Verbatim

by Andrina Deery

Someone once told me it’s bad luck to walk on a triple-drain
(a skateboarder who tattooed me in the wrong place)
but walking on a double can fix anything.
Now, I can’t walk in a straight line – I have to touch the doubles,
whoever I’m with cannot touch a triple,
and the singles – we leave those well enough alone.

I was told that being near living things has a positive influence on the self
(by a crisis counsellor) and so I often sit in the botanic gardens, alone
on the bench just left from the library-side entrance.
The smell of life around me, weather-dependent temperatures
(as opposed to the predictability of the thermostat) and not-so-distant shouting
is supposedly ‘good for the soul’.
She also told me that, when in crisis, it is very difficult to see a way out;
maybe that is why I wear my contact lenses and sit in the same place.

Someone (a past-teacher) once told me to try listing ten things I can see
 so that my daydream cannot carry me out the classroom window, and leave me to hover outside with the birds.
Inside, as an idea, has a tendency to swallow me.
A wall the deep white empty of February, a mirror, a birdcage,
an old green sweet wrapper and an empty wine glass,
a lone, newly-scuffed shoe by the made bed,
the bed, the train-track outside, and me.
I am still learning to list.

The internet says to chew gum, and smell lavender oil
and smell the rain on my roof outside – to stay grounded.
The smells tether me, prevent me from floating up on an unfinished sentence.
If I haven’t started that day with a cold shower, periodically checked in with myself
and used my nose then I should expect the mental barrier,
and to be tucked away inside another thought and feeling entirely.

My father once told me, in the carpark of the drowning family business,
that I am beautiful, intelligent, and that I matter.
He heard it on the radio, that you’re meant to say that.
My mother once called me a ‘cow’ for putting too much gravy on my dinner
(or was it a pig?) – I think of the two situations just as often,
and add them to the mass of unforgettable mass of thoughts in my mind,
curling out of my ears and around me like smoke.

But I am a warm-blooded creature.
I may move in the cold rain like a snake but more often I move toward warmth
and cannot multitask. I do not like writing lists. Or thinking as I speak.
My memory is shot to hell. It makes things up; fills in the gaps
(there are more of them everyday).
I do not own lavender oil. And chewing hurts my teeth,
because my jaw is crooked, over-bitten and mis-matched.
The minty-ness stings my eyes, the wrappers end up on my floor (waiting to be listed).

But what is one to do, when they follow the advice of everyone around them and still,
still, cannot find that one nameless, shapeless thing.