I dont want to be crazy, p.1
I Don't Want to Be Crazy, page 1
I Don’t Want to Be Crazy
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For Emily Kozlow—who saw the worst
It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before…to test your limits…to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
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I can’t believe
no one else can hear
I am screaming
inside my head.
Things are moving so fast.
I am going to die.
I am going to die.
I am going to die.
My hands are shaking.
I try to squeeze them, try to make it stop,
but now my fists are shaking,
and this shaking is working its way through me.
It must look like I am having a fit.
I want to let the scream out,
but I think if I start,
I’ll never stop.
It’s not supposed to be like this.
I am too young to die.
I don’t know how to make this end,
and if it doesn’t, I’ll have to go to a hospital,
be medicated, force-fed soft foods.
I don’t want to be that person.
I am not that person.
I am not.
I am not.
Each day another friend leaves for college.
Yesterday Abe, today Claire,
When it’s my turn,
nobody will be left
to say good-bye to me.
It’s crazy that I’m leaving
everything and everyone I know,
but there are things I want to leave behind,
things I don’t have room for—
like this version of me,
Sometimes I call him my boyfriend,
but I know better.
I’m excited to leave,
to start something new,
but it scares me.
And what scares me even more
is that things are supposed to get harder than this—
harder than living in my parents’ house,
harder than dealing with Jason,
harder than high school.
I can’t be a kid anymore.
All my neighborhood friends and I
go to one party after another,
drinking, getting high—
the same stupid stuff we always do
in the playground of P.S. 98
or down at the field.
Now we call them good-bye parties,
but they’re really just another excuse to get high.
I am sitting behind the register at the theater
looking out the window
at the cars speeding by,
thinking, I can’t believe it’s finally over.
I am out of high school.
I’ll never again have to wear that polyester kilt
with the stapled hem and melted hole
where Audrey accidentally ashed on me.
I’ll never get detention for wearing combat boots
or have to take the Q46 bus halfway across Queens.
I don’t ever have to sit in the senior lounge
wishing I could play my
music without Justin calling Tori Amos Tour of My Anus.
I don’t have to pretend to like people
who are assholes and call me flat-chested.
I don’t have to be treated like crap
just because I’m not popular.
Applying to college was a disaster.
My parents had their choice for me,
and I had mine.
But since they were paying the bills,
there was no room for compromise.
We fought about my application essay for weeks.
It had to be perfect—
revised and reread dozens of times,
marked up in red pen
until it was bloody.
In the end my personal statement
was more my mother’s than my own
and fiction became fact
because it sounded better.
It’s been like this
for as long as I can remember—
writing and rewriting homework,
book reports, and papers
until they were not mine—
until they were perfect.
I don’t understand
how my teachers never noticed.
How could they believe
all those words were mine?
Every time I handed in a paper
I hoped I’d get caught.
A week before I leave,
Jason picks me up after work
and we go down to the woods
at the edge of the bay
where there’s a washed-up diving platform.
The moon is bright enough
that we can find the path,
but I still hold his hand—
let him guide me
around branches and rocks.
When we get to the platform
it’s covered with slugs.
We kick them off and lie down.
It doesn’t matter
that there are trails of ooze.
It doesn’t matter
that it is low tide
and the mosquitoes are out.
All that matters
is that his hands cover me
like my clothes should.
In the morning I wake up, shower,
see that I am covered in bites, some bleeding
from where I must have scratched them in the night.
I spend the day at work
counting bites, rubbing on cortisone,
and thinking of Jason’s hands.
It sounds nice,
but it’s not.
It sounds easy,
but it isn’t.
The next day Jason is a half hour late
to get me from work.
No phone call.
Just like always,
I am an afterthought.
Just like the night he promised
we’d be alone and showed up with two friends
ready to smoke a blunt.
Just like the afternoon
he said he was going to pick me up
after his laundry finished drying
and never showed
because he fell asleep.
It’s been like this ever since Christmas,
when he kissed me
and then told me he’d been waiting
Ever since then
I’ve been waiting
for him to do something, anything
to show he cares,
for him to be the one to ask me to hang out,
waiting for the phone to ring,
checking to see if the phone is broken,
or if someone’s already on the line.
I’m glad I’m leaving.
I don’t want to wait anymore.
I’m surrounded by stacks of towels,
linens still in the package,
jeans and sweaters,
jumbo boxes of tampons,
soap, and shampoo.
I’m listening to Ani DiFranco so loud
my parents are going to start to yell.
By the end of the week
everything needs to be packed
in these giant plastic tubs
and in garbage bags
Everything I own,
everything I care about, is at my feet:
a Valentine’s Day card from Jason
that reads I wish for you,
a collage Claire made for my birthday
of handpainted portraits of the two of us,
a photo of me and Audrey
sitting in the back row of the Q79 bus,
a drawing I made in 1983.
I can’t wait
to get out of this room
with its stupid flowered wallpaper,
out of this house
with all its rules,
out of this neighborhood
where everyone knows each other.
I try folding things neatly,
even though I’m a slob.
I am starting something new.
I want to do this right.
A couple of nights before I leave
Jason tries again to get me to have sex with him.
We are in his bed when he gives me a speech
about how I won’t want to lose my virginity
to some stranger in college.
He reminds me
that he is here,
next to me,
But I’ve already given him everything else.
This is the only thing I
I’m leaving tomorrow
and saying good-bye to Jason tonight.
I don’t think I can handle it
if he kisses me.
It will only make things harder.
It will only make me cry
to kiss him,
to feel the emptiness.
I wonder if he feels it.
I wonder if he even cares.
What a fitting ending with Jason.
Just like always, he was late
and I was pissed.
This time it was the weed’s fault.
It knocked him on his ass, hard.
He was pale, almost green.
He could barely speak.
His best friend Nate was there
to confirm the story.
I could see in Jason’s face
that it was the truth,
but it was too late.
I can’t fall asleep.
It’s like the night before camp,
except I don’t come home after six weeks.
It’s like the night before an exam
that I haven’t studied for enough.
It’s like the night before my birthday,
knowing my expectations will never be lived up to.
It’s like the night before a vacation,
and I’m terrified to fly.
It is the night before everything.
My roommate Sarah is in our dorm room
when my parents and I get upstairs with the first load.
She is one of the kids I met
at the overnight open house in the spring.
None of us knew if we’d been accepted
and it was strange to think
that we might make friends we’d never see again.
That night, in the woods, behind one of the dorms,
a bunch of us got stoned and swore that if we got in,
we’d go, be friends, request to be roommates—
Sarah and I,
Josh and Adam.
We’d be safe from the freaks.
When I walk into our dorm room,
I drop my stuff on the floor,
and Sarah and I scream and hug.
I can’t believe we are really here,
that all of this is finally starting.
Sarah’s stuff is already unpacked
and neatly laid out.
She’s managed to make her side of the room into a home.
I can’t believe she moved in by herself.
She is quick to excuse herself.
Maybe she can tell that my family is the type
to scream and yell no matter what we do.
Maybe she wants to leave before we ask her to help.
Either way, I’m jealous.
We carry everything up the five flights
because the elevators are backed up.
All my clothes are packed in garbage bags.
My life looks like a dump.
My mother carries a lamp,
then positions herself on the extra-long twin bed.
She supervises for the rest of the afternoon
as my father and I go back and forth
to the Volvo and up and down the stairs.
I wish I didn’t have to do this with my parents.
I wish we didn’t have to fight
about where everything goes
and have the other kids in my suite hear
and think I am a baby.
My parents leave after the big stuff is in place,
the photos and posters are hung and level,
and my father has changed into a clean polo shirt.
I am finally alone
and it is wonderfully quiet.
That first night Sarah goes out
and Josh comes over.
We’ve e-mailed since the spring,
exchanged stupid high school stories,
recommended books and CDs,
and speculated on what it would be like
when we actually got to school.
We smoke a joint
and Josh lies down in Sarah’s bed—
eyes shut, hands folded across his chest
with his cigarette between his fingers.
He doesn’t move for a long time.
“Josh?” No answer.
Is he sleeping? Dead?
I go over to see if he is breathing,
but I am too high to tell.
I lean in closer,
I am going to have to put a mirror under his nose.
I can’t believe that I killed someone
my first night of college.
I am just inches from Josh’s face
when he opens one eye
and smiles at me.
I say, “I thought you were dead.”
He starts laughing
and I fall back on my ass
and laugh harder
than I have ever laughed before.
When I met Adam in the spring
there was an instant attraction.
I felt it the first minute I saw him—
the back of him, really.
I was walking behind him during the campus tour,
watching his hair swish.
That night we stayed up until four in the morning,
and talked about high school
and wanting to get out of our parents’ houses.
I knew he felt the connection too,
but he had a girlfriend
and I had Jason,
so we just slept on nearby couches.
The night after I move into the dorm,
Adam and I go for a walk
while everyone else is at the freshman meet-and-greet.
It’s the first time we’ve spoken since the spring.
He doesn’t have a girlfriend anymore
and we kiss in the grass
by one of the outdoor sculptures—
giant yellow metal beams
that look like reaching legs.
We can hear laughing and cheering
coming from the party across the green.
I feel like the cheering is for me,
This campus is tiny compared to others I’ve seen,
but it’s still a mystery to navigate.
They’ve given us a map
that I wouldn’t be caught dead with
so there’s no chance of getting through the day
without asking where something is.
The dining hall is the worst.
It’s packed with people—
people who know their way around,
who have friends,
who know where they like to sit
and how to balance their tray
without spilling their coffee
into their cereal.
In high school I knew the rules.
I knew which girls were my friends
and which ones were fake.
I knew the fastest way
to spread a rumor was to tell Lauren
and the fastest way to the lunchroom
was to take the hallway by art class.
I knew my friends sat at the last table on the left
and the cool kids sat at the last table on the right.
I knew that after lunch
my friends hung out in the stairway by the gym,
and if you were careful
you could slip out the East exit
to smoke a cigarette.
Part of my financial aid package
is a job in Food Services.
I was a waitress a few summers ago,
but this is humiliating.
I wear an apron, rubber gloves,
carry food back and forth,
clean up tables,
scrape uneaten food off plates.
I go home stinking
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