Catatonic

        By this point, I had pretty much learned my lesson about talking to the police.  All it ever resulted in was a weekend away, in sometimes less than stellar accommodations, after which I was returned home.  Home, to more people visiting and asking questions, many of which resulted in subtle- and not so subtle- consequences once everyone was gone.

        I don’t even recall this precipitating incident.  There was always something.  I would do something wrong; not finish a chore correctly, get caught lying about eating some food, or whether my laundry was put away.  Most of the time when this happened, I (or we, if there were accomplices) would get yelled at, maybe given a few extra chores.  Occasionally; however, someone would go off script.  I would start yelling about life being unfair, my mom would dump every drawer in my room out, or my dad might take off his belt.  By the time it was over, my mother would have called the police or a social worker to report I had attacked her.  Someone would come and take me somewhere, and then it would start over again.

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Shame

It starts in the middle of my chest and rises.  It’s funny that way.  Maybe I first felt it before my mind understood that heaviness sinks.  I prepare my face into the constrained vacancy I have carefully cultivated.  Unseeing, but for the garish whiteness of your perfectly tied tennis shoes, my mind empties of your words.  I fleetingly ponder how they might look in scarlet.

The anticipated shift in timbre. It is almost my turn and I must respond correctly. Preempting the call for eye contact, I begin to slowly lift them.  Before passing even the sweeping hem of faded denim, I realize where the rising weight has flooded.  Not quick enough to stop myself, I blink.

Your eyes pierce mine at the precise moment the salty wetness teases the corner of my mouth.  I deepen my expression.  My rebellion lies in my refusal to let you see me wipe dry my face.  Or to watch your cheek twitch, almost imperceptibly, while I do.

Inequitably armed for the encounter, I falter.  My words stammering out without the confidence I will later try to remember projecting.  I will myself through it.  Temporarily satiated, you allow my escape. Skipping the groaning spot where the step is weakened out of instinct. Through the string of doors my knees bend in synchrony with the slope of the roof. Until I am crawling. In the deepest closet of the attic.

It takes effort to get here, where the body must move in positions it’s unaccustomed.  The light is weak and the shadows, deep.  Deep enough to squeeze beyond an outstretched arm.  It’s where I go to delay the inevitable.  Where I can tell the walls my secrets, and tell myself lies.

The Forgotten

There are things hidden behind the walls built of fire brick and the strongest mortar. Secret things.  Dark things.  Things that linger in the world of the forgotten.  There are places, each precisely located like the points of interest on a map. Objects, persistently holding their distinct shape, color, and texture. There are even intervals of time; some, mere glimpses, a fragment of a moment. Others; however, are carefully dated and documented and deposited away, with a promise, never to be examined again.

One must be cautious when entering the world of the forgotten.  It is a labyrinth. Filled with pit stops and detours.  A tether may be your only hope.

But even the strongest tether has a weight limit.

Lost in the labyrinth, one may linger.  Examine the offerings. Pick them up, peruse their texture.  In a moment of audacity, pocket a few.  You have prepared yourself diligently; however, you aren’t prepared. 

What haunts this world is revealed in a flash.  Sadness turns to sorrow, sorrow begets anger, anger reveals fear, fear turns to panic.  Like the lightening that almost frightens you before the thunder crashes. And you run.

Frantic, racing, panic sets in.  You weave through the twists, leap past the pitfalls, the entire time weighted down with what you attempted to claim in those brief moments. 

When you thought you were brave.

You try to cast out what you carry.  Desperate to mollify the inhabitants of this world, lest they find reason to follow you, should you find an escape.

Your eyes dart wildly, searching for stairs, or a ladder, even the hint of a grip with which to pull yourself up.  A master mason enclosed this world.

In the moments before you spot the rope, you realize this may be the time.  How broken must you be to not trust a warning from yourself?  Is this the time you don’t return?

There are things hidden behind the walls built of fire brick and the strongest mortar. Secret things.  Dark things.  Things that linger in the world of the forgotten.  There are places, each precisely located like the points of interest on a map. Objects, persistently holding their distinct shape, color, and texture. There are even intervals of time; some, mere glimpses, a fragment of a moment. Others; however, are carefully dated and documented and deposited away, with a promise, never to be examined again.

Every night the battle wages.

Swaying. Gently. Like a breathe. It takes a moment to realize. I am in motion.  It passes. The subtle hint of comfort is gone. Rocking. Shaking. Ever increasing tempo. A violent tremble. A few desperate seconds. Maybe it will pass. I have to break through. Find the calm past the storm. When will it be over? Some storms last for centuries. I surrender. Eyes open to the darkness. I count the stars. Sometimes. Only if I try hard enough. I can see the lovers. The belt discarded. The sword, carelessly rested in the corner. Top, upright. Much like when it was raised. In protection. Who is the protector now? Accepting the inevitable. I rise, gingerly making my way through the darkness.  Senses flooded. I begin again. Next time. Perhaps. It will be different.

Asking for help is a complicated process.

When is it okay to ask for help?  I mean… there’s a limit, isn’t there? Is it okay to ask for help once? Of course.  But, only if the need is great enough, right? How do you measure need? If I measure need differently than you measure need, and yours is the higher standard, if I ask you for help for my lesser need, how will you perceive me?  How will you respond to me? Will I be humiliated, or, somehow worse, left questioning what you really think of me?  When you say call if I need anything, you don’t really mean anything, right? I can’t call you to, let’s say, come get my mail from my mailbox and bring it to me, right?  If I have a medical emergency, I call 911, not you.  So I can’t cold call you, out of the blue, asking for help, because I don’t know how we measure need against each other.  And, even when you offer assistance I don’t know what anything means. Aha! But sometimes, you tell me, “Let me know if you need a ride!” Something to finally work with, until I realize.  What does need mean?  I have a car, and a license; I’m physically able to drive.  What if I’m just tired, I didn’t get much sleep? Or, what if I just want company?  Maybe I feel lazy.  But laziness is deadly, one of the forbidden sins.  If I don’t have money for gas then I must not have worked hard enough to earn my way through life.  If I didn’t earn it, then I don’t deserve it, I could call you, and we could drive, if needed I could make up a suitable story.  In the end it doesn’t matter, because you hold all the power.

Mania

It’s been 40 hours. 37 if you don’t count the three hours I spent drifting in a state of near wakefulness. 
I’ve desperately tried to exhaust my mind, to purge it of the debris that has built up inside.

To no avail.

Even this? An act of desperation.

How did he know? Am I that transparent? Within moments of our greeting he spoke the words I had only briefly considered speaking to him.

Is it possible to think a thing into existence? Did the very act of speaking my worst fear make it true? Or was it recognition?

I reach out, urgently seeking. Seeking affirmation I won’t trust. Seeking connection I can’t reciprocate.

Will you reject me? Was failing to know myself an act of dishonesty against you?

I’m lonely; please leave me alone. I can’t contribute to the conversation.

The glimmer has turned into a floodlight, and I understand it is almost over. But, I can’t help but wonder if there is anything more tragic than falling within feet of the finish line.

Footsteps

I hear them tip toe down the hall, restraining your excitement for surprises.

Then they are running, yes there’s the fall, that crushes the flower you carry.

Now they are pounding, driving your words; please repeat the tattle you’re telling.

We talk it through, you share and I soothe; you return to your life down the hall.

I know the sounds well, these tales your feet tell; I sit in this room and await them.

The sound I dread more, than footsteps past the door, is the echo that says I’m forgotten.