On Sunday evening, Martha sits down with a cup of hot tea and a lined notebook. She picks out her favorite pen and begins to write:Monday – wake up          feed the animals          brush teeth and hair          shower          eat a piece of toast and butter with a glass of vitamin water          put on an outfit          lock all the doors          check the locks          drive to work          work for four hours          eat lunch in car listening to music          work four more hours          pick up a loaf of bread at save mart          feed animals          cook dinner          watch two movies          brush teeth and hair          get into pajamas          sleepThe rest of the days of the week are similar, with small changes here and there. Anytime there’s a significant change in her schedule, she has to have a drink and call her mother. She drinks vodka and cranberry juice and sits in the living room with the phone grasped tightly in her hand, pressing it up against her ear so hard it gives her a headache. There are things she cannot think about, or else she’ll lose control.  She tries to stay busy but when extra time occurs, Martha must find a substantial distraction. Often she goes outside and walks her dog Travel, a cute terrier with a pink collar and brass colored scruffy fur. When Martha is at work she is thinking about being at home, or somewhere else. She stares blankly at her computer screen, entering in the wrong data for health care patients, giving random customers unnecessary benefits. Her boss never complains because Martha seems to be doing her job, and no customers or other employees have ever had any problems with her. She knows that she should pay attention, but the thoughts invade her head like little Martians. She gets paid eleven dollars an hour to sit at a desk and punch number keys on a computer while she daydreams. A lot of people would be grateful for a job like that. Martha doesn’t like her job, and while the money is good, it isn’t something she enjoys…not even remotely. When she is at home she thinks about being at work, and when she is at work she thinks about being at home. It was the same in school. Nothing ever satisfies her.             Martha’s got a thing about skin rubbing. She can’t resist it when she’s nervous, which is usually all the time. Her face used to be so clear and soft, and she’d get compliments about how beautiful her complexion was, and people would ask how she did it. Martha never had an answer; her skin was just naturally that way. After she realized that life wasn’t getting better, that she would never grow into her womanhood, that she would eventually die after a lifetime of obsessing about how miserable she was, she gave up on herself.  Martha rubs her skin so hard with anxiety that there are bumps and zits and scratches and red patches on her face. She wonders if anyone would ever be attracted to her now that she looks so ragged. Under her blouse is a small circular patch of skin that is discolored from all the rubbing. She let it heal once but has now taken to rubbing it again. At home, she hits herself it she tries to rub, but that just gives her bruises.   Martha is single. She lives in a small apartment with Travel and has one friend whom she visits two to three times per week, usually on the weekend. This friend is a big pot smoker, and Martha used to smoke a lot when visiting with her, but lately she is very concerned about her health. Her chest has been hurting and so she has refrained from smoking, except she has an addictive personality and she can’t seem to keep away when it’s right in front of her. In the past Martha was addicted to methamphetamine, and drank quite often, but none of these things give her pleasure anymore. It isn’t just her skin that is affected by her anxiety, but her nose, and ears too. She would be embarrassed if people knew, but sometimes she wishes she could just say it out loud to get it off of her chest. She wishes she was normal, like the young people on early evening sitcoms, or the people on the sidewalks out in public. Every Friday, she goes to the electronics store and buys two movies, usually comedies or animations. She stops at the health food store and buys nuts and vegetables and fruit and a few candies. She can’t have too much sugar or else she’ll have a panic attack. She has panic attacks a lot, but tries to keep her mind occupied. It is so pointless that she panics her life away, being afraid of death, and yet she cannot allow herself to live. She cannot accept herself, others will never accept her; the reflection in the mirror will never do her justice. People will always stare and she will always feel like an outcast. What else can she do but feel depressed? She wonders how she can convince herself that she is not ugly, that the people staring at her are victims of a culture that says men must look this way and women must look that way. She wonders if she’ll ever accept that and move on. She counts numbers and sings loudly to herself while driving in her electric Honda to try to curb the panic attacks. Sometimes when she panics and she’s in the shower, she jumps out and screams at the top of her lungs. It makes her feel better temporarily, but her neighbors think she’s insane. She thinks she is. She feels it every time she panics, every time she walks out the door. She clings to anthropology, and can’t help but imagine people in primitive times, where everyone would be naked or maybe partially clothed, where women didn’t wear bras and beauty had a different meaning, or maybe no meaning at all. In the supermarket she imagines this, and she feels completely disconnected from the world she lives in. Her doctor has told her to stop picking at her ears or else she’ll get a nasty infection. She picks them raw till they bleed, and then waits for them to scab over so she can pick them some more. It’s a terrible habit, but Martha must have something to pick. It’s one of the things that fuels the endless cycle of obsessive thinking.            On Sundays she always works out in the garden, planting and pruning, singing and flinging dirt around. She chases the dog in her mother’s back yard and they eat apple pie and hug each other all day. Actually, this is a dream of Martha’s. She is at odds with her mother, because Martha’s behavior is alienating and irritating, and her mother does not understand. The way Martha dresses, acts, thinks, is all contradictory to her mother and father. Why does she have to dress the way she does? Martha doesn’t know the answer, but it makes her think that there’s something wrong with her, especially when there is such a stigma attached to gender nonconformists. Martha takes pills, I’m sure you are not surprised. Thank God she takes pills. Over Martha’s lifetime, she has taken enough pills to fill a bathtub. She has tried to survive without them, but it’s just impossible. She tries to look at the beauty of life. There is a beautiful fig tree in her parent’s backyard. Sundays are the best because she is with her family. Sundays are the beginning of the week that starts with Monday. She tries to separate the world she lives in from Sundays, and finds in this day an alternate reality to crawl within. She has thoughts about things she doesn’t really believe in, like killing people or raping them, or calling them bad names or saying bad words. She doesn’t say any of it out loud, just says it in her head. She repeats words in her head that have been said out loud. If her friend tells her it is a nice day to come over, she repeats the sentence in her head over and over until she realizes she is doing it and tells herself to shut up. She yells at the top of her lungs and curses herself for being so stupid. Martha punched a hole in her bedroom wall last month. The land lord was quite unhappy about it. Three hundred dollars in damages took care of the mess. In the past she has punched many holes in many walls…it is only a matter of time before she does it again. She repairs them almost immediately after she does the damage, trying to pretend it hasn’t happened. After a while she decided to get a punching bag. She used it but it didn’t have the same effect, so she bought picture frames and breakable things and placed them in her bedroom. Now when she is angry and feeling out of control, she goes into her room, closes the door, and throws things against the wall. Her land lord has told her to stop, but sometimes she cannot help it. Martha had her psychiatrist write the land lord a letter explaining why she is ‘mental.’ By mental she means psychologically unbalanced: obsessive compulsive disorder with severe panic disorder, and gender dysphoria. She’s grateful she is not mentally retarded, or missing a limb, or born intersexed, or crippled with multiple sclerosis. But her ailments are dehabilitating, nonetheless. Martha goes out back behind the dumpster and breaks things if she can make it that far. Some of the juveniles join her. She’s started buying extra things for the kids to break, and it is fun to have their company. It might seem like Martha is strange to hang out with kids, but she never really grew up herself.  Martha thinks she is pathetic. The pathetic thing about her is that she is quite intelligent. She used to be on the ball, sharp as a tack, with wit and sarcasm to make a crowd buckle with laughter. That was back when her obsessing and panic attacks were kept in check by her young age, but she has tried not to think over the past six years so that she will stop going insane from aging. She has old journals that are filled with emotions and ideas and poems and stories, sometimes which she reads under the covers at night, but usually they stay in a cardboard box in the back of her closet. Her dog Travel is frightened easily from the violent behavior she expresses, so she goes out to the store every weekend to buy her treats and wishes she could be a better owner.             Today is Tuesday, and Martha is upset. Her dog has an ear infection, and an insurance bill that arrived from the hospital where she had a blood test is confusing her. She doesn’t know what to do about these things; they just make her anxious and so she calls her mother. She isn’t home and neither is her father or her friend, so she attempts to call the vet and manages to make an appointment for Travel. As for the insurance, she cannot get a hold of a live person that does not have an indistinguishable accent and so the phone is thrown across the room and smashes into bits and pieces. She cries for a few minutes and then walks into the kitchen, where she bangs her head on the cabinet door over and over. She knows she is acting stupid, but she doesn’t care. It has to go away! Her head starts to hurt and so she stops. She screams and grabs the dog and a leash, Travel’s tail between her legs. The door slams shut behind her. In the park she takes out a piece of lined paper and her favorite pen and begins to plan the next day:Wednesday – wake up          Kill myself.Martha is only being sarcastic, but she wonders what would happen if she did it. She thinks about it more often nowadays. She folds the paper into four halves and stuffs it into her pants pocket. She puts Travel on the ground and they walk back to her electric Honda.             It is people like Martha that make the world go round. There is something to be said about the awareness of a person, their intelligence and intellect, and their inability to accept things the way they are, as well as accept themselves. If people would stop for a moment to realize that not everyone is the same, that beauty really is only skin deep, that caring and love and understanding is what really matters, maybe people would stop killing themselves because they don’t fit in.

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