Oblivion

I wrote this piece for the Creative Nonfiction Literary prize with CBC Books, sadly I wasn’t longlisted for the contest, but it did find its first home on Feminine Collective.

The rules were that the piece had to be creative nonfiction, and it had to come in at 1500 words or less, I think mine was pretty close to that.

Enjoy Oblivion, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Picture Source: Pinterest

Oblivion

Someone making an unsuccessful attempt to be quiet had pulled me into the place that hovers on the cusp of awake and asleep. A sound, unmistakably familiar yet hard to recollect, prevented me from surrendering back into oblivion.

Psssht.

Sifting through the haze I landed on a memory of my cousin and me stretching the spout of a red balloon that we took turns blowing up. As we stretched and pulled, our hot air would screech its way back out of the spout, creating a high-pitched symphony of squeals that delighted us both.

But it didn’t take long for us to grow bored with this game. The harmony grew dull once the spout became gummy with our spit and clogged with backyard dirt.

The balloon made a sad sound when we threw it into a puddle.

Psssht.

Exhaustion, the kind prescribed by psychiatrists, had found a way inside of me, coiling its hungry hands around my soul. From somewhere in the void I struggled and strained my ears, holding on to this sound and using it as leverage to pull me out of the blackness.

Slowly I became aware of my body, feeling the weight of each pound of flesh and bone that tethered me to the bed.

Opening my eyes, I was struck by how heavy my lashes had become. Blinking moisture back into my eyes I tilted my head, listening for sound, but there was only silence. I watched the shadows play off the walls and wondered what time it was until I wondered why it mattered.

Here it always looked like an artificial twilight until the sun comes up. There was a thick fog that weaved its way through my mind, blotting out the most important pieces of me. It would have been terribly alarming if I could have mustered something inside of me to care, but I couldn’t.

From a distance, I heard footsteps approach my room. They were the rubber-soled quick kind that meant business. Nobody knocked around here. I don’t know if it was because they didn’t want to give us the illusion of privacy or the illusion of control, or either.

She was whispering to someone just behind the door, and from the conspiratorial tone of the conversation I assumed it was a coworker. She left the door open behind her, enabling the fluorescent light to permeate the room and cast a bigger shadow as she approached the bed.

Riiiiiiip.

Instinctively I recoiled as she yanked the curtain down its tracks, exposing me to the rest of the room. I glanced around and was relieved to find that the curtains were drawn around the other beds.

“Good morning, Nicole. I’m here to take your vitals.”
The cuff was tight on my arm and she muttered something about low pressure, high pulse, while avoiding my eyes. Something about the way she didn’t look at me when I asked her why I was losing my focus, gave me permission to plant a seed of paranoia in my mind.

“It’s just the effects from the medication the doctor has ordered.”

“Which one?”

I mumbled as I hopelessly tried to summon from memory the ever-increasing list of medications I was taking.

She wrote my stats on her hand,

“You’ll have to ask the psychiatrist about that when she’s in.”

I asked her if she had any idea what it felt like to be completely disconnected yet still cognizant.

Would she like me to tell her if my brain would allow me to find my words?

When she removed the cuff she softened and pulled the blankets back up around me, pausing to rest her hand on my cheek.

“Try to get some more sleep, it’s still early.”

She did her best to give me back my false sense of security, gently drawing the curtain closed again before she left.

Psssht.

What I would have given to get out of that bed, pull back the curtain and find myself at home showing my daughters how to chirp a bright red balloon.
I heard a noise from the woman in the bed across from me. I reluctantly left the balloon image and instead found myself wondering if it was a tic that she had always had. Or if the reason she pursed her lips together and then let out the odd bursts of air, had come as a way to redirect pain after she had slit her own throat. Like a suicidal breathing technique helping her through the dying process.

Psssht.

From the other side of the room, a drawer slammed. It sounded as though this woman was intent on making sure every patient was up before the sun. I was angry that I had been placed in the same room as this patient and I allowed myself to fixate on my anger, imagining great destructive scenarios, indulging in the pure pleasure of experiencing an emotion other than melancholy. Satiated for the time being and tired of using only my mind for stimulation, I decided to give in and let the drugs take me into the darkness.

There are many levels of crazy and when I looked at her I was aware of how easy it would be for me to become just like her. She was a constant reminder of what could happen if my perilous grip on reality faltered. I watched her go in and out of somewhere I couldn’t see, her eyes were glazed and she was no longer present. They gave her pill after pill and changed the dressing on her neck, and I stared at the dressing and imagined the wound underneath, it was her eyes that unhinged me.

“Nicole to the nursing station. Nicole to the nursing station.”

My psychiatrist stood with my chart in her hand waiting to walk me to a room for our daily chat. Sitting across from her I nodded at the chart,

“What do you write in there? I haven’t been here long enough to accumulate that much paperwork.”

“I don’t know exactly what to make of you, Nicole.”

She crossed one Armani clad leg over the other and tapped the tip of her fountain pen against her top lip while she assessed me. A wry smirk crossed her lips so quickly that had I not been expecting it I would have missed it altogether.

“I think we’ll continue to increase the lithium. I’m not happy with your levels, and I’d like to add an antipsychotic as well.”

“But I’m not psychotic,” I replied, not at all surprised at that point. I was completely void of emotion.

“They’re used for many things,” she answered.
Standing, she headed to the door, dismissing me with a curt nod.

“Watch your weight, some of the medications I’m prescribing can contribute to weight gain.”
She didn’t wait for a reply and I found myself chasing her down the hallway.

“Please wait, I’d like to talk to you about the medications you’ve already been giving me. I can’t focus, and I don’t feel right. I don’t feel at all. It wasn’t like this before I came here, I’m almost sure of that. I know I came here for help but I can’t recall when exactly that was. There are no more Mondays, no weekends, just morning, noon, nighttime meds, and I am lost in this oblivion.”
I sobbed and fell to my knees in the open hallway of the psychiatric unit. I wanted to go home so badly. I wanted my family. I wanted to feel the way I did before I was sharing a bedroom with a woman who had cut open her own throat. I wanted to feel real emotions again, not to live in a drug induced alternate reality.

“You’re being rather dramatic.”

Shaking her head she crouched down close, “I’m going to authorize another sedative for you. I want you to take it three times a day.”
We locked eyes as she stood. My breath faltered, hitching in my chest in response to the malice I had seen in her eyes. She turned on her heel and disappeared into the nursing station.

Psssht.

“And we’re supposed to be the crazy ones? That woman is fucking nuts.”
Though her words were passionate her voice was weak—every syllable a painful reminder.She offered me her hand and I was surprised by how strong her grip was. I lifted my gaze from the dressing at her neck and scanned her lips as they puckered in anticipation of the gust.

Holding my breath I met her eyes, and for a brief moment, there was understanding in them. And then she was gone.

Psssht.

 

© Nicole Lyons 2016

We Never Made The Headlines – Stephanie Bennett-Henry

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Photo Credit: Loui Jover

 

I was born beautiful. I was born capable of conquering the world with tiny feet and cheeks blushed over with dreams. Chunky monkey, you have it all. I believed it. I believed in everything. Hands filled with stars that I threw up in the sky myself… and I watched the first one fall when I learned that perfection wasn’t something that stayed as an unconditional promise of inner beauty… no. Fingers pointing at me like a built in radar alerting me to the fat. The fat. Fat. Fat. It’s ugly. It’s gross. But fat wasn’t fat on the football team. Big fat ass… muscle! Power! Man! Roar! Tough guy… run that ball. Worship you. You don’t see any fat cheering on the sideline, do you? Of course not. But if you did, you can bet that’s what everyone would be talking about. And the sluts… the sluts that can’t stop fucking everyone… they’re not just fucking anyone, they’re fucking the studs… the macho studs… the cool boys getting laid tonight- varsity style- high five… you whore. Now you know the lesson of wham BAM, thank you, slut.

I used to babysit for a couple whose love could’ve conquered the world, until he looked me over hard enough to take my virginity with the repulse in his eyelashes
and his hands made wishes that never came true.

Waiting for the school bus was an open road of cat calls in Spanish with words I didn’t understand but gestures that taught me they were trying to collect more than the garbage two days a week. Suburbia. My Dad waited for the bus with me one day and the only noise was the garbage being collected. So, I learned about a power I would never have.

Safe place of white suburbia, where taking a freshman ride home from the dollar theater with one of those muscular senior varsity studs could make you and break you in about ten minutes. Maybe one day, he’ll carry a badge of some kind to keep that stud title, but you’ll still be the whore he doesn’t remember. Remember? I do. I do. Remember those hands that throw the football are the same hands that hold the secrets they keep finding in your pants… whether you said yes or no… it was a go. It was a fucking play… hometown hero… worshipped. Remember the boys you never talked to? The quiet ones. The ones who didn’t have rape in their pants as a pop up surprise… the nice guys… the ones you didn’t look at twice. Now you wished you had. I wished I had. Remember the girls who called other girls sluts because their boyfriends wanted to fuck you, even if they never did, you were still a threat competing with the slut they were hiding under the name “girlfriend.”

I knew a girl like that who came to my house in the middle of the night to write the word “slut” with shaving cream across my bedroom window because she believed I slept with her boyfriend, but I was still a virgin at the time despite her boyfriend calling me non stop… I always wondered why she went through all that trouble to write her own name on my window. Those are the girls now saying Amen over and over, thinking maybe someone has forgotten who they are. The girls who always said yes to anyone.

Remember when you grew up from that hell and realized that the way you learned boys were allowed to treat you was the wrong way? But the damage was done. And you weren’t forgiven for the sins that weren’t yours anyway. Remember when you learn the unfairness of it all and the way it never stops?

Remember the time you fought the law and the criminal won? Remember how you were taught… that’s life. Remember when you settled for that? Remember the birth, the stars, the fat, the studs, the badge, the muscle, the sluts, the football games…
everyone remember the football games. I remember the road lined with the eagle claws leading all the way to the football field. They are not there anymore, but I still see them. I see the road paved with claw marks from the ones whose No fell on deaf ears because the applause in the stands was so fucking loud.

You’re talking about a hero, girl… you’re talking about a legend… who are you to have a voice louder than that? Know what you’re good for is the lesson I was learning. Well, thank you, Sir for pounding that lesson into me until my No was silenced. I learned it. And I know I’m not the only one who learned.

Everyone remembers the high fives and all those plays that made the fucking paper.

Remember how you were taught you couldn’t be good enough if you tried? Remember all the stories that didn’t make the paper? I do.

© Stephanie Bennett-Henry 2016

sbh

Stephanie is a Southern Girl through and through. Sweet as candy, sharp as a blade, and talented beyond measure, Stephanie’s poetry is raw, unfiltered, and unforgettable. You can find her exquisite words at Stephanie Bennett-Henry, on Instagram and on her website.

 

It was always yours

welcome-home
Picture Source: Pinterest

Enter with a happy heart
and clean feet.
You broke that battle before
it broke you. Don’t ever
let it back in.

Walk down hallways
and remember. You have taken
back what they had
stolen. It was always
yours. Welcome home.

© Nicole Lyons 2016

Let It Burn – Jason King

letitburn
Image Source: Pinterest

I’m sitting outside….gazing at the night sky….counting stars….I’ve always had a love affair with them….it’s quiet….except for the crickets….and this large dog on the other side of a fence barking at me….I bite back dammit….this makes me think also I’m actually a little excited for my nervous breakdown….I’m only half joking about this…. mainly because the gods know I’m exhausted.

So I sit here….drink in one hand….cigarette in the other….static-x is playing on Pandora right now…. and I let my mind drift….I am tired…. not just physically….I’ve had writers block for what feels like forever now….it’s honestly driving me mad….spoken to a few writer friends about it….tried to follow their advice….still nothing….I hope it passes soon….I hate to admit it but I get jealous sometimes….many have books or write these brilliant things….and I’m stuck….I know we are supposed to be happy for others….and I am….my friends are geniuses….but fuck it if those feelings don’t creep in of damn I wish I was doing that….or why didn’t I think of that….what they wrote is really damn good….ah well we are all human….

It’s funny the things I “worry” about….things like words….in the grand scheme of things it’s probably not that big a deal….but I also know words are the most powerful thing….so this is what I worry about….not the fact I now have a warrant out….and if I’m stopped by a cop I’ll be going to jail….shoulder shrug….I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it….it’s not the first time I’ve been in a jail….I could use the vacation….so yes….I worry about why I’m blocked….first world problems.

Back to my enjoying a nervous breakdown….the world is making me tired….social media makes me want to Van Gogh my mind….I can’t read comments or an article without it devolving into a race war….with each side blaming the other for every injustice in the world….if we aren’t paying for the sins of those before us we are blaming those now….five minutes after reading comments I fantasize about letting them all go at it gladiator style….we get it….half of the population is angry or hates the other half….I can’t solve this….you can’t either….hate….racism….people will find whatever excuse they need to justify it….they don’t need our help….Hell the media will take care of it for us….give peace a chance they say….we have….part of me wants to throw my hands up and say fine….everyone just kill each other….maybe those of us left can finally move on….more than likely not….assholes always find a way….like Jurassic park….but with stupidity.

Then this election….the fucking shit show circus that it is….can’t be escaped….honestly at this point eating a lightbulb would be less painful….let’s be honest….I don’t care who you vote for….both these people are awful….reading comments on political post as well will make you kind of hope they push a button….just to make it stop….I won’t get into that debate….but honestly….what the fuck do these rich fucks have in common with us….nothing….after the election we will all still get up and go to work…pay bills….be stressed….ironically that statement will probably start a comment war…..one of those I just sigh at and close….it serves no purpose….I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking though….half the people I talk to are just tired….sick and fucking tired of it all….politicians don’t have our best interest in mind….they just don’t….

Back to words are a powerful thing….tell people what they want to hear….afterwards….line your pockets….my day to day life won’t change….I’ll be at work tomorrow….trying to make it to next payday….go fight amongst yourselves….I’m just trying to make it on what’s in my gas tank and eat….you want to hate someone because of pigment….or what God they worship….go ahead….I’m not going to change your mind….nor do I want to….I’m too damn tired….I’m thinking about what I can take to lunch tomorrow….seriously enough is enough….peace is great….but utopia is only found in books….at this point….I can’t even care if they all kill each other….I know I know….what a terrible thing to say….love will win the day….or change will only happen if we stand up and say something….positive vibes out into the universe….or pray….fine….

I’m okay being the bad guy….throwing my hands up and saying….you know what I’m burned out….if politics and race and religion separate us all that much….have the hell at it…maybe then the rest of us can move forward….but I doubt it….there’s always someone ready to hate. Yes I know….what a negative view….I call it realistic….either way.

I think that’s why we root for the bad guy….secretly envy the bad guy….I watched a very popular show Sunday….you know the one….and I found myself envying the “villain”….maybe because I understood him….or I got it….and I admired his willingness to just say fuck it….I’m going to do what I want….he just wasn’t worried about the things most of us worry about….I think that’s why we love and hate them….they’re free in ways we aren’t….we would all probably prefer to live in the light….but let’s be truthful….probably won’t happen….there’s a reason heath ledgers joker was so popular….many thought….damn it would be nice to just cut loose and stand up and say fine….we’ve tried everything else….let’s just let it all burn….we are too tired to keep going….chasing our tails….going in circles.

We can put a sunflower in a gun….that gun will still fire….so fine….you want to strike a match….let me get the gasoline….maybe when it’s all on fire it’ll finally sink in….oh wait….we are arguing over things that at this point shouldn’t be an issue….too late….light a cigarette from the embers of what was….or maybe I’m just a nihilist….or a realist….or maybe I finally had that breakdown I was looking forward to….now I can finally rest and just enjoy the blaze.

© Jason King 2016

Jason King

Jason King is a storyteller, seeker of passion, hopeless romantic, cynic, and possibly completely mad. You can find more of his exquisite writing at Jason King.

January – N.R. Shepherd

 

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I dug up a notebook, and blew off the ashes.
With my hands in my pockets, and my chin tucked to my chest,
I took a stroll through the pages of opiate abuse,
and lusting a harlot. Walking this gravel lane of memories,
no wonder I ended up dangling from an extension cord.
The world could have stopped spinning,
and as far as I was concerned…it had.
With my heart in chunks, hanging from my ribs,
and prison in my future, the heart-broken-record
on the spinner, played around the clock.
Autumn death had coated the walls,
and frost, covered the floors.
Just me and this damn dog, whose nails click-clack
the hardwood, raising the hair on my neck and
boiling the blood flowing the sewers of my body.
“Someone has to die”…Well, someone had….
Doors nailed shut, and the windows boarded up.
I was haunting my own home…
Sleeping in a hoodie, and not showering for days.
Filth filmed my skin, darkness glazed my eyes.
A constant dispute, with those within me,
and speaking aloud to the apparitions, of those I’ve once loved.
I still can’t say, how I ever made it to spring …alive.
These pages, have never got any warmer, although summer.
Sometimes, the clouds part a moment, and shine little.
I squint, and turn my head.
A part of me is gone, lost in January,
and January, will be forever in my heart.

©N.R. Shepherd 2016

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You can pray if you want, but God’s not here this evening. ….It’s just you and I under this pale moonlight, dancing… N.R. Shepherd

For more of N.R. Shepherd’s brilliant words, follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Moonlight – Matthew D. Eayre

 

Moonlight

I was asked by someone long ago what I wanted to be at two years old I wanted to be a goat, at six an FBI agent, at nine an author, at ten invisible, at eleven dead. At twelve I wanted to run away, at thirteen I wanted to be somebody’s child, at fourteen I wanted to be a sex toy for someone I chose, and at fifteen I wanted to be so fucking high I couldn’t remember my name. At sixteen I wanted to be anything at all to anyone, seventeen found me and I became a sex toy again. At eighteen I wanted to be anything that would pay my way, because I just wanted to be free of charge and up all night. What I wanted to be, what I was, the details get blurry. I’ve never had patience, I’m always in a hurry to get to what’s next, to find the next steps. At twenty-two I wanted to be gone, washed up on a beach near my childhood home so my ghost would haunt the sand and iceplant, I wanted to be nothing, finally, forever.

And everything I have ever wanted to be from my last day of being twenty-two until this second has been trapped in the first look from a pair of grey eyes. She took away what I wanted and showed me what I need. I want to be as good as I look in those eyes, as strong and pure and important. I want to be worthy of the trust I see there. I want to be a magical unicorn riding a rainbow, a perfectly paired wine with the most beautiful meal on the best table at the exotic world-class restaurant, I want to be the holder of deep secrets and the protector of hidden scars. I want to be what she sees when she sees me.

 

matt

 

Matthew D. Eayre is a writer living in Denver with his wife and children. Refusing to exist as only one thing, he works as a supervisor in a delivery company while pursuing his BA in Accounting and chasing his dreams of making his voice heard in the world.

You can connect find more of Matthew’s stunning words at Matthew D. Eayre, Poetry of Monsters and on Instagram.

Purchase a copy of his extraordinary book here.

Branded From Birth – Robbie J. Sherrah

 

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The first time I heard those words,
I wondered who was suffering more,
backward, forward motion, dizzy,
a diagnosis of confetti paper,
a bedroom and a wall to draw on,
chalk walls and demons to entertain,
gagging out of mannequins mouths,
choking me, choking them, one by one,
pleasing me, pleasing them,
I was medical wonder, wonder why?
Mouth to mouth can’t revive a rebellious child,
maybe some pills will,
choking me, choking them, one by one,
gagging out of my mannequin mouth.
Brain maggots exhumed in dust, wahoo
I was Mullen rouge from a dollar store,
big pharma you get what you whore for …
Validation from the weak, the shallow and the blind,
validate to dissipate,
my poor purged bulimic bi-polar mind.
Golden lies less the glamour in my mannequin mouth,
gagging on these mannequin lies.

© Robbie J. Sherrah 2016

RJ

Robbie J Sherrah is a storyteller by trade and a poet by night. Robbie grew up loving words and putting them down on paper, what he calls anagrams of his life, love and misguided adventures. He is currently writing a novel and designing an arts and writing Facebook community page of his own work.

My Manic Mind: The Ride of a Lifetime

I am thrilled to be on Feminine Collective with one of my favourite pieces. If you’ve ever wondered what a manic mind feels like, take a peek but buckle up, it gets pretty bumpy inside my head.

I have bipolar disorder and sometimes, well sometimes, I think I’m blessed because of it. Now I’m not trying to glamorize mental illness… My Manic Mind: The Ride of a Lifetime

Amnesia

loud

 

Just for tonight
let’s forget to remember
how we hurled our words,
like bottles filled with hate
smashing against the walls of
each other’s hearts, and how
we delighted in the little cuts
we made.
Just for tonight
let’s forget to remember
how we poked those little cuts,
grinding filth in deep, and how
we numbed ourselves to the taste
of our shame.
Just for tonight
let’s forget to remember how we
let our sick hearts die, and how
we watched shadows swirl and take
us both under.
Just for tonight
let’s remember how we
once loved so intensely that
together we could drive light
into the darkest
of places.

© Nicole Lyons 2016

 

  • A special thank you to my dear friend Bob for inspiring that last line.

Illusions of Love

Illusions

 

I loved him. In every mask
he ever wore, I loved him.
Sometimes I wonder.
Had I have met the man beneath
the masks, would I have
loved him too?

©Nicole Lyons 2016