Monthly Archives: March 2014

Searching

It was hard, at first, being without you. Not that it’s easy now. But after your body was first discovered, and after the flowers, and the songs, and the hugs and gifted food were all gone, it was so hard. As the denial drained out of me I felt all hope, for you, for better days, for the future, for myself, flush away as well. I was hollow. The feeling that is now familiar was just making itself at home, and it messed with my reality.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I sat in class staring blankly at my chemistry teacher. No one was paying attention. People were talking; classmates were playing around, laughing and tossing papers at each other. Everyone around me was animated and alive, while I felt very dead. Dead enough to press myself into my desk; to feel as if I was pressing myself through my desk, through the floor and into the ground. I was in the ground, sinking. I looked up to see the sky shrink away as earth closed in around me, and then everything was dark.

I started to swim through the earth. Above me, I heard trains whistling, and then I was too deep to hear anything. My moves were fast, yet calculated. I was looking for you. But where were you? And why had you left me at all? Why had you lied, and told me that you were going to be okay, when all along you had been planning to leave me? Where were you? How could you?
Where were you? The more I thought, the more frantic my strokes became. I needed to find you, to hold you, to have you back again. But the world is huge, even huger when you’ve lost someone, and this was starting to seem like a lost cause. There was too much ground to cover, and I was losing control.

I couldn’t wait any longer.

Edward!” I screamed, opening my mouth for the first time. Maybe if you heard me, heard my anguish and fear, you would come back. “Ed – ”

But you shouldn’t open your mouth underground. All the dirt came rushing into my body. It filled my mouth and my throat. It got into my lungs, and my eyes and my ears. It was everywhere, and still coming. This wasn’t how I’d wanted to fill my hollowness, and you still weren’t there.

I started vomiting. Every last bit of dirt, every reminder of loss, of abandonment, of grit and the baseness that I felt, I needed it out of my system and away from me. I retched and writhed and sobbed, and then I wasn’t underground anymore. I was back at my desk, still retching and writhing and sobbing but silently, dryly. No one noticed.

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Word Pressure

I’ve been thinking about the way I speak, even the way I write. There are so many words that come pouring out of me and if uncapped, they could go on for quite some time. The funny thing is that most of them have already been edited down in some way. What I say is usually thoughtful, and yet there’s so much of it. I can’t condense.

I tend to sit on my words. They’ll be in my head for a long time. I find sharing my thoughts to be difficult. Usually it’s because people won’t listen. When they do decide to hear me, there isn’t enough time to get out what needs to be said.

You know what I hate? People asking, “What’s wrong?” or “What are you thinking about?” when they clearly only have time forr a two-second response. We both know that your question was merely a formality. Why do the rules of politeness so often leave me feeling more offended than I would have been without them?

Maybe it’s because people seem to have stopped saying what they mean. In my case, if I can’t find the words to say what I mean, I will often choose to say nothing at all. That doesn’t mean that the words go away. They’re still in my head.

In The Phantom Tollbooth, there’s a chapter in which Milo, the principle character, goes into a land without sound. All the sound has been taken from the population by their queen, as a sort of punishment. She keeps the Sound in her castle, and it becomes Milo’s duty to sneak a sound out of the castle and into the land, to restore everything. He tries to slip sounds into his pockets, but the queen catches him each time. Then he tries to protest something, beginning to say the word “but–” when the queen cuts him off, and he realizes that the word is still in his mouth. Milo keeps that “but” in his mouth until he gets back outside, whereupon he releases it and sound comes crashing back into the land, demolishing the queen’s castle.

I think that’s what happens with the words in my head. Some of them have been kept here for days and weeks, some months and years, and eventually they have to find their way out. It’s like a dam bursting, one that I cannot seem to control, but can only guide with syntax and editing, and bits of style. I can’t condense. I may never be able to. Not until people start listening, and the buildup decreases, anyway.

You Go, Girl

My friend is filing charges against her assaulter. The same friend for whom I wrote my previous post, is finally finding her voice, and I could not be more proud of her. I wish that I could find mine, beyond a webpage.

I know that it’s too late for me to do anything about my own situation. Something that happened over the summer, that has already been forgotten, couldn’t be brought up now. It would seem, what? Petty? Irrelevant? It would cause too many problems, and it would be awkward. He stays with the woman who used to babysit me. He’s on a football career track. I don’t even know if it would mess up his life, but I do know that it would be an annoying complication, one that would be too stressful for me to even begin.

“You know what’s weird?” I told my friend, after she told me that she was going to go ahead with charges. “You have so much power, you almost seem powerless.”

It’s true. It seems like women have a history of hiding their powers, knowing that for them to be exposed would only cause more problems. If you’ve been assaulted, you should have all the power. With the right litigation and timely action, you could make your perpetrator’s life hell. You could mess up his record, his scholarships, his schooling, his work, you could do damage. Damage that he would deserve. The only problem is that you’re generally too nice to do all these things that wrongly come off as “mean.” Who really wants to seriously complicate someone else’s life, especially if that someone else is a friend? It probably isn’t you, and he probably knows that it isn’t you, which is why he chose you in the first place. So you’ll let him get away with it, and blame yourself, and he’ll either keep doing it to you or move on to do it to someone else.

Then you’ll be left feeling like your body isn’t even yours, like you don’t own it. And it’s not as if anyone else owns it, either, but rather as if it’s just out there for the public to use at will. I think about this a lot, especially if I’m at a party and forced to dance with a guy with whom I don’t want to dance. Whoever came up with the “bitch” idea was a genius, because running away from that label has chased me into a number of unpleasant situations.
“Bitch” isn’t the only label that seems to keep power in check, and it doesn’t only apply in cases of assault or harassment. There are the “shrew”s, “bossy”s, and “ice queen”s, and the dreaded future label of “old maid”. In addition to not wanting negative labels, we’re also afraid of being alone, and have come up with a whole set of behavioral rules to avoid this.

I was at a bachelorette party that had a segment set aside for “advice”.
“We get married to stay married,” was the idea behind it, and there were rules for the bride to follow in order to ensure that this happened. One was, “You must never tell your man ‘no’ — even if you are angry, or upset, or tired.”
I was not feeling that rule. I knew better than to voice my opinion on the matter, but also that I would never want to follow this piece of advice. If I want to say ‘no’, I will, I told myself.

But will I? I don’t know. I’d like to think so. I’ve gotten better about sticking up for myself recently but I can’t forget the summer, and I know that a husband would be harder to deny. Of course you want a marriage to last, don’t you? And given the culture of surrender with which I’ve grown up, I haven’t seen many expectations for men to make sacrifices when it comes to preserving relationships. I think that’s partly why I’ve chosen to stay single for so long, and why I’m not crazy about the idea of getting married in the future. I don’t want to be alone forever, but the way I see things, women always have more power until they end up with a partner. I’m not sure if I’m ready to sacrifice what power I do have yet, even if by social standards I’m only allowed to tap into a minimal amount of it.

Yet here comes my friend, about to kick hers up a notch. I hope the guy gets fried. He deserves it. I hope he gets fried, and I hope she inspires a wave of empowered women. Examples, like ideas, like flames, are catching.

SevenTwenty

“Why do you count how many days it’s been since your cousin killed himself?” my friend asked.
“I don’t know,” I told her. “It’s not that it helps..me feel better..because it doesn’t. But I think it helps..me process..what has happened.”

And it does. In 10 days, it will have been two years since you jumped in front of the train, and that doesn’t make sense to me. Two years already? When I say that, it’s as if the time passed quickly, as if I wasn’t even aware of it going by, as if nothing of consequence had even happened. There’s no way I could have survived two years without you, so maybe it didn’t really happen.

It hasn’t been two years, though. It’s been 720 days. Seven hundred and twenty days of waking up, knowing that you won’t be here anymore. Seven hundred and twenty days of “just getting through the day”, which I suppose is how I’ve managed to make it this far.

I have so many memories of you flooding into me. At first, all I could remember was the time around your first attempt and final success. Now, I remember my life with you. I see the dips of the roller coaster at the state fair, taste the snow cone I ate while you complained of a stomach-ache. I remember screaming with you in your brother’s room, after finding a millipede crawling on his bed. I remember laughing, always laughing, about stupid stories we’d make up together and jokes we’d tell. The boredom we’d feel watching older cousins playing video games, but the closeness there would be cocooning us all, even when we fought (which we did a lot). I remember showing you how the snow on your front lawn was hard enough to support us, and slick enough to slide around on, like we were “ice skating.” And I remember falling, after finding a particularly slick patch of snow, and landing painfully on my wrist. I got up and ran back into your house, and you came puffing after me.

“Kia, don’t do that,” you told me, seriously, after catching your breath. “You can’t just run away like that if something happens, or if you’re hurt. Especially without saying anything to me. You made me really worried.”

But now you have run away, permanently, without saying anything to me, and I can’t understand it. I can’t. The only thing I can process is that it has been 720 days without you. I don’t know how long the counting will help. It’s possible, probable, that this will all backfire someday. Maybe I’ll hit 5,000 and want to stop counting. Maybe I’ll hit 10,000 and convince myself that enough days have passed and I’ve earned my time to rest, and be with you again. I suppose I’ll deal with that when I get there.

For now, though, I’ll be counting until I find a better way of understanding. It’s been 720 days, and it will be the rest of my life.