Tag Archives: Suicide

This Time

The third one is of a giant woman riding a giant leopard, with giant hair billowing around her head. Behind her is an eagle, swooping toward her, talons outstretched.

It isn’t attacking her. That’s what some people think.

She isn’t supposed to be me.

“She looks like you!” says a lady in the locker room.

“You don’t look like her,” my friend tells me.

“Cool,” I say. “That’s not what it’s supposed to be anyway. They aren’t supposed to exist. you don’t have leopards and bald eagles organically in the same place. The world wasn’t made for that. But my body was. And she isn’t real, but she exists anyway, and maybe that’s powerful.”

I can now pull myself up if I subtract 80 pounds. Last week it was 90, the week before that it was 110. I don’t know what’s changing. Most days I’m too tired to really work out, now that my day has been extended.

“I hope you’re making more money than Oprah, with how busy you are,” says the only other Congolese person in Flatbush.

“Je travaille plus pour l’humanité que pour l’argent,” je lui répond, but I’m not even sure if that holds. It sort of does. I’m happy not to have immediate financial worries, but I’m also terrified of getting cancer, or getting locked out, or breaking technology, or losing health insurance and having to pay for birth control again. So when it comes down to it, there are more lucrative things I could be doing if I believed in a future after four years.

I also wish I hadn’t picked this month to go back on bc. I wish I could know the reasons behind how I’m feeling at this moment. If it’s the administration, my own mental health, the changes in hormones, or the anniversary.

“I should apologize. I know I haven’t been a good friend, and I was supposed to make it up to you tonight, and I came so late we almost missed the concert,” she tells me on the train. “You must hate me. I bet you’re thinking, ‘Oh, this fucking bitch!’”

I don’t use that word. I look down and see the leopard’s paw poking out.

“I didn’t expect to see you out last night, even though I invited you,” I tell her, slowly. “So when you showed up, it was beautiful and amazing. I was so happy to see you because it was such a surprise. But tonight, when I needed you, and you knew I needed you, you sort of let me down. And it feels like things work so much better when I expect nothing from you, because then it can always be nice. But I don’t think I can count on you anymore.”

They ride away.

Five days later, the friendship is over. Apparently telling her the truth about my feelings was uncalled for. It’s wrong to say that I can’t count on her, she tells me, but I shouldn’t have expectations for her either. So, you agree with what I was saying? What? Oh…yeah. Whatever, it still shouldn’t have been said. She doesn’t need that in her life right now.

“What you have to understand,” he explains later, “Is that people want the truth but not really. You are a no hold bars kind of lady, but not everyone can handle that.”

“What I am JUST realizing,” I say, “Is that people really aren’t honest, but I always assume they are. I operate under the assumption that everyone is being 95% straightforward with their thoughts and feelings, just as I am. But everyone else just assumes I’m like them. So when I’m being honest and up front, they think I’m being shady and hiding things still. And if what I’m saying bluntly is harsh, they assume I’m much nastier underneath.”

“…Yeah, actually,” he agrees.

“But honestly, I think I’ll keep the vice,” I tell him. “I’m trying to spend as much time in reality as possible, and I don’t need already-toxic people dragging me away for their own sakes.”

It’s only ever been the most negative, the most toxic, the ones who stole the majority of my energy, who haven’t been able to handle my honesty. Who have left. The toxic ones, and you.

Were you toxic, Edward?

I don’t think so. I definitely think you unleashed a swath of demons into my life, I know The Man used you as a gateway, and too much of my energy got tied up into yours. But I’ve let it go. Or I’m still letting it go, and it gets better all the time, and I can feel myself getting harder. I just have to remind myself of that during this time of year.

But you definitely didn’t like my honesty, either. You didn’t like that I saw parts of you and pulled them to the surface.

Your sexuality. Your body negativity. Eating disorder. Drug problems.

Suicide attempt.

So you lied to me, a lot. And in the end, I believed you, because I wanted to. And it was so much worse when a jogger ran into the dead truth on the morning train tracks.

2016 was about being conscious of energy. 2017 is being mindful of time. Where is my time going, what am I doing with it, who am I spending it on, and Is It Being Wasted? I don’t have time to waste on people who will steal my energy. I don’t have time to waste with lies. I only have time for the truth, for understanding, for enlightenment, and for advancement. Shadows, go away.

Edward, come back.

I’m just kidding. I know you can’t.

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Who Wants to Be in a Piece?

I wrote this to be performed, then realized I have no performers. Eventually I want to turn it into some sort of visual story. As my visual skills are lacking, that may take a while. So in the meantime, here.

 

I heard that after she died, her mother wanted to move to a place where no one knew her, so that she could walk outside and be sad without wearing sunglasses.

I wish I could do that. All of that.

I wish I could be publically sad. I wish I could walk around crying when I felt like it. More than that, though, I wish that I could want to go somewhere that no one knew me. I wish that living amongst strangers were an attractive dream, and not a nightmare. It would allow for the possibility of escape. But right now, walking amongst strangers is one of the most terrifying experiences I go through.

What are the social rules for when you walk through strangers?

Repeat: “After she died, her mother wanted to move to a place where no one knew her, so that she could walk outside and be sad without wearing sunglasses. I wish I could –”

Whom do you greet? At whom should you smile? I want to be friendly; I want to be kind.

In high school, a speaker came to our school to talk about bullying. He told us the story of a man who was so depressed that he jumped off a bridge. In his suicide note, the man said that he would turn around and commit to living, if one person smiled at him on his walk to the bridge from his home.

I think about that story every day.

I think about calls I never made, and texts I sent too late.

I think about my own jumper.

I don’t want to be the inadvertent cause of another.

BUT –

I don’t really want to be that friendly, either. To strangers. Who don’t know me, and who could misinterpret my intentions in smiling. I don’t want to smile at the wrong person and then regret it.

Hidden Thought: “Edward”

What I didn’t realize would happen after I was raped: I became afraid of men. I don’t think many people think about the extent to which this happens. You think, Oh, well of course. A man did this to you, so you’ll have trust issues. What you don’t realize is that there will come a time when you’re walking through the city with an acquaintance, and you will pass by a group of guys on the corner. You will notice them noticing you, and why shouldn’t they? You look good. Hair nice, new lipstick, skirt with the slits. Let ‘em watch! you’ll think as you walk by, until you notice them peel off the corner and start to walk behind you. And for three blocks, as they continue to walk behind you, your acquaintance will talk and talk and never notice how silent you are, how rigid you are becoming. As you hear the low murmur of their voices, punctured by sinister laughs, as you begin to be confused about whether their footsteps are shaking the Earth, or you are just shaking, you’ll be thinking about the keys in your purse, wondering, if I push them between my fingers, can these work as brass knuckles? Or will that just make them mad, and rougher with me? If I just submit without trying, will they be gentler? Will anyone believe me after? Will they blame me?

Thought: “Of course they will.”

*Everyone pauses, Thoughts look at Khalilah, then all resume walking*

Repeat: “What I didn’t realize would happen after I was raped: I became afraid of men. I don’t think – ”

You will be scared out of your mind, because you will know that those guys are there to rape you, that they will rape you. This you will know, even after it turns out that the guys were just walking, and have turned off somewhere else, because this is what you have internalized: if someone you know and trust, someone who could be a friend, could do this to you, then there is nothing to stop a stranger, someone with no connection to you, and no reason to care about you, from violating you.

From One side: “You’re stupid to want to look nice. You’re an idiot, trying to be attractive, just luring them in, and expecting them not to touch you. *Getting closer to Khalilah’s face* Don’t smile at anyone! Do you want to be asking for it?”

From Other side: “Edward.”

*Thoughts begin to walk in imperfect circle around Khalilah, stepping out of the circle to speak, and then re-entering as she speaks*

There are too many dates on the calendar. On February 16, we found his suicide note.

“Don’t let him die.”

On December 24, he told me that he was better. That he was committed to being healthy.

“What’s wrong with him, Khalilah?”

On March 25, a jogger found his body.

“Why can’t you be friendly?”

On May 20, he told me he loved me as he invaded my body.

“I never said, ‘he did not rape Khalilah’. Stop worrying that I’m spreading a counter narrative about you, and worry about yourself.”

*Khalilah stops smiling, turns from a Thought*

“Well fuck you then, bitch.”

From other side: “Edward.”

*Everyone stops walking*

You ever get to a place where your traumas seem to trump you? Where you’ve got to choose to let one run wild over you, so you can combat the other? It’s like a game a whack-a-mole where I am both batter and target.

*Resume walking randomly, not in a circle. Thoughts should be pretending they have somewhere to go, intersecting Khalilah/each other like traffic, but without forcing anything (if that makes sense)*

He is 1,728 days dead. And she would be 301 days old. I’ve got ghosts on each shoulder.

Does he have any? Does he have ours? The man whose name I am legally no longer allowed to say. Would he deny his daughter? My daughter? The proof of his perpetration. His friends, fellow activists, would no longer be able to send me hateful messages, or accusations, or spread their guilt-induced counter narratives, not with her around. She would have to be female, I know, because I would hate any son in his image. Any man.

“Edward.”

Please, please stop saying his name. I’m not even thinking it. I’m not saying it.

Thought from other side of the room: “You can still feel his dreads sometimes. You still see him when your eyes are open, and feel him when your eyes are closed. You can still hear the contrast between your moans and his laughter – ”

*Khalilah runs over as it speaks, faster now*

I don’t want to, I don’t want to. Those aren’t things I want to hold onto, those are memories I want out of my thoughts –

Thought from the other side of the room: “Edward.”

*Khalilah whirls around*

NO! Stop. He isn’t here. Why don’t people understand the power of names, the power of calling someone? Call a living person, and you summon an idea of them. When someone is dead, the idea of them becomes their essence. I do not want to deal with his ghost right now. His nonexistence. He left. He left – me. You cannot call him; I cannot call him – 

*Thoughts have been moving closer to Khalilah as she unravels. They pull cords out of their pockets, and begin to move quickly around Khalilah like a Maypole, binding her*
*Different thoughts begin to speak, in round form. After the first gets out two sentences, the next begins, and the next after the second’s first two sentences*

“He is seventeen-hundred, twenty-eight days dead. And she would be 301 days old. There are too many dates on the calendar. On February 16, we found his suicide note. On December 24, he told me that he was better. That he was committed to being healthy. On March 25, a jogger found his body. On March 20, he told me he loved me as he invaded my body. You ever get to a place where your traumas seem to trump you? Where you’ve got to choose one to let run wild all over you, so you can combat the other?”

“I wish I could be publically sad. I wish I could walk around crying when I felt like it. After she died, her mother wanted to move to a place where no one knew her. More than that, though, I wish I could want to go to a place where no one knew me. What are the social rules for when you walk through strangers? Whom do you greet? At whom should you smile?”

“You think, Oh, well of course. A man did this to you, so you’ll have trust issues. 

*When Khalilah is sufficiently bound, one Thought moves to cover her mouth. She struggles around, moving her head to get out the last bit of monologue, while one Thought goes to get tape*

SOMETIMES I THINK THAT MY THOUGHTS ARE GOING TO TAKE OVER MY EXISTENCE. SOMETIMES I THINK I’LL HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN GETTING BY AND LIVING, AND ACTUALLY MAKING SENSE OF WHAT’S HAPPENING.

SOMETIMES I THINK THAT I’LL GO INTO MY HEAD TO ORGANIZE MY THOUGHTS, AND I’LL GET LOST. I’LL LOSE CONTROL, AND MY THOUGHTS WILL ALL SWIRL UP AND CONSUME ME AND I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO COMPLETELY SPEAK AGAIN. IT’LL JUST BE ME, IN MY HEAD, MUTE, WITH MY TRAUMAS.

*Thought finally succeeds in taping Khalilah’s mouth shut. It gently runs its hands over the tape, pressing it down more firmly, as the others stand watching, still holding their ends of the cords*

*A New Person enters, dressed in ordinary clothes*

New Person: “What are you thinking about?”

Soul Interactions

She’s so beautiful.

Not physically. I mean, physically, she’s pretty, but it’s more like her insides are shining out of her, and I can see them.

“You can have so many soul mates,” my friend once said. “It’s really just that they all came out of the same soul circle. So when you’re born, you came from a group of souls, and you can find them out in the world. And that’s why we’re soul mates.”

I wonder if this girl is one of my soul mates.

She finds me in what has now turned into a party. I’m talking to a guy, and she comes in just as he’s asking me “what I am”. It’s always so weird interacting with people in my home town, out of the social justice, aware bubble, but I find these interactions easier than I used to.

“But really,” he’s saying. “Are you light skinned?”
“Do you see me?” I ask him. “What kind of question is that?” I’m being sarcastic, making fun of him. He knows it, she knows it, he flips me off exasperatedly, and I answer.
“My mom is a white lady from Ohio,” I say, “And my dad is a black man from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m Congolese-American.”

I can tell by their blank yet friendly expressions that they’ve never heard of Congo.

“Well, whatever you are, you’re beautiful,” she tells me. “Like so so beautiful,” and this is nice to hear, because I can look in the mirror and tell myself I have beauty until I’m convinced of it abstractly, but it means something coming from a girl who is a stranger, out of nowhere in a way I can instantly believe.

“Do you know what I am?”
“Are you mixed?” She nods. “Hispanic and…white?” She laughs.
“I’m Cuban and Lebanese!”
“Oh wow, how did that come about?”
“…Sex.” We laugh.
“No, what I meant is, how did your parents meet?” Her eyes widen and she smiles like she has a secret, then leans in and whispers in my ear, “In a mental hospital.” She sits back on her heels and looks at me.
“That’s amazing,” I say. “Like actually really hopeful. How are they doing now?”
“Well, my dad has been dead since I was really young, but my mom is pretty good,” she says.
Our souls reach out and hug, and she clasps my hands, and we continue talking until she has to go check to make sure her friends haven’t left her here. “They tend to forget me.” It’s my friend’s house. She’s friends with the guy, who invited her other friend, who invited her and a lot of Random people.

I’m sitting alone for a minute, and then a guy from high school comes over. I haven’t seen him since New Year’s Eve, but really a week before that when a bunch of us were in his house eating latkes.

“How have you been?” he asks me, “Since the last time we spoke?”I think back. “Comparatively better,” I say. “The last time I saw you, life was not very great, was it?”
“Last time I saw you, your life was terrible,” he answers.
“Yeah, it was!” I laugh. It’s hilarious, because it’s true, but also because I would never think to call my life terrible. I mean, privilege. I think back. “Well -“

“What happened to you?” Across the room, the guy has been listening to our conversation. “Did you have a pregnancy scare or something?” He’s joking.
“Actually, I did,” I tell him. Because of my rapist, I think in my head.
“Yeah, so did I!” He’s still joking, though. “Hard life!”
“…Should we maybe not have this conversation here?” My friend wants to know.
“No, I really don’t care. If anyone listens in, they’ll just be upset by what they hear,” I say, then give him bullets. “So basically, I finally yelled at my parents about how they handled my rape. We’ve been repairing our relationship. I dated a guy for a bit, or I guess I had been when I saw you last, but he was waayyy more into me than I was into him, so eventually I broke up with him. Or tried to, but he held on for about a month. And then the day after he finally let go, this guy with whom I’ve had an on-again, off-again thing with told me he loved me. And I loved him back, and we were happy for a minute, but it turned really sour and sad and has gone on until last week. Which is sort of extremely heart breaking, but I can’t do anything about it. And also, I went to South Africa and got raped again.” I burst into laughter. He is, what someone else comments from across the room, horrified.

“Are you joking?”
“No! Isn’t that ridiculous? What freaking luck!” I laugh and laugh and laugh while he rocks back and stares at me, not knowing what to say, and that makes me laugh more. And then we’re interrupted by an arguing couple. The guy tears out of the house, and I hug the girl as she sobs, and I am thankful that I have not at least been like this. In a house of strangers watching my relationship deteriorate.

She’s back. She finds me again, and takes my hand in hers, and we talk. At one point, she tells me,
“You are just amazing. I feel so good talking to you. You know, you get people. You would be a really good psychologist, or like a therapist,” and that’s cool. She invites me to play a drinking game, but I’m staying away from being drunk for a while, so I leave her, and the guy from high school comes back.

“You know, I worry about you sometimes,” he tells me, which is surprising, given that we rarely see each other. “Ever since that party four years ago, when you were so drunk.”

There was only one time I got drunk four years ago.

“Was it the summer?” He nods. “With Derrick?” Nods. “At Dominique’s house? You were there?” Nodding nodding nodding. “Oh, shit,” I say. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I ruined that party.”
“No you didn’t,” he says. “You mostly just talked to me. You told me you weren’t going to live to 19.”
“Oh yeah,” I say. I can’t believe myself how nonchalant I am about this. “I believed it, too. I’m sorry I said that. But clearly I did live. And now I’m still here, and I guess I will be.” I want to tell him that I’ve let Edward go. But then I think about how I spent my entire commute home from work seriously considering suicide, and decide not to say anything. I’m not drunk. And laughing about my troubles with someone who takes them seriously actually makes me feel better.
“I’m here,” I repeat.

And then, the couple is back, and things have escalated. Fists fly, neighbors come outside. I watch my friend, the homeowner, dodge a punch and then begin to choke a girl out. I go into the kitchen, and find my girl barely conscious. She’s in a chair, head tipped back, hair covering parts of her face. Her friend is trying to slap her awake, to no avail. She’s drooling. I take a napkin and dab at her mouth, and she tries to move her hand, slowly, to help. But she just sinks further from consciousness. Her soul is crying.

“How did this happen?” I ask her useless friend, the one who brought all the chaos.
“She had half a bar of Xanax. And then she’s been drinking. And she had a huge Red Bull.” A stimulant, depressant, and DEPRESSANT.
“Where are her friends?” Who allowed this to happen? Why was no one looking out?
“I’m her friend,” the girl says, defensively.
“Sure you are,” I say.

I wonder if this is what she meant earlier when she talked about her friends leaving her. Everyone is crowding into the kitchen now, piled around her. They argue about whether to move her, to call 911, to take her to the emergency room, or just to dump her somewhere to sleep it off. One guy keeps shouting that he knows about “Sports medicine. I majored in it!” The couple is still outside, arguing.

“Let’s just go back to our frat,” Sports Medicine says.
“You have a frat house?” I whip around. They nod. “Why would you bring all of this here? Into a stranger’s home? Why didn’t you just go to your frat?”
“It’s the summer,” they respond. I am disgusted.

I pull aside the guy from before. The one who invited the girl who invited everyone else. “I hope you understand this is your responsibility.”
“What!” He’s shocked. “You’re blaming me!”
“No,” I say. “You aren’t entirely to blame for what happened. But you invited strangers into someone else’s home. You are responsible for what the strangers do to the home. And look what they’ve done.” He takes that in.

“That girl,” we look at her. “She’s depressed, isn’t she?”
“Have you seen the cuts in her arm?” he asks in response.
“No, I never looked at her arms.”
“Well, they’re serious. I hadn’t seen before today. Yeah, she’s not okay.”

“She’s going to die,” I tell him “Unless she gets better friends. She needs someone to look out for her. To care about her. You need to do better.”

Eventually, she wakes up a little, and they take her to her boyfriend’s house.

There have been so many times that I’ve wanted access to prescription medication, to knock myself out so I wouldn’t have to deal with anything. Nightly panic attacks are real. Anxiety kills, too slowly. But I’ve always stayed away, and this is why. I’ve had my time to be a party foul. I’m at the wrong age to go off the rails now.

There are too many beautiful girls who bring light into people’s lives while privately (for the most part) being miserable. Too many girls who smile and laugh at things that really make them want to cry, who drop heavy truths while projecting weightlessness. It’s tiring. I don’t want this to be the reason we’re soul mates.

If I ever see that girl again, I expect it will be a long time from now. But our souls have touched, and mine will be sending hers as much support and love and strength as it can, from now until then.

Shame on You

The Man is in the doorway. Hunched over, watching me.

Watching, or looking?
Look – regarderOn regarde la télévision. Am I a show to Him? Or a subject, animal, to be observed? I cannot tell if He is more detached or active in what He does, but the fact that He’s present at all, for the first time in a year, is more concerning than how strong His presence actually is.

The look on His face. It isn’t a smile or a sneer, because sneers lack delight and smiles are too kind. It isn’t a smirk either. Maybe it’s this look to which people refer when they talk about twisted smiles. As if He turned up the corners of His mouth, took the half loop this created and used His eyes to braid into it hate and delight and fascination and longing and anger and just a dash of care, with an overwhelming amount of sadism.

I see Him without looking, without opening my eyes or lifting my head. I couldn’t do either of those things, anyway. I’m terrified of making eye contact with Him. It’s never happened, but I know that this would be the morning for it. Pure contact, and what would happen after that? I’m afraid to find out. All these years, and The Man still has me petrified.

I don’t want to look at Him, but I know that I need to acknowledge Him. The longer He stares, and the longer I stay frozen like this in bed, the worse off I’ll be. There’s a reason he’s here now. I’m not in good shape. When I came to South Africa, I knew that things wouldn’t get better. You can’t run from your problems, or your feelings, I understand. Still, I hadn’t expected things to get worse, either. And they had. Isolation in the cold, punctuated by visits from monsters will wear a person down. Nightly panic attacks followed by insomnia will just about wreck you. I’m low. So low, I guess, that The Man has decided to reappear.

So He’s come into the doorway, and He’s watching me. And I am low, and I am terrified, and I am tired. So very tired. I’ve lost a lot of sleep, a lot of happiness, and a lot of hope. I’m an easy target. Except.

Except that I don’t want to be a target. I don’t want to be a victim. I’ve spent a year digging in my heels and fighting monsters and I’m starting to get fed up with this continuous process that is ever-draining. I want it to end, I sort of want to give up, but I don’t want Him to end me.

Shame on you.

It’s my strongest thought. From amidst the why me‘s and the I’m tired‘s, the please leave me alone‘s and the how dare they‘s emerges a single Shame.

The Man’s face blanches, and His shoulder jumps. I can see it without looking, feel His energy skip without moving. I wonder if anyone has ever chastised him in this way before. I’m sure people have cursed Him, screamed, yelled, put His awfulness before Him in indictment. I’ve done it myself. But all of this has always been done because of Him, in reaction to Him. I don’t know if anything has ever been done to him or at him. Until now.

Shame on you! I think again, more forcefully. He stumbles back a step. It’s involuntary, and he is surprised, so He straightens His spine to stand, giving up hunching in the doorway. At full height, He towers. Or he would, if I wasn’t so busy thinking at him. Shame, shame, shame for all the monsters He’s guided who have stuck me in bed, for all the other feelings He’s caused that press down on my body, and all the thoughts He’s cultured that cloud my head. He’s trying to work them up now, and inside my mind I feel like I might suffocate from the cloudiness being created, but through it all I lock onto the SHAME. And I scream it, blare it out at him until the walls of my mind are trembling and the last bits of my energy are just spent from the effort, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it, because the Man is leaving, running away from me, finally. I know he’ll be back, and he’ll probably be harder when he is. But for the moment, I have made myself safe. And this mental activity, after a full night of tossing around restlessly, has left me wiped enough to pass out.

I wake to my cousin coming home from work, incredulously asking me how I could have slept all day.

Blasts

WecantbetogetherbuttheworldisburningandlifeissoshortandtakenfromyousosuddenlyandIfeelsadandalsoscaredandIwanttoreachouttoyoubutIknowthatIcant.

Please, comfort me.

At the top of their stairs is a wall of bookshelves. It used to be like a house library, except filled with children’s books. The kind of children’s books that aren’t necessarily classics, but ones that every child should read. A collection of all the stories you vaguely remember, only it’s been such a long time that you aren’t sure whether the books exist, or if you made up their ideas. And then suddenly, you see the book in front of you at the bookshelf, you understand that everything was real, and your memories transport you back to that time period. The last time I was here, I found the Crestomanci chronicles. The last time I was here, I was by myself, and it was three years ago, and William hadn’t overdosed. Most of the books are gone now.

At the top of the stairs is a shrine.

I am facing photo after photo of the dead brothers. I’m even in one of the pictures. Edward’s arm is around me, and we are smiling into the camera. It’s Christmas of 2010, the year I caught onto his alcoholic and anorexic tendencies enough to worry, without knowing to be alarmed. It had still been a great Christmas. They used that photo in his memorial service. Proof of how apparent it was to everyone that we were connected. My aunt stays looking out.

I can look at our photo, and be okay. I know that he isn’t around, and I truly believe he’s in a better place. But what they left behind. Two parents who don’t like each other, are miserable together, but stay together for the benefit of their only surviving child, the daughter who graduated, who broke into tears during her graduation speech and then pulled herself together to thank her family and friends. I look at a picture of William, young enough to still be blond, before his hair naturally darkened to brown, smiling and pretending to work as he sat next to his father at his desk. It’s connected to a picture of baby Will on Uncle Steve’s shoulders.

“It was never so clear,” another cousin would tell me, “Two parents who absolutely had favorite children. Aunt Lori found Will’s body. She lay down next to him and told him to take care of Edward. Her speech at his funeral was all about how they could look after each other now. And Steve’s was just a really specific memory of Will. It was hard to watch.”

“No one chooses to be born,” Will said, at Edward’s funeral. “So I guess it’s good he got to choose when he died.”

I wonder if Will chose his death. It’s hard to tell. He’d been clean for a minute. It seemed like he was turning his life around. And then

I look at the happy babies with their happy parents. I look at the cards from their funerals. I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of, What’s the point?

You’d think it would be hard to go into Edward’s room, but it’s surprisingly easy. It’s also right next to the stairs. His cats lurk around like ghosts. They don’t run away from me like they used to; they just watch me as I sink into his couch. I wonder what that means, and then I try to stop myself from romanticizing the situation. Maybe our energies just match. We’re all still hiding together. Them from the family, and me from the babies.

What’s the point of crafting a life with someone, if that person will hurt you? Love fades, love sours. I guess that’s why people have children. So there will always be something to love. But then even when white, even when wealthy, your children can still grow up to hate themselves, and their lives, and maybe even you, a little bit. And they’ll leave you, and your suffering will only increase.

I guess it doesn’t have to be like this. These are just the examples I’ve been given.
I cry, silently, and Edward’s cats watch me.

“You know, Lucas believes in the same things we do,” their sister is telling me. “Like gay rights. He knows that Edward was gay.”

Lucas is her crush. They’re friends, and she wants more. I wonder if she knows about Orlando, and how she feels. Maybe Edward didn’t kill himself. Maybe he and Pat were just on vacation and got shot up for their orientation.

She shows me a picture of him.

“He’s pretty cute,” I say, and she side-eyes me. “But don’t worry, he’s all yours.” I put my hands up.
“Hey!” She says. “You take my guy, and I’ll take yours.”
“You couldn’t, even if you tried,” I tell her. “I don’t have a guy. I don’t think we can even hang out very much anymore.”
“Why not?” She wants to know.
“Because, it’s painful.”
“When I’m with Lucas,” she tells me. “It’s painful. But I keep spending time with him anyway, because he’s important to me. We have a connection. And I think that one day he’ll realize it.”
“But that’s why it’s painful,” I say. “We know we have a connection. He already realized. And it just gets stronger the more time we spend together, but he isn’t ready for it. It’s a tease.”

The next morning I wake up, and fifty people have been killed, with fifty-three injured, at a nightclub. Brown people. Gay people. I spend so much time worrying about my future, and theirs are gone. Taken.

America is burning out, and we don’t have very many friendly places to go, and hundreds of legitimate refugees have been and are drowning. Does anyone have a future? Does anything matter?

This is when I want to run back to Niles. Because with all the uncertainty, why would you not want to hold onto something that is sure? Like the fact that two people are in love. And if the future isn’t guaranteed, then why even think about it? I consider the guys who currently, actually, want me as a girlfriend, and wonder if it’s something I even want. Not because of him, or them, but because of myself and where I currently am, home for a few weeks before going somewhere and becoming unreachable, preparing to start work, trying to get it together enough to move into the city. Being In Love with one person, sure, but also loving different people in different parts of the world. Do I actually want to be in a strictly committed relationship right now? Not really.

But I do want to be in love, and be a priority, and not have to worry about seeing someone I care about hooking up with someone who isn’t me at a party. I want to be able to call someone when I’m down, and have them make me feel better, if only through distraction. I want to nestle in bed with someone and make them feel good. I want to hold hands, and feel safe, and truly believe that we’ll be together when we’re meant to.

So what does that mean? What is the healthiest option? For me, for him, for now, for the future that might not even be there?

And all I can think about now is how there was a moment last year, during our big fight, when we almost hooked up. I’m not sure he’s even aware of that, but it happened. I looked at him, and in the midst of all my anger and sadness I felt this overwhelming attraction, and I knew that if we hooked up, I would enjoy it. But I also knew that if we did hook up, that would be the end of us. So we didn’t, and here we are now. Now, I don’t know if we’re at the end, if I’m supposed to kill my internal flame, or if I’m supposed to run on hope that eventually things will work out. If one of us got shot tomorrow, would the other have regrets?

I’ve been exercising my arms, like he told me to. I can do fifteen pushups now. Next week, I’m going for twenty.

Lions

All around my bed, roaring at me.

I need to be sleeping. I need to be awake in four hours, getting ready to take care of a bunch of sixth graders at their school camp in the woods. Privileged children, who don’t see many black people and don’t know how to move bugs off the seats of their canoes. I’m going to expend a lot of energy this week. I need to charge.

But these lions, man. They’re keeping me up.

“The way triggers were explained to me,” my professor/friend said, “Is that it’s like you went on a safari, and you were in what you thought was a safe location, so you left your vehicle to take pictures. And when you turn around to head back into your vehicle, the other people on your trip start shying for you to run. So you run and you make it into the vehicle and you realize that a lion had been stalking you, and was right behind you. You’re in safe, but it did swipe and catch the back of your leg. And when you feel this, you go into shock.
Your trip ends, and you come home safely. But then a while later, you see a house cat, and suddenly you get scared. It’s just a cat, but to you it’s a lion. And you remember feeling your leg get swiped. And a bit after that, you see a jungle show on TV, and even though the wrong cats are present, you still see lions. So you never know when the lions will pop up, but there they are, and this is what you’ll have to deal with.”

I want to be shielded. I want someone to wrap me in their arms until the lions go away. Rock me until I fall asleep. But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?

Sometimes I feel like what happened to me will prevent me from being comfortable or close with anyone, ever again. Then I fear that even if I start to get close with someone, the rape will still find a way to complicate everything. My physical non-virginity and simultaneous mental discomfort and unfamiliarity with sex is too much for the red-blooded potential partners of my age. My need for stability, support, and closeness is too confusing an ask, and I’m not even sure I’d trust it if it came to me.

Strangers can hurt you.

Friends can hurt you, too.

No place is safe.

No place is off limits, either. A dumpster?? He raped that girl behind a dumpster?? The lions get closer, and I’m in the aggravating position of being thankful that at least my rapist was considerate enough to use his own bed. Even though I’m sure he was considering himself more than he was me. It was his house, after all. He didn’t really need to take me anywhere else. I probably fell down, too, like she did.

Her sister blames herself. I wonder if my friends blame themselves? I know one of them does, a little.

“I was with you earlier that night,” he told me. “We went out together.”
“And we left each other hours before the bar crawl ended,” I told him. “I went to his house with completely other people.”

The others, who were there, and then suddenly gone. I don’t blame them, really. I wonder if they ever thought to blame themselves, though. I wonder if things would have ended differently, had they still been there the only time I managed to get out of the room, before more nameless liquid was poured down my throat.

I still have images, shadowy, but there. Like snapshots in my mind. Projected like strobe, pieces of what happened. We don’t need to go over them. I just need to keep up the clicking of the keyboard, until the lions go away.

This is the time things get dangerous for me. This is when my mind turns into a spider and climbs to the ceiling, spinning webs of doubt and sorrow and fear and terror, which are actually quite different. Fear is the pulsing feeling; terror makes me think I won’t be able to move again. Only my fingers, as the spider webs continue to loop over me.

Will I be alone forever?
Will I ever be chosen in a way that doesn’t hurt me?
Is my only value to the world my body and energy?
Should I expect anything other than hurt?
Where does the line fall between overly dramatic, and simply truthful?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, and considering them makes me so tired. Too tired to keep going. Do I want to keep living?

Maybe I shouldn’t ask that question.
Maybe I should just sleep.

Turn the roars into lullabies, let them mount until it’s overwhelming, and then pass out from the sheer exhaustion of stress.

Inviting a Good Love/What I Need

On the anniversary of my rape, he wanted to have sex. And I did too, a little, but not enough to overcome the feelings of fear and foreboding and discomfort. I couldn’t.

In 2015, I said no. And no, and no, and no. And when it was clear that I was going to continue saying no, he stopped asking. And forced it anyway.
In 2016, I said no. And no, and no, and no. And when it was clear that I was going to continue to say no, he stopped asking. And turned away from me, calling me a tease, blaming his frustrations on me, telling me that he regretted the time we had spent together because it prevented him from sleeping with other people.

I needed comfort. I got a bed partner who resented my inaccessible body.

I switched. Stopped thinking about myself, my triggers and traumas, and began to worry about him, and his mood, and how I could make it better.

Why do I always end up with an angry man of color? Is it my role to be burned by someone else’s rage time and again?
Is it my duty, as the sad girl, to weave my grief into blankets that will cocoon the angry man and absorb his pain until they burst all over me?

I am tired.

On my birthday, I made the mistake of showing him how upset I was that I had waited on him for dinner for so long, the restaurants were closed by the time he finally showed up.
“I don’t feel comfortable; Imma head out,” he told me.
“But it’s my birthday,” I pleaded, “And my party is tomorrow. How am I supposed to host people, how am I supposed to keep everyone happy and light, and have a good time? How can I do that when you’ve made me so sad? How can I project the positive energy that people will want from me?”
“You’ll do it the way you always do it,” he told me before he left.

The party was great. Everyone but him said so.
“I haven’t felt this happy in a long time,” our friend told me, and she continued to dance even as everyone else was leaving.

“You’ve had the best parties of the week,” the DJ told me some days later. “Your birthday was so much fun. It was the favorite.”
“Well, I had you DJ-ing!” I told him.
“It’s not that,” he said. “Everyone came for you. They came because they all love you.”

I know that people have love for me, because I work hard to spread love to them. I care about their wellbeing, before my own. Sometimes, I think about the Mrs Who, Whatsit, and Which in “A Wrinkle in Time”, and try to emulate them. Their characters are magical beings, former stars who exploded to bring more light into the world, in a fight against the Dark. When I’m with others, especially when I bring people into spaces I have created, I try to explode positivity at them. It’s why I’m an introvert; I need to recharge afterward. It’s funny: most of campus thought I was so positive, but my housemate believes I am one of the most negative people in the world. As an actually positive person himself, his energy was integral in most of my recoveries. Thank you, Nkosi. I love you.

You know what’s detrimental to recharging? Being in love with someone who drains you even more. Angry men of color will turn the humanity I’ve accepted into a shell.

I’ve spent the past ten days reflecting, and crying, and aching. The pain is becoming dulled, the tears becoming less heavy, finishing more quickly. I stopped crying today and went to greet my sister and her mother on the street. I hugged my father when I came home. I allowed myself to chat with my own mother. Wished some people happy birthdays. Reconnected with other friends, gave time to other guys.

It hit me that if I was in a supportive love, one in which we simultaneously grew, charged each other’s batteries, trusted and supported each other, we could do so much more sustainable good for the world.

That’s what I want. That’s what I need. I wouldn’t have to explode and give out. I could just emanate.
A silly part of me holds out hope that someday, this love will evolve into that. The realistic side of me knows this will not happen any time soon.

So in the meantime, come find me, love. Please. I need you, and I’m waiting for you. Help me to grow.