Tag Archives: Words

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?”

The Secret History of the World

In my mind, there is a beach. The sand is auburn and amber, although you can’t tell if it’s really that color, or merely the result of the sunlight. Everything is bathed in the sunlight’s steady, bronzing glow. Picture Saturn, picture the edge of the world before Xi threw the coke bottle off of it. Where he saw green forest, everything is metallic, shimmering sand. As he saw clouds below him, you know that beneath all of this is Space.

I step into the sand, then sink. I cannot tell if I’m falling in, or if it’s rising up to meet me, coat me, but either way I am soon in up to my neck. It does not hurt me, or scratch me, but holds me, warmly. I am protected in the sand, blanketed against the world. I look out at the galaxy, at the gold-bronze-ruby-touquoise colors that shoot off before me and swirl around me. My mind’s eyes are presented with a kaleidoscope of wonder. Then the sand holding me begins to slip away, pouring over the edge of reality into a beautiful nothingness, and I pour away with it.

I am floating, I am in pieces. I am nothing, in the most beautiful sense of the word. Usually, nothingness equates an absence. How can you have nothing without the relativity of something? Like this.

This is the kind of Nothingness that produced everything, the Nothingness that can still be found everywhere, that has replaced its Absence with the Wholeness of Possibility.

If you pushed this Nothingness together, packed it hard and struck it against something, it would Spark. Ideas, movements, actions, beliefs, beings. It is all-encompassing. It is pregnant.

Except

You cannot strike Nothing against Something

or Anything

If this Nothing is perpetually on the edge of Something, and I, along with the pouring sand, am perpetually spilling over edges, then I am now simply tumbling, tumbling, tumbling, tumbling, tumbling every non-instant of every non-moment there is. The motion is so constant, beyond rapid, that my perspective never gets the opportunity to noticeably change. Nothing is happening to me. Nothing is changing. Nothing feels safe (capitalized? maybe not). But also. Nothing is wrong (again, capitalized? I’m not sure).

You thought I was helping you out, when I allowed you to spend the night, opened my bed to you. You were helping me. It was good to have someone else there. We never touched, never felt pressure to do anything other than talk and sleep. Purely platonic companionship, at the most necessary of times.

The heat from your body allowed me to do Nothing without dissolving. I was in my mind while safely being anchored to Earth.

That’s all I want right now. Another body, to keep me grounded, to remind me that I am real and whole and not nNothing (capitalized or not).

Come to the beach with me, and stand apart from the sand. Float on a platform as I pour over the edge. Allow me to flow into the Nothing, to share your space and bits of your person, to spread up through the ceiling, to sail and hang and tumble. Then, stand up as Something, take a net to pull me together, strike against me until I spark back into myself.

Maybe, eventually, you’ll spark me out of my mind as well.

For now, though, this is what I can handle. This is the base of what I need.

So, thank you.

Presence

“We’re going to do a vulnerability exercise,” one of the teachers says. “It’s gonna be weird, it’s gonna be uncomfortable, it might even be excruciating for you. But we’re gonna do it, and it’s gonna be good practice. We always ask our kids to do things they don’t want to do, even if it makes them uncomfortable, and now we have to do the same.”

We pair up. We’re going to spend two minutes silently staring into each other’s eyes.

“This is how you fall in love,” I say. “This is the love experiment.”

I’m surprised that I’m talking. Surprised I found the space to do so.

“It is,” she laughs. “It’s the love experiment. Four minutes of this is supposed to make you fall in love with someone; two minutes is supposed to boost compatibility.”

I have no problem making eye contact with people. I just lock on and hold. My partner has more trouble with it. I can read it in her so easily. She is timid, scared. The directness is too much for her. I see her steel herself, straighten up, then shrink back down. Her shoulders slump, and she laughs, then quickly shuts herself up. She remains slumped, but tilts her face up, widening her eyes and forcing them to stay wide.

She’s beautiful. I want to hug her, to tell her that it’s okay that she’s so scared of so many things, because she’s still here regardless. I want to push the hair back from her face, grab onto her shoulders and pull her into the air. Looking at her, I feel like we’re in the pit of some valley, wind swirling around us. I want to climb mountains. I want us to be birds.

I wonder what she sees when she looks at me.

We switch.

My new partner, she cannot handle this at all. I feel so calm, and she is so nervous. She keeps laughing. I start to count in my head. 1, 2, 3, laugh. 1, 2, 3, laugh. Without fail.

This whole morning, these exercises, have been so bizarre for me. They’ve been strange for everyone, but I think they affected me differently. I watched everyone else become self conscious. Everyone was amazed when we analyzed our walking patterns, while I have always thought about mine. There was so much uncomfortable laughter as we switched up the body parts that led us around the room, our gaits and tempos. We looked ridiculous, but I didn’t care about any of that. I didn’t care about anything.

Do I care about anything?

“What are you passionate about?” he asks our third time out, and I am amazed at how blank my mind goes. I can’t think of anything. I’ve been letting so much go. Expectations and disappointments, betrayals and hopes. My entire canvass is empty.

“Moments,” is what I finally answer. “Everything is always changing, and I’m not sure I believe in anything anymore. Nothing can stay as you’d expect it, and it might come to be that nothing ever really was as you knew it, so I can’t tell you what would make me passionate this minute, because it might not be the same tomorrow. I can’t answer any of your questions. If you want, I can tell you dreams about 7 children and 210 great-grandchildren, or galleries that transform into learning spaces and open mic nights, but understand that those things aren’t real, and may never be. You need to understand that I’m not creative; I just see things weirdly and recount them poetically but all it is, is me copying down my own ideas about what I perceive. So maybe, in a moment, I can find passion. But it will dissolve as soon as the moment passes.”

I looked into his eyes and said all of this, and could tell that he was impressed. But I hadn’t wanted to impress him. I was not trying to make someone fall in love with me; I was simply speaking a depressing truth. And I felt little connection, even as my eyes continued to hold his, and saw them widen to hold even more of me.

My eyes have finally held her still. 27, 28, 29, I stop counting after I reach 30 and she no longer laughs. It is funny to me that these activities were so hard for the others, but so easy for me. When we come back to the circle, everyone talks. My partner says my vibes were so chill, they calmed her down and made her feel safe. I open my mouth, and start to say that I felt nothing when I looked at her, that eye contact has been a necessity for me. I have always forced myself to hold eyes with people, just as I have always been conscious of the way I walk. I have to be aware of how I’m presenting myself to others, because if I don’t hold myself to Earth, I don’t know were I might accidentally float away to. My consciousness has to be on the ground, or I won’t be. It’s why I disappear in groups, without anyone to whom I can anchor myself. It’s why I can move ridiculously in crowds, because I don’t expect to be seen, and don’t mind if I am.

This human thing, it’s new to me. But all of them, they have practice. They seem to connect with one another so easily, until it is required of them.

I open my mouth to say all of this but the last sentence, but we’re in a group. Someone else is already talking, and I am already floating away.

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.