after Sam Cha
—When I was a baby, the doctor said aspirin could kill me. There are not enough enzymes in my body to absorb it.
—When I was a baby, the doctor said aspirin could kill me. I tell this to my first boyfriend. He says, “We better get you some Gatorade.” I tell him, “Gatorade provides electrolytes, not enzymes.” I am smarter than everyone I’ve fucked. (I’m not a cocky bitch. It’s true.)
—When I was a baby, the doctor said aspirin could kill me. I am not supposed to have red wine or fava beans (or really any kind of legumes) or blueberries or tonic water. They kill off my red blood cells faster than my body can replace them. As a kid, I hated the texture of beans. I asked for fish taco platters with all rice. My boyfriend buys white wine, so that is what I drink. When I was four, my grandfather threw away the cases of tonic water stacked in the garage. If I smelled liquor on him, I refused to go near him. So he quit drinking. I never actively avoided the things that could kill me. Call it god (with a small “g,” so as not to offend) or angels or coincidence.
—When I was a baby, the doctor said aspirin could kill me. My therapist asks if I have plans to buy aspirin. As if I need to spend money. If I wanted to die, I could say, “I have a headache.” Someone in the room will offer me aspirin. People like to be helpful. I tell my therapist that anxiety is fucking up my stomach again. I go to the doctor. He asks if there is any chance I can be pregnant. I say no. I am in a long distance relationship and I am not the cheating kind. He asks if I am on medication. I say no. The doctor asks, “Not even birth control?” I say no. When my boyfriend is in town, we use condoms (but that’s none of this doctor’s business). Not even a doctor realizes that a woman can have a stomachache unrelated to period or pregnancy. He does not ask about the anxiety or the depression. (No surprise. No one does.)
—When I was a baby, the doctor said aspirin could kill me. I know I want to leave my girlfriend. I can’t stop thinking about cheating on her. She says “monogamous” over and over. She wants me to herself. She says she will share me if she has to. This will never work. She has a zero tolerance policy for cheating. I do not ask for an open relationship because she will leave me. I don’t want to be with her, but I don’t want to be left. I have never had the urge to cheat before. Is this my version of self-respect? If I cheat, she will leave me and hate me and it will make it easier than leaving a perfectly nice person who bores the shit out of me. The day I decide to leave her, I can’t hold food down. I have therapy in an hour. I picture myself with explosive diarrhea on my therapist’s couch (Am I allowed to leave in the middle of a session to take a shit?). I read the label: “Do not take if allergic to aspirin.” I take it anyway. If I die, I don’t have to break up with her. As soon as I swallow the tablet, I immediately regret it. I feel woozy. I am scared to go to sleep because I may not wake up. I stay awake. This must mean I want to live. I go to urgent care without insurance. This must mean I want to live. The doctor asks why I am here. I say I accidentally-on purpose took medicine that could kill me. I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted to stop shitting long enough for my therapist to tell me leaving my partner was the right decision. The doctor asks why I am crying. “Are you scared?” I say, after this I am leaving my partner. She asks if I need a pregnancy test. I say, no. I am in a relationship with a woman (well, for now, I am because I am going to break up with her after this). She tells me this is not an allergic reaction. And I remember I have taken Pepto-Bismol before. And I drink gin and tonics and bake lemon-blueberry muffins and am still alive.
—When I was a baby, the doctor said aspirin could kill me. “Could” is the operative word. I kill my relationship instead of myself. My ex feels judged by my silence. I am not the cheating kind. I am not the lying kind, so I say nothing. When she says, “I love you,” I say, “you do?” then I fall silent. What else could I have said?
—When I was a baby, the doctor said aspirin could kill me. I tell my girlfriend I have a headache. She says, “I have some aspirin.” I say, “No, thank you.”
Jaromír Funke. Abstraction, 1924-27. Gelatin silver print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Lauren Yates is a queer Black femme from Oceanside, California. She earned her B.A. in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis from the University of Pennsylvania. Lauren’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Connotation Press, Crab Fat Magazine, and Rust + Moth. When she isn’t writing poems, Lauren enjoys watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, dancing in dive bars, and looking up five-star recipes. Find her online at http://www.laurentyates.com. She also tweets (occasionally) @laurentyates.