7 a.m.— Wake from a night restless with dreams of dangling in the blackness of space, high above earth’s blue sphere, tethered by a whisper-thin, carnation-colored plastic umbilicus. One hand clutched a matching pink hairbrush, and I raised it to my head only to find my skull encased by a plastic bubble, the same color as my tether and hairbrush. Inside the bubble, I screamed, but the helmet trapped the sound. In a lucid moment just before waking, I understood my cries would have mattered little even had I the means of loosing them. Space is a vacuum.
One hour guided meditation with a puppy called Pasithea. Contemplate putting Grumpy Red emoji above the animal’s head. Choose Sad Rain instead. Truth is betwixt and signifiers are human inventions barely prodding at the signified. “Breathe with me,” I plead of Pasithea. His muzzle remains locked in benevolent, yet unknowable stasis. I fondle the waning crescent ensign garotting my exposed neck. “How are you feeling,” my own voice asks. “Use your voice with me,” I hear myself command. But I am all alone, save Pasithea.
8:30 a.m.—A different puppy supports me on my fitness journey, his expression more stern than that of Pasithea. Eris offers me an amethyst-colored hand weight, and like the pink cord of my nightmare, it tethers me to the ground as I stand, fists to the sun, bare feet splayed wide on my cerulean yoga mat. For a moment, my body feels independent of gravity, the hand weights, like the umbilicus, all that stand between me and slipping away.
“Does that mean I’m being held down or in place?” I ask Eris, revolving my silvery hula hoop around the central axis of my athleisure-shrouded hips. My tank top reads GRL PWR, as if even the vowels are uncertain.
10:30 a.m.—The bath puppy is playful, crouched expectantly as I strip to just the bandeau embossed where nipple-less breasts rose in previous lives and step into a frothing bath, glittery with decorative salt. My body feels more jointed than ever before, and I snap these newly-discovered connections tentatively as water licks my tattooed chest, exploring the places where ankle meets knee meets thigh meets hip, all pieces of the whole.
The puppy remains crouched on the wooden platform leading to the tub, mouth open slightly, waiting to fetch some trinket in play. I have been a dog walker, veterinarian, animal trainer, and paleontologist, digging up bones in service of play. Is it self-care to admit I don’t want to play anymore?
“I have nothing for you,” I tell the canine, an anonymous amalgamation of expectation. His rigid smile offers no indication that I have spoken. Have I? Perhaps my voice remains trapped in an invisible space helmet of the world’s creation. The water feels amniotic, lapping me back to my first days as a teen fashion model, even then simply a rack for others to hang their ambition. No skin comes away when I savage one calf with the body brush. There are no layers to me. “Go away,” I yell at the bath puppy, but he stares on. Even this is part of our play.
12:30 p.m.—I pour from the bath stall in a gush of steam. The puppy stationed at the vanity watches me wide-eyed, mouth ajar. It wears an eye mask between its ears, and I understand that this stage of my journey will be about concealment, which feels preferable to the naked realizations sweated into my glittering bathwater. “Dionysus,” I call to the puppy, who rests at my feet as I dirty my face with mud that promises to leech the blemishes resting just below my placid skin’s surface. I rinse and repeat until my epidermis is red and raw, imagining a new, pink self partially uncovered with each layer of mud quaffing my body’s secret refuse, each swipe of the towel clearing the slate. When my face screams to the touch, I soothe it with a Valium-colored face mask, my expression caught midway between Melpomene and Thalia.
“Is self-care meant to heal blisters inflamed by our own sebum?” I ask Dionysus. “Or does it mean to draw away imperfections ground into us by the grit of the external world?” The puppy, expression now hidden beneath its lowered Venetian mask allows the question to dissolve unrecognized.
2:30 p.m.—The only food or escape from my day of wellness are a cucumber eye mask and a magazine called Spa Life. The break time puppy looks pensive. The only clothes provided are a sack-shaped towel dress and a hot pink neck pillow. In Spa Life, other dolls proselytize their own journeys to wellness. One says she had her stress ripped from a permanently flexed foot and now her plastic heels no longer slip off when she’s being made to dance. Another says after doing yoga in an ice bath her arms now bend where they were locked in place before. I eat the cucumbers from my mask and want to believe I can be transformed.
“Am l well yet?” I ask. Arachne says nothing. I eat the cucumbers from the dog’s mask too. I suck on the threads from my terrycloth dress, empty and ravenous, imagining everything myself as a vessel, completely sterile and vacant, receptive to an unsullied future.
4:30 p.m.—With nothing left to sweat out or scrub away, I change into a leafy set of shorty pajamas. This time, the puppy issued me is solid white, a blank slate for projection. My pillow commands “Dream.” But I do not dream. Instead, I search “wellness” on my turquoise laptop and am told it is both the state of being in good health and also an actively pursued goal. I have been running at wellness all day, watching it flutter within grasp and retreat into the distance, the micro and macropsia of my own quietude rising and falling as I spread goo across my face only to wipe it away or swirl my hoop around my finite body in full knowledge that however steadfastly the hoop may spin, its eventual clatter to the floor is inevitable, despite my care and best intentions.
“Charon, what’s next? I’m tired of chasing wellness. Is there a destination?” I ask, but the dog has pulled on its sleep mask and drifted away without me.