“Nothing* could be worse than dripping taco sauce+ on her brand-new† wool‡ sweater¤.”
*In her immediate current vicinity. **
+Is it even “taco sauce” if she used no ground beef, no garlic, and no onion? I think it’s just sauce. ++
†Seriously, she just removed the tags and steamed out the lines from the folding and packaging. ††
‡Because of course she wouldn’t be caught wearing acrylic or a wool blend. No—not her. Wool, maybe even cashmere. ‡‡
¤More of a sweater dress, but I suppose you could still call that a “sweater” since it’s knitted and sweater-like material. But why not say dress? ¤¤
**That’s not really true, though, is it? Considering that in her immediate vicinity, she has cats, a husband, a house, a car. Surely, plenty things could be worse than this? What is it with these convoluted turns of phrase? ***
++I suppose she could make an argument that anything can be a taco if you eat it in a taco shape, but that argument would be quite empty. +++
††Because she spends way too much fucking money. It’s embarrassing. She hides it, and she opens packages when no one is looking and disposes of the packaging and the tags before anyone finds out. †††
‡‡Because she’s a snob, and she’s always cold. ‡‡‡
¤¤Because she’s still embarrassed that she’s lost her glamorous style for this shapeless, rectangular wardrobe. Sure, it’s comfortable. But it’s not sexy. Not even close. ¤¤¤
***Because she can’t bear to acknowledge the actual problems she has. They’re weighing her down. They’re all but suffocating her.
+++And she does, because she can’t eat tacos. She can’t eat the things she loves. She has to pretend.
†††Because she’s tried to stop, and she wishes desperately she wasn’t so obsessed with things and things and THINGS. ††††
‡‡‡Because, really, artificial fabrics make her skin break out in rashes and acne, and she can never seem to regulate her body temperature because she’s always sick.
¤¤¤Because she’s sick—more sick than most people know. Because she’s always distended and in pain; she looks six months pregnant most days. Because she can’t bend or turn or twist or lie on her side or have sex or hold her cats without pain, without wincing, without crying and sometimes gasping or screaming or falling to the ground. ****
††††But she’s autistic, even if she “doesn’t seem autistic,” and collecting things is her biggest obsession, and trying not to collect causes physical discomfort, and she knows no one will understand.
****So she buys herself nice things, and she cares for them, and she finds comfort in the soft wool against her distraught body, and, truly, what could be worse than ruining that?
Adrienne Marie Barrios is the editor-in-chief of Reservoir Road Literary Review and CLOVES Literary and author of the collaborative poetry collection Too Much Tongue (Autofocus, 2022), co-written with Leigh Chadwick. Her work has appeared in trampset, Passages North, Identity Theory, Sledgehammer Lit, and X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, among others. She edits award-winning novels and short stories. Find her online at adriennemariebarrios.com.