Tag Archives: The Man

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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Lily-Colored Glasses

“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.”

                  img-20141223-wa0014

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

  1. We look good
  2. I look happy
  3. 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.

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.

Experiences with My Cousin’s Ghost and The Man

For a while, he would be everywhere I went. He first came to me as a feeling in the middle of my religion class. As the professor spoke about Buddhism, I looked up to see myself in a church. And I mean that literally. I was watching myself sitting in a pew in front of a vacant altar, staring at red and orange stained glass. It was his church, and he was walking up to sit beside me.

“I knew that you would come to this,” I said, and turned to see him again. He wasn’t wearing anything special, but I was only really paying attention to is face anyway.

“You didn’t seem too sure towards the end of my service,” he replied.

“Well, maybe that’s because you had the pianist over there playing your songs,” I told him. “How could you do that, anyway? You came up with them. No one else is supposed to be playing them. Had me believing you were actually dead.”

“I am dead,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I’ve left yet. I’m still around. You’ve just gotta be patient, Kia.”

I saw him again on the way back to my dorm. He was sitting at the top of the stairs, before a doorway.

“Tell me a story,” he said, and I sat down beside him.

“Once, there was a king,” I began, and went on to tell him one of my favorite fables.

It’s a story of a king, whose advisor and closest friend is a firm believer that everything happens for the best. Even after the king shoots off his thumb in a hunting accident, his friend says, “That’s a good thing.” The king is so offended by this that he locks his friend in a dungeon, intending to forget his existence, and resumes his hunt alone. He wanders into the territory of a group of cannibals who promptly bind him and prepare a fire to roast him. At the very last minute they realize his missing thumb and let him go, as it is against their beliefs to eat anyone who isn’t a whole person. The king realizes that his friend was right about the accident being a good thing, further realizes how terrible and unjust it was to have locked him up, and promptly lets his friend go, apologizing and asking if he can be forgiven.

“Of course I forgive you,” his friend says. “And you don’t have to apologize. It’s a good thing you locked me up. If you hadn’t, I would’ve been caught with you. And since I am* a whole man, they would’ve eaten me.”

It’s a story I like to tell myself when things are going wrong, and one I found particularly fitting at the time. After your cousin and person you are closest to, the one person for whom you would give up your life if it meant saving his own, goes and kills himself, it’s hard to imagine that any sort of good can ever come to you again. Yet here I was telling him the story, almost as if to make myself believe it. Unfortunately, I only got to the part where the king blew off his thumb before I heard someone coming up the stairs. I immediately jumped up and left. We never got to the part where things improve.

But there he was sitting cross-legged on a headstone as I passed by the graveyard.

“Getting comfortable in my new environment,” he told me.
And there he was, hanging over my shoulder as I walked toward the dining hall.
I would see his face in windows, and in the expressions of passing people. He would appear and disappear in instants.
At the end of the week, when I was tired and lonely, and feeling the most insignificant I ever had, he was waiting just outside my room.

“I’m still here,” he assured me. “You aren’t alone, because I’m still here for you.”
I tried to hug him, the way I once could, but there was nothing to support me.

“Let’s take a walk,” he suggested, and extended his hand. I took it in mine and we left the dorm, walking across campus. I was supposed to go to a party, but my friends had left without me.

“You aren’t alone,” I was reminded as we headed in the party’s direction, but when we got to the door I realized that I didn’t actually want to go inside. I wasn’t in a partying mood, and I also knew that as soon as I stepped through the door he would vanish. And who did I really want to spend time with? People who had left me, or the cousin who had come back?
So instead I chose to return to my dorm, slowly, in the dark. Our hands still interlocked, we didn’t speak until passing back through the graveyard.

“I’m older than you now,” I informed him. “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

“No, it wasn’t,” he agreed. “But you see where we are now? It won’t matter how old you are when we’re here together. When we’re both at home, your age won’t matter.”

We spent more and more time together, and I drew away from living people. He had been the person I most cared about, the one I prioritized above all others, and he was also the only one at school who came close to knowing what I was dealing with. I was dealing with him! I didn’t care much about the impressions I was leaving with other people, or the things I was missing out on by leaving them as quickly as possible, because I knew that something better was waiting for me. I had been abandoned, but now was found, and in chasing the ghost of my cousin I was becoming a sort of ghost myself.

As time went on, his visits grew scarcer. I would wait for him to show up, but he wouldn’t come. When I felt alone, he wasn’t always there to reassure me. I was starting to feel truly abandoned, when he finally joined me on a walk uphill.

“Where have you been?” I asked him angrily. “How could you be gone for so long?”

“I have other things to do,” he retorted, not kindly. “You aren’t the only person left for me, you know.”

“But you promised you would be here!” I cried. “You said that you would be here for me, and you haven’t been. How could you leave me again? How could you leave me in the first place?”
It was the first time I had directly expressed pain toward him, or indicated that I was unhappy with him in any way. Now that I’d finally started talking, I couldn’t stop. “What you did, One, it was horrible. You left me here alone, and you didn’t even say goodbye. You left me to deal with the family at Christmas, left me hiding from everyone all by myself. Who was there to run to when people got drunk and started pulling out knives? Who was there to talk to about looming divorces and parental scares? I had to deal with everyone looking at me, watching me, like I was going to run down to the train tracks and jump in front of them the way you did! I had to smile and pretend to be happy when all I wanted to do was cry. And there are other, physical problems in my life besides the psychological trauma you left me with. When you LEFT me. I was staying alive for you. I would have killed myself first if I thought it would save you, but–”

“Well, maybe you should have,” he snarled at me.

“What?” I was ripped out of my thoughts, which had been swirling around me as I spoke. “What are you talking about?”

“You should’ve killed yourself,” he said. “You should’ve done it first. If what you say is true, if killing yourself would’ve trapped me here, then it’s what you should have done. Think about it. What can you possibly do with your life? You’re pathetic. You’re alone. No one cares about you.” His voice was changing, becoming rougher with each word.

“That’s not true,” I protested.

“Oh, but it is,” he continued. “Now, I on the other hand, I know people cared about me. And so do you. You were at the funeral. Remember how you spent so much time thinking it was a joke, or an elaborate ruse concocted by my parents to show me how supported I was? People came out. My boyfriend was crying. I was loved, and I was smart. I could’ve done anything. Not like you.”

“I don’t believe you,” I said, and turned to face him. He wasn’t there anymore. Standing where he had been standing, and speaking in the rough voice I had been hearing, was a man. A hunched man, with ratted hair and a mean smile that seemed to take up the entire lower half of his face. He had a crow on his shoulder, and another on his head, and all of them smiled at the mix of astonishment and horror on my face.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Don’t you recognize me?” For the briefest part of a second, he was One. Then his features melted away to become the stranger again.

“Who are you?” I repeated.

“I’m the same thing I’ve always been,” he said, “Just in a different shape. The old one was boring me, and it was more of an access point anyway. I’ve got to you now. I don’t need to fool you to come back.”

“Go away,” I told him.

“I can’t,” he replied. “You don’t understand. You won’t understand. You pulled away from everyone else so much that you’re stuck with me now, even if you can’t see me. You’ve become ghostly enough that I can consider myself a part of you.”

That was how I met The Man. It was the only time I completely saw him, because after that he chose to linger, usually in my peripheral or in the back of my mind. Sometimes I got the feeling that he would be in corners, staring at me. Location never mattered much, because he was always there.
If I was stressed about school, or worried about a meeting, or missing One – especially if I was missing One, he was there. The Man embodied every doubt, every fear that I had, and played them on blast over and over in my head. He undermined every conversation and every interaction I had with other people, until I was even more of a recluse than I had been before. I hated Him, and I was afraid of Him, but after a while I learned to accept Him and His constant torment. It scares me how quickly people can adapt to hellishness, and how easily we can learn helplessness.

Even then, I knew that a part of myself was keeping Him there. Some part of me knew that I was quietly going crazy with grief, but for the sake of everyone else I held onto my sanity, spectacularly. What I most wanted, He knew, was to lose my mind to the point where I no longer knew my present situation. I wanted to truly believe that I was with One again, and to continuously relive our old times and invent new ones so that I never had to face his death. The Man just wanted me in the ground. We used each other; I staying sane and healthy for as long as possible, then crying out for One; Him occasionally transforming into One when I did break down, in the hopes that I would finally give into my pain.

I never did, though. Somehow, I think by finally telling friends about The Man, I was eventually able to distance myself from him, and decrease the frequency of his visits. Then I went to Chicago, One’s old home.

My plan was to visit the tracks he’d jumped in front of, in the hope of gaining some peace, but I never needed to go. As soon as I walked into his house I realized that there was not, and never had been, a ghost. There was nothing. No feelings as I snuck into his room late at night; no remorse as I sat on his sofa, or played his piano. Nothing. Only a mild emptiness as I realized that he was really gone, and I would never be able to use The Man to call him up again. I knew that if I tried, I wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t even really believe in The Man at this point, and I knew then that I had only used Him as a way to bring all of my negative thoughts to the surface. The Man didn’t exist, but my self-loathing and guilt did.

Except now, some of it was going away. Chicago made me accept that One’s suicide had been inevitable. He had tried twice already, and he had lied. And he hadn’t been happy. Although I still wish I had called One before it all happened, just to hear his voice again, and I wish he had somehow said goodbye to me first, I know that there really wasn’t anything I could have done to stop it.
That’s probably the scariest realization of all. Inevitability. Facing that made The Man go away.

Why I Go Crazy Sometimes

People don’t listen to me. It just happens all the time. I have So Many Things to say, but no one to listen to them. So what can I do? Who can I talk to?

Myself.

I come home and I say everything I need to myself. And because I know that I don’t really count, I say it to myself over and over again. Over and over and over, and I just get stuck repeating things and thinking about wrongs and questioning everything until I don’t know what I’ll do.
That’s why The Man started coming.

Even though I know that he isn’t really there, I can pretend (and I’ve gotten Extremely good at pretending) that he’s there, listening. Of course, he isn’t a kind listener. Not at all. He feeds off of all the insecurities I have but am too afraid to say out loud. And since he’s a manifestation of my inner thoughts, he can say them to me until I believe that they’re actually happening.
The sad thing is that even though I know he’s so horrible to me, and only detrimental to my growth as a person, I just need someone to LISTEN TO ME, and I need it so badly that I’m willing to conjure up someone who makes me feel suicidal.

If I’m being honest, if I didn’t speak my thoughts out loud, I would just get stuck listening to them inside my head, where they would all swirl around together and suck me down and I might get so caught up inside myself that I wouldn’t ever speak again. Or really do anything. I’d just be trapped.

I’ve come close before, but luckily there’s usually a mirror around. And when it’s so bad, and I finally see a person who wants to listen to me, I won’t care if it’s my own reflection. I’ll just talk and talk and turn into different people before my eyes until I’m just about exhausted.

So I’ve broken myself out of myself, not exactly in a good way, but in an effective way.

Although since it’s still only been myself the entire time, I only have so long until the same exact process repeats itself over and over again. I will see that situation, I will see the person not allowing me to speak, and I will feel the injustice, the anger, the NEED TO SPEAK AND BE HEARD all over again.

And that’s why I can’t leave my room sometimes. That’s why I’m crazy.

Because I can’t speak.

I have no one to talk to.

No one.