ab initio.

from the beginning.

On Bugs and Disappearing Acts

When I was in high school, I thought it was a given that a person would have at least one major breakdown somewhere at the start of the school year, when the syllabi and the promises of papers upon projects upon extracurriculars upon social interaction weighed a little too heavy on their hunched back. I thought it was normal that for a couple of weeks I’d refuse to talk to anyway, that I’d do the unthinkable in high school and spend my lunch breaks by myself, hidden in some old corner of the library, or some forgotten hallway, digging my nails into my hands and begging my body to start feeling like it was mine again. To an extent, I still think it’s mostly normal, still think it’s something everyone goes through, but that doesn’t ease the shaking, the fear, the weight in my gut any more than the insensitive “Don’t worry about it!” and “Just cheer up already!” messages I get.

I remember scribbling in my diary daily for a couple of weeks a month, talking about an inch under my skin I can’t seem to get rid, about a feeling of wrongness, like something crawling all over me but I can’t see it and if I can’t see it then it isn’t real. I remember whispering to one friend, the one time I decided to keep company for lunch, that I thought maybe I was depressed. She was quick to reassure me that no, I was fine, my smile looks fine, I laugh in class sometimes, there’s no way I could be depressed. I know she was trying to make me feel better, but it made me feel worse. I wanted validation, I wanted a word to explain that feeling of wrongness, a term to fall back on to explain why I can’t get out of bed some days, why I need to excuse myself in the middle of class sometimes to lock myself in a bathroom and will the shakes away. But I smiled because she said I could, agreed with her because that’s what she wanted to here, said thank you because I wanted her to go away.

I thought maybe if I threw myself into situations where I know I’d end up terrified and wanting to run away I’d be able to overcome. Face your fears, people say. I’m starting to think that was one of my biggest mistakes.

Join the school newspaper, they said. I took the test, ended up barfing in a bathroom after I wrote my article. I got in, but any time I’d be asked to submit something, whenever I’d have to message someone, it’d take me at least an hour of sitting in front of laptop with my head cradled in my hands and my shoulders shaking, just to a send a “Here’s my article” to one of the editors. Pathetic, but not so bad yet.

Join the theatre company, they said. You can write for them, they said. You don’t have to act, they said. Well, fuck you all, I say. First day in and the class sits in a dark room. The teacher (a man I respected, a man I now resent) hands out bond papers and tell us to draw. I think to myself fuck, I’m fucking terrible at drawing, but okay, some of these people here are to. And then he tells us to draw ourselves the way we think the person we hate the most in the world sees us. Great, wonderful, beautiful excuse to have me delve into my deepest issues in front of everyone. But, sure. If he’s the only one he says. And then time’s up, and then he has us stand one by one, tells us to act like the person you hate most in the world when they talk to you. Wonderful. I still remember what I said and I wish I didn’t. I remember the suffocating atmosphere of the room, with some thirty other teenage girls hashing out their self-hate, shouting words they’ve projected onto their parents, their friends, their loved ones that hate them and that they feel obligated to hate back. The funny thing is that after it all, some of us first-timers thought to ourselves how amazing it was, that this is what acting, this is what ART is like. We didn’t talk about how we had to spend a good ten minutes in that dark room sobbing to ourselves, didn’t talk about how some of us felt like we’d stripped ourselves naked for everyone to see.

Maybe that was the turning point. After that, I used every excuse humanely possible to stop attending the meetings. I went to rehearsals, did what I had to do as a writer for our productions, and I don’t think anyone ever realized I never attended that actual class sessions.

(When I was younger, I was asked to enter a speech competition once. I didn’t want to. I waited until the morning of the competition to tell my teacher I didn’t memorize my piece. She was disappointed, but she couldn’t do anything about it. I never even looked at the title.)

I started to get very good at avoiding things that year. I tried to face my fears, I reasoned, and I failed spectacularly. So I was justified in going the other route and running away as fast as humanely possible from anything that threatened my fragile sense of being. Surprisingly, I got away with a lot. I’d come to school in the middle of the day, making excuses to my parents about feeling sick, being tired from staying late at the theatre, having menstrual cramps. Sometimes I just wouldn’t go to school at all. No one ever noticed I went home early every Tuesday, the day we had P.E. and if I couldn’t go home, I’d be sleeping in the same bed in the infirmary. My grades remained stellar so who cared really. This fact was also a detriment to me, as people typically depended on me more. I always got my work done eventually, after hours of crying and listing down all the ways in which I could possibly end my life, so no one really commented on the fact that I’d go off the grid for days at a time until the project was due and I had done all the work of four members.

Sometimes I’m thankful that I can at least be efficient, can at least pass off as a normal member of society, and sometimes I hate it because as the years have gone by and I’ve found my word for the itch under my skin, people throw it back in my face in the same way that girl told me I was “fine.”

I’m graduating this year, and I’ve accepted that I’ve wasted my university years, giving into my fear and (here’s The Word) Anxiety.

First few weeks of college I tried to join an org because that’s The Thing to Do when you’re a college student. I spent a grand total of one (1) day with them before the need to meet the members’ expectations, the idea of having to spend the hours of my day surrounded by people, became too much. I tried again one sem later in another org with some friends, but if they weren’t around I wasn’t capable of talking to other people, wasn’t capable of socializing the way you’re expected to. I decided I wasn’t an org person and I haven’t tried again since.

I also somehow got roped into a student committee in my first year. I was added into all the Facebook groups, was part of the text brigade, and I never showed up, not even once. Eventually they got the message and struck my name from my list even if I still got the text alerts and Facebook notifications. The people I would’ve been on that committee with are now our student council representatives, and I wonder sometimes if I could’ve achieved that had I actually tried to join them. Around a year later a friend asked me to join a student publication as a writer, which I was initially excited about, and then later had a breakdown writing my first submission, locked myself up in my room without talking to anyone for a couple of weeks, until I could drag myself back to my classes. I never replied to our editor, and my friend had to make my excuses for me. This has been a running theme in my life for the past four years.

(Hey, this is my friend Shea. She was a pretty good writer in high school, I think she’d make a good contributor.

Oh, I haven’t heard from Shea in a week. I think she’s dealing with personal problems again, sorry…)

I’ve been thinking about how my entire personality is founded on the idea of making myself as invisible as possible, making myself as unburdensome (that’s the word I’ve decided on) as possible. That way the itch in my skin telling me everyone thinks I’m stupid, everyone thinks I’m ugly, everyone thinks etc. etc. can’t be right. If they don’t think about me at all, then I never have to be worried about anything. If I make myself as absent as possible, no one will ever have to form an opinion of me.

Sounded good to me in theory, but the little bugs (my other not-so-fond title for the feeling) haven’t received the memo. I spent three weeks off the radar recently, three weeks curled up in bed not touching the internet, three weeks hoping I would just disintegrate into the air, or melt into my blankets, and the dread never went away. Sometimes I’d think it’d be safe to come back, but the barrage of notifications asking where I was, asking if I’d done the thing I’d said I would do, telling me people were looking for me was too much and I’d slink away again. I’ve done my disappearing act a couple of times before, but to some of my friends this was the longest. I was in a weird position, hoping that they’d forget about me completely so I could happily die off in a ditch somewhere, but still wanting people to care. It was nice when I came back, but it also felt like a mistake, I felt like an even bigger burden, like I should’ve just stayed away and never come back. I still feel like it sometimes, I still feel the itch to run away, and now I’m caught being a burden when I’m around and a burden when I’m not.

I’ve been shaking and crying in my bed all morning and this was supposed to be a sort of cathartic thing and I’m hoping that feeling will kick in in a bit. Mostly I think of where the bottle of bleach is. I know I can’t and won’t do anything because I’m pathetic like that, I did just spend a lot of words explaining how I run away instead of ever taking any action. I’ve been reading nice little personal essays this morning which, added to my mood, kicked me into writing this, but they all seem to me like they have nice little cathartic endings; a lot of them talk about similar feelings, I think, of fear, anxiety, the weight of the world. But they have hope, and in my mood right now, that’s not something I can think of integrating right now. Who knows, though. I could magically feel better right after this.

(The little bugs crawl, I feel them crawling into my chest and building a home there. They mock me.)

and the list of words in my head that send of warning signals to run while i still can grows longer and longer with each conversation and i want you to stop i want you to leave me the fuck alone but i can’t stop and the list grows until the dictionary is your list and every single word has some little flash of you some little drop of your corrosive blood eating away at the very structure of the words its very definition and foundation until it all collapses until it has all melted into a goo of liquified letters and the dust of punctuation

let’s talk about bursts of sensation. it always starts with a jolt, a sudden gripping in my chest, a sudden tightness in my limbs. black vision for a second. step two: the color of my dress. a cheap kind of orange and dirty white. it was powerpuff girls. the colors were all wrong. it hang to the tops of my knees. it was comfortable for the roundness of my stomach at the time. my stubby little legs. my face devoured by the fat of my cheeks. step three: a hand on my thigh. a hand tracing up. a hand stopping. a question, a promise, a secret. a threat. another promise. tugging, tugging, tugging, hands smoothing over the fabric, unnecessary. “it’s fine, it’s fixed.” “no, no, no. i have to smooth it out.” more hands, hands, hands where they shouldn’t be. sounds from the room, hurried hands, frantic hands, stopping hands. pulling away. sitting down. whispers. “it was a game, just a game.” a foot apart. “it was a game, our secret game.” a whisper, a promise, a threat. a threat. feigned kindness. step four: you remember forgetting that there was a process to this in the first place. you remember forgetting that you are not living it again, only remembering. you remember that you are filthy, you remember that you forgot to scrub away the dirt. you remember: it’s at least five years later and there is a lady talking on the television about hands hands hands where they shouldn’t be. and you remember a game, just a game. a game, a secret game. and you shake and you hide and you cry and you dream. and it’s been at least ten years later and you shake and you hide and you cry and you dream but now you have this, now you have the words, now you know. (and you go back to step one.)

blatant motif

the sunshine cicadas sing
as the sunshine itself dances
upon the fall of your chameleon hair
that shines golden brown now
the curve of your lips say i know
and the dark of your eyes say no
it’s too bright for my own
and whether it is you or the sun
and whether the two have any difference
remains to be seen
what i’m waiting for really
is to feel your sunwarmed skin
is to feel if it is as soft and warm
as the sunflower’s petals
as the sunshine air itself
and the light’s playing tricks on me now
because you can’t be leaning in
and you’ve never looked more at home
than you do right now outlined
by the loving sunlight
by a love almost as great as mine
but there it is
you lean in
and oh
softer warmer than i could say
almost as though i’d been kissed
by sunshine itself

running out of bad poetry titles

up at the crack of dawn without a wink of sleep
sitting out on the fire escape waiting–
because you’re a fucking cliché–
for the sun to rise.
thick sleeves, umpteenth cup of coffee
only barely warming your hands now.
expanding gradient of the sky from blue to bluer
to blue to pink to orange to red to too bright
and your mama always told you never to look
directly at the sun but the light sashays
the colors cascade
the pain entices
and you can’t look away.
and the graying buildings downtown
and the high class apartment uptown
and the yellow taxis on the wide roads
they drown in the burning reflection of the flames
and it hits you just right the warmth on your face
unfurling under the sun’s gentle, fierce caress
for a minute the light loves you
for a minute it feels like the sun rises just for you
for a second you forget that the sun rises over everyone else too
for a second you can pretend that it’s just you
and in this world the sun rises
but only for you

the overture begins and it sounds like a prelude
it sounds like the march to the battle
and it starts out soft, deceivingly calm
lulls you into a sense of complacency
into a bubble of bliss
and then the drums come pounding
and they shock you out of your seat
and you can feel the beat vibrating in that layer right beneath your skin
and everything gets too loud
it is overwhelming
the strings are shrieking
the percussions pounding
everything sounds too sharp too loud too near
and the crescendo bursts into its climax
an explosion of sound
a wall that swallows
and the tears on your face are a surprise
and you’ve discovered you’ve missed battle
but you remember every part

Over-caffeinated 2AM thoughts.

I keep dreaming about hands. Most of the time they’re pretty mundane: my mom’s hands working on some intricate beadwork, my professor’s hands as she writes illegibly on the blackboard, my sister’s hands as she catches a ball. In one dream, I held hands with strangers and we walked around a broken city. In another, I grabbed a friend’s hand and she set me on fire. There was one where I wore a hand around my neck. There were several with heavy hands wrapped around my neck, pushing down, crushing. I’d wake up with the feeling still there. In my dreams hands cover my eyes, fingers work down my throat, nails claw at my skin.

This doesn’t really have a point; I’ve just been wondering what they mean. I’ve always liked people’s hands, but I’ve never really thought about them. I had a best friend who would always know when I needed my hand held. I’d grab her wrist and her fingers would snake their way around mine. One class fieldtrip had us hiking up a mountain with a path too narrow for two people to walk side by side. Her hand was in mine the whole way, though. We had natural signals. If one of us had to stop to grab something from our bag, we’d wait until one of the other’s hands was free to resume walking. If there was a particularly steep incline, one of us would go up first and reach out whichever hand did not touch the mud to pull up the other. If it was completely impossible to walk side by side, the person in front would leave both hands behind her back so the other could still hold both. That’s what remains in my memory: my hands extended behind my back, her reaching out to take them, both of us laughing as we walked the rocky path by a stream. I miss her.

When I think of hands, I think of this girl I thought I loved. Mostly I think it was her addends I loved and not the sum. I loved her voice when she spoke, even more so when she sang. Every time I thought I’d fallen out of love with her, she’d sing and I’d fall all over again. More than anything, I loved how tactile she was. She was so much taller than me, and her hugs always felt like warm blankets and my favorite pillow. She hugged me everyday. She’d tell me she loved me every time. The thing I loved most about her, though, was her hands. She hated them, and I loved them. They were big, never sweaty. They were rough, calloused. I’d call them well-loved and she’d tell me to stop. Wherever we went, no matter what we were doing, she would hold my hand. And I loved how it felt, how it made me feel. She told me once that she loved my hands, and I was too shocked to tell her that I loved hers. I miss her, but mostly I miss her hands.

College is a lonely place: I don’t know anyone well enough to reach out and make an attempt. There are people who hate being touched. There are people with sweaty hands. There are people who hate me. I don’t know how to classify people, so I never try. Maybe that’s why I dream about hands all the time. Maybe it’s a kind of withdrawal. I don’t know. It’s 2AM and there is too much caffeine in my system and I want to hold someone’s hand.