Words by Ezra Theodore Tillett
Feature image by Lauren Rawlings
I drank coffee. I sat at the garden table and thought about doing something, but then didn’t. The birds made noise. I did not.
It is raining. I drank three shots of espresso, tried to write, failed. The birds made no noise. I sat and my hands shook with caffeine and the rain bled into the ground.
Every journal entry I’ve written for the past six months begins with an apology that I can’t manage to write more. This morning I cleaned my watercolour palette, but when I was done it was clean. I managed to shower and remember what my hair looks like when it’s more than a combination of frizz, grease, and three-day-old-bedhead. I drank a lot of tea because I couldn’t find the energy to cook anything. I want to bake babka when I feel less numb.
My neighbour is whistling and smoking a cigarette that’s triggering my asthma. I keep watching Howl’s Moving Castle. Only the scenes in which they are a family. I watch them complete domestic tasks like I’m Pinocchio doing research. I feel physically tired afterward as if I did something, too.
I wore my shoes around the house all day because I missed walking in them.
I can’t find my glasses; I’ve lost them somewhere under all the clutter that comes with being a shut in. The cats are getting fed up with me. Every day I ask them ‘do you still love me? blink slowly for yes’ and last night they refused to blink back. I will remedy this by loving them twice as hard tomorrow, because I have very little pride left. A telemarketer called earlier and asked for me using the wrong name, so I told him that person died. I try to play chess against myself, but I know all my tricks, so I inevitably just make white act really stupid so black can make a series of clever forks and captures. Losing to myself so I can win.
I feel like too many days all I can manage to do is to eat jelly cups and take my inhalers. The concept that I have to drink enough water every day for the rest of my life is overwhelming. Every few days I throw out the things that have mildewed in the fridge; in myself. I’m scared that going through the motions is all I have left, and I still can’t manage to hit all my marks. I’ll read to claim back some sense of normalcy, but I barely get through a sentence before my energy leaks out and pools at my feet. Not sure what date it is, but it’s a Thursday.
An Ode to Things Burnt
the northern half of every bagel I have ever tried to toast
bridges to bad people and cigarettes in stinking mouths
knuckles on frying pans and knees on bitumen
all the writing I’ve put too much heart into,
fingertips, incense, candlewicks
the babka, and with it, all the potential of today
My mother called and told me I’m being funnier than usual, which was a mistake because it went straight to my ego and now, I think I’m hilarious. I relayed this to my best friend, who understands things in a way my mother never cares to, and she countered ‘you’re not funny, you’re just so tired you’re mildly hysterical.’ The world has stopped, and the world cannot stop, and so the world does both at once. The sound is paused, but the reel won’t stop turning – everything spooling out like an old VHS and piling up on the floor. I am working from a small hollow in the very centre of my brain. I don’t think we are beholden to the dreams we had when we didn’t understand how hard life could get. Letting them go is healthy, maybe, but I’m stubborn. I want to learn how to fly – what’s it matter if it’s only candle wax? All the lights are out, anyway. We are all three things: the world, the hollow, and the mild hysteria (and I am always funny).
He’s whistling again. Old-guy-next-door. I swear his name is John, but it can’t really be John because his surname is definitely Smith, and John Smith is exceptionally made-up sounding. I can’t whistle. I remember the tune, but I don’t remember the words, nor which strings to pluck in my throat. Someone once told me you can either roll your r’s or whistle, that’s how it shakes out. So, I lay in bed and I roll my r’s and wonder at my own voice vibrating in my chest.
This piece was originally published in Edition 34 of Verse. View it in its original PDF form via ISSUU.