Compulsion by Sharon Goldberg

Compulsion

I’m addicted to Diet Coke but nothing else. I sleep late, often until 11:00AM, sometimes noon. I’ve saved a lock of an ancient boyfriend’s red hair and a strawberry rolling paper from the first time I got stoned. I didn’t go to my high school senior prom and it gnaws at me. I don’t camp; I value indoor plumbing and am overly sensitive to insects. I never watch ESPN. I do watch “The Bachelor” even though I know the cast is manipulated and more interested in social media stardom than finding love, but I’m ever hopeful. In 1925, my Uncle Harry sold my grandfather a horse that died, the only scandal in my family until my husband left me and married my cousin. Still, I believe in love. I’ve never made my mother’s chicken soup recipe and feel guilty about it. As a child, at movies, I ate lollipops, sticks included. I sucked them until they turned soft and digestible. I didn’t realize the McDonald’s Golden Arches formed an “M” until I was in my fifties. McDonald’s, FYI, is the best place to buy Diet Coke. I am a college graduate but never finished my master’s thesis: The Effect of Critical Opinion on Audience Attendance at a Theatrical Production. I followed my boyfriend to Los Angeles instead. I’m not at all religious but many in my family are. I don’t believe in God. Usually. I am terrified of death. Maybe because I’m not religious and don’t believe in God. I’ve accumulated at least ten scars — most of which you won’t notice unless you look very, very closely — one due to a pillow fight gone awry with my redheaded boyfriend. My dreams are frequently nightmares. I was the smartest kid in my elementary school class until the boundaries changed and, at my new school, I met Terry Strukely. I had a crush on Terry for three years, but we’re still friends. When I was ten, I could read 60 words of Hebrew in one minute, the class record. I was a virgin until I was 21. I don’t remember most of that night, but it wasn’t about love. I like long walks on the beach at sunset blah blah blah one of which occurred at Club Med in Playa Blanca, Mexico, the first evening I spent with my ex-husband. The next day we went snorkeling and the ocean got rough and I thought I was drowning. My ex saved my life, a bonding experience, the beginning of our love affair. I was stung by a bee in Copenhagen and thought I had an allergic reaction but the swelling was just swelling. I’m not allergic to anything but I suffer from non-allergic rhinitis, so my nose runs. I was a struggling actress for many years; a critic once said of my performance in Compulsion, “She brings a viability to her character that helps validate the entire play.” I’ve often fallen for my co-stars including Gil Levin in Compulsion. I can imitate a chicken and a guppy. In Belize I was relentlessly attacked by sand fleas. I counted 93 bites. The first man I loved became a rabbi and is now in prison for molesting young congregants. I am an avid skier but not early in the morning. I have no interest in space travel. My favorite poem is “Jabberwocky” which I can recite by memory although I may forget the name of someone I met yesterday. One night, in bed with an actor I performed with, he whispered “I love you.” I said, “Are you awake?” He gave me a copy of his favorite book, Lafcadio, by Shel Silverstein, a children’s story about a lion who learns to shoot a gun and turns it on his hunters. I’m a Leo, as was my co-star, so the gift was especially touching even though I don’t believe in astrology. According to those who do, I should be compatible with Aries and Sagittarius, the other fire signs, but I’ve never ruled out earth, air, or water signs. I’ve had three facelifts. I met my current sweetheart Arnie, an electrical engineering professor, online. Like me, he drinks Diet Coke so we buy it by the caseload. Arnie and I have been together for sixteen years; we’re life partners. I still believe in love.

Sharon Goldberg is a Seattle writer who was an advertising copywriter in a former life. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in The Gettysburg Review, New Letters, The Louisville Review, Cold Mountain Review, River Teeth, Green Mountains Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Southern Indiana Review, Gargoyle, four anthologies, and elsewhere. Sharon won second place in the On the Premises 2012 Humor Contest and Fiction Attic Press’s 2013 Flash in the Attic Contest. She is an avid but cautious skier and enthusiastic world traveler.

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