By Bradley Sutherland
Gwen didn’t have any plans last night. Not because the best plan was no plan, or some other cliché that served to justify a lost and/or purposeless and/or reckless way of living, but because she had to cancel them at the last minute. She just had to. And don’t think for a moment her Friday night would consist of a bottle of Pinot Noir and Netflix Original Series, or a Rom Com and pint of Mint Chocolate Chip, like how all the Rom Com’s told her it would. Because Gwen wasn’t typecast or typical when the going got glum.
And don’t think for a second any of this was about a boy, or a boy who didn’t go see about a girl, or a woman living in a man’s world, or bad hair, or broken nails, or shark week, or just one of those days, or a missed connection, whether by air or in print, or an abandoned glass slipper, or hormones, or gossip, or betrayal, or heartbreak, or headache, or cold food, or warm beer, or bad taste, or being alone, or with the wrong one, or just feeling a little bit emotional right now. Gwen was tough and fragile and pissed and sad and sometimes able to laugh at it all.
She wanted to take a power nap, as she didn’t really sleep much last night, even though she canceled her plans at the last minute because she just had to. And it was still early enough that back in her party days it would still constitute as Going to Bed vs. Passing Out, so she didn’t hate herself too much for staying up so late. But The Spin was whirling all around her, and she knew she had to get it out. She just had to.
Gwen sat up and yanked moleskin from backpack, just in time for her thoughts to sprint across the page.
I’LL SHOW YOU CRAZY, she wrote, because racing thoughts sprinting across paper usually lead to them zooming around in my head even more, making me feel crazier and placing me in some sort of sick and twisted observational state, watching myself almost fulfilling a role, like let’s see how fast I can really go. Then my focus is on the speed and not the substance aka whatever the speed is supposed to be producing and then I wonder why it’s not working which makes me start to panic aka spin faster and faster because what if the reason nothing is coming out is because it’s too far suppressed or too much for me to handle or merely just another example of me not wanting to deal with my problems head-on which is kind of funny because that’s exactly what I’m doing by doing this but then I see all my spinning thoughts are buried beneath common ground and I can usually pinpoint a trigger if I squeeze my eyes shut hard enough to concentrate but squeezing them shut like this inhibits the flow of my writing which inhibits writing the spin which still maybe gets it out but prevents me from really going within which is the whole point of writing this fucking spin which causes me to spin all over again but then I remember the causes at least for right now in this moment aren’t as important as pointing out the effect because the absolute worst part of a panic attack is that you don’t know why you’re panicking so then you’re just panicking over panicking and holding your breath the whole time and that’s why it’s been so difficult for me to swallow.
Gwen wiggled her chin to unclench her jaw, letting this brief new fit of freedom trickle down the rest of her body.
Then she exhaled.
When she really thought about it, she found it weird, or perhaps disconcerting, or perhaps didn’t know how she found it at all, that her mind could swirl together so many things that didn’t matter and let it take up so much space in a brain already completely filled with it. And she didn’t really know if embracing the spin and riding it out through writing it out made her feel well, or any more or less human, but it did make her feel just a little more present, even if recognizing the spin earlier and earlier gave her no firmer grasp on why it all began in the first place.
So don’t think for a moment Gwen had a better understanding of what or whom the culprits really were. Don’t think she thought nothing really matters, or life’s a bitch and then you die, or some other cliché that served to justify a lost and/or purposeless and/or reckless way of living. Don’t think she was now cured.
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Bradley Sutherland is a writer in Tempe, Arizona, and his previous work has appeared in Short Fiction Break, Bike That AZ Up, The Untidy Secrets Zine, and more.