The Invisible Esther Greenwood

It is easy to feel lost when there are no clocks in your bedroom. When you leave your room only to brush your teeth, though your breath will not be experienced by anyone but you, and barely that, since you will surely turn back to sleep after reading ten more pages of The Bell Jar. You are dissolved. This was not planned. This is not worth fighting.

There is a shiva house downstairs and you are slowly becoming Esther Greenwood. This hardly fazes you. It irks you as much as your hunger, which has become as faint a sense as an itch on your shoulder blade you are too lazy to reach and so it disappears. And barely that. As your stomach gurgles, you merely observe the sensation, with hardly a figment of intent to repair it. Nothing can change in this zone. You are in so deep, like a submarine, in which peering out the windows only provides a view of grey. And so too, even the contemplation of change only brings you back. Here.

And it’s all you need. And you are pretty okay with being Esther Greenwood for the day, and for the time being, until something inside you flickers enough to become something else, to take on a new form.

In neutral. In transit. In pause.

It’s when you suppose you hear the light whirr of voices downstairs, saying the blessing over the grape juice, less fervently than usual, as it is still a house of mourning. But inevitably, frivolity arises, just because of the nature of the crowded house on Shabbat. A game of Bananagrams probably takes place. There is a continuous buzz of speech from downstairs, permeating your bedroom floor, threatening to steal your cocooned, sheltered rest. But somehow, since you are not fully certain what is occurring anyhow, you just make note of the household and bodily vibrations, and stay put. It is not longer even a choice. You are calmly stuck. You would not imagine the prospects of being anywhere but here, Sylvia Plath on the pillow beside yours. The one on which the novel rests happens to be the one you called your “usual” spot in bed until about a week ago. You cannot explain the shift, likely a result of wanting to be closer to the television one night to watch an angsty Lifetime movie, but now the product of becoming settled. Nestled in place.

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It is the moment when nobody wakes you for lunch, and you do not want to think about food anyway. You forget you have bodily needs, desires for nutrition and interaction. As the seconds float forward, you no longer want to consider that there are spaces beyond your door and days besides December third, two thousand eleven. You recall that this is the eighteenth birthday of a childhood friend with whom you have not really spoken since fifth grade. It seems shocking that there were days before this one, and particularly days so distantly past.

You do not even feel ignored, as you forget you are connected to anything besides your own mind and your sheets and your novel and the vaguely humorous dreams you have throughout the day about your best friend getting her hair cut like a boy, or running into the lead singer of Say Anything and asking him his name when you know you know it. These delusions are your own. More than the salads in the dining room. Your mental images belong exclusively to the person who lies endlessly in the queen-sized bed, whoever that may be. The one who has become invisible even to herself.

And it is when mother wakes you for Havdalah, the ceremony separating Sabbath from mundane, and you wish you had what to look forward to, something that makes this moment different than the next. Distinguishing features of the next chapter of monotony that follows this one. But this night, or late afternoon as it is, is more a continuation of this elongated day slash night slash cloud. Mother asks if you are all right and you seriously do not know. You did not ask yourself such a question all day and only just now do your antics strike you as questionable or atypical in any manner. You spend some time seriously wondering if you are awake, and better yet, if you are human. You spend more time yet, coming to the conclusion that you have no energy for contemplation at this hour, whatever hour it is.

You realize you must keep moving, and there is nowhere to go. And yet you do not feel trapped. It is another universe. Another sanctuary. It is so normal. It is 2:47 a.m and time to pause my Lifetime movie to finish Chapter 9. You are not Esther Greenwood. But you are not yourself either. You are someone else entirely.