I’m fine; everything is fine. He’s reading ESPN highlights on his phone. I sit up and look over his shoulder. Sergio and Tiger are embroiled in a controversy, and Sergio is pissed at Tiger. Stand in line, Sergio, I think to myself.
I decide not to tell him. He doesn’t need to know.
Shit. Those five words in that order mean one thing: I better open my mouth and start talking. Even though I’d rather just make fun of golf tournaments or one of our kids and go to sleep.
“So. . . ” I say.
He’s still scrolling through the Sergio-Tiger article.
I clear my throat. Go!Go!Go! I scream at myself. I roll onto my back and let it unfurl. “I did something stupid that I feel ashamed about, but I learned my lesson and won’t do it again.”
Now I have his attention.
He rolls towards me and waits for the story between the shame caveats that bookend most of the shit that comes out of my mouth at bedtime. He’s waiting.
“It didn’t cost any money,” I say, telling both the truth and a joke. “Yet .” I add, trying too hard to be funny. I know I am going to end up crying.
He’s waiting– laughing– but waiting.
We both are.
So I tell him. I divulge all the details that I’ll never tell anyone else. I explain how I had a good idea that rotted in my palm, but I refused to give it up. “Naturally, I pressed ahead and then waited in anguish for the inevitable results. I deserved exactly what I got, but still. The rejection felt like a sucker punch,” I say, unable to meet his eyes.
I want him to respond to me in paragraphs. If there was a menu, I’d order a pep talk entrée with a side of (fried) insightful discoveries about my self-destructive ways. I want him to do work that I don’t want to do myself.
“I feel sad that you do this to yourself,” he said.
Now I am crying. I want him to keep talking but he doesn’t. He knows I need space. Silence. Room to flail.
I search for the words to explain my thinking. Not just the rote mechanics of this latest gambit– I want to explain the big why. “My mind is like fucking Fox News with a never-ending crawl at the bottom of the screen. My crawl never ever stops. Never. It’s a constant commentary. Who’s better, me or her? Is she smarter than I am? Is she skinnier? Is he more successful? Am I the better mother/sister/wife/runner/writer/friend/patient? Who’s better? WHO IS BETTER?”
How can I explain that those questions drove the latest shenanigans? “I was trying to keep my footing; I was trying to be the answer to my question who is better. But I need a new question. This who’s better is killing me,” I say, staring at the shadow on the ceiling.
“What if you didn’t ask a question at all?” He suggests. “Then, you won’t have to answer it and you won’t have to work so hard to be the best.”
His brain is not like mine. He doesn’t have a crawl.
“Impossible.” I’m crying harder.
What if I could be free of it? A me who is more creative, joyful, vulnerable and connected flashes through my mind. I want to meet her.
In the dark I believe she’s out there waiting for me.
I want to run to her, but all I can do is crawl.