You graduated college with a BA in acting and a minor in art history exactly 658 days ago.
You’ve been walking dogs for a living for 649.
A list of things you’ve had to take out of your clients’ mouths with your bare hands: Mulch, Sticks, A piece of bike tire, a scrap of caution tape, a dead bird, the wing of a dead bird, a buffalo wing outside of Hooters, their own poop, their siblings poop, dried poop from dogs long gone, saran wrap, chocolate snowcap nonpareils, a half-eaten subway sandwich they dug out of the trash, and an entire packet of fun dip—candy stick included.
It’s this last one that makes you reconsider who’s really at fault here, the dog or yourself. And if you care. And that dreaded feeling of having wasted 649 days. And if you’re any closer at finding yourself while picking up shit, or if you’re any closer at letting go of the anger you still hold onto for inevitably growing older.
You’ve had this recurring dream since last December, and you debate whether to call it a dream or a nightmare. No monsters popping out of closets, no brutal murders, not even the sense of flying. Nothing really happens, and that may be the most nightmarish part about it. In it, you’re giving a tour of a house, a mansion, you believe it’s yours. Every night the tourists change, but they’re usually professors you’ve looked up to, or ex boyfriends, ex hook-ups, ex-somethings. There are only 3 sections of the house you distinctly remember when you wake up. The first is the attic with peeling powder blue wallpaper and gold light beaming through a round window to your right. To your left, hundreds of stored portraitures hang so close together you mistake them for wood paneling at first. You take a couple of the portraits down and realize they are all paintings of you, high-collared wearing, regal, you. You step through the slit you created by removing the paintings and discover that behind, there are shelves and shelves of all the things you used to drop down the air vent in your childhood home. Pennies, and bobby pins, paper clips, and plastic doll shoes, cheerios, and the occasional crayon you designated to ugly a color to need. Shelves of all the Barbie clothes you used to design out of Kleenex, carefully placed in glass display cases. Absolutely no dust. Someone has taken care of these shelves. And each time you reach these hidden shelves, you turn back to your tour and say, “we should leave now, they are getting angry, but don’t worry, the memories, they won’t hurt you.”
Since graduation, you’ve deleted Tinder 7 times, and reinstalled it 6.
You slept with two more people than the year before, one of which sexts you from Prague for a month, and doesn’t take into account different time zones, or simply doesn’t care. And there you are noon, broad daylight, typing “uhhuh, and then what do you want me to do?” ashamed that the Yorkie you’re currently walking somehow knows and is disappointed in your lack of imagination.
It’s this Prague sexter who later calls you a frigid bitch, to which you think “game on.”
You write a poem about him.
An excerpt from said poem:
“you talk at me, about all the concerts you’ve afforded, about comic books—marvel, not dc right? I get up, open my closet door and it sticks from the humid summer night. You ask me if I know why wood warps like that. I do. You explain anyway. Pig fuck.” End quote.
You somewhat enjoy the title of frigid bitch. Take the insult and turn it into your power. That is until a month later you hear that he was still with his girlfriend when you hooked up. He has turned you into something you never thought, never wanted to be. He has destroyed the part of you that knew you weren’t in fact a frigid bitch.
Back in the dream, The second room you can remember is the library, a circular room, three levels, floor to ceiling books, dark woods, velvet chairs, roaring fireplace, heaven. But You immediately burst into tears and tell the group there’s a boy that lives behind the books. He’s dangerous. You can’t enjoy this room. He will kill you if you stay.
Your eating disorder comes back and you learn that some things can never be labeled as "back" because they never left, always sitting on a small wooden stool in the corner, twiddling it's thumbs. And you message your father “It would be really great if you could make it up soon. I've been going through a really rough period and it'd be nice to have a fun weekend and to talk to you about it in person.
He responds two weeks later with “Your mom just let me know that you are losing your insurance. I have an email into a friend."
The final space in the dream is not a room, but a balcony of sorts. You see now that the outside world is stark, futuristic, contained as if you’re in a snow globe. The balcony floor is a moving treadmill, you are moving closer and closer to the black edge, the ledge, and it is revealed that the treadmill cascades over, a rubber waterfall, in a panic you turn and try to run back to the house. You do not make it. The last sight you see is the outline of your father backlit, safe in the house with the professor, the ex, the somethings you thought had followed you onto the balcony. They did not. You wake up.
You lie in bed many nights as the memory of dangling one foot off the Loyola platform resurfaces, inflates, and settles at the top of your spine, the spot some have held to show their dominance, the spot some have kissed to show their tenderness, the spot you always forget is a part of you. Your foot hovering over the blue line, just to see what it looks like, just to see what it feels like. You FEEL like Nothing really happens in the dream. You FEEL like Nothing has really happened this year.
And the last.
Thoughts that loop in your mind:
You graduated exactly 658 days ago.
A year. Another year. 2 years.
You are 24. And 24 is young. And 24 is too early to fall into any existential abyss. And 24 is good. You are good. You will wake up. And you will be good.
About the author...
Abigail Phelps graduated Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Acting and a Minor in Art History. She is a writer, performer, and director around the city and is currently directing a solo performance show with The LIVINGroom. You'll see her later this year directing and acting in an original work written by Tyler Anthony Smith at Strawdog's new space.