Text as Subtext

Lie bumps on my tongue.


There was a message on my phone.

I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to decide if googling “home remedies for depression” one more time would give me any advice beyond “diet and exercise”.

The advice is always “exercise, have a routine, eat well, don’t drink”. Because people who exercise, people who eat well, people who have a routine they follow every day, people who don’t drink… these people are less depressed than we person-shaped lumps of alcohol and old donuts, binge watching YouTube videos because we’re too subhuman to change the channel. I sense some confounds in these data, but whatever, I get it— thanks, universe, I guess I need to exercise.

Tomorrow. I’ll start exercising tomorrow.


It’s a weird feeling. Hearing that little notification bell telling me that I have a text. Hearing the bell and knowing that, all else aside, there is almost no version of me— almost no future path— that doesn’t involve me checking that message.

I’ve become a seer, I’ve got an aural crystal ball, I know the future, the future that will certainly be. It’s like a spoiler to my own life. Spoiler Alert!, dammit!

It’s even possible that the notification has not just revealed my future, but created it. A future carved from infinite possibility, yet with zero input from me, the person whose future is being hewn. It’s a weird feeling.


How is that even possible? How can I know my future so certainly when I struggle every minute to know anything about my present? How can I exist now if it’s already certain that I exist then-later in the action of eventually, inevitably, indubitably checking my damn messages?


I was still lying in bed. Still wondering about depression and whether “meta-depression” was a thing, or if I was just overthinking again. Meta-depression. Lol.


What if I just didn’t answer it? What would that look like? What if I got up and walked out? Left the house, left the phone behind, got in the car and drove off, into the sunset (because of course I’m heading west in this impossible scenario. Why would anyone head east? What lies east that isn’t Deep South, Mid South, Bible Belt, Rust Belt, or, ugh, the Atlantic Coast? Gross. I’ll never go east). I won’t answer the message; I’ll leave the phone behind, part of my past, along with whatever I’m lying about this week. I’ll start over.







Never answer it!


And then I started thinking about Dad. Partly because I’m always thinking about Dad, now that he’s gone. Dead, that is. Dad has passed away. Dad’s dead. Dad. Dead. Dad’s dead. … yeah. Partly, also, because I had a lie bump on my tongue.

I’ve got a painful little bump on the back of my tongue, and Dad always said those were “lie bumps”— a bit of discomfort you get for betraying the truth. So now whenever I have one, I spend all day stuck, wondering about what lies I’ve told and whom I’ve told them to. Wondering if lying to myself creates different kinds of bumps than lying to other people.


Dad had a … hex, I guess is the best word for it… that he would say over bumps and bruises to make them go away. Warts and mosquito welts mostly, but I bet it would work on a lie bump, if he tried.

He would take a stick pin, sketch some mystic pattern on the head of the bump, whisper an incantation to my skin, and then stick the pin in my shirt. By the time the pin fell out, the bump would be gone. He must have worked this spell on me dozens of times, healing a nervous towheaded kid in a dirty Izod-knockoff shirt, taking away one small worry so I could focus on the important business of constructing mad scientist laboratories from He-Man dolls and cut up laundry detergent boxes.

I know you think it was just some parental legerdemain, a hocus pocus that fooled a kid into not scratching, but I still think it was magic. It was a secret petition to the universe, a pact where my father traded a bit of himself in order to make me feel better. I wish Dad were here to work his magic now; then again, this is a lie bump, not a wart, and if I was less than honest then I deserve whatever I got. I never had a kid of my own, so my father never got around to teaching me the spell before he died. I don’t think it would work if I tried it on myself, anyway.


So I’m thinking about Dad. And I’m thinking about the lies that I might be telling. And I’m thinking about a future for myself, a future that I had no part in writing, because my future is nothing but— can be nothing but— an extension of whatever’s happening right now, including persistent low-level depression and a dead father and lying in bed staring at the ceiling in the afternoon and a body that doesn’t get enough exercise and a magic spell that’s been lost to me and fucking shitty bumps on my fucking lying tongue, and that damn text message from god only knows who, and they are all me, and they are all creating my reality— past, present, and future— and what’s the fucking point of it all, anyway? What can I do to change any of it? What the fuck is any of this? And if we are but the end-point of ten thousand strings tugging us ten thousand directions then how are we anything more than utterly powerless in the face of it all? How can I do anything to initiate a change in my life if my future is already written by a fucking text message?







    R.I.Y.L. —

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