friend’s are suffering and my family too and the world is heavy and animals are neglected and that I didn’t return that book to the library in my hometown. I skipped on my phone bill and my friend is gone, I didn’t graduate and I don’t think before I speak and the world is ending, right? I count my failings more often than I count my blessings. I write awful things to just delete. I create for an empty auditorium and whatever I’m selling doesn’t sell seats.