Writing Submission: Andrea Abi-Karam’s “Natural Tendency”

Neuroscience major, english minor, and contributor Andrea Abi-Karam’s original story, Natural Tendency, explores the darkest depths of a fractured mind. Reading it may just make you crazy yourself.

Natural Tendency

‘Do you know where you are’

Photo by Andrea Abi-Karam
Photo by Andrea Abi-Karam

i am nowhere

‘Do you know who you are’

i am no one

‘Do you know why you are here’

i am nowhere where i cannot see anything nothing everything awash in light but not always

‘Not during the late evening, there is a difference you know?’

it is light and it is dark but not at the same time never at the same time

‘Can you feel the clock ticking?’

sometimes when you leave me alone

i have been alone here a long while but it has not always been this way. before here there was someone with me. i suspect now he is nowhere also but they tell me he is not anywhere and that here is really someplace in washington by the river so the rushing keeps me calm the serenity of the forest hoards me trying to muffle the echo of my thoughts within the leaves’ filter. i have known him for almost as long as i have known myself but we were not together for that entirety. we first met on the playgrounds of youth spent huddled in unison against the biting chill of winter and steering our bikes along the secret trails of summer. but moving of course compromised all of that. focused  on my own trail of missed connections and intersections we did not meet again until college. on break he convinced me to meet him for breakfast at the diner whose name really is just diner. he did not even look at the menu but just immediately ordered french toast. after careful scrutiny i ordered an omlet with cheese and coffee. cradling my coffee addiction while he unforgiving of all the missed years he stared straight into me just the way they do here both looking for the truth. i cannot give it here i already gave it to him if only he was here he could tell them. if only.

‘Where is he?’



‘It’s too soon’

they always ask me that early every time the sun pierces the sky and into my room and i wake with swollen hands. sometimes it gets so bad they wrap them with itchy chalk paper and still they swell with the ferocity of maggots feasting on a fresh body. i guess i am allergic to nowhere. these are not the slender fingers i used to stroke his hair with. they don’t seem to know where he is. no one does. if they never find him i still will never forget his eyes the only dark penetrating  gaze across the diner booth to match my own. the tightrope of conversation inched back and forth across the table but in the end settled nowhere. strain across the missed years left us in an aimless purgatory with faint thoughts of a future but both of us too proud to admit them. we did not see each other again for three years.

‘Do you know why we wrap your hands every morning?’

i’m allergic to nowhere

‘Do you dream at night?’

i cannot remember after dark i cannot see

‘Can you see him?’

maybe i have once

‘You screamed.’

yes yes  i think i did he was lying on the floor and he wouldn’t get up and his shirt was darker than it was supposed to be then when i woke up my hands hurt

‘You had been punching the wall. Your hands were bloody and swollen so I came over to you and you tried to scratch me. We knocked you out with a tranquilizer and wrapped your hands. It happens every week.’

Photo by Andrea Abi-Karam
Photo by Andrea Abi-Karam

This time I was living alone in the city. School’s constant consummation of time and the wild nights that somehow followed plateaued off into the solitude of research. As a rising masters student I was finally an independent with my own project. I did behavioral research sending little spotted mice into mazes in a primal hunt for food. It was a competition of course a race would the brown spotted or black speckled mouse find the cheese first. If the brown spotted found the cheese first he survived until the next task. My superior beheadead the black speckled mouse and used the remains for her own research we had to conserve resources. it was always the black speckled mouse who lost her head. she never screamed just bleed on the blade of the miniature guillotine. the survival instincts that i studied so meticulously ended in barely a moment. she’s not here.

‘Your pills’

do i have to take them you know i hate them the way they taste

‘You’ve been taking them a long time’


‘when was the first time you took them?’

after i stopped at the lab

‘Why did you stop?’

i clamped shut. that was before all of this even before him that’s right he knew me after the pills

‘What happened at the lab?’

i wanted to know. i needed to know what it felt like and then and then they caught me i wasn’t supposed to

‘What weren’t you supposed to do?’

the lab was desolate save for the occasional squeaks emerging from the mouse boxes. about to begin testing on a new maze i turn on all of the lights and move my box of mice into the maze room which branches off from the main lab area. i wheel back into the main lab area to collect the cheese when i see it. it was just there. it was just gleaming there beneath the fluorescent lights reflecting all the terrible tools my superior uses on a single face of the guillotines blade. not that i hadn’t thought about erasing myself in the style of the eighteenth century to be left for someone else’s advisor to try to analyze all the survival instincts floating around my head. the problem was at that moment there were none. but the blade was too small.

‘You eyed it and wished it was made for you and then when the others came in you snapped?’

i wasn’t finished.


the blade was too small for me. i wandered back into the maze room where i had left them lifted the cover and bore down into their innocent little lives. Then i found him the brown spotted mouse that had survived six mazes whose survival compromised the others. my left hand slid into the box and picked him up gingerly. he was soft. placing him carefully beneath the blade felt him shiver and then i did it and felt his survival instincts dissipate. and then they came in to watch the prize mouse drain over the counter. Before they sent me to the psychiatrist on the third floor they made me watch my career bleed over across the floor.

‘That wasn’t the first time you’ve told that’

no the nice third floor psychiatrist asked why i was there and i told her what happened to the little brown spotted mouse and then what happened to me. at the end she handed me a piece of paper on it scrawled sertraline and diazepam. she said they were for depression and anxiety and that i shouldn’t even try to overdose on them because i would just get nauseous. two sertraline and one diazepam every day. every day they paint my tongue white as my taste buds try to shrink into oblivion just to have twice as many forced onto it while my face scrunches in protest. they helped some they helped me forget the how i was when i did that to the mice and for awhile I didn’t have any more of those feelings but i’m still not sure they’re worth the horrendous taste.

‘You will be’

the psychiatrist said i should try to forget about the lab and maybe get a quiet job for awhile maybe in a restaurant or something and try to figure out what i can really handle doing without decapitating part of my

Photo by Andrea Abi-Karam
Photo by Andrea Abi-Karam

work. So I got a job in a café on lexington ave bussing tables and making coffee. I didn’t like talking to the customers and missed the solitude of my room in the lab. there i was alone. I didn’t like the customers until he came. I hadn’t seen him since the diner in college and then there he was in my café same dark piercing eyes body unmarred except for the jagged scar across his left cheek from a skiing accident. I went to wait on his table he told me to sit down. i sat there listening to him talk to me and all i could do was sit there staring at his left cheek and wonder how it felt when the tip of the ski sliced into his skin the sharpened blade grating against your skull like the cruelest of plastic surgeons leaving him to fall to ground corrupting the fresh powder in red. how was it for the mountain to suck you dry and use you for your sticky warmth. his silence shocked me out of it as i stumbled out of the chair into the back and collapsed on the floor against the cabinet and swallow the three pills. i hadn’t thought about how he had gotten his scar before and these were the kind of thoughts the nice psychiatrist warned me about. i just downed a glass of water and focused on breathing while i fixed him and i cappuccinos. he seemed not to notice my strange exit in the reflection of the cup i handed him. We sat there for hours it was true i had missed him. My boss didn’t seem to mind other than the occasional burning glances which i conveniently ignored. He radiated. I had missed him. We talked for hours and the entire time he couldn’t take his eyes off mine and I could not look away. he asked me out that evening and I stared him straight through the eye and responded yes and he left. hurriedly i closed the café and rushed home to change into a dark evening dress and adorned my neck with fake pearls. I hoped he wouldn’t notice. He took me out to a nice dinner and then took me home. After that I never left. I still worked at the café and occasionally stopped by my apartment for clothes but we were inseparable. He once said to me ‘You are the only person who matched my gaze.’ nothing can break that.

‘It’s broken now.’

no no it is not why wont you let me see him i need to see him. when we are together you will then see

‘You cannot see him.’

why not you cannot keep him from me where is he

‘You know where he is.’

no non o no

‘Why do you love him?’

he told me everything would be alright that one day i would work in a lab and that we would cure Alzheimer’s and that i wouldn’t have to take pills anymore and i wouldn’t have to hide from those terrible thoughts in his arms and that no matter what we would be together

‘Were you happy?’

i was ok he told me i was ok that i was fine and that if i wanted i could try to stop


yes stop the nasty chalk that turns my tongue to sand paper

‘For how long?’

a week passed and i felt no change another passed and the same i was ok until another came

‘What happened?’

i got off late from the café from the stragglers that hide in coffee shops and pretend to have important conversations with important people i had to kick them out it was ten thirty thirty minutes passed closing time. i walked back to his apartment he was out late on a work dinner and told me not to wait even though it was already eleven i did not expect him. the winds took it out of me all i could do when i arrived there was clamber into bed and hide from them. then he came in.


i don’t know but it was not him he was still at a work dinner and i did not know him but he came into our bedroom and started to take off his clothes and i did not know what he would do i tried to hide still beneath the covers but then he started talking to me and i did not know what he wanted but he kept stepping closer to me and then he put his hands on me and i screamed but he did not seem to know why for some reason this was normal to him he acted as though he lived there but i knew that he did not. i slid out of his grip rolling across the bed and reached for the drawer where he keeps the revolver and snatched it up and said listen you better leave now before he comes home and he just said I am home please calm down and put the gun down I think you should take your pills but i couldn’t fathom why he should know about my pills but he took a step closer and i was afraid so i looked him dead in the eye and then i did it aimed for his left breast pocket and pulled it. for a second i was deafened and hoped the neighbors didn’t hear it but i was deafened which meant that they must have been deafened also so they definitely could not have heard it. this all happened as i held his dark gaze while he fell still giving me a pleading a look and i thought that his eyes were familiar. once he finished falling i walked over and stood over him and also wondered at the scar on his left cheek for it was very familiar too and i just hoped that i didn’t know him from the café or something besides it has been years since i have seen him from away from the play grounds of childhood what would he be doing here.

‘Do you know where you are?’

i am nowhere

‘Well I guess you are going to be nowhere for awhile.’

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