Growing up, I used to cry for things that never happened: my brother’s death, the day we go homeless, a doctor’s sigh before revealing a devastating diagnosis. I would cry and cry and feel like I was standing on a pedestal in the center of a windy abyss. I would fold those feelings somewhere deep in my mind, tight and complicated like origami, so that when I open up I am prone to bending in the same directions over and over again. But on the bright side, if any of those atrocities do happen, I will have had deft practice in the ways of suffering.
My pediatrician called it anxiety. That wasn’t the evolutionary diagnosis I’d been waiting for, so I kept on making up things to cry about.
As a teenager I would lay awake and fantasize about my pending adulthood. I would imagine myself in the clothes of a woman, only overdone or underdressed like a girl’s fantasy. I would be walking in stilettos down a Manhattan street and hear the train rattle underneath the sidewalk grail. Against my better judgement, I’d be off to a sprint. People start staring at me and in the way my uncle warned me about. Don’t fall, they’d say with their eyes, don’t ruin it for us. Miss the train by a margin of a second so that it’s wind can blow up your skirt they way we know you hoped it would. But I never make it to my Monroe moment. I’d feel all the faces upon me, closer and closer like an elbow-throwing rush hour crowd. Their attention deadens my own and I fumble: I’d trip on my heel, silly little girl that I was, and nosedive into the pavement so violently that I couldn’t bear to end it with an image. Just cut to black and I’d be back in my bed, staring at an arthritic tree outside my window.
My friends called it normal, so I kept on fantasizing about patent leather pumps and planned how I would face an embarrassing death with dignity.
In my 20s I had dreams of food stamps. I would sit on the sofa, lopsided as it was with the bent mattress springs underneath, and eat oatmeal from a plate. In my mind I was strolling the wide aisles of Costco, picking up king crab legs and organic grapes and mini cinnamon rolls to impress my guests. I would eat like a queen because I was a pauper. I’d tell my son to bow his head before his meal and thank the state of New York.
My application was denied and the fantasies ceased. My oatmeal diet didn’t. My doctor told me it wasn't normal to cry for things that happen and gave me a prescription for Xanax.