Hollay Ghadery is a writer living in rural Ontario on Anishinaabe land. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have been published in various literary journals, including The Malahat Review, Room, Understorey, CAROUSEL, The Antigonish Review, Grain, and The Fiddlehead. Her debut collection of poetry, Rebellion Box, is set to be released by Radiant Press in spring 2023 and Fuse, her memoir of mixed-race identity and mental health, was released by Guernica Editions’ MiroLand imprint in spring 2021.
Prior to her virtual appearance at Brockton Writers Series, she’s shared an excerpt of Fuse with us here.
Content warning: addiction and eating disorders.
I’m Still Gone
We were walking in the rain, this guy and I. I’d just met him at a campus party and didn’t know his name—didn’t know or couldn’t remember.
“Ben?” I guessed.
He’d said: “No, and I’m not telling you again.” Even though, like I said, I wasn’t convinced he had told me in the first place.
I shrugged. “Suit yourself!” Because it made no difference to me anyway. He could have been anyone. I was just a girl with a buzz and a hacksaw heart looking to disappear, and I needed someone to help make that happen. The night before it had been someone else. Tonight, this guy.
And man, this guy.
In my blackout twenties, there were a lot of guys, but this one had the greenest eyes I’d ever seen. For the first few minutes we talked, I thought his eyes were blue because he carried himself like a man with blue eyes, with that distant ease. But no. His eyes were green, all shades of green, really, like a rainforest. He took my hand when we crossed the street, and my soul turned to steam. I could feel it: where I ended and where the world began was getting less clear.
It had been my idea to leave the party. I’d been bored, but mostly I’d wanted to leave because the only booze they had left was beer, and that had too many calories. I was already feeling squeezed into my pants.
“Hope you don’t mind that I wanted to leave,” I’d said as we walked to his car. He’d parked it in a municipal lot, a couple blocks away.
“Not at all,” he said. “I’d been there too long anyway. That was my buddy’s place. How do you know him?”
“I don’t know.” I’d been invited by a friend of a friend. That friend was still there, presumably.
“You don’t know how you know him?”
“I mean, I don’t know him. At all.”
He smiled, and it was as soft as snow, as easy and incessant.
“What do you know?”
I told him that he walked like a little boy, and he said: “Do not.”
It was one of the first things I’d noticed about him. His right foot was slightly more turned in than his left, and he moved through space as though he was reinventing it. I found this gentle, haphazard approach to motion reassuring: I saw it as a sign that there can be imperfection and perfection all at once.
I’d needed this comfort. I’d spent the day trying to fight through a hangover caused by the previous night’s partying. I was learning that you can’t fill the void. You can only feed it.
I knew that no amount of time at the gym would fix that feeling, so I’d skipped my workout, loaded up on fast food, and sequestered myself in my apartment. There, I spent the rest of the day eating and purging and eating and purging and eating and eating until my face and body were bloated and my stomach ached and my throat burned and I thought I’d die or never, ever, ever do this again. Whichever came first, or both. At one point, I clogged the toilet and resorted to throwing up in a grocery bag.
I knew I wouldn’t win if I kept drinking like I was, but that didn’t stop me. The small amount of relief afforded by even a few hours of oblivion was worth the consequences. I couldn’t see a puddle without feeling an ocean. I didn’t know of another way to deal with the hugeness of these pressing emotions. All the hate, fear, longing, frustration, and sadness. All my unclaimed life; it was passing me by and I had no way to stop it. I had nothing but a laundry list of neuroses and a plastic bag of vomit.
When a friend called around 7 p.m. to invite me to a party, she’d offered a break from thinking about all these things. I’d looked at the half-full bottle of vanilla-flavoured vodka on my counter that I’d been avoiding all day, and thought: Why the hell not? There was always something to prove—to myself, to someone else. I was tired of having to try to prove I was worthy of trust, consideration, love. It was easier to just not be worth the effort.
I’d poured myself a drink, raised a glass and thought: Drink ’til your hot.
“Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” I said.
The guy laughed. “Do you know where that’s from?”
“Dunno. I just know it. Sounds like Thomas Hardy.”
“It’s from the bible.”
“Then why did you ask me, if you knew?”
“I wanted to see if you knew.”
“I’m Muslim. I don’t do the Bible.” I’d smiled at myself. It was amazing: We were drifting through our soundstage city, street lights bouncing off glistening pavement toward the sky; it was amazing that I could be with this guy, who was unloading his gaze on me, but still drift in and out, in and out of myself as I pleased.
I learned how to exist outside my body early in life. In my 1997 high school yearbook, a boy had drawn a picture of a three-humped camel with horns, tail lifted, shitting a turban shaped coil. He’d written, “Turban Maker” underneath. I didn’t understand. I was half-Iranian Muslim, not a Sikh. I was born and raised in Canada, and my mom was sixth-generation Canadian, and of British descent. He showed his friends his work, and they laughed, so when he handed me my book back, I laughed too.
Hollay Ghadery visits Brockton Writers Series via our YouTube channel on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 starting at 6:30pm alongside Jessica Westhead, Becky Blake, and Jane Woods . Our guest speaker Nadia L. Hohn gives us, “Writing Kidlit in a Nutshell.”
Please log in at 6:30.