CUR­RENT PHO­BIA

Geist - - Contents - Tanja Bar­tel

Asked for sexy-messy beach hair, paid for a docile bob

UN­KEMPT

Sprung from the hair sa­lon with a smooth back­combed flip, I looked like Betty Draper in her fat phase. Went in un­kempt, came out kempt. Asked for sexy-messy beach hair, paid for a docile bob. Ev­ery­one is try­ing to tone me down. In­wardly I scream. I con­jure charisma, in­ven­tory my ex­pired cos­met­ics ca­boo­dle. Cre­ate in­fected smol­der­ing eyes. I be­lieve in pipe dreams.

I am in the age of oint­ments and creams.

I wear baggy-shoul­dered blaz­ers, the same black loafers with var­i­ous dull skirts.

Know all about healthy eat­ing, on pa­per. Kale and cauliflower, good; mini-donuts and wieners, bad. A skinny boy-prin­ci­pal eval­u­ated me once: stroking his silky chin hairs he nit­picked while I bootlicked. For re­lief I cob­bled to­gether a rhubarb cobbler. I climb out on the ledge, my re­solve derelict.

Some­times I make it out to the cake district.

Sleep de­pri­va­tion has be­come a thing. Ex­cept in meet­ings, screen­ings. Dream of my dead friend, a lit­tle plump in a red pen­cil skirt, curled up with a glass of wine. She drinks for­ever in my head at night. Per­spir­ing and cof­feed-up, a beige up­hol­stered creep,

I roam the hall­ways’ 90-de­gree an­gles in 90-de­gree heat. My de­odor­ant is a liar.

Lately, I want noth­ing as dan­ger­ous or deep as a good night’s sleep.

Love bite, now there’s a term I con­nect with. Sideswipe, not as much. Cur­rent phobias: al­lo­doxa­pho­bia, fear of opin­ions.

A class dis­cus­sion is me talk­ing; yet, acous­ti­co­pho­bia, fear of noise, in­cludes my voice. Arith­mo­pho­bia, fear of nu­mer­als, is am­ple on my bath­room scale. Atelo­pho­bia, dread of im­per­fec­tion, cow­ers with atepho­bia, fear of ruin. Each morn­ing I awake anx­ious but cheer­ful; it re­minds me re­newal (not change) is pos­si­ble.

IN­EPT

I feed a care­worn buf­falo in my sleep. She grazes on my faux pas all night and won’t let me rest. I in­tro­duced my neigh­bour as “the bas­tard who parks his mo­torhome in the cul de sac.”

Now he’s erect­ing a higher fence. Don’t worry your­self awake. One day we’ll all be re­leased.

It’s pos­si­ble to hate some­one af­ter they’re dead.

I do it all the time. The al­co­holic’s chil­dren twice trau­ma­tized: years of yelling, then find him de­ceased. Maybe I shouldn’t have high-fived the priest.

I’m bead­ing my noose to make it pretty. A flat-footed an­gel comes to take me home. Lilac is not my colour. I chop my wed­ding ring on the cut­ting board. Re­sent­ment has its con­se­quences: a pizza stone can be a weapon or a shield. I sow what I reap.

My Venus fly­trap is full. And you should see what’s in the wood­shed some­time. One catheter in a life­time is too deep.

Maybe it was a mis­take to fall asleep.

I drank beer in an in­flat­able boat within weeks of nearly drown­ing in one. If plan­ets are idiots stuck cir­cling the sun, what chance do I have? Crim­i­nol­o­gists say only pe­dophiles are in­ca­pable of change. Yet the pile of ham­burg­ers sold con­tin­ues to grow.

We’re di­a­monds trapped in the record’s rut. I will al­ways love cheese. But there was no Asi­ago at the Don Ho an­niver­sary show.

I crave warmth, but knit holes; build ladders, but can’t climb them; smile, but look med­i­cated; plant peas, but can’t shell them; adore pizza, but dread the man who de­liv­ers it; keep my pen­cils sharp­ened, but to a nub. Groom my­self with an over­sized hair­brush that shreds my skin into tiny white flags. I’m a shabby cherub.

Still, I for­gave my­self at Crook­back’s Pub.

Tanja Bar­tel is a writer and high school teacher. Her first po­etry col­lec­tion is forth­com­ing. She lives in Pitt Mead­ows, BC.

“Dream Job” ref­er­ences “Dish Bitches” by

Gabe’ Fore­man. “Un­kempt” and “In­ept” ref­er­ence “Tonight s Episode: The Eyes Lie Twice” and “If Je­sus Drove…” by David Mcgimpsey.

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