If These Strategies Don’t Work, We’ll Try Medication

Haley Petcher

“Do you think I’m a robot?” I asked my mom. I sat on the porch steps and watched her water the flowers.

“Honey, you’d be rusty by now,” she told me. “Robots don’t cry.”

I nodded, considering. “Okay. Okay, but do you think I seem like a robot? Because sometimes–” Sometimes I think you’re a robot. Sometimes talking to you is more like talking to an interviewer than my girlfriend. It’s like you don’t ask the right questions. Sometimes I think you’re a robot.

***

Five things: A copy of East of Eden with a bookmark at the end of Part I, an old cup full of warm water on my bedside table, a folder of ungraded vocabulary quizzes in my bag–Sometimes I think you’re a robot. Talking to you is more like talking to an interviewer than my girlfriend. Sometimes I think you’re a robot.

***

“Friend,” I asked, “do you think I’m a robot? Because, you know, he said–”

***

Four things: My blue chair from college with clothing piled on top, a blanket covered in tropical fish at the end of my bed, a painting of a submarine deep, deep in the ocean that sings, “We must march, my darlings”– Talking to you is like talking to an interviewer. I’ve had a deeper emotional connection with people in three weeks than I had with you in twenty years. Sometimes it’s like you’re a robot.

***

My counselor told me to breathe in for four. Hold for four. Breathe out for four. Hold for four. Breathe in for four.

***

“Do you think I’m a robot?”

“…No? Why would I think that?”

***

Three things: A ring from Scotland on my right hand, a journal full of lesson plans written in black Sharpie pen, and my camera bag that looks like my grandfather’s.

Two things: I see a candle that a student gave me and–Sometimes I think you’re a robot. Talking to you is like talking to an interviewer.

***

But remember one time I made you cookie dough bars because I knew your eyes would light up when you ate them and maybe they would remind you that there’s more to life than that job you hate?

And remember another time I whisked you away to the city where I grew into an adult to watch my friends exchange rings in a backyard, and we walked over the Ohio River and through my favorite park, and you told me that you’d hit the jackpot when you got me, and I felt a warm glow like a candle inside me despite the early April Kentucky cold?

And maybe I don’t cry when I watch sad movies like Meg Ryan does when she watches An Affair to Remember in Sleepless in Seattle, but sometimes my eyes well up when my students bring me a college scholarship essay to review or when they make a point about Frankenstein’s commentary on humanity that I had never thought about before because isn’t it wonderful–isn’t it beautiful–that in that moment they understood something that I didn’t teach them? And I know I’m not a robot.

***

Sometimes I think you’re a robot. Sometimes talking to you is more like talking to an interviewer than my girlfriend. It’s like you don’t ask the right questions. Sometimes I think you’re a robot.

***

One thing: An oval mirror with my face reflected in the center, and I know I’m not a robot.

***

Breathe in for four. Hold for four. Breathe out for four. Hold for four. Breathe in for four.

***

It’s just that sometimes…

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Haley Petcher earned her BA from Auburn University and her MA from the University of Louisville. She currently teaches high school English in Huntsville, AL. This is her first publication.