All day long, I keep the door shut but the window open. Then I perform the rituals of a madwoman. They go like this: listen to podcasts about black holes (Spoiler alert: they’re not actually holes! Quite the opposite actually. Look it up for your daily dose of useless wisdom) and systemic racism and the effects of anger on the heart. I’m worried about my heart. I’ve only lived twenty years but I’m still convinced it could be failing me. I mean, aren’t all hearts technically failing, no matter how healthy they appear on an electrocardiogram? Any time I think about something remotely sad (black holes, systemic racism, the effects of anger on the heart), those dwellings manifest as a throbbing pain in the center of my ribcage, right where you’d aim to shoot me if you were, for some reason, trying to assassinate me. Or would it be considered murder instead? I didn’t know the technicalities of vocabulary off the top of my head so I asked good old Google, and Her Highness read me the definitions of those terms. Well, it turns out you have to be famous and important for your death to be considered an assassination, so I’d just be murdered, albeit in cold blood. That’s bananas to me. It’s the same damn thing. Still a bullet lodged in the bullseye of a human being. Still a pulsing life. Even the dignity of your death is defined by other people’s perceptions of you. God, that’s depressing.
Chest pain is always concerning. Whenever I feel that familiar fist clenching and unclenching in my core, my first reaction is to go, Oh f-ck. Goodbye Earth, I guess. After that, the flood of possible realities drenches my mind. Pulmonary stenosis. Mitral valve prolapse. Mitral regurgitation. (Sounds sexy!) Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Myocardial infarction. Arrhythmia. (Thanks again, Googs!) I memorized all of this medical jargon before I hit double digits because, for whatever reason, I was so stressed out in fifth grade that my pediatrician diagnosed me, with a sympathetic smile plastered on his face, with the condition of being smart enough to create my own suffering. Terminal illness, right? Nothing’s actually wrong with my heart. My body is just a foolish narcissist.
[Side note: since all words are just assigned meaning, and there’s no actual “love” in the word l-o-v-e, or m-a-n-i-c d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-o-n in the body I inhabit, wouldn’t Arrhythmia be a beautiful name for a baby girl if it meant something other than the meaning we gave it?]
Back to the rituals. After the slew of podcasts (because every recorded voice is insufferable after a few episodes), it’s time for some light reading. Take today’s selections, for example: an illegally downloaded PDF of Omi and Winant’s racial formation theory. I read that until I was sufficiently over the human race. After that, fifty pages of Normal People by Sally Rooney, which has already introduced me to some delicious characters. And then after, my Facebook timeline. Incredible literature it is: a melting pot of awareness and ignorance and, of course, 45-year-old conspiracy theorists and front pew complainers. My favorite. And no, I’m not trying to insult your mother, or anyone’s mother. I’m just talking, just like they do. People sure do have a lot to say about casserole recipes, bible studies, and why we all should supposedly stop eating at Chinese restaurants in the age of… well, you know what they say.
The rest of the rituals are hardly rituals at all. I switch it up to keep it funky and fresh. Sometimes I Twitter-stalk literary agents who would never give my work a second glance, much less a first read. I’m not cool enough! I never have been. Other times I just sit here and wait for the mailman to come. Today he brought me pen pal letters from my three of my friends, Charli and José and Andy. That was one good thing, at least. I smiled while reading them, which, when I think about it now, is somewhat of a rarity these days.
These days, these days. Every day for the past four months I have met a novel variety of angina, which is fancy-talk for chest pain. It’s different every time, the specific thing that tugs at my chest: black holes, systemic racism, the effects of anger on the heart, crippling writer’s block, the fact that there’s no cure to comorbid bipolar and borderline personality disorder, my sh-tty genetics, the American education system. This list is far from exhaustive.
But I’m trying to be less angry, less foam-at-the-mouth rageful, because one day my knack at inventing diseases might actually morph into a real disease, and I’d rather die of anything else (Meteorite! Poison! Lightning strike!) than cardio-anything. I’d just hate to succumb to a predictable ending. A textbook finale of morphine and the intensive care unit of a hospital tucked away in the indifferent suburbs. I’d take assassination any day (Fine. Murder.)
I wish Her Highness Google had a direct answer for why I think these things, in this way, in this language. Like why I’m paralyzed by the inability to read others’ perceptions of me, the madwoman in the stuffy bedroom. Why I’m obsessed with speaking in medical tongues and brainwashing myself into thinking I’m experiencing a massive cardiovascular event when I really just need to Calm the F-ck Down and Stop Killing Myself Over Problems I Can’t Solve. Why I’m so eager to find the meaning of meaning itself (there is no real “meaning” in the word m-e-a-n-i-n-g) and why I can’t leave middle-aged bigots alone. Google doesn’t know why I am the way I am, no matter how many times I beseech her. And that’s okay. It’s for my own good, I guess.
Yeah, you know, there are still some things we’re all better off not knowing.