On driving downtown with the radio volume set exactly to ‘5’ to ease a panic attack; Or on adjusting to new depression medication that I didn’t want in the first place but at least I can get out of bed now; Or on strange holiday ennui
Two days ‘til Christmas again. No one shopping downtown. Drive over the bridge whose billowing aura consists of thick fog painted with orange light pollution. Pass window after window strung with multi-color lights. Sorry: I can’t help sneaking a glimpse of what everyone watches on TV. Does that make me ugly too? But now we’re neck and neck with a rusty maroon Cadillac. The driver sags with anger, alone and looking as though the year ran them over. Everyone feels like roadkill now and again, I say to nobody. The driver lights a cigarette and cracks the window. The glowing cherry points forward — North Star guiding me to our lord and savior Target. Full speed ahead. The driver exhales the first drag. Mumbled lyrics and smoke pass over their lips. Maybe it’s Bruce Springsteen’s holiday song everyone except me seems to love. Maybe they sing against their will. The Cadillac leaves me then, turns right with an aggrieved yank of the steering wheel. Passenger tail light is out, and I can’t even warn them. All the promises I’ve made with my body are broken. My therapist told me to quit negotiating with ghosts, but I can’t take them out at the knees. Not even once. Not even after all this cardio training. Call me naturally susceptible to ghostly possession. No choice but to play possum. As I lay still, all I can do is imagine a space where my body is beautiful. Wait for the impact.
thoughts from a woman who quit smoking three days ago and can’t stop imagining the end of the world
If the apocalypse were tomorrow, I’d buy a whole carton of Marlboros and smoke them one after another in my garage as the sky turned black mixed with rotten tangerine. Tell myself that I’m going to die anyway; why not indulge my inner hedonist? What good do anxieties of lung cancer and oxygen tanks do in this scenario? None. In the garage, I sit on a dusty camping chair and turn on a tiny radio. All I want is to hear someone’s voice, but there is only static no matter which way the knob is rotated. NPR sounds like muffled cries. So I play my favorite Frightened Rabbit record instead. Consider it my string quartet from Titanic. We’re on a sinking ship. No amount of prayer can save us now. Soon I will be swallowed whole by the mouth of the Earth. Just me and my used-to-be smoking chair. Pop open a La Croix as if it were a beer. There isn’t any beer in the house. And I’ve never owned a gun, much less shot one. But I do have hardly-used steak knives. The sharp edges have only seen the skins of wet tofu and honeycrisp apples. Place the knife block on the small table that holds the radio. Still feel ill prepared for whatever is headed my way. Aliens? Natural disaster? The Second Coming my Christian grandmother was always on about? Take deep breaths like my therapist suggested. Don’t think about the lingering garage spiders. Try to relax my tense shoulders. I never learned how to properly meditate. The overpass across the street is empty. No noise coming from the railroad tracks either. The massive yellow billboard – the one I’ve jokingly called the moon – still glows somehow. Same giant red letters proclaiming AVAILABLE. There’s nothing left to do but look up and marvel. Chain-smoke, hold a steak knife in my palm like I know how to use it, wait for the end of the world.
Maggie Finch is a writer from Wisconsin. She received her M.A. in English from NMU. When she isn’t writing, Maggie enjoys reading novels, making up songs for her cat, rewatching Gilmore Girls, and tending to her indoor plants. She dreams of living in Paris someday. She is the proud author of A SERIES OF LITTLE DAMNITS (Ghost City Press – 2021 Summer Series). More of her words can be found in Third Street Writers’ Beach Reads: Paradise, Gravitas, Mistake House, Mineral Lit Mag, and Hobart.
Photography by: Louie Castro Garcia