“Help Me I’m Drowning” By Taylor Monet Welch

         The script reads:

         “Acquire ecstasy from a homeless man called Static Pete”

         He’s always happy to see me.

         …

         Let me rephrase. 

         He’s always happy to see the wad of cash I have in my hand. 

         But it’s nice to be wanted — even if it’s just by your drug dealer. 

         “Hey, Pete,” I sigh, handing him a twenty dollar bill and a slightly-ripped ten.

         “Greg!” he exclaims through a severe lack of teeth. He graciously takes my money, handing over a microscopic plastic bag with two blue tablets inside. 

         I kiss the bag, put my hands into prayer position, and thank him profusely for the pills. “I really need this today,” I explain. “My mom’s losing it and my boyfriend just left.”

         “We all need something to get us through the day, brother,” Static Pete nods. “At least you’re not homeless.”

         Which causes him to burst out laughing. 

         I snicker, just a little bit, before turning on my heel and exiting stage left. He’s shouting pleasantries at me as I walk, and I throw up a hand to say goodbye. The other hand places the baggie of drugs into my jacket pocket, zipping it for good measure. 

         The director thinks I’m having a mid-life crisis. 

         I know I’m only twenty-five, but I could die at fifty. 

         Easily.

         I mean, just look at me. Buying pills from a homeless man on the corner of Partridge and Wallows. If I keep this up, I could be dead within the year. And scene. In a kind of sick, twisted way, I’m banking on that. 

         The one person that brought me happiness exited without so much as a note, and now I’m left alone, with only my mind to subdue me. Only here’s the thing: my mind never subdues. Overexaggerates, yes. Definitely overthinks. Overworks itself to the point of exhaustion. But subdue? I’ve never been able to subdue myself. Not of my own accord. 

         Molly enters stage right.

         I unzip my right pocket, and run my fingers over my prop. The pills are carved into triangle shapes. I don’t know why. Maybe to make them more appealing. But I figure, hey, I’m going to take them regardless of what they look like. 

         It’s like a hooker. Doesn’t matter what they look like. Just so long as they fuck your worries away. 

         I live on Harvey. By the abandoned drive-thru burger joint and Blane’s Gym. It’s this crappy one-story with no backyard and two bedrooms. I’m in one of them, obviously, and my mom’s in the other. Together we coexist as one destructive entity.

         She’s not happy when I get home. Not because of me, but because a one-night-stand didn’t call her back.  She’s ranting and raving center-stage the second I enter through the door. 

         “Greg, you don’t understand. We had a connection. It was special. Not like those other guys.”

         “I’m sure it was, Mom,” I reply, shoving both my hands in my jacket pockets. 

         “What is it with men?” she continues. “They’re pieces of shit. Each and every single one of them.”

         “Thanks, Mom.”

         “Greg,” she sighs, “I need you to be supportive right now.”

         My lips go tight. “I could say the same to you.”

         “What’s that supposed to mean?”

         I take a deep breath, feeling the crash of sadness sweep through. “Aidan broke up with me,” I grumble.

         My mom’s face drops. “Oh, hun, I’m so sorry,” she apologizes, rushing downstage to give me a hug. “I had no idea. What happened?” 

         “He said I was —

         “— too fucking unstable, Greg,” Aidan shouts from off-stage. “You’re too fucking unstable. Is that what you want me to say? Because it’s true. You’re a fucking wreck and I’m not the savior you’re making me out to be.” 

         “— unstable,” I decide to say. 

         My mom frowns. “Well, yes,” she agrees. “But that’s you, Greg.”

         “I don’t want to be unstable.”

         “Well I wish people would call me back, so I guess we’re both at a loss,” my mom sighs. 

         “I’m an unstable fucking mess,” I whine, moving across stage and flopping on the couch. “This is so stupid. I am so stupid.” 

         “You’re not stupid, Greg,” my mom tries to reassure me. “You’ve just got… problems. And everyone’s got problems. I mean, look at me. I have a shit ton of problems.”

         Silently, I rise up from the couch, sticking my hand back in my pocket. Without another word, I make my way to my room, wrapping my fingers around the bag of pills, feeling completely and utterly sorry for myself. 

         “Most people don’t have to deal with BPD,” I stage-whisper. “Just me. Fuck me.”

         ~+~

         I stare up at the ceiling, looking at all its colors. 

         Blue, green, pink, purple, green, white, silver, gold, pink, blue, green —

         Usually, I’m out of bed right about now. My blocking calls for a walk through the neighborhood, straight to the grocery store. There, I like to watch as the cereal boxes lean out at me, changing shape and size and color. I like to fumble for my money to buy an Arizona iced tea, because the ecstasy makes my mouth so dry. I like the way the people don’t look like people anymore — how everyone’s disfigured and never talk correctly. 

         But I’m in bed. 

         I’m staring at the ceiling, looking at all its colors. 

         Blue, green, pink, purple, green, white, silver, gold, pink, blue, green —

         ~+~

         She recites it over a pre-placed dinner of steak and mashed potatoes. 

         “You need to go out. Meet someone new. Get a rebound.” 

         I shake my head, chewing on a piece of meat. “No. I’m not ready.”

         “How do you know unless you try?” my mom pushes. 

         “You know what I do, though!” I exclaim, slamming my silverware against the table. “I latch onto people too quickly, and then I get attached. And then, when they realize how attached I am, they leave. Over and over and over again.”

         “Maybe start with that,” my mom jokes. “My name is Greg and I have mental problems.”

         “This isn’t an AA meeting, Mom.”

         “Might as well be.” 

         Death stare is written in the script, and I carry out the motion. 

         “Well, I’m going out tonight,” my mom declares, wiping her mouth with the side of her napkin. “You can do the same, if you want. Might be a good idea to get out of the house.” 

         “I’m not going out with you.”

         My mom shakes her head. “And I’m not going out with you,” she says. “I meant, go somewhere I’m not going.” 

         It rolls around in my head — the thought. Suddenly the food on my plate looks wrong, and I push it all out of the way. Go out? Go out. Get out of the house, Greg. Exit house set and prep everything for the bar scene. 

         “Fine,” I relent. “But I’m not going to enjoy myself.”

         ~+~

         My prop for the evening is a beer with the label halfway peeled off. 

         My fingers needed something to do, and if I keep sticking my hand in my pocket, someone’s going to get the wrong idea. 

         I’m sitting alone at a table, placed at the corner of the stage. Facing the dance floor and the bar. I chose it because this way, I can see everything. Better yet, I can see everyone.

         Which is why my throat starts to close when a shaggy-haired guy holding a vodka-cranberry makes his way to my table. 

         He looks so confident, the way he strides across stage. He’s wearing an orange and black button-up, with a pair of black slacks and sneakers. His hair’s the perfect blend of styled and effortless, like he rolled out of bed and eased some gel into it. That’s his entire look, really. Effortlessly perfect. 

         And right then and there, I decide he’s going to be the love of my life. 

         “Hey,” he says, sitting down across from me. “Why are you sitting all alone?”

         My face goes red. “I… I don’t mind it,” I answer. “I’m on my own a lot.”

         “Would you like some company?” he winks. 

         Greg says yes with too much enthusiasm.

         “I’m Greg,” I introduce. 

         He half-smiles. “Juan.”

         Greg’s mouth opens before he can shut it. 

         “I’ve got clinical abandonment issues,” I recite. 

         His eyebrows raise. “Yeah?” he asks. 

         “Yeah,” I say. 

         “What does that mean, exactly?” Juan asks, sipping his drink. 

         I take a deep breath, rolling my eyes up to the ceiling. “It means I have rapid, extreme mood changes. And problems with clinging on too quickly. And suicidal ideation. And every day I wake up and wonder, hmm. What will you feel like today? Will today be the day where you finally get a sense of who you are? Or are you just going to play a new part again?” 

         “Are you exhausted?” 

         I look back down. “What?”

         Juan shrugs. “That sounds like it would be exhausting.”

         My eyebrow furrows. “Oh,” I say. “Um, yeah, yeah. I guess.”

         His blocking changes from a sitting to a standing position. “Does it stop you from dancing?” he asks. 

         I don’t remember this part of the script. Usually, it goes from “I’m Greg and I’m a mess” to “Bye Greg.” 

         Not “Do you want to dance.” 

         I hesitantly stand. “Um, sure,” I agree, and he puts out his hand. I take it, and follow him out onto the dance floor. 

         I never learned this routine. This wasn’t ever in rehearsals. I try to follow Juan’s lead, but my feet are stagnant and I have no rhythm. It’s embarrassing, to say the least. Not knowing what I’m supposed to be doing. 

         Juan’s close to me, and his eyes are shut as we sway to the music.

         I don’t recognize the song. It’s something that has a lot of instrumentals. Tech must have chosen it specifically to throw me off — too aware that I can’t keep up with the music. I think back to all the school dances I ever went to, and quickly realize that I’ve never danced. No wonder this scene seems so uncomfortable. 

         He’s not really looking at me, but I’m staring at him. His jawline. His hair. His hand around the vodka cranberry. 

         My scene partner. 

         Which causes the wave of uncertainty to rush over me. 

         The great love of my life — I’m staring at him. It’s in the script. It’s how it happens, every single time. But I feel… Why do I feel so different? 

         “I’ll be right back,” I shout over the music, and Juan just kind of nods his head. 

         Greg exits the dancefloor and makes his way to the bathroom.

         In my pocket, I run my fingers over the second Molly tablet. The triangle shape. A sense of reassurance overshadows the uncertainty, knowing that I’ll be okay in a second. I’ll feel better in a second. 

         I enter the bathroom scene and realize I’m alone onstage. 

         The pill goes into my mouth without a second thought, and I wait a little bit before it starts to kick in. 

         … Before it starts to —

         The stalls are distorted, swaying in and out of focus. The urinals light up with halos of pure white. There’s graffiti on the wall, and I can’t read it. But it’s screaming at me. It’s screaming, “GREG! I SEE YOU! I’M COMING FOR YOU!” 

         I turn away.

         My head’s too loud and the mirror’s fogged up with a face I don’t recognize.

         I think I’m shouting, but I can’t be certain. Not until someone’s hands are on me, sitting me down, positioning my face to look at them. 

         Juan. 

         He broke character to see me. 

         “Greg?” he asks, and I’m choking on my own spit. Not able to breathe. His voice is distorted — made to freak me out. 

         His line is, “Greg? What’s going on?” 

         I shout at him, “Help me I’m drowning.”

         He looks at me with fear in his eyes, and I realize that neither of us have rehearsed the final scene. This is all new. It’s never hit me like this before — certainly not in front of the potential love of my life. 

         “I’m Greg and I don’t know what I’m doing,” I exhale, followed by several sharp inhales. “And I haven’t rehearsed for this.”

         Juan shrugs. “None of us have.”

         “I’m glad I’m not alone,” I choke out, breaking the fourth wall and looking him straight in the eye. 

         “I’m offstage, though, Greg,” Juan sighs. “I’m still out on the dance floor.”

         My heart drops. 

         “No one’s going to find you,” he continues. “Do you understand? Lights are all off. Soundboard has been disconnected. Props have been put away. You’re on your own.”

         “What?” I stutter. “No, no, the world’s still acting. They have to be acting. I’m acting and that means everyone else is. They have to be.”

         “You’re the only one left in the theater,” Juan says. 

         … 

         The bathroom’s empty. 

         My heart’s racing. 

         There’s a triangular-shaped pill stuck somewhere between my mouth and my chest.

         And scene.


Taylor Monet Welch is a novice writer with a deep passion for anything literary. She has three self-published poetry books ( Rotten Poet; If This Is What We Call Love, I Love You, I Love You, I Love You; and 300 Feet Back). She is currently going to school to become an author/editor, because if you love what you do, it isn’t work. In the meantime, she will continue to write and enter her pieces to literary magazines for publication, play her violin and ukulele, and paint. She would like to thank her friends and family for being so supportive of her hopes and dreams, and thank any readers who take the time to review her work.

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