spin spin spin

	I sit down to write and I want to warm up first. One writer, Heather Sellers, says to draw a spiral whenever you are stuck, the movement unlocks some part of your mind. According to her, it works for 29 out of 30 people. She also can’t recognize faces, even the ones of her family. I remember when I thought I saw my brother come up from the basement. This was a big deal for me, I had not seen him in weeks. He had dropped out of high school and was smoking more pot and taking other colorful drugs. To this day, the stench of weed reminds me of home. That’s how I knew he was close, that he was burning relaxation into his body, and probably not contemplating suicide or anything. He was safe and therefore, I was safe. So when I saw him, my voice cracked a hello. It wasn’t him, it was his short, fat friend who was a different skin tone than my brother.
	I sit down to write just after I draw a few spirals, warming up with one of my many hoodies, and I realize I am not sitting right. Easy fix. My massage therapist taught me how to sit. I’ve been going to her and an assortment of different chiropractors for years. All of them were anti-vaxxers for some reason, but they made little-scoliosis-me feel so good: One had a waterbed that jiggled the tightness out of you, the other had this handheld blender machine for your back, the last gave 12-year-old me financial advice after my mom told him to stop telling me about chemtrails. My mom worked for Waterbed Dude. I was in earshot when my mom told my sister that Waterbed Dude screamed at her. They would go to the back room and he would lose it. I don’t remember feeling anything when I heard that. How could I have felt nothing though? I can’t imagine anyone screaming at my mom, she carried, gave birth to, and raised four ungrateful, great people. I can’t imagine the person who treated me to a waterbed and a not-as-messed-up spine yelling at my mother. I take a deep breath, relax and round my lower back, sit on my sits bone, straighten my upper back, and raise my neck. The man who yelled at my mom would be proud.

	I sit down to write just after I draw a few spirals, warming up with one of my many hoodies, sitting on my sits bone, and my mind stops. I can’t stop myself from stopping. That damn punch to my temple. 7 months stopped. I had to relearn balance, train my eyes to read more than a paragraph before taking a nap, lock myself in my room with the lights off and a shirt covering my eyes, and pray for sleep that rarely came. Why the hell was I, the crooked kid with scoliosis, the crybaby who snots everywhere, the boy who wrote poetry, why the hell was he training for an amateur fight? I was used to migraines from my scoliosis, so I wasn’t scared of a little bit more pain. Grown men were shocked I wouldn’t stop no matter how much they hit me. And their words built my confidence up more than their kicks and punches tore my body down. All those hits were something solid and dependable when my thoughts were almost as curvy as Beyonce. I wanted more praise, so I ‘trained’ alone in the bathroom. My eyes would lock with those in the mirror. Then I would hit my stomach where my abyss was, top and sides of my thighs, anywhere, and made sure no part of my face telegraphed that I could feel. I hit until I winced and then went harder for being weak. That ‘training’ became more regular, usually when I felt anxious or overwhelmed and I needed to hurt my body to escape my mind. The pain felt good. Plus I loved kickboxing classes. Nothing spiraled there. So I took off my headgear when my instructor said that they made concussions worse. As I sparred with a man, I saw his right-hand drop an inch, poor form telegraphing that he would throw a cross, a straight-forward punch. I stepped to the left as quick as my 17-year-old body allowed, jerking my head sideways to get out of the way. Only he had purposefully made it look like he would throw a cross, and good on him for having nice fakes. He didn’t think I would ram my temple into his boxing glove. I didn’t blackout. I said I was okay. My toughness impressed him again. I felt good, relieved that I barely had a thought to twirl. It felt like the pit in my stomach was gone and I could finally focus on the man in front of me. I continued to spar on for 40 minutes. 

	I sit down to write just after I draw a few spirals, warming up with one of my many hoodies, sitting on my sits bone, waking up from a nap with a t-shirt over my eyes, and I am still stopped. That punch was three years ago. I don’t want to be this person I am, this idiot reaching for a word his mind can’t spit out. I drove to the police station to interview an officer about allegedly broken fire codes on-campus. I parked illegally across from the station, strolled my fine delirious ass into this building full of cops, and saw that dude I would interview was probably the biggest person in Pinellas County. I followed as he lumbered to a back room. It was dim in there, which was unnerving, but I appreciated the porn-quality lighting because it was easier on my eyes. He peered at my face the same way I used to when I self-harmed, reading every emotion in my face. And I am sure I telegraphed everything from the snotting way I cried to the spiral I warmed up with. I stuttered more than I have in my life and could barely form a sentence, let alone a question about Florida fire-codes on college campuses.  He gave one-word answers to all of my stutters. I could barely think, so I said thank you and strolled my fine delirious ass out of this building full of cops, to my illegally parked Mini Cooper, which was somehow safe from the scary man and his coworkers. Then, before I even laid down to regain my brain, a girl I went on a Bumble date with said she was hooking up with another guy and she was sorry. My half-empty self was touched by her honesty, it was the kindest thing someone had done for me all day, and I said she had nothing to apologize for. That was that, and we never spoke again. That’s the thing about my mind, my thoughts sort of work when everything is twirling down the drain, but not during stillness. Definitely not when I write. 

	I sit down to write just after I draw a few spirals, warming up with one of my many hoodies, sitting on my sits bone, having just woken up from my nap with a t-shirt covering my eyes, hating the stillness, and I can hear my neighbor crying. These shitty dorm walls allow me to hear a lot, including when she sings Frozen songs in the morning and the sound of her blowing her nose between sobs. When we think of sadness, we picture tears. What about this young woman’s sniffles?  I can feel everything my neighbor does just from her nose, those singer’s lungs forcing her cries down my ears. If I can hear her, then, a few days ago, she definitely heard mine. I had wanted to be the best ever Editor-in-Chief my college’s newspaper had ever seen. Yet I sat at the meeting that I was supposed to be the head of, my own head wasn’t working. I sat there like the concussed dumbass I was for 7 months and everyone had to pick up my slack. They kept asking me questions about what they should do and I would stutter just like I had with the scary cop. From freshman year to this moment, I needed this position. If I couldn’t be an amateur fighter, my worth proved by pain, then I had to be the best goddamn journalist and force people to be impressed by me. But they didn’t praise me because there was nothing to praise. After I made it to my dorm, I blew my nose into my sheets, called my parents and said sorry, sorry, sorry, told them I wanted to drop out of college and buy the next plane ticket from Tampa International to LAX. My neighbor probably heard all those cries, but not the quiet falling action. My father talked me down and made me breathe. I realized then I hadn’t taken a deep breath in days. I told him I didn’t want to be concussed again, I didn’t want to be trapped in a room for 7 months, and I didn’t want to be this piece of shit. He told me that I was letting myself get so anxious that I couldn’t think. He told me I wasn’t concussed. He told me I wasn’t a piece of shit. “No, this makes me say, ‘Oh my god, you’re my son.’” My father has always been in my life. I look just like him, from my beard, nose, and glasses, only I am a shade between his dark Filipino skin and my mother’s light Irish skin, with my grandmother’s red hair brightening up parts of my beard. But he has never told me directly that I am his son, it has always been something implied and innate as my heartbeat. Yet when I heard whose son I was, it gave me a stake in the ground that I could grasp even as the waters whirl around me. I am my father’s son because I worry about the perfection of my passions, from the hoodies keeping me warm to the angle of my spine, to the point I cannot function. My neighbor’s sniffles, however, don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, but she seems to be breathing in more. As I sit at my desk, remembering I was trying to write, I block out her nose, grasp the stake my father gave me, and feel the rubbery grip of my Pilot G-2 07 pen. 

	I sit down to write just after I draw a few spirals, warming up with one of my many hoodies, sitting on my sits bone, having just woken up from my nap with a t-shirt covering my eyes, hating the stillness, focusing on my Pilot G-2 07 and not the sniffles next door, and I accept that I am stuck. Writer’s block built so high it has become a wall. I learned from a writing podcast (I forget the name, I listened to too many) that if you make a list of 20 ideas, one of them will work. One of them has to help me.
1) Maybe I should take a break. Go outside and get some Vitamin D Ubered from the sun and air fresh off the tree
2) Maybe another nap would help, though I would never fall asleep for the night. That’s how it often worked with my concussion, I would sleep during the day and stay up, alone, in a dark room
3) Staying up late is a misnomer in my case. If I take a nap at 4 p.m. and wake up at 8 p.m., I will not be “staying up,” because technically I wasn’t awake before
4) Will. That’s my brother’s name. I was 14 when first heard he was dropping out of high school. My parents took us to a Japanese restaurant to, in their words, celebrate. I guess it was kinda like when people break up with their lover over an expensive meal. To be fair, the sushi was great
5) Then I was in the car with my mom. My dad took the truck
6) “I am not going to see Will at school anymore?”
7) “Yes. But this was best for Will and for us all”
8) I cried and snotted all over myself. I curled up the opposite way my massage therapist taught me. What would all the anti-vaxxers think? My mom had her left hand on the wheel and used her right to pet me like one of our dogs. Who the hell would yell at this woman?
9) What would the man who concussed me, the spooky cop, and the singer next door think of me right now? Probably that I have a fine delirious ass
10) I’m allergic to dogs. We own six. Brooklyn is the broken one. Old English Bulldogs don’t last long. Arthritis kicked in at age two. She struggles to hop on and off the couch. My back and her hips and four knees have a certain kinship. I hate breeders for designing her to be in pain; I hate myself for letting my spine and that man’s right boxing glove and my mind spiral
11) Maybe I should draw a spiral
12) “I would have never dropped out if I knew this was how you were going to react”
13) It’s hard for me to like dogs when I have six. It’s hard for me to look at them as anything other than poor creatures after hearing Brooklyn’s constant howls of pain. She’s such a good dog too, kind to smaller dogs and such a big personality. But what kind of dog can barely make it across the street? 
14) Am I still concussed? Why isn’t this list working? Where is this spiral going?  
15) “When I was in the in-patient hospital, I had this book. I would open it and every day I would write what I was grateful for. Every day one of the first things I would write was your name”
16) It’s hard for me to like myself. It’s hard for me to look at myself as anything other than a poor creature after lying in bed for days in pain. What kind of writer can barely bring themselves to write?
17) Fuck
18) “If anything, this will bring us closer”
19) You are your father’s son. You are your father’s son. Grasp that stake
20) My turtle is named Snivels and I now cry into my pillow instead of punching myself. My spine is straighter thanks to some kind people, and one asshole, who all told me not to vaccinate my children. I love hoodies and I listen to meditations to help my mind become a lot less curvy than Beyonce. Heather Sellers’ spiral exercise does not work for me, I am 1 out of 30. I write as I spin

By Nicholas Danlag

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