How to Cope with the Loss of Yourself

Michelle Vider

It was an accident. An accident? It was the steady ground suddenly tilting into the steep sides of a gorge, and the shitty path and its shitty cracks turned into crumbling rock giving way under shittier shoes, the ones that were going to be thrown out and replaced with the new season because these had paid their dues and there was supposed to be just enough traction for a few more weeks of Weather, before Weather gave way to Heat. 


It was an accident in that it happened, it was done, and they were asleep at the bottom of the gorge and it was too steep and too far to get them. Someone else would have to get them.

 

**

 

I climbed back out, slowly, carefully, on hands and knees, hands and thin-soled shoes gripping as much surface area as I could manage. I found myself on steady ground again, flat on my stomach, gripping the earth, breathing in dirt and coughing out air. It’s ok. I made it. I leave my body, my self behind.


…okay, how long have I been lying here?

 

**

 

     How long do sweet potatoes keep
     Uncooked
     Cooked
     How much sweet potato is too much sweet potato
     Sweet potato recipes
     Sweet potatoes onions avocados


Listen I love sweet potatoes okay but I don’t know what they were thinking buying this goddamn many sweet potatoes with summer right around the corner.


Anyway they’re here, aren’t they, these sweet potatoes sitting in a plastic supermarket bag on the fridge and they keep for a long time but goddamn just how many sweet potato recipes did they have in mind??? Did they have a secret casserole recipe in mind?? Is it a dessert?? Christ, the heartburn would fucking destroy me, I would literally dissolve in my own stomach acid and as tempting as that sounds, I would probably still have to go to work the next morning, murderous ulcer and all. 


We don’t even have a casserole dish???? 

 

**

 

I’m scared to vacuum because last time they used the vacuum, it was on the fuzzy Target bath rug after cleaning the rest of the apartment. Those bath rugs are rubber underneath and exactly 9 seconds into sucking up shed hair, the vacuum started to smoke because it sucked the rubber edge in and, well, vacuum smoke and burned rubber smells terrifying so maybe I’ll leave it for another day. Buy a new bath rug. Never comb out my hair. Stop shedding. 


Buy a new vacuum??? That seems extreme. 

 

**

 

I finally get into podcasts. I’ve finally mustered the strength to explore the internet’s thousands of podcasts. I download several hour-long episodes of people talking every week and I find that I’ve mastered the calm it takes to listen to people talking for hours, one host, one panel, one subject, one narrative after the other. 


I put one earbud in while I sit at my desk and sometimes I don’t type for long periods at all. I listen. I smile to myself. Podcasts are nice. What was I waiting for?

 

**

 

Plans for the future:
     Birthdays
     Movies (Summer blockbusters I LOVE those)
     Friend visiting from out of town—take them out!
     Birthdays
     Movies (Less anticipated summer blockbusters—I might like those??)
     Visit family
     Birthdays
     Movies (I guess if a bunch of us grab dinner beforehand? I mean, we have to eat.)
     Maybe someone would like to see a musical with me
     My birthday? I guess we can do something. Yeah okay let’s do something

 

**

 

Oh my god, it’s a week. It’s a week where nothing hurts. It’s vacation! It’s vacation from everything. 


My last day of vacation, I wake up with blocked sinuses, the whole front of my face and inside of my skull packed with drying cement and nothing, nothing will fix this. I lie on the couch, hydrate, read, take Benadryl and then DayQuil, sleep, and it hurts all day and it’ll hurt forever. What did this? Who did this? What did I breathe for six days only to have it slay me on the seventh? Why is this happening? Why can’t I stop hurting?

 

**

 

Lately I seem distant and cold—this is the funniest joke of the heat wave, the time the heat index hit 112 almost every day for six days. 


It’s even better because someone used the word seem, as if I would deny it. 


One day, between heat waves, it drops to 77. I keep the central air blasting and I put on a pair of leggings. I sit back on the couch, close my eyes, and I can imagine a time when it’ll be okay. I can see it. There’s no blinding orange sun, no haze, no stickiness, just a chill touching every centimeter of my wide-open lungs, lungs in a rib cage spread wide like six or seven Olympic swimmers. 

 

**

 

It hasn’t happened yet, but the next time? The next time I fall, the next time I cling to whatever I can find, I’ll—


Next time, I’ll have a plan, a way back home. 


(Next time I’ll wake up someone new, and I’ll remember none of this.)

 

 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Michelle Vider is a writer based in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in The Toast, The Rumpus, Strange Horizons, Open Letters Monthly, and elsewhere. Find her at michellevider.com.