Haunt Me, Ruth

by: Meera Rohit Kumbhani

Six months in, my friends. Happy quaran-versary.

Six months in and I've finally stopped dreaming of strangers sticking their fingers in my mouth or all my teeth falling out at once.

Now, I just dream of a gumball machine being placed on a gas stove. The burner is turned to HIGH, and the gumballs start bouncing around. Wow, these are no-melt gumballs! I think in my sleep. But they’re gathering a little too much speed and start to shoot themselves around in the little glass sphere they live inside. Well this seems dangerous. I call out for help. Nobody’s around and my hands are too heavy to move.

So I watch, my breath stalled - the pressure is building and the gumballs are now colliding into each other and bouncing off the glass walls at full speed. They’re getting faster and faster and the room smells like burning sugar. Something is going to shatter, I think. Something is going to explode. Any second now... SOMETHING IS GOING TO BLOW WIDE OPEN. I cringe until I become the size of a ferret. Please, god, let it just finally explode!

I wake up. I check my pants, my bra, my plate of room temperature cheese, and I sigh. Everything is still where it’s supposed to be. There is more to go. I force myself to pant 10 times to scare away the onslaught of a panic attack.

If you’re like me, these days, you lift your head up from the news app on your phone every two hours to scream out loud. Only your mouth is closed, so your voice moves inward, backwards, up into the back of your head. And, with nowhere to go, it decides to just bounce back and forth inside your brain for the rest of eternity. If you’re like me, your fury regularly collapses into hopelessness. Someone you love asks, “Why are you taking all of this so personally?” Your eyes pop out of their sockets in incredulity.

If you’re like me, your brain is the gumball machine now. On a gas stove set to HIGH.

At some point, something has to explode.

I’ve downloaded every meditation app on the market. I jazzercise in my apartment. I've joined 36 different political activism groups. I call friends from high school that I don’t really like, but force myself to stay on the phone with them until we’re besties. I check the news aga--


My whole body fills with anger and I mentally spin around like the Tazmanian Devil before he destroys something beautiful.

But if I get quiet enough. Shut my eyes tight enough. Reach my thoughts out far and wide, like arms grasping for serenity… Then somewhere, from the beyond, I can hear a small lady’s ghost telling me to not get angry. In her mesmerizingly calm, Brooklyn-accented voice, I can hear her telling me that anger is a useless emotion. To see the good in people. To go to the opera.

Mrs… Ginsburg?” I whisper, from my fetal position of despair. Oh, God, please, let it be you…! I squeeze every muscle, hoping and praying and wishing and dreaming... I open my eyes - and there she is! Nestling into a corner of my couch. The smallest package of grand magnificence.

She smiles that smile. That small ‘look at me, I’m a ghost...' smile.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg!”

“Yes. That is me. Please close your mouth and let's begin - I have a welding class to get to.”

A bowling ball of grief falls into my stomach as I realize the last remaining “lady” of the world is gone.

“Um. Your Honor…” I scramble to sound intelligent. “I am angry all the time. I can’t sleep. I can barely breathe. They are-- they are grabbing power right out from under us! They are destroying any semblance of protocol and-- they don’t even represent the majority--! They are corrupt! They lie and lie and lie, and get away with it--” I compose myself, try to get to the point. “How did you do it, Ruth? How did you keep yourself from getting angry all the time? Tell me, please.”

“You get to work,” she says, flatly. “You trust in the baby steps.”

But the world is on fire, I think. We don’t have time for baby steps! We don’t have the luxury of --

“Don’t tell me you don’t have the time to be patient.”

Oh shit. RBG can hear my thoughts. Oookay…

“The world is on fire, Ruth -”

“No its not,” she retorts.

“Yes, it is!” I reach for my news app.

“No it’s not.” Full stop. “Many things are burning, yes. But you are sitting on a settee overlooking the mountains and eating watermelon delivered to you through an app. Do not tell me you don’t have the time to be patient.”