FAITHLESS : 2003 : STEPHANIE.ZIOBRO
Do you know what it feels like to be tainted food? You know youíre tainted, and you know your friends and family really want to eat you, but you donít want to make them sick. So instead, you eat yourself Ė if they donít know the food is there, theyíll never have the chance to be tempted, so therefore, they wonít even know they wanted to eat in the first place.
I eat myself every day. I swallow everything whole Ė I donít chew, I donít taste Ė I just swallow. And I get sick. And the Sick is so massive and so tainted, that eventually I puke it up all over myself, but not in ways that make you have to hold your breath or get a mop. It leaves more of a lingering smell, one that makes someone walk by, sniff, and say, "Did someone throw up or is that bleu cheese?" They see me with scratches on my arms and legs or a black eye or two and think, "Did she fall out of a tree or did someone smack her around real good?" They donít know I just puked. I donít let them know. Thatís why my Toys are spread around my house in such a way that you wouldnít even think they were toys. The paring knife from my motherís house is in the drawer with the rest of my silverware, but itís the only one that doesnít match. The broken-off metal pen-clasp Ė you know the things that keep a pen in place in a notebook or in a pocket Ė is in my junk-drawer, but itís far from "junk." My tiny Phillips screwdriver is in my toolbox Ė where else would it be? The 8-ounce kahlua bottle is on top of my refrigerator Ė the one that holds the silk daisies with the little rubber-cement "raindrops" on the petals. The pair of beard-trimming scissors my roommate couldnít find for a month before giving up and buying a new pair is in the drawer in my bathroom, next to my lipstick and bright-colored hair-extensions. One of those big safety pins that used to accessorize plaid skirts back in the eighties is in my sewing box in the cabinet under my kitchen counter. The heavy wooden hairbrush I stole from my grandmotherís house sits in a perfect, decorative position on my dresser, next to the photograph of me and Sam in the sushi restaurant on my birthday. An exacto knife from my motherís stenciling days is in the can right next to my computer that I use to hold pens and pencils and rulers. To anyone else, these things are all just junk, utensils, scissors. But I never use the paring knife, because I donít ever "pare" anything. The tiny Phillips screwdriver is too small for anything I need to screw. The big safety pin is too big to pin anything that I feel needs pinning. Iíve never used the hairbrush because it has those really soft bristles on it that would just make my hair stand straight up with static. And the exacto knife just sits there waiting for a project to come along where I may need to "exacto-knife" something. And one never will. Because these are my Toys.
Theyíre like surgical tools. And Iím not MacGuyver Ė I donít run around looking to perform an on-the-spot tracheotomy with my beard-trimmers and giant safety pin. Theyíre for me onlyÖ
If you still have no concept of what Iím talking about, which Iím sure you donít, because this is a touchy subject and up to this point Iíve been pretty vague, letís try going about it this way:
It begins with that overdue credit card bill that comes in the mail. To the average person, this is a minor stress, but not the end of the world. Theyíll take care of it when they can, pay what they can, call up ActionBank and say, "hey, Iím sending off twenty bucks Ė I apologize, but Iím working on it." And ActionBank will probably set up some sort of payment plan, and then everybody goes to lunch.For those of us who arenít average, the ninety-dollar minimum payment is the beginning of the end. And the Beginning is Step One, and the End is Step Two.
Step One: I canít pay this.
Step Two: Nothing I do is ever going to get me out of debt and Iím going to get overdue bills in the mail forever and I canít pay my rent and I know Iím going to be evicted and WHY did I buy those shoes Iím so fucking stupid and pathetic and Iíll never be anything and I donít matter to anyone except debt collectors ---
Öand suddenly you find yourself trapped under the eighteen-wheeler I mentioned earlier on Ė canít move canít scream canít be seen. And all you want now is some help. Someone to pull you out from under. And this is how the next part happens: "Excuse me, but can you please remove this eighteen-wheeler from on top of me?"
"HmmmÖ Iím not sure. I was hoping you had an idea."
"Well, howíd you get under there? Can you get out the way you got in?"
"No Ė I wasnít looking when it happened, so I have no idea how I got here."
"OkayÖ How about I just drive it off you?"
"Oh, no! Iíll get all squished under the tires!"
"Do you want me to take it apart piece by piece until you can wriggle out?"
"That could take ages Ė I know you donít have time for that. Plus, you could get hurt, and I donít want that to happen."
"Well, can I get you something while you wait?"
"Um, no, not really. I just want this truck off of meÖ"
"Well, okay thenÖ"
"Hey, wait! I have an idea!"
"Great! What is it?"
"Grab that axe over there and cut me up into pieces Ė then you can get me out chunk by chunk!"
"Are you kidding? Thatís fucking crazy!"
Thatís why I canít ask for help. Because the second I do, I feel like I'm asking too much of someone. They offer solution after solution, and I turn them down, getting embarrasssed that I couldn't fix it by myself. And then I think of a great idea all by myself, and it's often the wrong one. To the average person, anyway. I completely understand this, however. Thereís just way too much responsibility involved Ė because chopping me up could very easily kill me, and who wants that on their conscience? So I do it myself. I rip and tear at my own flesh with my teeth, and each piece that comes off creates such a feeling of relief Ė Iím getting out! Any minute now! The smaller I am the easier it will be! And I rip and tear and chew and spit my way out of the tight, suffocating place, and before I know it, Iím out! And it feels so wonderfully wonderful! Iím free! I can get on with my day! And I did it all by myself! So I tape and staple and glue myself back together and continue on my way, relieved, energized, sane, until I pass someone on the street and they say, "What the fuck happened to you?"
"I fixed myself!" I exclaim, puffing out my chest with pride. And I notice that the eyes that are staring at me donít share the excitement and joy I feel. All they see are the scars and stitches and wounds and bruises, and then have to turn away. Because they canít stand to look at how Ugly I am. And I feel myself deflate like a balloon, and I walk away, kicking myself. "Why didnít I just take the help that was offered?" But the fear of being helped is often worse than being Ugly. Because who has the time to take apart an eighteen-wheeler? "If I do it this time, sheíll probably come looking for me the next time, too, and I canít keep dropping everything every single time she gets stuck under a truckÖ" So then they stop calling, they donít come over to see me, they start avoiding places theyíll know Iíll be, because they fear that every time they see me theyíll be faced with some immense, time-consuming task to performÖ So to avoid being abandoned, I make the decision to be Alone first. That way, no one can leave me. I take care of myself. The only way I know how. And I donít tell anyone, because if they knew how I became Ugly, theyíd run. If I just show up Ugly one day, itís more of a Bad Hair Day. It just happens, and no one really cares anyway. But if someone finds out that your hair looks like shit because you tried to self-perm it, having never done a self-perm before, they might giggle and call you stupid and ask if you read the directions. And itís completely embarrassing Ė especially because it could have been avoided. But if you just woke up one day with really bad hair, hey, you canít help it, and itís okay. Not My Fault. Make sense? Not yet?
Ever do drugs?
Itís wrong Ė but it feels so good. It feels so good right now Ė but after it wears off you feel guilty and shitty and vow never to do it again.
But there it is again Ė a little bit is okay. MAN this feels good Ė
wait, what am I doing?
But it was there!
And I just wanted to feel good for a second!
Shit I am such a loser!
And as much as you want to stop, you donít want to stop. So now you start to justify it, or find a way to make it Normal.
And hereís what we know:
Alone, you find that you cannot have your cake and eat it, too. Thereís the cake sitting right in front of you Ė oh that looks so yummy Ė chocolate, vanilla, whatever your flavorÖ You have this whole cake to yourself, and in the back of your mind, you know if you eat the whole thing, youíll get a stomachache, get fat, whatever. You KNOW this. But itís such a fleeting thought, that you end up devouring the whole cake, and then when youíre puking it up later, youíre kicking yourself saying, "I KNEW I shouldnít have done that!" You wish that someone had come along, grabbed the cake, put it in a styrofoam box, and just shoved it up your ass for thinking something so stupid. But there IS a way to have your cake and eat it tooÖ You share it. Or if no one around you likes cake, have them feed it to you, because they can tell you when enough is enoughÖ
I was in the midst of PMS when I got one of my tattoos. (Just so you know, PMS increases sensitivity and decreases your pain threshold.) I just kept breathing in and out, determined not to cry, when Bubba said, "I just have to do the orchid." Right then, I thought I would lose it. I fought against tears. To avoid another metaphor: it hurt like a motherfucker. But I was not going to cry. I was going to take it. I inhaledÖ
And almost had an orgasm right there in the chair. It was the strangest thing Iíd ever experienced Ė imagine having the Worst Thing In the World happen at the EXACT SAME MOMENT as the Best Thing In the World. Would you laugh or cry? Obviously, it feels better to focus on the Best Thing. So you do, but when the next Worst Thing happens, you associate it with the Best Thing, or vice versa, so therefore:
Horrible pain becomes exquisite.
So what exactly am I saying in between all these metaphors and comparisons and, quite possibly, bullshit? When your brain hurts, itís so intense, so painful, and so hidden. No one can look at you and see how much you hurt. You donít have a cast on your leg or a 6-inch gash in your arm thatís bleeding all over the goddamn carpet. And with a broken leg or a bleeding wound, you know it will stop hurting eventually. Not so with the brain. So how to you make the pain stop? You make it physical. You bring it from the inside to the outside. You regurgitate. You take a pair of scissors pull the sharp edge across your arm or your leg and you watch as the skin slides open and the pain bleeds out. You grab a bottle of room deodorizer or the handle of a hairbrush and you whack it against the bone right under your eye as hard as you can until you have a headache from the constant pounding and the pain gathers into a purple pool right beneath your eyeball. Or maybe you take too many Ativan and have to have the pain sucked out of your stomach with a vacuum. Or maybe you do something more subtle, like start smoking cigarettes at age 22, even though you really have no desire to do it, and youíre long past the issue of peer pressure or "being cool," but you consciously suck cancer into your lungs because you know the only way to completely rid yourself of the monsters inside you is to aid in the deterioration of the host in which they live, and if you do it quietly enough, no one will know you actually have a plan until itís all over and the pain is goneÖ
So does this make me crazy? I donít know. To you it probably does. To me it doesnít, because itís Normal: its what I know, itís how I deal.
Itís how I live, if you can call it that.
An ironic side note: As I write this, Iím sitting here with a black eye. My brain is having a Masquerade Ball, and Thoughts and Ideas are required to show up as something more concrete. And everybody is trying to guess whoís under each mask. Canít Afford to Buy Milk is the Shiner on the right side of my face. I Am Completely Alone is hanging out as a Vertical Scar on my left wrist. But I also have a few Hollywood make-up artists I hire for these events, so no one can guess who anyone is. Although, by writing this book, Iíve just created my own FOX TV special, similar to the one where the magician reveals all the secrets of his trade. Why did he do this? To be noticed? Because he wanted to make a major impression and didnít care if it made him look fabulous or rancid? Or was he just tired of all the damn questions, like "how do you do that?" Maybe he had an agenda to begin with, and maybe he didnít realize what he was trying to do until after it was all overÖ