The cracks in my ceiling are a mountain range, but I’m not sure which one. The dust above is fog, crawling in to obscure the view of stars, made of smaller cracks in the plaster. The smoke detector is just some random UFO, nothing to worry about, nothing to be alarmed about.
On the days I call myself a writer, I invent stories. And like the world living above my bed, I memorize them, add to them, edit them and invest in them. But the dusty world above me has been my greatest material these days, as I fight anxiety when I long to sleep.
I count the days it’s been since I’ve had a job, a real one, with a cubicle (I don’t dream big), and things to do. I never particularly liked working in advertising but I liked the lifestyle. The paycheck, the small apartment in the East Village. The control I had over where I went and how I spent my money. I had anxiety then, sure, but it wasn’t like this. I was only 25 but I had an idea of how my future was going to go.
The days are nearing two years now that I’ve worked 40 hours a week. I’ve put in for disability and if I am approved, I’ll receive a small stipend, supposedly big enough to cover housing and food. If I’m approved, I’ll continue to stay on my parents’ property, and I’ll save that money up until I can move out.
I’ve been doubly anxious about being approved since I put in for it last November.
Because I need that dubious distinction of being labeled disabled. I need it because my body has been so worn down by cancer and lupus that I cannot work. I babysit my niece and I write, but I cannot do much. Three hours of activity often require a six hour nap. I live off my parents and I am a drain I see in the lines in my mother’s face.
But I need it. I applied. I filled out a forest of paperwork, my hands shaking as I initialed and signed every page. When did this become my life, I wondered.
I need it but I don’t want it. I don’t want to be called disabled. I want someone or something to tell me that all my doctors were lying when they said I deserved it. I want the state to call me a fake, to look down on me with disgust. I want everyone to laugh at the idea I shouldn’t have to work and then…
I’ll get up. I’ll be better. That sickness was nothing but a blip, I’ll say. I’ll put on an ill-fitting suit leftover from college graduation and I’ll get a job and my life back.
Until then, I wait. I don’t sleep.
I wait to find out the ending I want, the ending that will change my life, the ending that scares and ties me to this bed, awake and filled with wonder as the dust scatters across the ceiling and I count the stars in my fake constellation.