“An Offering of Space”: An Essay for Bad Survivalist by Whitney Kerutis

 

MY BODY WAKES ME ONE morning as a crater collecting water. I ring out the stiffness, twisting my torso left and right. Keep my eyes shut. Hold myself like a spouse whose body is easy to swallow.

*

One morning, a woman seated two rows ahead of me on the bus tries to find the right way to write, “she says” on the scrape of paper she has scribbled a novel onto. She says she says she says she says with her hand wafting the air as she speaks. The other commuters do not recognize this new language. I imagine myself kneeled at her feet, cupping my hands under her mouth for a miracle to fall out.

*

One morning, I have a standoff with a mouse. Can of bug spray in one hand and a broom in the other, I am standing falsely guarded on my couch. The mouse is fearless. It scurries right up to the couch and I yell and swat or yell and spray until it disappears behind the other furniture.

*

One morning I am sure my sister is already dead. If her promise of drowning herself in the sea the night before is true, then all there is for me to do is wait for her blue-bloat corpse to reemerge on the shores for my mourning to truly begin.

*

In the morning, I eat a burger and vomit between classes. I am disappearing into something seen; The trail of a plane’s engine falling through the sky. This is all I have ever wanted: to swallow my throat.

*

Home Depot’s pest control shelves have all sorts of traps for levels of sadism. Glue traps to watch the mouse struggle and fall over onto its side like white flag, traps for later release in open fields, guillotine traps, etc. I settle on the most expensive trap. It will capture and kill the mouse without you ever having to see it and even has a built-in handle to pick it up from a safe distance.

*

I don’t believe in the woman on the bus. I don’t think that I can hold my hands under her mouth and she will spit out a novel I’d get tattooed on my arm because it changed how I once perceived myself. But I give her space none-the-less.

*

On the morning I wait for a call to confirm my sister is dead, I am struck with a terrible migraine, her spirit beating behind my right eye like a howl trapped by the dark. I hold her back as long as I can and then vomit all over the toilet seat.

*

Pre-anything is hard to comfort.

*

I name the mouse George as I lay down the traps in each corner of my apartment. The part of me that wants to love another thing, hopes he just stays quiet in a cupboard somewhere and we go on living together like that forever.

*

The morning after a panic attack, I wake with the day’s hand on my chest. I walk in and out of each room of the apartment without touching any surface, fully aware my body is held together by shoe string.

*

In the morning, the mouse trap is empty. I turn the corner to find George the mouse plopped down in the middle of my galley kitchen, head bowed. I yelp. George doesn’t move. I stomp my feet at him. He raises his head a bit. I scold him about not sharing the kitchen, about house etiquette. I take the broom and nudge him slightly, squealing under my breath. Still, he remains.

*

My sister did not die the night she promised she would. I think, quite selfishly, of how much longer I must wait for the inevitable to pass.

*

The morning goes by. I peek my head around the corner. George is still where I left him except he is now lying on his side. I call my mom, “Why won’t he run away?”
“He must be sick.”

*

One morning, a woman on the bus is talking about her mother’s cancer, “Her body is giving up, but if she could, her mind would keep going.”

*

To vomit in silence is a skill of manifesting. In the stall, I imagine myself as a silk drawstring purse and slowly push its bottom up through the insides until I have turned it completely out. This is all to remain here.

*

In the morning I play my waist as an accordion. I press in as far as I can go for a cry to answer in my belly. The silence creates new negative in space.

*

It’s all one morning and my mother is telling me over the phone that the mouse is sick and dying and it is most likely my fault for spraying it with bug spray the day before. She says I need to take it outside. I drop a measuring cup over George and he twitches only slightly. I start to slide a file folder underneath his body but I’m shrieking and cursing and jumping every time he shifts under the folder. My mother is cracking up on the other end of the phone and I too begin to laugh half because of the absurdity and half because I kill so cruel.

*

In the morning, I go to work to discover that someone the night before had gotten sick all over the second stall of the girl’s bathroom. This girl, whoever she is, is the first scene I map on my world stage.

*

In the morning I wander the women’s clothing aisles of Walmart with no real shopping list or reason for being. A woman passes by pushing an empty cart and lecturing in a soft voice about gender equality. No one stops or turns at this but she will continue none-the-less to make laps around the women’s clothing section, re-reciting her lecture again and again. She must think she is saved. Even here, as I write her into her very own space, I don’t think she is anymore present.

*

In the morning I am sure the world has already ended. I stand in the center of my living room, trying to convince myself that the furniture is real. If I could just be outside of myself, I think, I would know for sure what, if any of it, exists.

*

I finally wiggle George onto the folder and carry him out to the curb, my head cocked to the side pinning the phone against my shoulder. At the curb, on the far side of the apartment complex, I toss him into the street. He lands on the asphalt with a thud.

*

I don’t know the right way to say to people, my body pulled through a sweater is the pain of existing. But still, I feel it necessary to try; a way of upturning my palms.

*

In the morning I wake up to an empty mouse trap. It has been there for five days though my mouse is dead in the street. The day goes by without me noticing.

 

 

Whitney Kerutis is a poet from Arizona now residing in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She is Founder/Editor in Chief of GASHER Journal and is a PhD student in Creative Writing/Literature at Oklahoma State University. She received her MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder where she served as Poetry Editor of Timber Journal. She is the 2018 poetry winner of the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award. Her work has appeared in journals such as Colorado Review, American Literary Review, Bayou Magazine, Breakwater Review, and others.

Image: nytimes.com

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