Number One Favorite Whole Wide World
That’s me, Number One Favorite Whole Wide World. I am my favorite, I say. I don’t always believe me, but that's okay. I am number one. I am at the top! I can never stop! If I sink down the list, I drop like a rock. Once I’m sinking, I’m basically done. My head fell into oblivion. You know. Out it went with the undertow. Without my head I became too slow. I couldn’t see, had nowhere to go, so I stalled, smoking Pall Malls, mascara streaking but who cared? No one called. I felt scared. I felt small.
I like rhyming. It reminds me of timing which reminds me of living. On rhyming? Some have misgivings but I don’t. I was kidding about the Pall Malls. At 20 I liked 27s: smooth, rich, and mellow—someone had to be, you know?
I meant to be speaking out loud. I guess I freeze up in a crowd. But okay, after this, I won't say it again. Thank you for listening, and thank you for being my friend.
The rhythm of my heart keeps meeting. Just keeding. I mean beating. My heart keeps beating because I was too young to die and they already lost her. Rough enough so I had to stay. I almost died, but don’t believe me. Vulnerability is a soufflé and would look terrible on my resume.
Without my head I was circling, repeating, twirling, not eating. My blood twirls too. It spins and swishes through—the valves won’t pump it straight. To swivel is my fate. A defect. My defect. To all the healthy heart rejects: "Tell all the truth but tell it slant / Success in circuit lies." Valvular pulmonary stenosis: antibiotics in double doses. I curtsy and bow and thank you for the roses!
Twirl, twirl, spin around, girl. Jump from tiptoes, tip back the bloody nose. Surprise! I never had a bloody nose. That line was a disguise. I’m being real, guys, using silly diction to lighten the fiction, smooth out the friction.
Hula hoop through the kitchen door, knock the mixer on the floor. Cake batter splatter, platter white no more. When I was four I learned to read. I learned to tie my shoes at eight (too late). At nine, too weird for friends, I read for days on end. At ten, I ran from the fish to dissect. And twenty felt too late for self-respect. All I knew was self-neglect, my minor heart defect.
Days splatter past like bugs on I-5. The clock is playing bumper cars. Stop, thoughts of impact. Impact. Stop. "Speed it up, slow it up, speed it up, slow it up, brainsick, tick, tick, tick, MF blow it up."
Too quickly I leave myself behind, and yet again—there goes my mind.
Are you following me? I invited you along.
My nails are torn to pieces. I could blame the disorder, but it’s me. Still my responsibility. Tear it to shreds. Tear me to pieces. No. Number one favorite, I try to say. Another defect, another disorder, my nails growing shorter. How can I love this? (Why can’t I stop this?)
I idealize a vision of linens and hospitality. But why this nonreality? I’m showing too much skin. I’m being indecent. At least I can pretend that none of this is recent.
None of this is recent.
Can you pretend to be a child? Does it work? Is it working?
Did you pretend to be grown up as a child? I did. Was it foggy? I did, if steam were fog. We were drunk; towels were soggy. Of course I woke up groggy on the Rubicon.
Whoa. Wait. Stop. Start over. Take off the frames and lenses of disorder.
The wreck was in ‘09. I will live til 2110. Her death destroyed me. It was almost the end. I married, clinging, then fled the dread of terror flinging, all for safety (of course, divorce, a blessing not a curse).
Where on this path… What exit did my… did I float away? How did I become okay? Did I really get it back? Am I just pretending? This question, silliness or terror: just pretending?
The dissolution was piecemeal. Cornmeal falling from an English muffin. Corn chips crackling one by one. Gretel’s breadcrumbs separating. Are you hungry? Can I have a hug?
I pursued the peak of vanity, turning slowly in the dark. Cocktails, stages—memories, go. Nights blend, float, settle in the snow.
I don't have my glasses. I can't see past the here and now. There is no big picture. There is no plot, no story, only a tattoo of a morning glory.
I never fell into pieces too small to recover. I never exploded, screaming, blacked out, seizing, threatening, bleeding. I just, on the whole, disappeared. I finished, did all I would, let go. I didn't know how but I had to go. I had no dreams to grieve, no me to be, no personality. I was a sponge, a shadow, a mirror, stale cake.
I am singing backwards, walking in circles, over and over. Four thoughts come in—there I go—I overflow—I float on top, in a euphoria, then it evaporates. I drop.
Lingering hysteria: heart pounding with an overwhelming question, eyes tearing, soul reeling, then I’m giggling, sighing, laughing, nearly crying. All I can do is rise for some tea. Okay, tea. Rise and I’m up again. Number one in the world. I can take on anything.
It's just that I could sing, sing, sing, and show you I am king. But you missed your chance. Instead, let’s dance.
I know some research, terminology. I’ve read a little psychology. I can manage when it counts so don't pounce at my fragility. I will surprise you with my stability.
95% of the time I’m fine but 5% made a hell of a dent. Not like a crater. It’s pot holes. Don't let them break the axles. So what does it mean to me? It means nothing because I’m fine. Until shit. There it is. That’s it.
"Let us now kiss the culprit." Lord, she had it worse than I did. No boundaries, a wildness, and better to nod than suffer. No use telling our mother. Don’t bother telling our father. They’d say: Siblings toughen you up. Part of growing up. And me: excuse me while I throw up. Not from cheesiness but anxiety. Though they were right, undeniably. The day she died, the house sagged, full, silent, every eye stained, strained.
But now I’d like to sing, "cats and rabbits who reside in fancy little houses..." Don’t take me into the darkness. Don't tell me I have to go there. I won’t. I will watch the clovers.
It doesn’t matter where things go, does it? If we are just happy here? Do you want to just sit here a minute? Can I have a hug? Do you have to go? Do you like what’s on the walls?
I have a new love now who jokes with me. I’m growing out of fragility.
I run my hands over tree bark, besplintering sleeves, not what I need. I count the wildflowers. I am my favorite, I say.
Two small goals and I should be fine. Be warm and on time, a berry on the vine. Really, I'm fine.
I talk myself into logic. I find sentences that don’t rhyme.
It is always good to see you. I hope we meet again soon.
Attributions for quotes in this work: Alice in Wonderland: “In a World of my Own”; Emily Dickinson: “Tell All the Truth but Tell it Slant”; MF Doom: “Tick Tick”; The Velvet Underground: “Some Kinda Love.”