The Story by Mobstr
This put a smile on my face. Continuing on from Mobstr’s "Playing With The Buff Man" series, The Story tells the tale of the on going dance between the artist and the so called “Buff Man” as they both fight for control over the wall.
Sunday Prompt: “Full sunlight on my face.”
"It’s hard for me to get out of bed in the morning," said Judith. Her fleece jacket was completely zipped-up, and though her chin was raised high her neck still became lost in the material, as if she were attempting to retreat into her body like a turtle. Her cheeks hung past her lips, which were perpetually downturned.
It was almost 11:30 am and we were well into process group at this time, even after starting nearly ten minutes late. There were too many of us to be had in a single group, and most days we were split in thirds among Tom, Eliza, and Romy- depending on which social worker you were assigned to, process group that day could be entertaining, enlightening, or flat. Tom was considered the “fun” one- partly because he was the youngest employed at the outpatient clinic at age 29, and partly because his father worked in the hospital as well, and we suspected he wanted to set a good example. Perhaps his father had him on uppers, too. Eliza, who was a few years older, was also highly desired among the other outpatients due to her extremely empathetic nature- she gave out many hugs and was particularly gifted at “reframing” difficult events each of us shared with her into “opportunities for growth.” Romy was a good fifteen years older that the other two, and naturally came third because of the high standard the younger social workers set, and also due to her quieter demeanor. Her forte was nodding and giving a little hum after each person had their share, before responding- and she did this once three shares in a row- “That’s tough.”
Farrah and Dee had already had their ten minutes- although Farrah ended her “share” several minutes early due to a lingering anxiety that prompted her to request her doctor and step out of the room for the morning. The room was slightly quieter without Farrah’s toe-tapping and Hector’s labored wheezes took a temporary spotlight before Romy called on Dee to speak- Dee was molded into the couch in a lax position she has managed to maintain since the day started at 9am. She’d stayed in that exact spot on the couch since arriving a half-hour early, the only movement coming from her arms that brought first a banana then a bagel to her mouth as she chewed with great zeal. Her arms now hung to her sides as she stared out over the frames of her square glasses with a slight grin. She spoke slowly and frequently repeated the phrase, “I’m super-duper tired, you guys.” Romy had then asked if she was comfortable with her current medication dosages, to which Dee responded with widened grin and a measured nod.
Romy reciprocated this nod while her face remained tense as she pivoted her office chair towards Judith, gave a slight sigh, and asked, “How are we feeling today, Judith?”
"About the same as yesterday."
"And how were you feeling yesterday?"
"I was tired."
"Ah, like Dee here-"
"No, not like Dee."
"Hm." Romy shifted in her seat slightly, considering new topics of conversation. "How is your medication?"
"It’s fine, I guess. I don’t really notice a difference. It’s kind of annoying."
"Hm. You’ve been on this new prescription for a few weeks now, yes? It often takes that amount of time before any noticeable effects take place-"
"That’s what Dr. Kagan said, I know.. It also says that on the bottle. And in the instructions. I’m still feeling shitty, but I get it. So it’s fine."
"You say you’re feeling ‘shitty’?" Romy put a special emphasis on the word ‘shitty’ as if to imply that it wasn’t her fault she was swearing in group- as if she were merely quoting a script for the sake of scientific accuracy.
"I just don’t like getting out of bed. When I do, I regret it. I stay under the covers with my eyes open and think about the day and stare at the ceiling. There’s a brown stain on my ceiling but I don’t know how it got there. It bothers me, but mostly I can only see the outline of it in the dark. I keep the blinds closed."
"In the morning, you mean?"
"All the time."
"I live on the first floor of my building. I don’t want other people looking in."
"Hm. That’s understandable.. But, you know, and this goes for everybody, getting a little sunlight now and then can do a lot of good. It’s definitely part of our ‘self-care.’ Vitamin D, you guys.." Romy turned her gaze around the circle and made eye contact with a few of us, myself included. I gave back to her the same half-smile she was expressing because it seemed like maybe she needed a little positive feedback for her performance. It’s never easy being third out of three, I thought to myself, as I looked back at Judith, who opened her mouth to speak again. Rarely had I seen her so vocal.
"Self-care doesn’t feel good- at all."
"Hm. Would you mind explaining?"
"Well. I made plans over the weekend to practice making the apple pie I used to make for Thanksgiving- I haven’t made it, I haven’t made anything, I haven’t felt like it, since I started feeling this way instead. It’s been about two years. I used to love being in the kitchen. On Saturday I pulled out the recipe card and just stared at it. I never even went to the store."
"I thought about how I would get there- I don’t drive anymore so I’d have to be taken there, and I don’t like asking for help. My daughter has better things to do. I’d have to bring my jacket, because it’s always too cold. I’d have to find a cart because there are too many ingredients for a basket. I’d have to go through all the green apples other people have touched looking for bruises. I’d have to avoid kids in the aisles since it’s busier on the weekends. Someone’s baby would probably be crying. I’d have to look for the shortest line, and I’d have to bring my own bags since the store doesn’t give out the plastic ones anymore. I liked the plastic ones."
"Hm. Have you thought about going on a weekday?"
"I prefer to go home when I finish here. I don’t like coming here either- but it’s easier to do things when you don’t have a choice either way, I guess."
Judith attempted an awkward grin that tightened the skin around her lips. Her cheeks stayed low. The rest of us waited for Romy to hum. Hector coughed instead.
"I’m sure quite a few of us can relate to what you’re sharing with us, Judith. Does anyone have anything they’d like to suggest for Judith?"
Romy looked around at the rest of us for a moment, moving just her eyes, the right side of her head now resting in her hand.
"I don’t like grocery stores either," I said.
No one else spoke for another thirty seconds or so.
"Hm. That’s tough."
La Grande Tapisserie (The Great Tapestry) by Julien des Monstiers, 2013.
Mikhailovsky Theatre St. Petersburg
Photo: Polina Tvyordaya
When we were preteens, my sister and I fought extensively. It was mostly silent, but highly percussive, and every household object played a key role. We favored hand-sized objects such as VHS tapes and the dog’s toys. I pretty much always lost, but I got really close to winning one fight after chucking The Prince of Egypt against the back of my sister’s head and running into my room. My sister played softball, though, and before I could put all my weight against my door, she managed to push my un-lockable bedroom door open just enough to throw The Best of episodes of Friends, hitting me square in the face.
Between fights we commiserated over our mutual hatred for our mother’s second husband. While I mostly ate my feelings and wrote sad poetry, however, my sister was more creative in thwarting her feelings of angst regarding living in our stepdad’s house. We were too old for a babysitter at this time, and after school we were left alone for at least a few hours’ time- enough time for my sister to break at least one household object in a new and fun way roughly once a week.
Once, my sister and I were watching Lizzie McGuire before she decided to start dancing on top of a wooden TV dinner table. Naturally, it broke and she fell. I screamed and she shouted “Shut up!” before jumping up and shoving the broken pieces under the couch. It was quiet for a full minute, save the voice of Hilary Duff- then she started cackling, so I did too. Our stepdad found it a week later, and we were both grounded.
My sister also lit the good broom on fire- she was on the phone with one of her friends while I was flipping channels and counting how many times she could use the word “like” in one sitting- I got to 63 before she stopped talking, which made me turn around. She was holding the long red lighter our stepdad used to light his exotic oil candles with in one hand, and the nice broom Mom got with the blue velvet around the base in the other, upside-down. She lit the functional end and began to dance around the living room, cackling and making savage noises with her mouth and free hand, creating a doughnut of smoke in the air before we heard what we thought was the sound of the garage door opening. My sister panicked and ran into the backyard, throwing the broom into the bushes as Boo-Boo, our stepdad’s small but portly dog, chased after it. Mom came home about fifteen minutes later, found the broom in five, and we were both grounded.
My sister never apologized, but instead she would make hideous faces and noises at me until I finally made eye contact with her and laughed. The longer I kept my composure, the more serious her offense. So long as I laughed, though, she was always vindicated. I remember being very proud of my resolve after being called a fat something-or-other during the ride home from school one time- she didn’t crack me for two hours. She had exhausted every foul word and poop joke she knew, and had to resort to the big guns- a real, live fart.