Calmer Shores

Michael J. Seidlinger

Michael J. Seidlinger

1:34AM: Been awake thinking about what Dr. Meadows said. He said “Count the seconds and minutes and soon it will all be better.” That’s what he said.

1:36AM: Still in bed wishing Dr. Meadows would let me call him Carlson, like his friends and wife do.

1:39AM: Work at 2:30. Subway train departs at 1:55. I’m still wearing nothing. I need a change of mood.

1:40AM: Tell me, Dr. Meadows, what will I feel like when I pass through this door? It’s the same door as an hour ago. My one door. It’s the door that keeps me safe, and the world away from my space.

1:42AM: I have clothes on. I put on my face. I feel like a person. I feel like I can be a person. Dr. Meadows says to repeat it in my head, “I’m only passing through.” The way he said it makes it sound like it’ll be okay. I can be around people. I’m only passing through.

1:45AM: I hold my breath. I pass through the door.

1:50AM: I have five minutes to get to the subway. My mood is enthusiastic, hopeful.

1:52AM: Streetlamps are busted. It is really dark tonight. Three sounds in the distance, sounds I do not hear. I’m hopeful; when I passed through the door I became hopeful.

1:54AM: Dr. Meadows leaves me a message on the inside metal grating of the subway train. I sit down and I get to see it. Dr. Meadows wrote in green marker, “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.”

1:56AM: There are people all around me but I am okay because I am beautiful.

1:57AM: I have a smile on my face.

1:59AM: I need to pass through. I am not passing through fast enough. Subway takes too long. There are people here. I don’t feel right. Don’t fit in. I feel like the one guy over there, sitting by himself, eyes hidden under the darkness of synthetic shadow. I feel like the people lost in digital screens of color, word, and video. I feel the most like the woman crying, pushing a man in a suit away from her. I feel vulnerable, unsure.

2:00AM: Don’t want to be spotted.

2:02AM: I call Dr. Meadows because I’m supposed to call Dr. Meadows before and after every major event. He said so, but I also want to call Dr. Meadows.
2:03AM: Dr. Meadows’s phone goes to voicemail. I leave a message, “Hey, it’s me Macy…” I don’t know what else to say, and then I doubt whether or not he’ll remember me on a first-name basis. Does he recognize my voice? So I also say, “It’s me… Macy Calmshores. From the time we talked about positive surnames? I’m about to head to work. You were right. It wasn’t that bad. I just told myself that I was passing through and that I would be okay, and it should be a positive thing, being alive and being able to live… and umm, being able to work again after so long at the Center. Too long, maybe. Yeah, I know. It wasn’t too long. It was only long enough. You are right, you are always right.” There’s a pause here, and then, “I want to keep talking because it’s easier walking the streets alone when I have someone to talk to. Are you there…?” But the voicemail boots me off, the message clipped in half.

2:05AM: This city is misread. The street sign telling us to walk slow people focus on the WALK not thinking about the SLOW. Walk SLOW because anything can happen. A car can hit you. You can trip and fall and break your nose. You can end up walking the wrong way and end up involved with something you hadn’t intended and the next thing you know you’re on the 11-o-clock news. Someone might spot you.

2:07AM: I don’t want to be spotted. They say you only have 15 minutes of fame but then why haven’t they forgotten about me? I want to forget about me. I feel like I am, I’m getting better. Dr. Meadows says so. ‘Think about the Calmshores in Macy Calmshores. What keeps you calm?’ I think about it and what I said in response, ‘Walking through doors.’

2:10AM: I don’t know why I said what I said until I tried it and then I realized what I had meant by walking through doors. I don’t mean the door that swings open and closed. I meant something different. The door that is something else, brings me somewhere else, as someone else, to be something I haven’t yet been. Anywhere and anyone as long as it isn’t me and it’s a situation where being “normal” is a character trait rather than a nightmare.

2:25AM: Me to Dr. Meadows, “You are the only friend I have.”

“You have friends. Think about who might be a good friend of yours.”

“Everywhere I look they look at me like they’ve seen me before.”

2:27AM: Dr. Meadows to Me, “Well they have. You are famous.”

“I don’t want to be famous.

“But you are.”

2:28AM: Me to Dr. Meadows, “I have work.”

“Every time you pass through a door, you get to choose whether or not you want to feel the same way on the other side as you did before passing.”

2:30AM: Work starts and it sucks. But at least I don’t have to wear my face. I don’t have to see anyone’s face. I see only the face of products. Put labels on electronics as they come down the line. Loud in here and cold. I can manage.

4:40AM: The boss forces me to take a “lunch break.” I hate lunch breaks. I don’t want to be in the break room so I stand around outside. I look for messages from Dr. Meadows.


4:51AM: I find another on the face of someone else. EVERY NOTICE IN ANOTHER IS MEANT TO BE A COMPLIMENT.

4:52AM: One on my workstation. The green paint is still wet. THE WAY YOU SMILE IS INCAPACITATING. YOU SHOULD SMILE MORE.

4:55AM: I get back to working. I practice my smile by smiling at every item that flies by me. I give them a face and a smile. They give nothing in return. Just like everyone else.

6:30AM: Shift is over and I go back to the subway. It worries me that it’s getting light outside. I don’t want to be on the subway when the morning rush begins filtering in.

6:32AM: I call Dr. Meadows. He picks up and I tell him, “Work was okay.” He says, “And didn’t it help that you were in a better mood?” I agree but only because I want to agree, not because I really agree. He tells me to go home and sleep.

6:35AM: Dr. Meadows to Me, “Door policy.”

“I’m only passing through.”

6:36AM: Dr. Meadows to Me, “That is correct.”

6:38AM: I see that person talking to someone he’s never talked before, of all things it’s about sports, and I see that I’m trying to be that, like him. I want to be the person that can go and do whatever she feels necessary without being bothered and outright burdened by the insanity of worry.

6:40AM: I’m worrying right now whether or not he’ll notice that I’m watching him.

He doesn’t see me. Thankfully he doesn’t have a clue who I am.

6:42AM: Subway, my stop. Leave this place. They will be here soon to overhaul this city.

6:45AM: That’s not my door.

6:46AM: This is my door. The door to my one-bedroom hole in the wall.

6:49AM: Sun pokes through the window I’ve duct taped over and over again. The adhesive melts and pulls away. The sun wants to shine through.

6:51AM: No.

6:55AM: On my bed, sheets up to my head. Listening to the other recovering-cases waking up for their day of manual labor, social networking, and community service makes me want to call Dr. Meadows again.

But I won’t. I’m supposed to be sleeping.

On the headboard of my bed green lettering saying SLEEP DEAR ONE SLEEP.

7:01AM: It’s too warm in here.

7:05AM: My head hurts.

7:15AM: That person outside my door is knocking.

7:16AM: “Wrong door!”

The person said sorry. But they aren’t sorry.

7:18AM: I want to practice but I can’t practice until the coast is clear. No one can be outside in the halls.

7:30AM: No one.

9:11AM: Me to Dr. Meadows, “I am weak. I want someone to talk to.”

“I am with another friend. Talk later.”

9:15AM: This is loneliness.

9:17AM: This is inadequacy. I am not normal.

9:30AM: The clock says its time to sleep.


10:27AM: Dr. Meadows to Me, “You must learn to accept the situation. Remember what we’ve talked about.”

10:35AM: Now he gets to see what it’s like to be denied. I don’t respond back.

10:39AM: It’s quiet outside. Do I dare?

10:40AM: I open the door, chanting “I’m only passing through. I want to feel like I’m all right. Independent and confident and hopeful, always hopeful. I want to think positive, whatever that might be.

10:41AM: I want to sleep.

10:42 AM: No, I am not someone familiar. You have not met me before.

10:44AM: You are meeting me right now!

10:48AM: I have nothing to do with that crack in the wall.

I was asleep.

11:02AM: Sleep.

11:45AM: Still no sleep.

12:01PM: Open and close open and close open and close open and close open and close open and close. Pass through when I feel it’s right. Nothing’s changing. Why won’t my mood change? Why can’t I just go to sleep?

13:30PM: This is my life and it resets every 24 hours. Not trying to fool anyone, I’ll still be awake when it does.


Michael J Seidlinger is the author of My Pet Serial Killer and The Laughter of Strangers, forthcoming from Lazy Fascist in November 2013.


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