You Will by Claire Greising

Editor Matty Byloos, Fiction, May 24th, 2017

"Their wrists are gnarled tree branches ..."

Claire Greising Essay Nailed Magazine
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Fiction by Claire Greising.

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Your room is small. The white sheets that aren’t yours also aren’t warm. The door opens from both sides. Your roommate is small and twelve and hides behind living room curtain bangs. Waking up here is like falling into a lucid dream. You shuffle from room to room, but you don’t lift your feet, don’t speak, you hardly listen, mostly read.

Your assigned therapist is old and a man, so he understands little. He prescribes you pills that give you headaches, make your hands shake, cough up blood, sleep for fifteen hours straight. He asks you questions that range from “How long have you felt this way?” to “Have you ever been intimate with your boyfriend,” range from easily answered to impossible to elucidate. He doesn’t smile and doesn’t have smile lines. He scares you. Though you aren’t actively sad – not in the traditional sense, not anymore – you cry fat, wet tears every time you speak with him.

The other patients are regulars. They know the nurses by name, are well-versed in what food to order on what day, and easily choke down the white Dixie cups of medication that punctuate each morning. Their moods are shifty and uneven like the floor in your grandmother’s old house. Their wrists are gnarled tree branches, the scratched side of a wrecked car, carvings left behind on a picnic table. You are not like them. You are smart and young and rich. Your parents love you and you aren’t addicted to cigarettes. You’ve never tried to stab anybody in the lunch line, you’ve never hit your head against a wall so many times you developed marks on your forehead – hell, you’ve never even been grounded. You have always felt like an outsider and now, you don’t even have membership here. You are an outcast among outcasts.

You will spend a week cocooned in group therapy sessions and drawing pictures of your feelings, lukewarm cups of weak tea and calling your parents on a pay phone every night at 9:15, wearing socks with sandals and losing weight like losing change through a hole in your pocket. You will be discharged, feeling more like a skeleton than when you entered. You tell the friends who noticed that you spent the week with the mumps, with mono, with a bad case of the I-Don’t-Want-to-Be-Alive-Anymores.

That semester, you will get the best grades of your high school career. You will get fives on all of your Advanced Placement tests. You will win $600 in a short story contest. Your piece is about two kids who hang out in a cemetery. You will date a girl who is squarely out of your league – pretty, and perfect, and impossible.

You will get yelled at by your soccer coach for “not being a fighter.” Your boss will dock your pay for having an anxiety attack instead of going to work. Your sister will tiptoe around you like a landmine. Her drunk boyfriend will tell you that your feelings are completely normal, unoriginal even. His friend was like this, his brother was like this, he was like this. Your misery is not unique. Your depression is boring.

In the course of two weeks, you will lose twenty pounds.

“How’d you lose the weight?” Your doctor will ask behind squinted eyes and a plastic clipboard. “How’d you lose the weight?” A girl in your gym class will say as you switch into the orange shirt-turned-dress before playing kickball. “How’d you lose the weight?” Your best friend will question before taking lazy shots of an alcohol your medication will no longer allow you to digest. Spend a week in the psychiatric ward, you think to yourself. Test out new prescriptions like others try on shades of lipstick, you want to answer. Try to kill yourself. Really takes away the appetite.

“Exercise,” is what you actually say. “Exercise, and I don’t snack between meals.”

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One of the boys you meet in the psychiatric ward will friend you on Facebook. You won’t accept, but you won’t reject either. The red notification will stay on your dashboard for two years. On an unseasonably sweltering October day, he will kill himself by jumping off the roof of his college library. Posthumously, you will accept his request.

You click on his tagged photos. You tap through pictures of him with arms around smiling friends, climbing a tree at a sleepaway camp, squinting into the sun at a baseball game.

You remember a late-night conversation you had on the couches of the hospital. While you talked about your plans for the future, he twisted his hospital bracelet around and around his wrist, around and around his wrist. He told you he wanted to move to Prague when he turned twenty-five.

You look at his statuses from 2014. You thumb through his posts dated 2015. You stare at his last update: “Bored. Anyone want to talk?”

In group therapy, he would laugh extra hard at your jokes – his eyes would close, his shoulders would shake, he would be so overcome with laughter that he couldn’t make a single noise. Now, you wonder if he was laughing at all, if his shaking shoulders were part of a carefully curated front for happiness, if the charade was more for you than for him.

You look at his relationship status, work history, and places visited. His last check-in was three days before at a Culver’s twenty minutes from your house.

He ordered Jell-O at every meal. The kitchen would never give it to him, but he ordered it anyway.

You scroll through the memorandums tacked to his wall from friends and family. “We miss you,” they say. They varying posts use different words, but contain the same meaning. “Rest in peace,” someone writes. From the outside, death is vaguely uninteresting. “Gone too soon,” another laments. You realize that grief renders all sympathy cliché. “If only we’d known, we could’ve helped.” You knew. You could have helped.

You will like his profile picture.

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Claire Greising Essay Nailed MagazineClaire Greising is a sophomore at New York University. She enjoys blue slurpees, bad reality television, and the poetry of Eileen Myles. You can find more of her work in Moonsick Magazine, Potluck Mag, and elsewhere.

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Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).