Start by developing insomnia. It’s not really a development, per se — it’s something you’ve struggled with at many points throughout your life. But now it’s worse. Much worse. You wake up in the middle of the night and your brain is on rapid fire. Every night.
You have a song stuck in your head.
You are repeating conversations you had the day before, a week ago, five years ago. You have things you want to say but you didn’t and now you can’t.
“Counting Blue Cars” by Dishwalla will not stop playing in the background (sometimes the foreground) of these conversations.
You spend hours up, awake, repeating the chorus and trying to finish the song, but you forgot three words in the second bridge so you have to start it over.
And start it over and start it over and start it over.
And then you begin to wonder why you never told that girl in your Math Analytics class that you liked her shirt.
That Math Analytics class was your freshman year in college. You’re 28 now.
You wonder how many blue cars they count in this song. You start to think that the songwriter also has OCD. Why only blue cars?
Finally look at the clock. It’s 6:34am. You aren’t sure how long you’ve been awake, but you predict it’s been since at least 3am — which makes no sense because you took an Ambien at midnight. You eventually fall back asleep at around 7 — an hour before your alarm goes off.
Sleep becomes a series of naps and you can never get enough of them. You try counting backwards from 100 but you get distracted by another song or another person or another thought or you think you hear your front door opening right around the time you count back to 79.
Start counting again.
Start hating numbers more than you ever did before, and you’ve never been a math person, so that’s been forever. You’re sick of counting. You’re sick of counting your steps when you are walking from your car to your desk at work. You’re sick of counting backwards from any number when you can’t sleep. Counting your breaths instead of counting backwards. Counting how many people you’ve kissed. Counting your leg shakes when you begin to move uncontrollably because a physical output of this anxiety is the closest you can get to getting rid of it.
You’re sick of counting to 8 over and over and over every time you are anxious or guilty or sad or any feeling besides static — which is something you haven’t felt in quite some time. Maybe it’s something you’ve never actually felt. When people talk about their minds going quiet, you never have thought that to be a conceivable notion.
The tips of your fingers are still soft but you feel like they’ll form calluses from how many times you touch them during the day even though your thumb is also soft and it wouldn’t make any sense that you’d develop a callus from that. Eight touches times anywhere between 20 and 50 times a day? You can’t do the math even though you keep counting. This is a new compulsion and for a moment, you imagine all of your compulsions displayed on the rear window of a mini van instead of white sticker children. You wonder if anyone can tell.
You wonder: if your brain can create these new compulsions so quickly, how quickly can it form a brain tumor?
Google “brain tumors.”
Google “brain tumors.”
Search Facebook for your old roommate, whose mother died of brain cancer.
Search Facebook for your roommate previous to that, who moved out in the middle of the night because she was homophobic.
Search Facebook for a girl you once had a crush on, who looks kind of like her.
Look at every photo of her, back to 2008.
Search Facebook for the girl who you started dating in 2008.
Click onto her new boyfriend.
Click through his profile pictures.
Google “gay face.”
This Internet stalking loop makes you feel filthy. Suddenly, you can feel every single germ crawling over your skin. Your clothes are filthy. You smell yourself. You think if you come into contact with anyone, they can smell you. You get in the shower. You live in a place where there is constantly a drought, but you hope the city council understands.
Once you’re in the shower, begin to arrange and rearrange the selection of shampoo, conditioner, and soaps in rainbow order. Most of the items are blue or red, so you separate them into blue and red and then arrange them based upon the varying shades. Once you are satisfied, you wash your hair. Count how many times your fingers touch when you’re rubbing your scalp. Feel satisfied once it’s an even number and a multiple of 8.
Get out of the shower and hear a knock on the door. It may just be on television. But as soon as the first knock sounds, you begin counting them. There are only 5 knocks, so you knock on the wall or tap your foot 3 times to even it out.
You look down and your feet are bright red. The loofa you’ve been using for only a few weeks has expanded and looks shredded. The water can’t get hot enough. You can’t scrub your body hard enough. Your skin is constantly dry because you’re constantly showering. Lotion helps, but it’s never enough. Nothing is ever enough.
Wash, rinse, and repeat. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Your life is wash, rinse, and