by Laura Picklesimer

How to Cure Insomnia

First, grow up in a gated estate that overlooks the coastline from Newport to San Clemente. Lock your younger sister in the downstairs coat closet for hours at a time. Ignore her even after she pees her Burberry overalls.

Listen to the muffled screaming from the upstairs hallway when your father is occasionally home for the night. Find the best spots where you can pick up the ricochet of screams. Learn all your parents’ secrets, even the disgusting ones.

Try to become a model. Get carted off to photo shoots and auditions. Show more stomach, at your mother’s urging. She forces you to skip school on sunny winter days to lie under a cabana at the Montage with her. She never brings sunscreen, only tanning oil, and sneaks you glasses of Chardonnay. You don’t drink, though. You don’t eat either.

Lose your virginity at fourteen over the hard wooden slats of a lifeguard tower.

Ditch the modeling when your height flatlines. Pivot to cheerleading. Become a flyer and start really dieting, so that your stomach does its own painful backflips.

Cheat through all your exams. Hire an ex-professor to write your college personal statement, including just the right amount of humility and boasting, combined with a bullshit story about a tragic PCH collision that will help land you at a moderately tiered school.

Rush Delta Gamma. You’re a shoe-in, obviously, the girls all tell you so behind closed doors, even though you still have to follow official rules and visit every other house, get courted by the ugly fucks at Tri-Delt.

Skip class. Fuck every hot fraternity senior in the top three houses. Inspire envy. Earn a few enemies. Spend your days shopping, working out, and partying. Realize it could be this way forever.

Stop sleeping. Wake up every night to visions of West L.A. burning, Robertson Boulevard on fire. The more you start to stress about the dark bags under your eyes, the less sleep you get, until you’ve memorized every splintered crack on the ceiling of your bedroom.

Pretend you’re excited about the upcoming Black and White party. You’re going with Tristan, from Beta. He’s as hot as he’s stupid. Have him pick you up in his Corvette, already wasted. Swerve down Sunset to a rented club.

You can’t drink because you’re already in a daze from the sleepless nights. Tell Tristan you want to leave the party early. He gets pissed and takes you back to his fraternity instead. Prepare yourself for rushed, clumsy sex in his room, until you notice the knife by his wet bar. Pick it up. See yourself reflected in its edge.

He doesn’t realize what you’re doing until you’re already on top of him. Until you’re awake and alive, until you’re so hungry, you have to finally stop and find a greasy chicken thigh in his fridge. Let the fat and skin fill your mouth, your stomach, your entire being.

Sleep soundly.

– – – – –

Laura is an MFA graduate from Cal State Long Beach. Her work has been featured in Riprap, Watermark Journal, Pomona Valley Review and the California Current Writers Series. She lives in Los Feliz and teaches English and writing.

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