I stepped out the other day and into the world. My friend was beside me. We were holding hands; a gesture that little girls do. Little girls also pretend to be sisters. We did this on a daily basis. Sometimes we were dogs but also sisters; sometimes we were lost, poor sisters and imagined ourselves donning tattered rags and digging through my parents’ old flower planter for “food”. There weren’t even flowers in the planter. Sometimes when we dug, we unearthed old, stale bulbs that had shrunk into brown, shriveled niblets. We collected them like precious stones; in our wild, childhood imaginations they were so much more than death buried in an empty planter filled with nothing but old, dry, nutrient-free soil.
On one particular fall day, we were walking past his house. The people who lived in the house opposite his had built a messy albeit fortress-like fence behind their backyard to keep their greenhouse hidden and intact; the fence was a series of un-sanded, un-evened planks of brown-gray wood held together with thrice-wrapped chicken wire which seemed as brittle as icicles and just as cold. On this particular day we were walking with fleece jackets and mittens on and winter boots with waterproof toes and soles. We could hear rabid chirping and looked up to see a sparrow trapped in the chicken wire, half-dead but still struggling, still calling out for help. We couldn’t reach the bird, nor were we nimble or strong enough to untangle it from its upright grave. The bird died, probably by the end of the night, and its carcass, twisted and mangled and malting, was in plain site until it eventually was picked apart by parasites and maggots and other hungry birds, until its smooth, tiny skull was visible like the plastic head of a sewing pin.
That bird… I can remember it vividly; looking up at it as if I was watching death sting my nine-year old eyes. It was one of my first exposures to death – not the kind of death that comes from swatting a fly or squishing a worm but seeing something struggle and cry out for help. Knowing it was going to die there, wrapped in wire and helpless to escape because it lacked means to do so. The bird was a victim of nature. The bird was a victim because it caught itself up in a labyrinth of wire and splintered old wood and only when it realized it was trapped, was it unable to get out. So it chirped weakly at people who could see it right in front of their eyes, but couldn’t help, and didn’t.
I live with this darkness. Sometimes it’s a shallow pool. Sometimes it’s a deep hole of infinite blackness that’s impossible to escape. I feel and look normal on the outside and I can function and I can sing and drink and shop and eat and love and laugh and work and run and practice guitar but all the while, I’m being sucked in. I can see it, and no one can help me.
This darkness is me. It is the way I live my life both by choice and through fault and circumstance and self-hatred and blame. If my body is a temple then the temple has been compromised. I sit inside it as it crumbles looking out the doorway wishing to escape but knowing I cannot escape my own body, my own thoughts, my own detriments. Those same detriments I value and have no desire to ‘fix’. For ‘fixing’ brings with it a new kind of fear and a new kind of uncertainty; that suddenly what you knew, and what you know, are separate and in a way that is terrifying and cold and foreign. This darkness that buries inside me isn’t something I treasure because it’s ‘good’, ‘fun’, or because I want to be in that state of mind. It’s something I value because it represents where I came from and why I am the way I am. It’s something that reminds me not only of how far I’ve come but how hard I’ve failed. It’s something complex and difficult and sedimentary that forces me to recall, to examine, to be reminded. I shouldn’t have to change myself to accommodate others’ opinions of what’s healthy and what makes sense. I live outside of that. This darkness is me. It is what makes sense.
Few people can understand this kind of life. I don’t seek out people that do, nor would they seek me out, necessarily. They would pass me on the street and see pain behind my eyes and somehow know that what I’ve gone through and why it isn’t something they could help with but know and understand that’s okay. They would see me as someone who has stepped out into the world like themselves and has to fight every day for the kind of happiness and normalcy that everyone else takes for granted in lieu of shallow victories, diminutive forms of muted ‘happiness’ that people like me can’t ‘get’ or understand.
Does this explain anything to you now? Do you comprehend, understand or even grasp the meaning of what it is to embody all of this? Do you see it as something that might be of great value and purpose to someone’s life even though you think logically everyone would just want all of this to go away? I assure you already it doesn’t. It never will. Never.