Swan Dive! Ch. 11: Do You Think I’m Hexy?

A big double nothing burger with extra nothing on it – that’s how Kim Phillips saw herself.

A lonely loser nobody, just another skinny real estate agent walking around Clearwater Beach in a yellow sundress studded with black polka dots and wearing silver bangles that jangled and gold Roman sandals like she was clinging to Emperor Nero’s arm for cocktails at the Colosseum instead of getting stood up by condo clients she despised for their wealth and power.

Kim didn’t need a man or woman or non-gender person with whom to share her life. She just wanted to feel loved.

The top-of-the-line Jeep lease would soon expire unless the repo man came for the car earlier. Upkeep costs and maintenance fees increased on her own two-bedroom condominium overlooking the Gulf. Her favorite stone crab claws at RayRay’s got too expensive for her to eat more than once a month. Even with a better income, loneliness ate away at her the way acidic saltwater eats away at wooden pier pilings.

RayRay slid into her line of sight holding a fresh Mai Tai he expertly placed on her wet cardboard coaster.

“Bad day, Kim?”

Bar mascot pain-in-the-ass parrot Dillon picked right up on RayRay’s language if not his concern.

“Bad day, Kim? Bad day, Kim? BRAWWKBRAWWK!”

Kim waved a hand in front of Dillon’s beak as if she were swatting a fly off a picnic potato salad, trying to ignore the squawking bobbing bird. If the beast were a husband she’d ask for a divorce.

“Drunk overboard,” Dillon said. “BRAAAK! Drunk overboard.”

“We ought to feature a special tonight on deep fried parrot wings,” RayRay said.

Dillon began to disco dance the way he did when the jukebox played 70s Bee Gees hits.

“I’m OK, RayRay, really,” Kim said.

RayRay patted her hand before slowly walking away to tend to Sam who stood at the end of the bar flapping his arms like a gull and signaling for his first martini of the day. Dillon rolled down on his little homemade skates to see Sam who always had a cracker or two tucked into his pocket for his plumed pal.

Kim wasn’t OK.

Not even close.

Compared to the turmoil she now faced Kim would have welcomed a year’s worth of bad days at the office. Cold words in her head benumbed her brain like a forgotten bag of peas stuck in the ice at the back of the freezer.  

“Buy Becky a drink,” said the voice inside her skull. “Let it all hang out, Kim.”

One night last week a familiar voice appeared in Kim’s head for the first time in more than a decade. Without warning the guttural sound reacquainted Kim with her long gone auditory hallucination, a woman named Becky, who showed up as swiftly as a great white shark attack. That very night, even though Kim was reading a novel in bed and already drowsy, Becky ordered Kim to get up and ready to go to a flashy beach bar that recently opened.

Kim hadn’t heard Becky’s voice in almost 11 years.

Eleven long years ago.

Nobody at the bar knew Kim, and even if somebody had recognized her, she now wore a long red wig with bangs, a rainbow glitter halter top, purple bell bottoms and red high-heeled sandals, all items that clashed with her normally modest fashion taste. Kim also behaved differently with Becky taking over the minute they walked in the door. Becky danced on the table. Becky took off her top. Becky cursed the bouncers who carried her bodily to the curb.

Kim now lived in Becky’s head, a prisoner watching from inside her own dark mental attic, observing from inside her own blown mind. She heard Becky. She saw Becky. She even smelled Becky’s perfume that reminded her of canned peaches in thick sugary syrup.

Drained and exhausted, Kim missed work the next day.

Weeks later when Kim could no longer stand the psychic raid on her sanity, convinced she was having a full scale emotional breakdown, she saw a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist reassured her she was sane. Becky agreed. Even a neurologist said the voice was real to Kim. Both doctors posed the same question.

“Who told you her name is Becky?”

“Becky did,” Kim said.

“I can prescribe something to make her go away,” the psychiatrist said.

Wanting desperately to win the fight against herself by herself, Kim declined.

Scientists agree some people hear a voice or voices without being mentally ill. Voices seem to come out of nowhere, but what causes them? Whose voices are they? What could Kim do to silence this eerie vocalization she carried around each day like the fake alligator skin briefcase she depended on for her job selling visons of paradise?

Working real estate sales at 52 hurt Kim’s feet. Constant smiles hurt her face. Living alone hurt her heart. She should own a dog but dreaded the thought of picking up and putting foul crap in little bags.

“So quit,” Becky said.

“Are you going to support me?”

“I can work as a pole dancer,” Becky said.

 “Like I don’t have enough problems,” Kim said.

She didn’t know the half of it.

Voices sometimes hear voices.

Tara and Shannon, two drunken twin sisters, had moved into Becky’s head even though she lacked a head. Becky kept Tara and Shannon secret as long as she could while these fiends plagued her with daily taunts and eruptions of psychological disorder.

The Irish psycho combo sometimes stayed awake all night arguing in their thick brogues and wailing like banshees whenever their problems got the best of them. Becky tried to referee but always failed. All she could hope for was a level of intoxication so severe the colleens, as they called themselves, eventually blacked out. Despite Becky trying to shield Kim from the continuous bedlam, Kim heard the incessant bickering in three separate voices that made her lose hope and fear the day she herself would meet the phantom sisters.

The she-devils grew more powerful, calling more and more shots in more ways than one (Jameson, Bushmills, Paddy), making Becky pressure Kim to join them more and more often for drinks and pot parties. Kim rode the berserk brainwaves like a stoned surfer on a tsunami to the Apocalypse. Normally a social drinker partial to Chablis or chilled prosecco, Kim lived on the edge, a battered multiple personality too often drunk, depressed and hung over when pointing out the beauty of a gray granite countertop in a waterfront condominium to customers who could smell alcohol fumes wafting from her pores.

Yet, competent doctors maintained that Kim had not lost her mind and was not suffering a breakdown.

Tara and Shannon stayed quiet as a Galway peat bog during the check-ups.

One Sunday morning so very long ago, while Kim made scrambled eggs and vegan sausage, getting ready to settle in for the day with the newspaper, Tara boldly interrupted, confronting Kim directly for the first time, slurring her words in a thick voice as curdled as spoiled dairy cream.

“What, no liver with those yolks?”

Kim jumped like somebody snuck up behind her and fired a gun beside her ear.

“Where’s Becky?”

“Becky’s fookin’ sleeping,” Tara said.

“Wake her, please” Kim said.

Tara shrieked.

“I always ate me liver.”

Now Shannon howled.

“We always ate our fookin’ liver.”

Kim trembled while vegan sausage links sizzled and burned in the pan.

Becky quickly showed up and tried to help.

“Ignore them,” she said.

Kim burned breakfast and went back to bed to try to forget, crying into her pillow like she did when she was just a girl.

 “They’re only figments of your imagination,” Becky said.

“So are you,” Kim said.

“But I’m your friend,” Becky said.

“Those two remind me of my father,” Kim said.

“Took you long enough to figure that out,” Becky said. “Your Irish father spun your head around everyday of your life. Tara and Shannon are just two more traumatized kids, abused spiritual sisters fathered by that old alkie who helped create you.”

Kim felt cold, sick to her stomach, lightheaded. Becky’s voice dropped to a gentle tone sweet as raisin pudding when she asked her most probing question.

“Do you remember when your mother locked you in the closet for not eating your liver?”

“Liver made me sick,” Kim said.

“Your mother got so mad at you she wanted to kill you.”

“I begged her to understand.”

“Your father screamed you should never talk back to your mother, Remember he knocked over his Guinness.”

Kim unblocked the memory. Every Thursday night for years her mother made rare liver and fried onions for the dinner Kim refused to eat. Once Kim got so upset she wet herself. Instead of ordering Kim to her room her mother locked the child for hours in the unlit closet off the small downstairs bathroom.

One night during her frequent imprisonment Daddy died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound her mother said was a cherry bomb when Kim screamed. Kim moved out when she turned 18. Her mother overdosed on Valium pills, and the day she was scheduled to be released from the hospital hung herself in her room with a soiled sheet from the bed.

“I was so scared all the time,” Kim said. “I still am.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Becky said.

“Will you be my friend?”

“You need to befriend yourself,” Becky said.

“Isn’t it too late for that?”

Becky spoke with confidence.

“Talk back to Tara and Shannon. Don’t listen to them. Put those voices in their places. You be the liver on their dinner plates.”

“What about you, Becky? Tara and Shannon control you, too.”

“I can take care of myself,” Becky said.

The next time Tara showed up to mock Kim, the frazzled Florida realtor garnered all the courage she possessed and spoke in a firm, steady tone.

“Leave me alone,” she said.

Tense seconds passed.

Shannon jumped in like a tattooed tag team wrestler.

“Shut your gob, Kim, you slut!”

“No, thank you, I won’t. I’ll do as I please. You know there’s something seriously wrong with you two, right? You might want to see a doctor.”

The twin demons roared in diabolical disharmony.

“Eat your liver! Don’t talk back to your mother!”

For the next month the two Gaelic kelpies tried their best and failed to commandeer Kim’s brain. They took Becky hostage, but Kim stood her ground. In the end these terrible Celtic shadows just disappeared, leaving Kim and Becky alone.

Becky moved out the next day.

Whoever put the whammy on Kim no longer wielded power.

The hex disappeared.

Kim got her head together and healed, taking a few weeks off before going back to work with a new real estate company. Potential buyers put faith in her renewed ability to show and sell one and two-bedroom luxury homes by the Gulf of Mexico.

That was 11 years ago.

In 2020, because of COVID, of course, business plummeted.

Kim’s mood swings swung.

Becky moved home.

Tara and Shannon showed up, too, worse than ever and anxious to party.

They hoped Becky wouldn’t tell Kim.

The colleens wanted to surprise their favorite sister.