“I’m Sorry I Missed Your Birthday” by Michela Marsh

I can feel my heart beating. I focus on the thump, thump, rhythm and count the beat; the sensation is captivating. I feel my heart quicken and realize I’m not breathing; I have to focus on something else.

The carpal tunnel in my wrist is throbbing against the keyboard. Every keystroke west of Y-H-N pushes the pain up, up, closer to my elbow, my shoulder, my heart; a persistent reminder I should be outside, away from the computer. The pillow against my neck takes a too-high pulse and I’m reminded for the third time this week that I can’t drink coffee with my Concerta. My nervous system is over-stimulated and my brain can’t keep up. My synapses are failing; this is uncharted torture for my hyperactive mind.

I should be sitting down for dinner in ten minutes to celebrate my friend’s twentieth birthday, but I am paralyzed and mute right now. I can’t muster the energy to pick up my ringing phone; I can’t find the will to articulate my state. There will be a mysteriously empty seat at the table reserved for eight. Tonight I will search for the words to explain why I didn’t attend although the birthday girl and her entourage won’t understand that I couldn’t attend. I’ll tell them a lie because they don’t take pills like me, because their brains aren’t like mine, because insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The truth – that I didn’t attend because I couldn’t attend – means nothing to the blind. How can the party understand what they have never known?

Tonight I know I won’t find the words to help my friends understand because my vocabulary is exhausted. My trials have only produced errors; appeasement is the final solution.

Damn my reality: the truth lays discarded and indescribable while the lie lays prostrate on my tongue. These friends can take my lie as truth because, once or twice, they have forgotten about class – just like me. These friends can understand if I remembered my recitation at the last minute because they are the same friends who encouraged me to seek help for my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; they noticed my eyes lose focus during lengthy conversations, they bought me princess Band-Aids so I couldn’t bloody my cuticles in long classes, they took me to the library when I needed to study. But now the evidence of my disorder is the rhythmic thumping under my breast, the infinite weight of my body sprawled across unwashed sheets, the slow creeping of words from conception to typed actualization. My friends only have their eyes, and their eyes see me having a lazy night in bed. Their bodies and brains and bodies weren’t made to feel this, weren’t medicated to feel this, and I absolve them from understanding what I can’t describe. I miss the days before diagnosis when I only felt different from my friends; I wish misunderstanding had not replaced difference. I wish the truth was easier than the lie, but such is life.

Only I know what lives inside me: the rhythmic thumping under my breast, the infinite weight of my body sprawled across unwashed sheets, the woeful creeping of inadequate words from conception to typed actualization. My heart has retreated. My pulse is undetectable. My brain has repossessed my blood, my mind is quick. I can feel this afternoon’s coffee pressing against my jeans; but, for now, I have an apology to fake.


Profile: Michela Marsh

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