The Outpatient

Nadia de Vries

Part 1:
Don’t Touch Me, You Don’t Know Where I’ve Been

There’s a screenplay for every apocalypse. Isn’t it funny? The radio was playing aboard the ambulance. They are reporting on my near-death on the news.

I’m a habitual actress. Which is different from an occupational actress. When I was younger, I could vomit on command. I was not a favorite at birthday parties. I’m a performance artist now. I make my money with talking. And I like to cook vegan dinners for my friends. They are performance artists too. You can recognize us by our identical, iron-deficiency bruises. If you’re part of a scene, you’ll know.

But it is hard to not be universally loved. Last week someone said to me, Everything was fine in our organization until you came around. I just sat there and listened, a lingering smile on my face like I’d just been fucked. Maybe I was. But I did not enjoy it. I thought to myself, I hope your hot water bottle opens in the night. I hope your cat dies, in traffic, under a blood moon.

The secret to being a good cook is remembering to chew well. I feel the same way about gossip. I like to draw out the event, to sprinkle it with embellishments until it is just right. When people say silence is golden, do they mean the color or the material? Because the distinction is important to me. As a Virgo, I appreciate tactility. Every girl deserves a platitude, and this one is mine. Anyway, I keep myself informed.

Last night I got my fortune told. It said You will pass your time quietly. How am I supposed to pass my time quietly? My life is funded by noise. Even now, I can hear my blood pumping on the heart monitor. And scientists are naming storms after my friends. Being the topic of conversation, I feel almost immortal. Remember Shakira falling through a sugar-glass table. Remember, also, the total absence of blood.

Sometimes I wonder what my epitaph will be. She worked herself to death. The circumference of her waist was minimal, and therefore her loss is tragic. And what will happen to my moisturizers. Dear audience, is there a script for this?

The rain is slamming on the ambulance doors. I feel the proximity of a hospital, the way the driver relaxes her hand on the wheel. I am listening to me as I am happening, my present unspooling in real-time, and I’m thinking: finally, someone I knew before they were famous.

Part 2:
Everyone I Love Is Sick

Some people are obsessed with catastrophe. They don’t know who they are if they’re not suffering. Don’t pretend you’re different. I know hurricanes make you wet.

There’s a fine line between being self-deprecating and being self-derogatory and I don’t think I’ve mastered it. The leper asks the depressive: What’s on your bucket list? and the depressive answers: Getting sick. If this makes you laugh the joke is on you. I’m not superstitious, but I wouldn’t say Bloody Mary to a mirror.

A while ago I started losing control over my bladder. It was very sudden. One moment I was fine and the next I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. It was embarrassing. I had to find a way to cover up the stains. I went to see a pelvic floor therapist. She asked me if I had recently experienced something traumatic. I said No. Then I asked her: Can you be traumatized by something that still needs to happen? She said she didn’t know. She charged me eighty bucks for the privilege.

There’s a girl in the next bed. She was quarantined for eating a pangolin. Who gets quarantined for eating a pangolin? I can smell her fear through the curtain. It smells like raspberries. It’s perfumed. Insincere. True fear smells like dead rabbit, and I’m one to know. I grew up in the countryside. There are a lot of roads there, most of them strewn with dead animals. The simple life. It wasn’t my idyll. I have no notable enemies, but I’m not shaking hands with anyone.

That’s not to say that I’m a difficult person. Darling, I’m just a document flying between a manila folder and the world. I have no expectations. It’s like when a plane is applauded for not killing its passengers. Sometimes, the bar is just low. And that’s fine—for now. But don’t let your third eye go idle. If you’re developing a cough, maybe your body is trying to tell you something.

I have a new idea for a video. It’s a single shot of me, sloshing around in the sea. The tide is low. The beach is quiet. I’m wearing a long, red Galliano dress, from a season before when he turned out to be a Nazi. I look good in it. I’m dragging my hands through the water while asking no one in particular: where is my pride, I can’t seem to find it, where is it…