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This week has been particularly rough: an overdose, a stroke, a random homophobic attack. Everything comes with a twist: the death takes a nephew I barely know, the stroke is a ministroke and not mine, the rock thrown at my head does not hit. And yet…
It’s all a bit much. I call the local hotline. The woman who answers is young, conscientious, and kind. Empathetic if that word applies when the facts are misheard. To hear her tell it, my brother is dead, my friends have abandoned me, a nasty bruise sent me to the ER. Well, she isn’t that wrong.
Kindness has its own kind of power to heal even if the details get messed up or mixed up. I want to sob in thanks for her caring mistakes. I’m willing to be the man stuck with different losses, the guy who shoulders different pains. Who cares if she’s performing when the script is this good? My tragedy needed a rewrite, a reader. She’s up to the task. Her phone voice is strong.
In no time flat, my name is Peter. I’m no longer 50. I don’t live alone. I’m one of the city’s unwell, unfed millions, which may be why she’s emailed intake forms for the parents of troubled children, for Spanish-speaking groups focused on depression, for geriatrics living in the Bronx. Grief is universal. We are everyman, everywoman, everything everywhere. It gets better when you’re not who you are. Fuck me. I mean that sincerely.
I am giving up on myself. I’m letting my impostor be my stand-in for an indeterminate future from here on out. I’m courting my own doppelganger, luring my twin to take over, letting my double do double-duty as both himself and some version of me. Call him what you will. Why not Peter? Oh, do call him, whatever you do. Peter too needs his confidantes and his cohorts. I’d like to say co-hurts but is that yet a thing?
This week was the week to end all weeks. I didn’t die. I didn’t live. I didn’t cry. I didn’t not cry. I didn’t run in the other direction. I ran in every direction. I stepped outside my body and hovered in the air where I watched the commonplace me sit in my kitchen chair to type a poem about the weak and the meek and the mess and the rest is the Year of the Rat.
A 2021 words grantee of Curious Elixirs: Curious Creators and a 2019 literary grantee of the Café Royal Cultural Foundation, Drew Pisarra has also won grants/commissions from the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Imago Theater, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, the Portland Art Museum, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council. His books include "You're Pretty Gay" (Chaffinch Press), "Infinity Standing Up" (Capturing Fire Press), and "Publick Spanking" (Future Tense Books).