Many times in my life I have wondered, "what am I doing here?" and "what am I for?" Fighting the initial, negative instinct that I am completely without purpose and I don't belong where I am, I return again and again to the idea that I must be in this particular place at this particular time to help someone-- that my presence is instrumental in aiding someone in a way that I don't yet understand. It is a vanity and a delusion that persists without any kind of evidence. I've learned many times (and forgotten just as many times) that people don't want you to come up with solutions to their problems when they complain about them; they just want you to listen to them. Take it from me-- your overweight friend does not want you to exercise with her, your coworker does not want you to point out that her crippling insomnia is the result of the 2 gallons of diet coke she consumes daily, your OCD friend doesn't want you to calmly explain how things couldn't possibly be as contaminated as they seem. All that concern of mine just warps into something resembling snobbery or self righteousness. I get frustrated that I can do nothing to reset the course of peoples lives, that all I can do is sit there and listen, feeling more impotent all the time.
It's common for me to actually abandon the relationship or the job, as I can't stand the constant reminders of my own impotence and lack of influence, can't listen any longer. It just seems so cruel that we can only help ourselves. It's the hardest thing to do. I wish that I could help other people and that other people could help me. No luck. So what am I doing here? What am I for?

It occurred to me while watching a bald woman spit seeds into a plastic sandwich bag that I was born for no other purpose than to bear witness to the grotesques that I encounter on the muni, in line at the pharmacy at Kaiser, and lurching down the aisles at Safeway. One day, while riding the bus that takes me to work-- the 24 Divisadero-- an elderly Latino man got on the bus. He was wearing a neat little linen suit and a fedora, and carrying an ornate wooden cane. His eyebrows were drawn on cartoonishly thick with what could have only been a black crayon. He was bald under the fedora, but he drew in a hairline with the same smudgy black crayon. His entire face was covered in a thick layer of petroleum jelly. He looked like a wax doll. Looking at the tired and bored expressions on the faces of the other passengers, I realized no one else noticed him. He was there just for my noticing and I was there just to notice him.

I must belong here in this disgusting city and all my wandering is over.



For an embarrassingly long time in my life, I would not go to sleep unless the mirror in my bedroom was covered with a sheet. It's hard to remember how many years this went on--probably well into high school-- as the ritual was as essential as brushing my teeth, and I gave little thought to it other than it had to be done. Failure to perform the mirror covering left me at the mercy of Bloody Mary who, in my version of the legend, needed no provocation to pass through the mirror and seize me. Over time, the evil witch in the mirror has been relegated only to bathroom mirrors, where her potency hasn't really diminished (at 25 I still won't go into a bathroom without first turning on the light, and even then I won't look in the mirror). I was reflecting on this insanity recently, wondering why this remains scary when all other childhood bogeymen have faded away long ago. I realized that, like a lot of people, the things that scare me the most appear when I'm deep inside of myself. Naturally, an evil presence that is activated when I'm looking into a mirror, looking at myself, would be especially real to me.

Last night, in the delirium of migraine, I told my boyfriend that I wished we could go into a spaceship when it was time to go to sleep, where our brains would both be plugged into the same program. That way, we could be together as we slept, instead of him drifting off and me staying awake, alone with my worries that overpower me when no one is around to challenge them.

Reflecting on the Bloody Mary fear and the anxiety of insomnia has left me with a realization that I find troubling: I hate being alone, because I hate the sounds of my own thoughts, and am more afraid of knowing myself than of anything else in this world. I am afraid to pursue my interests, because doing that would leave me alone with myself in the creative act-- I am afraid to spend that kind of time with myself. The longer I spend doing a job I hate, living an a place I don't like, etc, the further away I get from myself, and the harder it makes it to return.

New year's resolution: Cut it out.