Cheeks Of Iron

Lit Up — April “Transition”

I lie in a made bed, in a clean home — the hyper vigilance of anxiety causing each finger to tremor, to shake. There is no reason for it. There doesn’t have to be. It’s just there, interrogating me.

Did you lock the door?


Do you think he will call?


Do you think society sees you as abnormal?

I don’t know.

Is your cat dying?

Everyone is.

And my brain jumps on the interstate, exploring the opportunity to whir all its mechanics. We’re all dying. I’m dying. What have I done with my life? What will I do with it? Who am I? What will I regret when I die? I wonder if mom and dad worry about dying. I bet they do. I wonder if I could take laundry over to their house tomorrow. Probably but I have that manuscript due on Monday and I’m only two-thirds of the way done. I wonder if I’ll make the deadline. I think I will. I will. I will. I will.

I can’t quit grinding my teeth. My cheeks are iron. I wonder if there’s a prize for that — cheek bodybuilder. I glance at my phone. Another hour gone. I close my eyes, try to sleep.

Did you lock the door?

Yes, I did. But now I’m unsure. I sit up, wild eyed. It’s too dark. Have to get up. I walk over to the door, check the deadbolt. Locked.

I’m tired. I lie back down, curl into the fetal position. 10 minutes. I flip to my back. 30 minutes. I move my pillows out of the way and lay my head on my arm. Another hour. It’s lighter outside.

I’ve grown new eye bags. Bags on bags. Jerry and Oswaldo and Beth and Hank. I rub my face. Quit naming eye bags. I move to the counter and look at the bottle, tiny tablets waiting to transition me into a calmer self, a focused self, a thoughtless self. I swallow. Maybe the dose is too high; Maybe I’m too crazy for the dose I have. I’m so tired. I pop the pill onto my tongue and down it goes, leaving its bitter after taste burning into my esophagus. Take with water. You have to take it with water. I grit my teeth, but the jitters subside — just enough. I get on my laptop, feeling refreshed and tired all at once. There are so many words to write. Not enough room left in my head. The thought dissipates. It doesn’t attach like the others.

I type, fingers touching a loved map of letters. I exhale, inhale. It’s enough.