i wait for the ear plug to expand in my canal
after the first time, it’s hard to get a good seal.
my shoulders ache despite morning yoga
like rubbing your belly and patting your head
i can either breathe, or i can move,
but not both, not at the same time.
the ear plugs are for when i can’t bear
the whoosh of the air conditioner
the phone with its digital ringtone
the tin-can radios, talk-show droning,
cowboy twanging, disney theme songs.
i take a step towards the doorway,
pause and breathe, then take another step
lock myself in the bathroom for an hour,
staring at my face in the tiny round mirror
that is hung too high. a disembodied head
with shadows under half-lidded eyes,
compressed purple foam in my ears
–it fills an empty space for now.
the thing about not having one is that you always have
to get someone else’s: you used to pick up odds and ends
of speech, incorporate it into your own vocabulary, words
for feelings of chronic emptiness and impulses to spend
money and take a razorblade to yourself (although that
has become more of an occasional occurrence now). you
couldn’t spend too much time around doctors because
you’d start quoting whole passages from the DSM about
what it’s like to not know who you are, in clinical
terms, of course. you wore masks for a while but people
could still recognize you by the scars on the rest of
your body, you wore hats but everybody always knew it
was you. and who were you? you tried on personality
types like ill-fitting shirts, thinking to yourself
this is it. this is me. this is who i am. but a button
would fall off or you’d get your sleeves dirty and you’d
have to take it off. underneath was your torso, marked
with dotted lines in sharpie, sectioning off the genres
and subgenres of who you were that day, that minute.
you’d steal the way someone stood as they waited for
the bus stop on the corner, thinking this seems like the
way i would stand, you’d morph your thinking to match
whoever happened to be across the table from you, you’d
dress the dress and act the act, trying to blend in,
right before you snatched someone’s affectation right
out from under them. you’d go to the zoo and look at
the octopi and the chameleons in their cages and whisper
to them to tell you their secrets. they never answered.