I Live in Emotional Squalor by Sophie Kearing

Back then, I didn’t notice things. And I didn’t take them personally.

The cracked brown linoleum.

The china cabinet filled with gimcrack treasures.

The strip of ink-black mildew under the shower door.

I just didn’t care.

Now that I’m a bothered bitch, an insufferable New Age overthinker, I wonder if that shitscape of curated cheapness was an outer manifestation of my tattered self-esteem. Were my grimy surroundings a reflection of the pervasive worthlessness that rattles through me whenever I strain to hear if it’s still breathing?

Even now, in my halfway decent apartment, I know the quivering vapor is still with me.

Hello? I whisper, hoping I’ll be met with silence. Are you still there?

Its whistles almost inaudibly.

Ah, fuck. Of course you’re still there. Of COURSE you are.

No matter how scrubbed and tidy I keep my dwelling, no matter how decorated and beautified, I live in emotional squalor: fear and self-loathing and a relentless certainty that *something just isn’t right.*

Tell me, which is scarier:

1. the belief that my rotten mind is creating every dwelling I’ve ever inhabited, or

2. the possibility that all of life is simply the luck of the draw?

The former, I could die trying to change. The latter, I literally can’t.

Psst. Hey. Are you still there?


Oh my god, it’s gone! My wretched companion is gone! Yes! YES! I am at peace with myself, and I have finally manifested a home that reflects this! I’ve done the spiritual/emotional work, god damn it, and now I can relax into my blissful abode!

—is followed by a miserable wheeze that emanates from beneath the floorboards.

God damn it. God DAMN it. Of course you’re still here. Where else would you be? You fucking live here, just like me.

Sophie is a writer of fiction, a lover of em dashes, and a stan of Oxford commas. Her work has been featured by Ellipsis Zine, Popshot Quarterly, Litro UK, Lumiere Review, New Pop Lit, Isele Magazine, and other publications. She’d love to connect with you: @SophieKearing

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