Prologue – Serita’s Shelf Life

I can’t cry.

You see, I put down my lovely Fritz today. Hip dysplasia. What should have been the saddest day of my life, next to the time I killed Marv, only rendered me numb. I left the vet’s office hollowed, took the day off work, and prepared to bawl my eyes out with a comforting cup of tea. But the damned medications have blunted my grief. Any emotion, really.

The absence of tears for my longtime companion compels me to go off my medications. Again. The time is right, and I am ripe to escape this solitary confinement of my soul.

I’m manic-depressive, or what they now call bipolar. I call it On/Off Disorder because untreated, I either soar a hundred miles per hour or hide under the covers. On/Off. I’m exhilarated by those ramping moods, requiring neither sleep nor food. But medications snuff out my power and plunge me into slow motion. I wait in vain to feel something, emotionally adrift. That doesn’t keep my On/Off thoughts from thriving in the fun house between my ears. Lately I’m suffocated by their lack of expression.

Expression. You should know that it got me in trouble before, hence the vile medications.

I will control the expression this time. I’m better now. I’m fifty-five, for godssakes. Past the night sweats and hormones. Employed. Stable. Out of the public eye. I can control the On/Off cycling. I’m sure of it.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up and take half a pill, and the next day and the next for a week, and then I’ll quit for good. It will be different this time. Really.

I look forward to speaking from my heart. Meds have robbed me of the words, but my coworkers don’t have a clue because I give good verbal with our patients. Normally I’d hate to meet and greet the patients, but no one asks about my life when their worries include an HIV diagnosis. Personal stakes are low for me, so I listen, a mirror, gesturing with long creamy arms, jangling bracelets at each creased wrist (because real women accessorize), and my words flow from the surface of my thick tongue. None pass through my heart or gut.

I avoided the dreaded HIV diagnosis myself, no thanks to a sex fiend husband in the wild 1980s and my own acting out during the ’90s. Of course, being On/Off only fanned the flames back then. So when medication first dampened my urges, it came as a gift because sex has not been kind to Serita O’Toole Palermo Ennis Walker. Now? Libid-NO best describes this vague, sterile sense about my once-lush body. I gained sixty-five goddam pounds—a lot even for my six-foot frame—after they found the correct chemical cocktail to blunt my brain. It wasn’t worth it. The men in my life are either old or gay, and that isn’t enough for Serita anymore. I’m lonely and worry I’ll always be alone. I want a companion, sex. I want to participate in life, to cry and laugh and splash in the emotional stream that only flows for me without medications.

It will be different this time. Really.


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