Nonfiction | The Secret Life of

Not to Touch the Earth

To the Rhythm of The Doors and the Rooftop Swells, Ecstasy for the Numb

standing on the roof of a four-story building downtown in a city. I’ve just
taken Ecstasy. I don’t feel ecstasy. I feel what I learned later to be verging
on a psychotic panic. I’m going to jump off if someone doesn’t stop me, if
someone doesn’t touch me.

sky is clear. Alisha spins and spins, her arms out “Amy, oh Amy I love you,”
her red hair flashing.

tell her she looks like Satan.

feel like the roof is going to tilt and my body will let itself slide. I’m too
embarrassed to speak; the stars pulsating in time with the veins in my temples.

intensifies. I feel the depth pressure when I look over the edge and then run
back to the center and fold, wrapping my arms tight around my legs. Alisha is
sliding all over in smooth colors. She’s scaring me. And then suddenly I am

I am I am I am.

brain in a bell jar, and then I see Sylvia’s head stuffed in the stove and I
hear the blade wretch back on my wrist. Suicide. The very word gives me metal
chills, the way the          “-cide”
sounds like a knife slice across cold teeth. I can’t take it. And now I start
believing I am going to die. It has been pre-ordained from a higher power that
my heart will stop.

laugh peals through the air and I choke down my fear of the word.  It must be obvious, this affair I’m having
with “suicide”–so now it feels like a major question on my lips, but I can’t
get up and tell her. She’s holding her breasts through a Dropkick Murphy shirt.
The moon high over the rooftop glints on the barbell piercing under her lip.
Ed, her boyfriend, looks at me like I am a suggestion of a woman and for an
intense moment I feel embarrassed.

a train. I need the ultimate climax in everything I do until I’m repelled by
fear—that is all that I have learned about myself, living out here.  Alisha takes my hand and pulls me through the
thick air and into the stairwell and kisses my lips, “Let’s go,” and I hold her
hand and crash into another night.

find myself rocking in the dark wet grass behind my apartment. I don’t know how
much time has passed since the rooftop. A few people are here and there,
bottles of booze and clear baggies of coke. My head spins and then stops, spins
and stops. Someone comes out of a threshold somewhere, and I think it’s my dead
father. The familiarity I feel when I turn to look over my shoulder is real.
The moon shine’s down on a large, flat, white face. A choker with spikes. I am
alarmed at this apparition, and then at this ease of myself seeming to slip
between reality and delusion. I feel the blood in my temples pound. I’m tearing
at the grass, desperately making piles under a calm facade. My roommates are
having a party inside and after what seems like hours of confusion, I see
clearly, a thought. An act. I have an idea.

feel myself stalk. My arms possess waves and my hips are on rails.  I eat
men like air
.  Lily comes to me and
she hugs my face and dances in the square of light coming from the kitchen
window. “Rider’s on the Storm” is humming and rolling through the house. I
scream for Bill to play “Not to Touch the Earth,” and before I realize I finish
asking, it shakes me to my core—that high organ keys sounding like an Atari
ghost chasing me and I smell brown smooth leather boots and jackets and “Wake
up GIRL, WE’RE ALMOST HOME!” And we are dancing. Or we were. Or I just thought
we did. Because in another moment I am alone in the quiet grass, easing out of
a scare and into a numbing. Not a fine numbing. It used to be fine until it
started mattering.   I lie down and let
it, inhaling anything that might fill me—be it words or fantasy or pills or
gin—until I am brimming with and drowning in just a reflection of myself,
pooling into a glass the man I fuck takes a drink from. Electrified flowers.
Naked shoulders.