Thursday, September 11, 2014

The 5 Greatest Fears of Millenial Gals

We’ve all got a greatest fear. But then there are the other core fears that are also dancing around our brains, competing for dominance on our hierarchy of fears. They’re all a part of who we are and they affect virtually everything we do. We like to think of our fears as private, personal things that we don’t share with others, but the truth is that we ladies share a shitload of them. As Millenials, the media touched every aspect of our development, including the development of our fears. Knowledge of the monsters that keep us up at night better equips us to beat them to death! Or at least weaken them so we don’t have so much goddamn anxiety all the time.

1 We fear that we’ll never find “true love.” Or rather, we’ll never achieve the conceptualization of “true love” informed by years of Disney movies, teen magazines, and pop music. Will we ever meet a man who will whisk us away from all of our troubles and ensure we lead happy, fulfilling lives? What must we do to meet our respective Prince Charmings? How should we look? How should we act? Are we thin enough, tall enough, pretty enough? Despite our efforts at female self-empowerment, feminism, and you know, simple logic/reason, we are nevertheless haunted by memories of how bored and purposeless Princess Jasmine felt without exciting and whimsical Aladdin. Or how lonely and stifled Ariel felt under the sea without Prince Eric and the promise of mobility? Or how Sleeping Beauty’s life really fuckin’ sucked until her prince showed up.  Are we waiting for men to save us? If we do not nix this warped “true love” concept, we truly will be forever alone because we’ll push anyone away who doesn’t meet the requirements of being “the one.” Prince Charming isn’t real and if we wait around for him we’re gonna be sorely disappointed. We also need to accept and understand that our lives do not need entirely defined by the acquisition of love. Love is not all you need, ladies. There are many other venues through which we can achieve happiness and fulfillment that we haven’t been able to focus on due to our obsession with love and crippling self-esteem issues.

2 We fear that our dream careers will remain dreams. A banner hung across the walls of my elementary school’s cafeteria that read: IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN ACHIEVE IT! Girl PLEASE. This banner stuck with me not because of its general corniness but because the ideology of its message was already being sneakily nestled into the folds of my psyche. Our entire generation suffers from the illusion that if you really, really, really want something and work hard to get it, you’ll get it. Just like that! As if it were some millennial remix of the American Dream, it really did a number on our parents who assured us that by going to college and working hard, we will get the job we want and be able to support ourselves by doing what we love. We’re in our twenties now and we’re scared. Maybe we’re working in a completely different field, maybe we’re broke and working whatever jobs will pay the rent, maybe our circumstances are in the way. Whatever the reason for the distance between ourselves and the career of our dreams, we harbor deep worry about that distance never waning. The depressing fact is that it’s not easy to get paid doing what you love. In fact, it’s a luxury that most people just don’t have. Does accepting this mean we’ve given up? No, it doesn’t have to. I argue that it’s not always helpful to dream big. Learn to compromise with yourself. What’s so bad about finding a job that keeps you financially stable and professionally fulfilled? So maybe you’re not performing in sold-out shows on Broadway, writing books featured on the New York Times Bestseller List, or making tenure at an Ivy League university teaching philosophy. Many of us cling onto the notion that what you do defines who you are. But it isn’t true. We’re a hell of a lot more than that.

3 We fear that we are not pretty. Good god, look at our thighs/bellies/boobs/ass/legs! How unattractive. We’re totally disgusting. We must fix ourselves. We need to do everything we can to make sure we look as pretty as humanly possible. Ask any of us what we want to look like and we’ll write you a whole goddamn book. Ask us what we find pretty about ourselves and we’ll grow uncomfortable and question your motives behind asking such a question. What we often fail to consider is WHY are we so concerned with “being pretty?” Is it in some primal quest to establish dominance over other females? Is it as simple as the desire to attract a mate? Or is this obsession perhaps fed by cultural channels as well? Barbie taught us that pretty meant blonde hair, giant knockers, and a waist the size of a baby’s fist. Fashion mags taught us that pretty meant a diet of heroin and cigarettes to achieve a more dramatic, frail look. Beauty pageants taught us that the presentation of our prettiest selves can win us the crown! As women, we subconsciously marry our perceptions of self-worth and appearance. If we are pretty, we believe that our lives will be easier, that we will be more successful, more attractive to men/women, more liked, more loved. We want to be wanted. While there’s nothing wrong with that inherently, the level that we allow beauty to influence our lives must be scrutinized if we don’t want to drive ourselves absolutely bonkers.

4 We fear growing old. And thus growing irrelevant. The fear of becoming our mothers or grandmothers causes us great shame. We love these older women and we know that one day we will become older women, but that doesn’t mean we’re rolling out the welcome mat for age. I argue that men do not suffer from the fear of age in the way women suffer; as women growing older fear not only for the loss of another year to enjoy on this earth, but also the loss of relevance and worth. Our culture doesn’t value the sexiness/fierceness of older ladies. Therefore, they’re not worth a damn. This is evidenced by the drought of older women in our media. With some exceptions, older women are present in the media to fulfill certain tropes, like the matronly caregiver, the risqué cougar, or the masculinized boss. There aren’t too many romcoms or dramadies about 45 year-old women searching for fulfillment. Young women are a commodity, something to be objectified for profits. We see young, pretty women plastered all over our billboards, our television screens, our computers. They’re selling things to men. They’re selling things to women. If a young, pretty girl has it, the men want it so they can have the young, pretty girl. And the women want it so they can BE that young, pretty girl. Welcoming age comes only with accepting that our cultural construct of beauty need not govern our lives. We can observe it and fight against it. Whatever age we are, we can be fucking fabulous.

5 We fear that the world doesn’t know or care about us. I know—“wah wah poor us,”—but I’m serious. We suffer from a widespread delusion that we have to somehow matter to the world. Whether it’s by “making a difference” (helping to inspire monolithic change), fame, or serving a god, we feel a deep intrinsic need to matter to not only a few people, but all people. It’s what underlies our dreams. Perhaps a by-product of our fear of loneliness, our fear of not mattering influences many arenas in our lives and is another massive blow to our piss-poor self-esteem. If everyone knows us, cares about us, loves us, we will be happy. Right? No matter how many tragic overdoses or suicides of famous people being dramatized on our televisions, we still cling to the false notion that being known means being happy. It’s another example of us gals searching for some external force to save us from a shitty life. All of these shitty fears come down to our skewed notion of what it actually means to have a good life. It’s a hard thing to do, but if we can free ourselves from the Clockwork Orange-like grip the media has on how we view our own lives, we could perhaps see the simplicity behind our core desire, which is to just be happy. If happiness is determined by the exceeding our expectation of the outcome, then fuck, let’s reevaluate our expectations! To do this, we have to identify and rebel against the forces in the media that fashioned our unrealistic expectations. We will overcome these fears. We will, goddamnit! It takes some awareness, self-analysis, and time. Welp, ladies, looks like aging is gonna help us out after all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Fetus

 There’s a dull pain in my stomach. I sit in the waiting room of an abortion clinic, chewing my fingernails to bloody stubs. My mother is to my right. We're not talking. It’s not because I went to a party under the influence of a bottle of Robitussin, and was then raped by Garrett, the drunken big-gummed vice president of the Cribbage Club at my high school and now I have to have an abortion. It’s because she has heartburn from her hazelnut iced coffee, and I feel anxious and uncomfortably pregnant. Up until this moment the fetus has been a mere tumor, the cause of my dry heaves in the morning and relentless constipation, but now I can’t help thinking of it as some sort of little version of me, trapped inside of my womb, happy and completely oblivious to its miserable future, which I imagine involves burning in an incinerator, or perhaps being eaten by stray dogs out of a trash can.
However, I argue, if this fetus is some sort of “little me,” I am indisputably saving it from years of pain. I imagine it, like me, eleven years-old, rummaging through the pantry for a bottle of sleeping pills after a hard day at school. Danny Bouyea does not like-like me back, and I’m crushed. Worse than being crushed, I am embarrassed. My face is red, and his friends heard my confession. They all tee-hee at me, and I decide that I will show them all! Really, I will. They’ll sure feel guilty when they hear from our teacher that I’m dead the next day. This will be the first time the fetus will try to take its own life, and it will not be the last.
This place looks just like any other doctor’s office. Earlier, I had envisioned a kind of seedy, dingy shithole with rickety chairs occupied by some rather morbid folks—ratty-haired girls with smudged lipstick, regulars of the clinic I’d guess, sitting here and waiting to get the embryos vacuumed out of their ragged wombs so they can go back out and fuck their boyfriends again, end up here--their whole lives a cycle of in-penis-out-fetus, and though I am certainly pro-choice and consider myself, you know, one of those raging lefty liberals, there is something about this vision that leaves an unpleasant taste in my mouth.
It’s not dingy in here at all. On the contrary, it’s bright as all hell. The lights are intense and unforgiving; there are a shit-ton of accent lamps on the tables in between the green pleather chairs (the ones that fart when you move), ghastly fluorescents overhead, and standing lamps by the doors. I look around for a magazine, but for some terrible reason, the only thing within reach is an old issue of American Baby.
I start panicking when the nurse leads me away. Oh, Jesus. Jesus Christ, God Almighty. I envision a slew of horrors. I see the huge vacuum hose being shoved up inside of my body. I see the doctor, all yellow-eyed and hungover, accidentally hitting some red button somewhere that says MAXIMUM SPEED!!! and the vacuum going mechanical apeshit, sucking out all my bones and organs, leaving me in a puddle of my own membranes, like rolled-out Playdoh, a fleshy mess of frowning skin.
I am okay.
I am okay.
I am okay.
I am not okay! I’m trembling-- enveloped in a womb of terror until everything is black and quiet and I feel nothing at all.
When I wake up, my mouth is dry and tastes like corpse. It feels as if my body’s full of a substance that wasn’t there before. Congested. Full. Bloated.
My vision’s blurred and the only thing I can see is a big ass to my left. The nurse, I guess. She’s bent over and filling out paper forms at a desk near the bed. Her hair's all askew, her uniform wrinkled, and her ass is cartoonishly bulbous. Each cheek could be a pregnant belly. Truly remarkable. Nurse Fatty Ass pays no attention until I try to sit up, but jerk back down because of the pain.
I groan, “Fucking Jesus!” startling Nurse Fatty Ass. She tells me that I came to earlier than expected. She shakes her fat ass out of the room, maybe to get the doctor. She doesn't tell me anything. It's fine, really; it's not like I just had a living thing sucked out of my nether regions or anything. I roll my eyes and notice that on the nearby table there’s a yellow biohazard bag with what I imagine to be the dead Fetus curled inside. My eyes are fixed on it. I have an overwhelming, uncontrollable desire to see it. I must. Yes, yes. I don’t even think about it, in a second, I’m sliding off the bed and I’m on my feet, tip-toeing over to the table to take a tiny peek inside. The Fetus looks weird as hell. It reminds me of a shrimp covered in cocktail sauce. But it’s kind of cute.
I do not want this Fetus to be burned or eaten by dogs. It looks so sad and adorable, and I’m filled with a feeling that is foreign to me. It’s overwhelming--like a little storm raging in my head and my stomach gets tighter and tighter and I feel dizzy and it’s hard to breathe.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I start to cry and I want nothing more in the universe than to have this Fetus. I want to keep it. It’s mine, isn’t it? I think that I would be a much better mother to a Fetus than an actual human being that would grow up bitter and hate me, hate the world, hate herself. She’d have 'the Depression', like me, and probably end up killing herself.
I wrap the Fetus up in its bag and gently place it in my purse, which is slung over the chair beside the bed I’d been sleeping on. I feel nervous that the nurse will question me about the missing Fetus, but Fatty Ass never returns. Instead a man in a white coat opens the door holding a file folder and closes it when he sees me standing up. His face has been taken over by a large jolly mustache. The Mustache says, “Whoa there!” and pats the air down with his hands, telling me to sit down. So I sit on the bed and I pretend to listen, nodding a few times, while he talks to me like I’m a child—softly and slowly, sure to give every multi-syllable word a thorough pronouncing. He’s got one of those assuring voices they use in commercials for anti-depressants.
“Now, ah, we’ll want to see you again in a week,” he says, with a furry smile, “So that we can make sure you’re, ah, doing well…” he smiles again. His eyes get all squinty when he smiles.
“We’ll, ah, want to know if you’re experiencing any, ah, pain.” Smile.
“But it shouldn’t be anything worse than, ah, some uncomfortable men-stroo-ation cramps.” Smile.
The Mustache blabs on and on and I start daydreaming about the Fetus. When I leave the room and walk down the hallway, it’s still in my purse, sleeping its soft dead sleep. I open the waiting room door to my smiling mother, who gives me an enthusiastic nod and a thumbs-up with both hands.
At home, my mother barrels into the apartment ahead of me and retreats into her room to burn incense and ponder the meaning of life. I decide to store the Fetus in the freezer temporarily until I can come up with a suitable place for her. When I try to accomplish this discreetly by creeping into the kitchen from the doorway, I’m confronted by my little brother, Adam, and this is how he learns what a Fetus is:
“I will kill you, Dragon Eater!”
He stops then and looks inquisitively at the yellow biohazard bag in my hands.
“What’s that?” he says, a little face under a bush of brown curls.
“It is a bag,” I tell him.
“What’s in it?” he asks.
“A fetus.”
“What’s a fetus?”
“A fetus is like a baby, but it’s not.”
“Like a baby,” he repeats.
“Well, hmm,” I pause a moment, “Let me show you.”
I walk with the little guy back to the Playskool canvas in the middle of his bedroom clutter, and unfold a new piece of paper. With a pencil, I draw a fetus, but it looks more like some sort of merry bulbous worm. Instead of feet it’s got more of a tail that curls up into its body, like this:

“This is a fetus?” he giggles.
“Yes.” I tell him.
I leave him looking quizzically at the fetus drawing, and I go to the kitchen and peek in the direction of my mother’s room; inside, she’s sprawled out on the bed, blowing smoke rings at the ceiling. I open the freezer and place the biohazard bag inside a frosted box of two year-old old chicken fingers.
I think about the Fetus incessantly over the next few weeks. I’ve been drawing little cartoon fetuses all over my notebooks and financial aid applications for college. The Fetus chills in the freezer all this time. I’m terrified of putting her in a jar with liquid because I imagine that in a month, or maybe even a few weeks, she’ll deteriorate into the liquid and I’ll have a horrifying jar of Fetus Soup on my hands. This cripples me with fear, so I decide to tell my mother about this and ask her what I should do.
It’s three o’clock in the afternoon when I hold this conversation. Adam has just bounced off the elementary school bus without his backpack because he’s lost it again. My sister, Tonya, sits in front of her Facebook page, scrolling through pictures of herself and holding an empty Cool Whip container filled with a disturbing hamburger meat and cheese concoction.” My mother sits cross-legged at the window-bench in the kitchen, smoking a cigarette and blowing the smoke spirals out the window while watching the neighbors argue in the driveway below.
“Darlene’s hooking,” she says apprehensively. “I know it.”
I tell her this is ridiculous.
“I’ve seen her standing on the street in the early mornings,” she replies, blowing a smoke ring.
I roll my eyes and sit at the kitchen table. “She’s like three hundred pounds and has a lazy eye, c’mon.”
Below, Darlene’s wiggling her bloated arm, telling her ex-boyfriend to talk to The Hand.
“So what? Men are pigs,” says my mother.
I shrug.
We sit in silence for a few moments until I cough and tell her that I’ve, um, kept the aborted Fetus. Her eyes bulge in surprise and she turns to me slowly, dropping the cigarette into her ashtray. She asks me if I’m kidding. I tell her I’m not.
“Well, my God! Where the Hell is it?”
I look at the freezer and point.
“Oh Jesus Christ, Isobel, in the freezer? With the food?” she says, crinkling her nose and grabbing her cigarette with her fingers, tapping the ash.
I wasn’t sure what to do with it, I tell her, I wanted to preserve it but I didn’t know how.
She thinks for a moment and eyes me suspiciously. “Why did you keep it?”
“I’m not entirely sure,” I say. She waits for me to go on.
I tell her that in the moment, I couldn’t not take it! Something made me. I had no control. I felt guilty and I just walked over to it and took it. It was almost unconscious.
She seems to accept this and rolls her eyes. Tonya comes thumping into the kitchen with her empty Cool Whip bowl, triumphant. My mother says to her, all wide-eyed and excited,
“Your sister kept the aborted fetus, it’s in the freezer!”
Tonya looks at me in disgust.
“That’s grody, dude.”
“I don’t care what you think,” I scowl, “I’m keeping it.”
This is too much for my mother. She’s hysterical, giggling wildly. My cheeks redden and I regret telling her. I’m silent until my mother settles down and continues puffing her cigarette deeply. Tonya leaves and gives us the look that means she’s busy increasing the brightness and contrast on her Facebook pictures, and she’d better not be disturbed. She slams the door behind her. My mother and I sit in silence.
Her head perks up.
I have serious doubts about the shellac, but after a few days I buy it anyway. Soon my mother and I are sitting at the kitchen table with cigarettes in our mouths, concentrating on painting the Fetus with shellac, using Adam’s little Crayola paintbrushes. I’m careful to bring the Fetus into my bedroom and onto my dresser. Though there are no genitalia to prove the sex of the Fetus, I decide she’s a girl. After a week’s observance, I notice that the shellac seems to be making things worse. She’s starting to raisin and I fear that she might waste away. She’s just going to have to be submerged in liquid, like in science-fiction movies, and it’s not until a late afternoon in the living room that I have the answer. I’m sitting on top of a few empty TV dinner boxes and reading a book about fetal care when Tonya turns around from the computer and clears her throat at me.
“I was thinking about that thing on your dresser,” she says.
“The Fetus?” I look up.
“Yeah,” she rolls her eyes, “It’s technically a dead person, right?”
“Well, I wouldn’t really call it a person, really, more of an embryo—an almost-person,” I explain.
“Yeah okay whatever. What if you put it in that stuff that morticians pump into dead people?”
“Hmm,” I close my book, “You mean formaldehyde?”
“Yeah, I guess,” she shrugs and turns around back to her web page of self-portraits.
How stupid of me. I hadn’t thought of formaldehyde. It’s perfect!
Tonya and I sit side-by-side at the computer browsing Ebay for formaldehyde. After duking it out with chemqueen69 and winning at a bid of sixty dollars for a gallon of formaldehyde, I keep the Fetus in the freezer for the two weeks until the package arrives in the mail, along with an acceptance letter to a liberal arts college. I’m glowing.
I find a jar of pickles on the refrigerator door. It’s so moldy that the pickles have congealed to a lumpy green jelly. I wash it out, pour in the formaldehyde, and this is now the Fetus’s home. She floats around in the jar happily and I think that, for a moment, I detect a smile on her little underdeveloped lips.
College is near. My room has become the world’s smallest warehouse, with boxes piled so high I can’t even reach them anymore. I want to bring everything to New York, leave nothing behind. Besides, Tonya’s already laid her claim to my bedroom and casually informed me that everything must go, and what is left behind will find its way to the curb. I’m careful to roll up my fetus watercolors very gently, tuck the stuffed fetus I’ve sewn into a bag of its own, and leave just enough room in the car for my senior year art project, a five-foot fetus made of crinkled papers, paint, and duct tape, nailed to a seven-foot cross I made in Shop class.
My mother is unhappy about driving me to college. I know this because with her coffee in the morning she takes three Xanax bars and the kitchen ashtray is already full of squished cigarette butts. She also asks me several times if there are any other modes of transportation I can take to get to central New York. I remind her each time, no. There are not.
In the car she smokes and listens to Christian talk radio.
“These idiots!” she cackles, cigarette bobbing up and down from her lips, “They’re crazy!”
The drive is nine hours too long for just the two of us. We alternate between verbal fights and Helen Keller jokes. When we arrive at Ithaca College, my mother drops me off with my boxes and gives me the peace sign as she drives away, back home to Maine.
My roommate hates me. She’s a Midwestern business major named Tiffany and she likes Dave Matthews Band. I know this because the first thing she asks me is if I like Dave Matthews Band. When I laugh and tell her that Dave Matthews sucks balls, she looks at me like I confessed to killing her whole family and that she was next.
I reside on the left side of the room. Every millimeter of the wall is covered in fetusy artwork. The five-foot fetus nailed to the seven-foot cross hangs over my bed like a shrine. The Fetus jar sits on my nightstand, next to my reading glasses. On her side of the wall there is a poster of the holy Dave Matthews and a framed photo of her white-bread mom and dad at her high school graduation. That’s it. I offer to help decorate her side of the room so it’s not so boring. She scoffs at me and declines. The next day I’m locked out of the room so I have to ask someone from Residential Life to let me in. When they unlock the door so I can get inside, I see that Tiffany is Skyping with her boyfriend, a mere three feet from the door. She says she’s sorry, she didn’t hear me knocking.
We will probably not be friends, I gather. She blow-dries her hair in the early mornings when I’m sleeping, so I make sure that the Fetus is, at all times, facing Tiffany. She tells me it’s disgusting and I’m perverse.
I tell her that I’m bored with the concept of her.
When Tiffany is not around, I paint watercolors of her being killed in ways that amuse me. Tiffany is attacked by a ravenous bear on the campus quad. Tiffany is rolled into a blunt and smoked by Snoop Dogg and his homies. Tiffany is crushed under a steamroller driven by the Fetus. I enjoy painting very much. It’s inspiring. I like it particularly because I’ve started to fall into the Depression, and I have made only one friend in college. Her name is Courtney and she’s an art major who has a single dorm room covered in ashes and empty beer cans. I don’t often visit her room because it smells like something dead. This is because she paints portraits of beautiful obese women using her own blood and feces.
“I find this very strange,” I tell her as she smears blood over a painted-woman’s exposed nipple.
“Yeah, well, you’re not the poster girl for normalcy yourself there, Fetus,” she says with a Camel between her yellowing teeth, “Besides, that’s all life is—shit and blood!”
I like Courtney because she tells me that she just can’t be bothered with the rest of the dullards on campus, and I’ve been feeling more and more disconnected, myself. I’ve taken up chain-smoking Marlboros between classes. Courtney and I will sit on the roof of the art building and shit-talk about the campus bros and biddies. We moon the football players. On the weekends, we drink red wine from the discount liquor store. After a bottle, we’ll sometimes prank-call our relatives back home. We call Tonya.
“Hullo?” Click, click, clickity-click, in the background. I can tell she’s at the computer looking at pictures of herself.
“Cunt-bucket!” screams Courtney into the phone. She laughs. Then we hang up and call back. Sometimes we get my mother.
Ring, ring, ring.
“Jiggly tits!”
“Ah yes, the wonders of the bosom,” says my mother in a stoned whisper, “Caller, please tell me, have you ever considered the amalgamation of the sexes? A super-sex, if you will, with breasts, and a penis, and all that—a race of hermaphrodites. I do think that it will be only then when we will achieve true liberation from sexual oppression…”
We hang up before she finishes and laugh until our stomachs ache.

Lately I feel sad all the time. It's halfway through the first semester and I've acquired a job at the campus Information Desk, but I am a bad employee because sometimes people will ask me simple questions on the phone that I should be able to answer, but instead I’ll start crying and ask them questions of my own.
“Have you ever considered that our lives have a negative value? Do you think that we, as human beings, are weak creatures, operating under will, which inevitably entails misery?”
No one ever has any answers for me.
I’ve also developed a taste for strange foods and I’ve stopped eating at the dining halls completely. Sandwiches and diet sodas and mashed potatoes are bullshit, I decide. Instead I find myself sampling my watercolor palette and eating Tiffany’s mail by ripping the letters first into pieces and having them with milk, like cereal. I know this isn’t particularly normal, but I’m compelled to do this and I find it soothing. When I eat dining hall food I feel like a dullard. Tiffany finally catches me eating a postcard from her grandmother. The Greetings bit of Greetings from Florida! sticks out of my mouth. She rats on me to the director of Residential Life, who refers me to the counseling center.
“Pick any seat you’d like,” the counselor tells me.
Her name is Susie and her office is very zen. On the small table next to the cushy armchairs there is one of those little trickle fountains and a box of tissues. I want to eat one but I think better of it. She gives me a paper assessment and the questions are hilarious.

6. Have you ever thought about ending your life?:
Only all day, every day
7. Have you ever attempted suicide?:
What do YOU think? :)

She asks me to talk about my childhood, so I do. I tell her about the sad-sack stuff, you know, blah blah blah--my parents getting divorced, the near-abortion of Adam, being an obese child, getting picked on, being sad all the time, and all that. I tell her about Garrett, The Big-Gummed Rapist, and the abortion. Yadda, yadda. She's consistently zen until I talk about the Fetus in a jar. She stirs uncomfortably. That’s when I start to feel anxious. Oh God, oh God, oh God. The sweats and the shakes and the shudders. I tell her I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My head's in my hands and I try not to cry, but I do. She tells me that I have the Depression and I have to find healthier ways to cope with my stress. In addition, she says, I can join a support group for my Depression that is free, courtesy of the college.
Oh, fun.
This is what I do: I stop going to classes and I move to a single room not far from Courtney’s in the Towers residence hall, because Tiffany says she’s had enough of my psycho-bitch bullshit. My room is high up, on the eighth floor. In the mornings I roll joints and imagine tearing out the screen and falling until I hug the pavement with my body. There's nothing more motivating than the image of a brainy soup splatter and a pile of broken bones. There must be at least four floors to guarantee death. I hope I’d land on my head and die instantly, but I have terrible luck, and I fear that I’d just end up brain-dead or paralyzed. I imagine the rest of my life wearing a frilly bib to catch my drooping spittle, wheeled around a facility by the bitter working class who dread going to work and changing my shitty diaper. I do not want this.
The support group is a circle of six sour faces, all waiting for their turn to complain. I despise all of them except for a writing major who oddly resembles Charles Bukowski, terrible face and all. His real name is Frank and he’s there because he has a mean father who did mean things to him when he was a child. He groans and rolls his ugly eyes when the whiny blonde talks about her break-ups. I find this behavior attractive. After the first session, we end up fucking in his dorm room. Aside from the rape in high school, this is my first sexual encounter. I try to like it, but I don’t. He fucks the way he looks like he’d fuck: hard, fast, and without mercy or consideration. Later, I scan his bookshelf to discover that he’s not into Bukowski or Ginsberg or any poet at all, really. He reads Dan Brown and Stephen King. I feel cheated. I sulk out of his room, sore and considerably more Depressed.
After a few months of the routine class-therapy-work-studying, I stop drinking paint water but it's still hard to get out of bed. I have fetal nightmares, wherein the jar on my nightstand breaks and the Fetus is RIPSHIT, wiggling her way up to my bed and eating my brains while I'm nestled in a stoned oblivion. Sometimes I call my house to hear my little brother’s voice and then I hang up. At night I sit on the grassy quad with Courtney, and we talk about the nature of death.
“It can’t be any worse than this shit-hole!” she spits.
I ask her, “What if it is worse?”
She considers this.
During winter recess, I take a 14-hour long Greyhound ride, back to my family. My bedroom has, as promised, become Tonya’s room and all of my remaining artwork has vanished. We roll joints on her high school history book and play Uno. Since I left, my brother’s been inspired by my fetus drawing and has taken to drawing fetuses of his own. He draws them on the wall of the Storage Room and paints them green. When I ask him why the fetuses are green, he says it’s because they’re moldy--duh! He’s hung my original in a frame over his bed.
I sleep on the couch because Tonya’s taken the mattresses from her old room and consolidated with my mattresses. Now she has a giant bed, and I have none. But it’s okay. I only feel annoyed when, in the middle of the night, I slip my hand under the pillow and my fingers smear some sort of pasty surprise. When I turn the light on, I see that it's an old dinner plate caked with rotting spaghetti. The Fetus in a jar sleeps on the floor next to the couch where I reside until my mother sees it and sneers.
“Good God, you still have that awful thing?”
I frown at her, hugging the jar close. I keep it hidden for the rest of the break, and when I return to school, the Fetus has her eyes open. They’re milky-looking and underdeveloped. They’re kind of spooky, really. I show Courtney and she’s impressed.
“Holy Hell!” she says.
“I know.”
“What the crap! It didn’t have its eyes open before?”
“No, it didn’t,” I reply.
We look at the Fetus for the rest of the night while drinking forties, musing about the formation of its eyes. We draw no conclusions that coexist with reality as we understand it, so I go to sleep feeling uneasy for the next few nights. It only gets worse when the Fetus starts talking to me.
“You look better without all that eyeliner,” she tells me in the morning, and I drop the black pencil on my dresser, feeling self-conscious. I’m suspicious about this. I invite Courtney to my room because I want to determine if she can hear the Fetus as well, but she doesn’t. It’s just me.
I contemplate telling Susie about this new development, but I think better of it because so far the Fetus hasn’t really said anything terribly disturbing. On the contrary, really, she's been sort of complimenting me and reassuring me. I enjoy our conversations. When I call my mother and she’s stoned off her ass, I want to throw my cell phone against the wall and break it into a thousand teeny tiny pieces, then jump out of my window or hang myself by my own intestines, but the Fetus blinks her milky eyes and sighs softly.
“Don’t worry,” she says, in a voice like my own, “There is nothing you can do to change her behavior. You can only focus on your own. Make yourself happy, Isobel. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Remember that I love you very much.”
“You’re right,” I nod, and then I watch Look Who’s Talking.
This is another thing that’s interesting about our exchanges: the Fetus tells me that she loves me quite regularly. Sometimes this makes me feel uncomfortable. Should I say that I love her back? Do I love her? We’ve spent quite a bit of time together. It could only be natural to develop a bond stronger than owner-object. Have I grown an affection for the Fetus that I’ve been unaware of until confronted with its own feelings for me?
“I love you too, Fetus,” I say finally, and the Fetus blinks her eyes and smiles.

The school year’s almost over. I’ve been having these little moments where I feel like I’m frozen in time. It happens in class often. I’ll be drawing fetuses in my notebook and suddenly I’ll be in the midst of a panic. When I look up, no one is talking and I’m flooded with racing thoughts.
I’ve wasted so much time here. I’ve screwed everything up. I’m a fuck-up. A loser. An asshole. No one will ever love me. I’m ugly. I’m pathetic. I’m fat.  I’m stupid. Socially-inept. Morally-corrupt. What have I been doing all this time? This whole year’s gone by, and what’ve I accomplished? Nothing. Zero. I’m worthless. Utterly, completely, entirely worthless. I’m a bad person. A bad, bad person, and I deserve to die.
I’ll try to take deep breaths to keep from crying hysterically in public, and then time resumes as if nothing has happened, and I’m left feeling as if a storm has just ripped through the room and I’m the only one who’s been caught inside. I’m on edge all the time. I’m apprehensive and I’ve begun to truly start hating my peers. They’re dullards—all of ‘em! I can’t relate to them and they sure as hell can’t relate to me. I wouldn’t even want them to; I have nothing to say to them. I even stop talking to Courtney. I stop seeing Susie because I’ve grown suspicious of her motives, certain that her bias, whatever it may be, pollutes her counseling and further undermines my well-being. The only being who can make me feel anything at all lately is the Fetus, who has started sprouting hair and is growing significantly larger. Her body's all mushed inside and her head’s poking out. Sometimes she turns her head so she can watch me if I’m not in her view. This would scare me, normally, but I’m preoccupied with my mind-storms and the little artistic projects I’ve been working on, like writing haiku on other people’s doors in my own blood, which I’ve been collecting in a small jar by cutting my wrists open and letting it drip slowly. It’s a tedious process and consumes most of my time. 
I’ve stopped sleeping. Instead, I stay up and have slumber parties with the Fetus. She watches me paint my chewed-up fingernails. I throw popcorn at her when she makes a corny joke. We talk about things I’m too embarrassed to talk about with other people, and the little Fetus is always kind and honest. I ask her what it’s like to die, and she tells me that it’s sad and scary, but it’s okay, because it’s the last time I’ll ever be sad or scared again.

I look like a corpse now. I walk around campus like the living dead. My eyes are black and crawling back into my head. My hands are grey and tired. My limbs seem withered. I start wondering if I really am dead, so I cut myself deeper and in more places just to make sure. I use the extra blood I’m producing to write longer poems on the walls.
“Your poetry is wonderful,” the Fetus tells me, “but I do wish you wouldn’t hurt yourself like that.”
“I’m creating art,” I grumble. I can’t be bothered.
“You should really go back to your counselor,” she says sadly, “I think you might be in danger.”
“I’m not in danger, Fetus,” I say with a paintbrush in between my teeth.
“How can you be certain?” she peeks her head out of the jar.
“Because. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I face her.
“It would appear to me, Isobel,” she lifts herself out of the jar and sits on the night stand, “that you may not know what you are talking about anymore.”
I consider this.
My hands are covered in blood and I feel suddenly overwhelmed with confusion. The Fetus and I look more and more alike than I’ve ever noticed. I stop what I’m doing and look into her sad little eyes with my own sad little eyes.
“Do you think I’ve gone crazy?” I ask.
The Fetus says nothing. I start to cry.
“I’m sorry,” she offers, and touches my hair with her tiny hand.
“I’m sorry, too,” I shake, “What should I do?”
The Fetus wobbles when she tries to stand, and when she does, she pushes the jar of formaldehyde towards me and jumps onto the carpet by my feet.
I take the jar in my hands and I look at the teary-eyed Fetus.
“You will have to drink it very fast, because your body will reject it,” she says between sniffles, “I am terribly sorry it had to be this way, but I don’t want you to feel pain anymore.”
Those watery eyes get round and her body expands before me. The baby hairs on the top of her head grow long and brown like my own, her belly stretches out, and the little nubs on her hands and feet develop into fingers and toes. She unbends her body and rises from the carpet, a little version of me, more and more identical by the second.
I try to think about my future but I can’t. There is nothing. It’s like trying to imagine a color you’ve never seen before. There is nothing ahead of me. No pages left.
“What’s going to happen?” I ask her.
“I will take good care of your life,” she says softly as I sit on the carpet and lift the jar, “I promise.”
I have been waiting for this for a long time, I suppose. I'm sad and scared. I curl into a fetal position next to the wall and watch the Fetus nod at me. I clutch the jar and pour it into my mouth. I swallow and swallow and swallow and there's a sharp pain in my stomach, now pregnant with poison. The Fetus asks me what I see, and I want to tell her, but I'm gasping and choking. The formaldehyde burns and burns and burns. I want to tell her that I see nothing. Nothing at all, while I waste away. But it's not true. The last thing I see is the smiling Fetus. I smile back. I'll never feel sad or scared again.