by Azia C. Ita
illustrated by erli
I’m living time backwards.
I know this for certain because I was in the middle of doing something, of completing something, and suddenly I was undoing it in the way that I’d done it. And I just kept undoing.
I re-lived–backwards–all the party stuff we’d been getting together that day, and then the night before, tossing and turning with the resolution I’d made earlier in the week. I’d have five more nights of sleeplessness before I’d start taking the sleeping pills I’d been on for the past ten months. Or the next ten months. I guess it doesn’t matter, because I know what’s coming. But it does matter, because knowing doesn’t make the nightmares go away and I don’t think I can re-live that again.
But it’s thinking about it that has me wondering if this shit is happening for a reason. Is everyone living backwards, or is it just me? It’s hard to think about, because I have to go on living backwards, listening to all the thoughts I had then (and even in reverse, I know what I’m thinking).
The thought first came to me when I was peeing. Or un-peeing. Have you ever thought about peeing? Ever considered the sensation of peeing? I hadn’t. Not until I went from an empty bladder to a full one. Let me tell you, the feeling of pee going back into the body is not pleasant. It doesn’t hurt, but it definitely screws you up.
So I’d just gotten done un-peeing and I guess I flipped out a little, because I moved. I moved outside of what I was supposed to do. I flailed. And in that moment I realized that if I tried hard enough, I could alter the movements I was forced to make. So maybe I could change what was happening. I don’t know if this is going to work, but I can sure as hell try. I have ten months to perfect it.
I only try it when I’m alone, specifically when I’m in the bathroom. There are just certain events you don’t want to do backwards. Trust me. So I work on not doing them backwards. And a little bit each time I push against whatever is keeping me in this rewind.
I try not to think about how I could be fucking other things up by doing this. I’m not going to stand by and watch January first happen again.
Another thing about living backwards, about seeing all the things that happened to me… I see more. Like how my mom was just trying to feed me up, secretly thinking I’d gotten too skinny, which I had, now that I could see myself more through her eyes. She always watched me with a concerned expression, but I guess she has the right, since I was in this backwards mess because I tried to kill myself. She doesn’t know that, of course, but the way she looks at me makes me think she’s worried about it.
After four months I can go forward in time a whole 15 seconds. And it’s not really going forward in time, it’s just me going forward while time goes backwards.
Of course, at five months is about when my darkest days ended, which means my darkest days are just beginning. Joy.
What’s weird is no matter how many drugs I take or booze I drink, the me that’s aware of this doesn’t get drunk or doped. I’m absolutely conscious of what I’m doing. I feel a slight change as I get un-high, but it’s like a caffeine rush (or un-rush). Similar to when it gets closer to dinner and I get full instead of hungry and then I pretty much vomit up my food. But this is alcohol, so while I’m getting closer to that pleasant “before” time, I’m making poor decisions.
Like the guys I let fuck me. Lots of them. Five months is a long time when three nights a week you’re flying high and getting screwed by whoever will do it. And I get to be completely aware of it all. Of each one. Of each one that treated me like shit, of each one that wanted something more. Of each one who didn’t care who I was, of each one who worried about me when we were done. And during the whole time, I know why I’m doing it. Because I deserve to be punished. I want to get lost in something other than my misery, but I have no idea how. So I do this.
And fucking is very weird in reverse. The buildup to the orgasm is faster, because it’s actually the coming down. So we unroll over from our sweaty spots in the bed and we each come and even an orgasm in reverse in enjoyable. But for me, having sex after coming is not pleasant, even if I technically didn’t climax yet. So I lie there, as we gasp and groan, cocks sliding in and out of me, the pleasant sensation going farther and farther away the longer we go at it and I always have to close my eyes when they first push in (which feels like pulling out) because I always see his face and I think he’d be sad to see what I’m doing. But if I don’t do this then I drown in his eyes, and I’ve drowned in his eyes for long enough.
Five months of getting fucked like this three times a week, assuming we only do it once that night. Most times we do, as we’re both so wasted we can’t get it up again. I rarely see them again, because seeing them again would mean caring about one of them, and I can’t do that. I can see how I’ve hurt a bunch of them. Not most of them, but some. Some who liked me, wanted me. Some who wanted to help me so badly.
At the end of January I can control enough time that once I step in the bathroom, I can actually piss instead of the reverse. It doesn’t seem to be screwing anything up, so I’m hopeful. Or as hopeful as I can be with depression wracking my body and brain. I know the last thirty days are going to be the most intense, the longest, the most horrid. I didn’t sleep for all of January. I didn’t actually do much of anything in January. But this time I’m aware of the month passing. I sort of watch myself just sitting there in my bedroom, prone to fits of crying and nothing else.
I eat when my mom tells me to, at least toward the end of the month. By the fifteenth I barely eat, a mouthful here or there. Just enough so I don’t die, though the first time around I wasn’t aware of any of this. I was numb. I was dying inside. This time, I can’t help but think that I’m acting like some teenage girl whose vampire boyfriend left her for her own good. Sure, the circumstances are different, and who’s to judge why someone goes into a catatonic depression. It’s just depressing to watch myself sink deeper into despair the closer I get to the day.
January 4th is the funeral, which my mom took me to. I wake up that afternoon and begin beating the pillows, screaming and thrashing until I stand, still screaming and slam open the door. I’m screaming at my mom as we walk backwards to the car and drive back to the funeral. I’m screaming as she drags me away from the grave site, though in reverse it looks like I’m dragging her to it. I feel awful, because I’m aware that as I throw myself on the coffin, screaming and clinging, my mother lets me go and for a moment I feel the blackness that overwhelmed me, knowing he was gone. But I’m also aware of how hard this must have been for his parents and his siblings. How they probably didn’t understand why his friend–and we weren’t even that close of friends, they thought–was acting this way. How could I possible hurt more than them?
Before the funeral, I watch myself become quieter and more reserved until I’m a blank face. I hadn’t eaten in four days and I am just following where my mother takes me. I guess she knew I needed to go here, even if I didn’t know or didn’t want to go. I don’t appreciate her as much as I should. I promise to tell her how much she means when I’m back in normal time.
Assuming I have the chance. Maybe the gun did go off and I’m dead, re-living my entire life in reverse. Maybe this is God judging me, making me judge myself. Maybe I have no chance to make amends.
It doesn’t meant I can’t try.
It’s New Year’s day, which passes in large chunks of black as the doctors had to keep me medicated. I awake in the ambulance that is driving away from the accident site. I prepare myself for seeing it all over again, even though I see it every night. I prepare myself for the chance to fix it. I prepare myself for the chance that I’ll fail. Maybe I should have tried altering time with another person. Maybe it won’t work if I try to influence something aside from my bladder. A seed of doubt and worry settles in my head, but my heart knows this is my last chance.
Everything after the accident happens as quickly backwards as it did forward.
And then I’m standing there, watching his body un-smash from between the cars, his body parts suck back into him until he’s whole. I watch the drunk driver swerve away backwards and he’s stomping back to me where I’m standing in front of the house. There’s a party roaring inside where I saw him kissing a girl and I started flirting with her until she left him alone. He’s going to yell at me for it, all over again, if I let him. I won’t.
When he’s telling me off for being a jackass–and just came back from dying five seconds ago–I do it.
I grab his hand and suddenly time is moving forward like it should and I pull him to me, turning him around so I’m between the house and the car and I kiss him. Hard. Like I’d wanted to since I saw him making raspberries at me through the bus window in ninth grade.
He’s too shocked to kiss back, but it doesn’t matter. Because behind me I hear the squeal of tires on asphalt and the crunch as the drunk driver hits the car he would have been standing beside. The crash moves the car with the force, but we’re far enough away that it doesn’t hit us. I’ve broken the kiss by this point and I’m clinging to him in a hug.
I don’t care if he doesn’t want me like I want him. I don’t care if he’s not gay and I don’t even care if he thinks I’m sick and perverted. He’s alive.
“Oh my God!” He jerks me to the side as a piece of debris flies past where we were just standing and then we’re running to take cover behind a tree. My heart is slamming in my chest as I realize we both survived and I can hear the commotion as the partyers realize something happened outside. There is talking and shouting and I’m still in shock.
His arms wrap around me and he hugs me, his mouth so close to my ear that his warm breath rushes over my skin, waking me up. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I whisper, hugging him in return and wishing I could bury myself in him and his warmth and comfort. “Yes, I am now.”
We stand there for a few more minutes until we’re not shaking, and he lets me go, at least a little. We’re not hugging any more, but he has an arm around my shoulders. It could just be the companionship of two guys who just witnessed a horrible car crash. Except after he hugged me he gave me a chaste kiss on the lips with a little smile. And then we walk out to face the world.
Author’s Note: This story is a work of fiction. The author does not recommend/endorse any of the actions taken by the narrator.