Q: So, Kerry, besides lounging Hollywood-diva style on Grecian beaches, what else did you do on your summer vacation?
A: I’ve been hostess with the mostess, sans pitchers of Blue Mojitos, which undoubtedly led to neurotic perfectionistic tendencies, a la Martha Stewart on steroids. Case in point: hosting friends this past week, trying to make amends for a messy, sloshy, drink-sneaking, manic visit to their pad last summer. So I scoured the house, tossed voluminous bags of unnecessary clutter, brightly smiled while solo-cleaning up breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes, effusively DID NOT mind anyone else drinking lovely, yummy bottles of wine around me (really, I didn’t as I was happy to escape inside downward spiraling self with my Kindled book in bed). I claimed better health, claimed stronger self, smiled and charmed, prattled on about recovery and optimism (all the while knowing I was collapsing, folding like a windless, hole-riddled accordion).
Q: Why, that sounds commendable. Self-sacrifice, for the happiness and contentment of others. Bravo, to that resuscitated Catholic schoolgirl penance, and add three Rosaries! Is that all you’ve been up to?
A: Well, there’s been the need to skulk about town, trying to hide from most former colleagues, slathered as I am, head to toe, in the twin sunscreen of Shame and Guilt. My first summer without an Academic Fall to return to, my first at-home office, unusable because it is in the attic which, in the heat wave that has transformed my town into the Congo’s doppelganger, is a trance-inducing sweat lodge (guaranteeing visions of totemic animals—Orca? Tarantula? Triceratops? Dead husk of Yellow jacket prostrate on windowsill?--What, really, were all those years of graduate school for? So I could write, learn from esteemed writers, make connections, blah, blah, blah. Really, so I could learn how to teach, and get a good teaching job, a tenure track job, and make a living as a writer by being a good—no, an (almost) perfect teacher. Which I was for almost a decade. Then. Then. Then. The End. I don’t even remember the end. That traumatic. Christopher tells me we had a meeting with the Dean. That I was kindly terminated due to my situational instability. The progressive health difficulties. My multiple hospitalizations. I don’t even remember cleaning out my office. Or even what I did with the six bookcases of books. But that was winter. This is summer.
Q: So, suntans, socializing, skulking, and…?
A: Slenderizing. Giving in, giving up. Losing hope of getting through this monster that is eating me alive. The clawing at my neck. The voice that says, less of me, less of me, less of me. The voice that demands, Abstinence, Abnegation, Asceticism. Anything that is unnecessary gets sheared off—of diet, of body, of wants, of needs. Anything superfluous is wasteful, gluttonous, disgusting. How little can I live on? That is the price I pay for being me, for being allowed, ironically, to live it seems. (Here, the Hollywood Diva should look out into the distance, at the cliffs, maybe the blue Aegean sea, maybe a tear trickles down her cheek, maybe then a flood of tears in self-pity or self-compassion. But I am no Diva. Just check the state of my shredded, chewed nails and cuticles. Nothing to manicure. So no tears. Just the steely gaze.)
Q: And the rest of the summer that remains? How shall you fill your time? Surely the paparazzi are waiting?
A: I despise photographs. I can only see some stranger who might be some distant relation to me, but not me. As for the rest of the summer? Next week, another unexpected round of ECT. Electro-convulsive therapy. Electrogirl returns. A brief appearance. Hard drive needs a reboot. I like to think of it as a kind of intensive spa getaway—add anesthesia and electrodes, subtract massage and sauna. A mind-full pampering, nonetheless.