“What does this tattoo mean?” he asks, touching Akeelah in Reality, the larger one on my back.
“It’s a girl who meets a man who’s really a monster,” I tell him. “She only sees what he presents to her, but the whole time the monsters are coming out the back of him to swallow her. She realizes it almost too late, and now she is in a perpetual struggle to withstand corruption and stay safe, in the face of the evils coming to get her. If she looks him in the face and fully acknowledges what he is, she’ll be corrupted and lost. If she remains ignorant, she’ll be swallowed.”
“Wow. How did you come up with that?”
“I met some monsters.”
I was going through old messages to a friend, when I found this picture from a few years ago, with the caption, “I need to tell you about SA!”
I didn’t think this picture still existed. I’d deleted it from my phone, along with all the others concerning This Guy. But it turns out my phone saves all mms messages, and this sucker has been with me all along.
I considered deleting it again, but decided not to because
- We look good
- I look happy
- I look young
2 and 3 sort of go together. When I say that I look young, I’m not trying to be ridiculous and imply that I look sooo ollllld now, or that I have a fear of aging. Quite the opposite. By young, I guess I mean that I look my age, which at the time was 20. I look like a 20-year old in this picture, and I think it’s because I’m happy.
The other day in the teacher work room, we were talking about birthdays and ages. The 27-year olds were all surprised that I was five years younger than they. The 30 year-old suddenly felt awkward for hitting on me. My tattoo artist asked me if anyone ever told me I seemed very mature for my age. My ancienne French professor praised my “incredibly strong, emotional maturity”.
At first all of this was cool. It still is, a little, knowing that people will take me more seriously than they might other people my age. This is all when I don’t think about where it’s coming from.
When this picture was taken, the worst thing that had happened to me was my cousin jumping in front of a train. And, I suppose, meeting The Man, and then again finding him inhabiting another person’s body. It’s funny that all of that used to dominate my life.
When this picture was taken, This Guy and I were just ‘friends’. He hadn’t kissed me yet. He also hadn’t yet sat back as my cousin, his friend, abused me, or after our mutual friend, the photographer, raped me. In my life, I had only ever been assaulted. I was a virgin who was afraid of love and had never been in a relationship. As I type it all out, I understand that I wasn’t really innocent back then. The nostalgia of my present day tints it that way, though.
“The yearbook committee completely messed up my senior quote,” I complain to a girl I haven’t seen since high school. “It was supposed to be a quote from Tennyson, The Lady of Shallot? It’s a poem that takes place in Arthurian times.
“Basically, Shallot is a little island upriver from Camelot, and it holds a tower, in which a woman lives. No one ever sees her, but sometimes reapers hear her singing. She spends all day and all night, all her life, weaving at a loom. She weaves what she sees in a magic mirror that hangs beside her and shows her the outside world, and she can only look into the mirror, because there’s a curse on her should she ever stray from it. But she gets so tired of only seeing the world second-hand.
“Then one day, Lancelot stops by Shallot on his way back from a quest. He doesn’t really pay attention to anything, and just sort of bathes and sings to himself before riding off again, but that’s it for the Lady. She decides that she wants to see him for herself. So she leaves the loom, and looks out the window, and falls in love with what she sees. Only immediately afterward, she’s hit by the curse. She flees from her tower and gets into a boat heading after Lancelot toward Camelot, but she dies on the journey over.
“Anyway, my quote was
She left the web; she left the loom
She made three paces through the room
She saw the water-lily bloom
She saw the helmet and the plume
She look’d down on Camelot
“It’s the perfect part of the poem. She decides she’s had enough of the limits. In an extreme bout of courage, she leaves the world she knows, and for the one moment between leaving and the curse hitting her, everything is beautiful. Of course, the committee messed everything up and stopped the quote in the middle, saying it was by a Lily Bloom.”
In so many ways, I have tied myself down to my present understanding. As lies and manipulations have surfaced, as true characters are exposed, clarity necessitates that the cousin is gone, XXXXX is deleted, This Guy has been removed. It’s torture to look back on lies, to remember false realities, so I don’t. But I think I’ll keep this one picture. This Guy was never fully a monster, and the happiness in this picture is completely real. Everything about this picture is real, I am as happy as possible, and on the edge of Everything. This picture is a water-lily, and it’s nice to know that the past has flowers among the thorns.
I look at this picture, and the monsters slither and weave out of The Man’s back, and all I can do is put up my hand to hold them back, because I am tired. I am tired. And maybe it’s okay that I won’t have seven kids, because maybe I’m like an animal, aging faster than my years, and maybe 83 will come to me faster than it would a normal person.
Or maybe I’m not the Lady of Shallot, and maybe this is my awful moment at the edge of some great happiness, and maybe in aging quickly I’ll be able to retire faster. Maybe my boat will make it to Camelot before I’m dead. She did go out unprotected in a storm, and with my maturity comes weathering experience.