Friday, May 23, 2014

Tornado

tor·na·do
a localized, violently destructive windstorm occurring over land, especially in the Middle West, and characterized by a long, funnel-shaped cloud extending toward the ground and made visible by condensation and debris.



People who have never lived here don't understand. Those of us who have never lived anywhere else, well, tragedy can occur anywhere.



You tell yourself that you have a storm shelter, and common sense. You prepare, and you believe preparedness is safety. You fool yourself, because as adults, that's what we do.


Children are the brave ones. They believe in monsters under the bed. Childhood is honesty, and the older we get, the more we're taught the lies and uncertainty of adulthood.
The monsters are still there, but we think that with enough foresight, we can somehow keep the horror at bay. But monsters don't have rules. They're everywhere. Sometimes, behind the faces of people we trust.



September 13, 2011 was my own personal tornado. It was darkness.  Once something like that happens, moving past the tragedy is impossible, the tatters of the life I knew fell away, and every day was the day of the tornado.  I lived in the eye of the storm.  It all seems quiet, but on every side, the tragedy is still happening.





--


I like a good beer buzz, early in the morning.


Drinking was the sign of adulthood in my family.  Beer was for barbecues, champagne was for New Year's, and vodka had it's own seat at the dinner table.


I'm a drinker.  Sometimes, I'm a drunk.  I like the taste of beer, and I love the way it makes me feel.  Blurry at the edges, wanting to laugh, fuck, and maybe pass out.  Beer.  That's the name of my God.


I know I'm not the first person that kind of thing happened to, and I won't be the last, but there was such surprise.  That's what I'm most ashamed of.  The surprise that something like that could happen to me.


You wouldn't believe the amount of shame that I carried around.  I'd spent my days off watching shows like Law and Order: SVU.  I would watch it and think about the tornado.  About sleeping with all the lights on, and checking the door to make sure it was locked at least fifty times a night.


Anyone who could take away something like that from another person, to turn pleasure into horror and pain, doesn't deserve to walk in the midst of people. 


What was stolen from me is something I'll never get back.  It wasn't just my torn body, it was the way I used to trust.  The way I could love anyone, completely, and selflessly.  I miss myself.  I miss certain things about the woman I used to be. 


The worst part, the one that anyone who's been through it knows, is that one memory you can't bleach with therapy or booze or antidepressants.  Mine is the sound of him spitting into his hand.  Just typing that last sentence makes my stomach clench, and my lunch flutter in my stomach. 
There are some nights, that I wake up to that sound, him spitting into his hand, and think about that being the last good moment in my life.  That spitting sound, and then we have now.




--


“Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”—Unknown


I hate helpful, huggy quotes.  "Fuck your forgiveness.  There are things that should never be forgiven. "  -- Me


The first time I tried to have sex after it all happened, was so awkward, it was like regaining my virginity.  I didn't want to have sex.  I didn't desire it, but I wanted to know that I was capable of still deciding.  It was the decision that I was most worried about. 


I talked to one of my best friends and nagged and pestered him so much, he finally agreed to have the most awkward sex imaginable with me.


Getting hard wasn't the problem, it was staying hard.  When you're trying to have sex with someone who has a Sports Illustrated archive worth of issues below the belt, it's impossible to be in the mood.


A year or so ago, he told me it wasn't the worst sex he ever had, which made me laugh so hard I let out a monstrous, honking fart.  We both laughed at that until our stomachs ached.  It felt good to know that I still had the ability to laugh. 


--


"It's a way we had over here with living with ourselves. We cut 'em in half with a machine gun and give 'em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies.'' -- Apocalypse Now


I won't tell you a lot of the clich├ęs you hear from most people.  Those are like the religious pamphlets zealots hand out.  Take a look, and then throw that shit out.


Either you'll survive, or you won't.  I think there are strengths in me that I never realized.  Was it worth what I went through?  Not on your fucking life.  I drank until I alienated family, friends, strangers, everyone.  I remember waking up on a pile of beer cans for about six months straight.


It was ugly.  Hell, I was ugly.  After I made it through, I didn't have much left to go home to.  It's a good thing I know how to start over.


Some nights, I wake up and have to tell myself that it's over.  I lived that one day for years, as much as I'd like to leave it behind, it's always going to be with me.


I'm still going.  Maybe I'm too dumb to quit.  Whatever it is, I can live now.  The eye of the storm is finally behind me.




--


“There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar. ”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick





Saturday, October 5, 2013

Home

It's been almost a year, and I still haven't quite settled into my new role.

All the things I thought made me so unique and wonderful were a crock of shit.  I was lonely, and the only thing I had to keep out the cold reality of life was my own illusion of how great I was.

Until October, there were things I'd never known, and was unable to fathom.  In so many ways, I never really lived until October 27th.

The 26th was the longest night of my life.  I remember watching the clock, and the hands never moved.  Seven a.m. was all I could think about, because that was the time I was scheduled to be wheeled to the O.R. for emergency surgery.  Surgery.  That was something for other people.

The nurses were in and out, and when they would smile and say, "Get some sleep," I'd think how impossible that even was.  Knowing how dire the situation was, my blood pressure being near the stratosphere, my hands and feet swelling, best of all, the thirty pounds of sheer water weight I'd put on in a day.  All of that made sleep impossible.

My best friend and my boyfriend were there the whole night.  While I sat awake, my blood pressure being taken, I watched them sleep.  I thought about seven a.m. 

--

We sleep like parentheses.  Me on the outside, him blocking the other side of the bed.  Between us, something I was told would never happen. We sleep like this, trying to block everything else in the world out.  The things that make the news and make you glad it wasn't you.  We sleep blocking out the bad, with everything in the world that's right and beautiful between us.  We tell ourselves we're different and nothing bad will touch us.  Our feet press together, The warmth of it puts me to sleep.

--

Seven a.m. and I'm ready.  I've never been less ready in my life.  Anesthesia is a funny thing.  Euphoric.  I think about how if I die, I won't really mind, because I can't feel anything.
My fiance's there with me, dressed in scrubs.  I can tell how worried he is, and I hold his hand.  Try to tell him how much he means to me.  I try to tell him that what we have is something that steals my words.  I love him.  I've given him something no man has ever gotten.  He has everything I have to offer.  I think all of this, and can barely manage to mouth "love you."  He squeezes my hand.

I've done everything I'm supposed to.  Exercise, eating right, drinking enough water to keep me on the verge of pissing myself.  I never felt any kind of emotion I thought I was supposed to. 

As they were cutting me open, I felt the tug and pull, but no real pain.  I wondered if I was supposed to feel something, and then it happened.

One cry.  That first cry, and everything spilled over.  It was my daughter's voice.  A minute later, my son.  There wasn't enough room in my chest for my heart. 

--

They're closing in on a year.  Just a few weeks away, actually.  I'm still the same old Sal, but I'm completely different.

Last night, my son got his first taste of a tostada.  He did pretty well.  I had one glorious bite left, when he started choking.  I looked into his eyes, reached for him, and as I was patting his back and telling him it was okay, he grinned.  Choking on his dinner, and he grins at me. 
Then, he threw up all over my chest. (I managed to save that last bite for myself before he erupted.  It's a fucking tostada, people.  Delicious.)

It's those kind of things that kill me.  That love and trust.  The absolute fucking trust that his mom will make it better. 

I have no idea what I'm doing.  I wake up every day, spend time with them, and try to show them how much I love them both.  I think about the things in my childhood that tore me down.  How it's so much easier to build up a child than to try to repair years of damage in an adult.

Just about everyday I think that I'm not enough.  I have no idea how a good parent acts.  I think that, chew on it all day long, and then I get one of their grins.  Full of shit and sunshine.  And I tell myself that maybe I can do this.  Maybe I am meant for this.

Just before I go to sleep, one head firmly lodged in my stomach, and one pair of chubby feet burrowed under my boob, I look over at him.  Eyes closed, with baby feet firmly planted in his side, he mumbles to me.  And that's what does it.  I can sleep, those words will make it possible.

"Thank you for all this."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day/Haunted

Since becoming a parent, a lot of things haunt me.

Now, if you had good parents, you want to be like them.  Teach your own kids the kind of invaluable life lessons your parents taught you.  You probably remember Mother's Day as a day with the smell of warm breakfast floating around the edges of that memory.  Maybe your dad made your mom breakfast in bed.  Maybe he took you and your siblings out for a day at an amusement park so Mom could have a day to herself to relax.  In my house it was much, much different.

Mother's Day always fills me with a sort of dread.  I can feel the impending holiday looming over me, like a storm that has the potential for tornadoes.  That heaviness that comes with humidity.  Potential disaster.  And in my growing up, there was a lot of humidity.  A lot of storms.  And disaster was always close.

On this particular day, I couldn't have been more than 7, maybe 8.  It was somewhere around 1987, months before my parents would finally call the time and pronounce their marriage DOA.

What I remember is it being one of those fantastic days with my dad.  He was bi-polar, and would sometimes wake me and my brother up at 5 a.m. to go to a little donut shop, where we'd have donuts and chocolate milk while Dad planned out our day.  These trips usually started with us getting our fishing gear, a cooler full of drinks and food, and a lot of driving.  Dad's fishing spots were well-kept secrets.

It had to be a Sunday.  The day that most things that can go wrong, do.  I remember Dad going to surprise her, and the fight that followed.

I can't and don't know what stress my mom was under.  I don't know what was weighing on her mind.  What I do remember is her words, because every Mother's Day since, I've replayed them, and I still feel a child's shame and helplessness.

"YOU never get me anything for Mother's Day."  "You NEVER make this day special for me."  "You never REMEMBER, so don't even bother."

I remember her eyes looking into mine during those words, and feeling naked.  I didn't get her anything.  I didn't remember this date.  I felt those words like knives in my heart.

It was me who went with my dad to go pick out a present.  I remember Wal-Mart.  I still remember what he picked out.  A rose attached to a glass bell.  It was hideous.  The kind of present that can only be given by a husband under extreme duress.

I don't remember her reaction to the gift.  I just remember that as the last Mother's Day I forgot about.  After that, I tried pouring love and affection into the black hole of her needs.  I did that for the next 24 years.

Today is my first Mother's Day.  That memory is so close.  I never realized what power it had over me, until I told it to my fiance.  The tears came.  I think he understood what I was trying to say.  That's part of the reason why I love him so much.  Love is it's own form of ESP. 

And even as I think about that day in 1987, and try to shake the ghost of that memory off, I want better for my own twins.  I never want them to have a memory of never quite being good enough.  I sit here, still haunted at 6 a.m. and think how words can carve out a heart.  I sit here, and I'm still haunted.


Monday, September 12, 2011

When God wants someone to be good, he makes them plain. When he wants a worthy adversary, he makes them beautiful.

I can smell his cologne. Ghostly and faint after a long day of wear, but still there. The slightest whiff of Jack Daniels as he leans down to kiss me.

And I can’t. I lean forward, away from him and that smell, the smell that still has the power to make butterflies clang in my stomach. No matter how much it excites me, it also makes me sick and afraid. Like an alarm clock, I hit the snooze button on those feeling, five minutes, ten, fifteen, always knowing that it’s going to be right there for me to face when I stop prolonging the inevitable.

No matter where I am, he always finds me. In every moment of de ja vu, every time I feel someone’s eyes watching, each and every time, I’m sure it’s him. That kind of devotion could be called obsession. Or maybe loyalty, I’m not sure which.

I know what it’s like to be spooked. I know what it’s like to run so far away the roads all melt together; the faces all have the same questions, namely the kind that just can’t be answered. But no matter how far I run, how far away I go to lose myself, he always finds me. All it takes is that smell of cologne, just enough to taint the day. Just the faint traces of something that should be dead, and stay dead, but isn’t.

No matter how bad it gets, there’s always that part of me that wants to go back. Back to the beginning. Sometimes I spend whole days staring outside, just wishing I could go back, wishing I could change the course of things. Marty McFly my situation. But it stays the same. I get a little older, not much wiser, and it takes more whisky to hold me together. Just enough to let me sleep, but never enough to really forget.

It’s another Friday, and there’s a long weekend of nothing special. I make my usual trip to the liquor store, thinking inside that it can’t be good that the cashier knows me on a first name basis. Or my usual brand of poison.

At home, before the sun even goes down, I’ve had drinks one through four. No foreplay, because there’s no time to waste, and no work to go to tomorrow.
I want to be good and drunk before I start wading in a sea of might-have-been. I drink myself under the table in record time, and there’s nothing but whatever dreams I don’t remember.

I wake up feeling sea sick and disconnected. I can taste the remains of the bourbon I drank, dead and shriveled in my mouth. I want to just lay here, discarded snakeskin of a life surrounding me. Maybe if I don’t move, my body will just give up.

That last thought makes a laugh snort out of me. Self-pity isn’t like me.

When I go to the bathroom, it’s when I’m brushing that death taste out of my mouth that I notice it.

One of his t-shirts. I’m wearing it.

Maybe it’s just memory, or maybe it’s the actual smell, but whatever it is, I can smell him. In the room with me, how thick the smell of him is. Cloying. Clawing at my nose, my stomach, my heart.

After I throw up, eyes still crying a little, I run straight for the bourbon. Only amateurs have time for a glass. Today, there is no need.

After I’ve drank enough that my hands aren’t shaking and I don’t give a fuck about the shirt I’m wearing, I open up that floodgate.

The one that sometimes only spills over a little, just letting out enough to keep me sane. Tonight, the dam inside me breaks. I’m ruining this t-shirt, the last t-shirt of his, with my tears. Making it a little less his, and a lot more mine.

Striving to smell that last little bit of him trapped in the cloth. Trying to embed the smell and taste of him in my heart, where I’ll never lose it.

I sit and curse him, scream at him, hate him.

For the last little bit of him that I can't run away from. The part of me that misses him so much I just can't heal.

What's dead should stay dead. I know that.

I know it, but it continues to break me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

what you say and what you said

Live my life
Around a picture
Taken when we met
Spending all of my time
Chasing your silhouette




There are so many people who pass through a single life. Some are the concrete walls that hold us in, helping to hold us together, keeping in the good, or maybe helping us hold out the bad.

The people who are those well-read books with lovingly worn pages. You know those pages almost as well as the pages of your inner diary.

Some, who only stayed to write a single chapter in your life, but the kind of chapter that you couldn't have lived without.

Some you needed in ways you never even knew. Happy accidents of life, sunlight splashes peeking through the clouds.

Then, there are the mirage people. The ones who come into your life, looking so good, so beautiful, so achingly perfect that sometimes you wonder what it must like to be them. What it feels like on the inside to be interestingly, gorgeously perfect.

If you're like me, you might spend time chasing after one of those golden people. Chase, chase, chase, and chase some more. Telling yourself as you run yourself ragged that it will be worth it. It'll be worth it, because it just has to be.

Chase until you actually catch up to that glimmering oasis in the desert of people.

When you reach for it, to discover that everything you thought you saw was only a trick of the light. Golden dust motes floating through your fingers, what you were so sure was everything, turns into the nothing that was there all the time.

A trick of the light, a clever illusion and nothing more.

--

While I was looking down at the place in the road where I thought he would be, the place that I'd worked so hard to get to, standing in the midst of the nothing, the mirage, was when I found something so much more.

This time, no mirage. No smoke and mirrors. No empty words, no voids to fill where someone else had left a gaping wound.

And now...

There's this place inside of me that he lives. A film reel of moments that matter to only me.

Stolen moments in time.

The impossibly long sweep of lashes from those dark eyes, a color so deep, it's not brown. Couldn't be called brown.

Brown is for cocoa and earth and things that are plain, neutral, and to be forgotten.

Those eyes are a color so liquid and alive that no description of a color could ever capture it. It's a shade so luminous that not even the passage of time will ever be able to wipe it from my memory.

I call that color love. Two pools of light, banishing every bit of darkness inside me and leaving behind a sensuous warmth, a golden lamp glow of feeling. It fills up every particle of who I am, making me want to scream up at the sky in articulate joy.

For that feeling, there are no words.

For the fire between us, the feeling like a smell, a taste. Something deliciously rich, wanting to savor and devour it all at once. Wanting to draw it out for the fear it might not last, and needing to consume it ravenously to have all, to own it, to consume it the way it consumes me.

--

The best kiss of my life, the briefest. Just the pressing of two sets of lips, sweet seconds that play on a loop. Daring everything just for those seconds, not even a handful, where I was uncertain, tasting my heart in my mouth, crazy hopeful breath catching on the tattered lace of anticipation and finding purchase.

The callouses from mistakes past helping me to grasp exactly this.

Where that place exists, is the place it rains and never storms. The place where no matter how long I stay, it will never be long enough. And no matter what mistakes I've made, or what mistakes I will make, I will never forget that it was the mirage that led me to the rainbow.


And through the rise
and falling apart
we discover who we are




Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Void

Yesterday wasn't a Monday, Tuesday, or any other day of the week. Yesterday was Hell.

When I say Hell, I don't meant that I'm whining about a bad day. People compare things to Hell, trivial things, never knowing that Hell is real. It’s not a long wait in line at the post office, it’s not a birthday party filled with screaming five-year-olds. It’s not seeing the person you love walk away with your heart, or a day at work that seems to never end.

That’s not Hell. That’s life.

My imagined Hell was the kind of place where AC/DC was the muted soundtrack, the devil walked around in red smoking jacket, occasionally burning you with a red hot poker and giggling with Jessica Rabbit, like it was more Playboy Mansion than perdition.

For the real thing, there is no apt comparison. None.

It's like a never ending series of dreams. The kind that bleed together, so it seems less dreamlike. It's finding that someone has had the time and patience to sew together the worst fears and nightmares of your life into a suit of clothes that you wear and can't take off. Hell.


----

Hell isn’t generic. It’s not a one size fits all kind of afterlife. Hell is handcrafted pain, exquisitely fine tuned to each individual. Hell is an Etsy store, the work of many skilled artisans; there’s something for everyone.

You’d think Hell would be about flesh pain, the agony of ripped flesh and torn tendons, bone and sinew roasting. But that would mean warmth.

It’s cold. Not freezing, but cold enough to make you hang your head, your shoulders slumped.

That cold that’s not so bad, if you could only warm up. This cold sinks in, a bite at a time, never cold enough to numb, just cold enough to hurt.
Plus, pain is something that comes from your mind, your soul. You don’t have a body when you get here, but your mind is intact. Mind pain is worse than body pain. The best torturers know that to get what you want, you break the mind. Feed on the fear, and drink it down.

Hell is the deep feeling of unease rolling through your stomach. The way your feelings are always determined by the way your stomach feels. Sometimes curling in on itself, sometimes feeling like a hot ball of dread was resting there, sometimes charring like a bit of paper, then crumbling away into ash.

It's a garden party of elegance. The taste of despair like a fine wine, instead of one course, or seven, it’s an infinity of tastes. Despair, horror, guilt, regret, trauma, dread, loathing, secrets, all seared in the juices of other wrongs, plated with a side of your worst memories. There’s no palate cleanser, so each taste piles up, like ashes.

You have something, though. Something that none of the rest of them have. You’re no murderer; you lived a good life. You were good to the people in it. You loved, you gave. If He hadn’t shown up at exactly the right time, you wouldn’t be here. And every time you live through something, you hold onto his eyes. Those green eyes. In your mind you’re still screaming for him. It’s where you go when the mind pain gets too bad. His eyes, green fire, lighting up a room. The way he’d look at you from underneath his eyelashes, pretending to be serious, but making promises and heating up the world with one look.

Even for all that, you hate yourself for wondering if it's worth it.

The worst days are the days when the Master wears his face. When he wears those green eyes, every word hits home. You know it’s not really him, you tell yourself its not, but the words, the inflections, the silver bright eyes are his. You choke on your guilt those days. You cry until your tears come out as blood.
This, this is your special Hell, the one bought and paid for, with that one word.

Yes.

----


There are some things you learn here; namely the history. Like the bands who traded part of their soul (not all) but part, for a shift in hell. Those that wanted fame so badly they couldn’t wait for their talent to catch up. Those bands you’ll recognize, because they all had one thing in common. I’ll name a few, just so you get the idea—Robert Johnson, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, Van Halen, AC/DC, some others are more of an ‘a ha’ moment, namely the talentless. Kid Rock, Danzig, White Zombie, Motley Crue, Metallica.

There are two names you never want to mention: Charlie Daniels (because that song is an autobiography, and no matter how many years ago it happened, it’s still a sore subject) and God. Charlie Daniels is more forgivable. Say the G-word, and you’ll find yourself face to face with one of the snarling, silver-eyed angels.

I don't know what everyone else's Hell consists of, it's enough to try to live through my own.

----

Mine is a home, a beautiful home with this golden lamp light, that should feel warm, but instead feels like a handful of ice cubes against your skin. The walls and carpets are the finest you've ever seen. Carpet so plush your feet sink in. Furnishings so decadent they gleam. But each room has its own horrors waiting, no matter how beautiful the decor. Even the crimson carpet carries the leaden weight of despair.

The first room in my house, was a bedroom. No other furniture. Just a bed. Immediately, my mind goes to the worst possible place. I may have to fuck someone on this bed. Worse, it may be ten or twenty or ten thousand someones. I can feel my stomach twitch in disgust, trying to prepare myself for that as much as I can.

A soft laugh, and I can feel the heat baking off his body. Him, the Master. "Shhh...," he laughs softly, "It's only one person. Just one. Once you've come, you can get up from this bed."

I felt his hands softly sliding through my hair, "Most never get up from this bed," he whispered, "but you will. You're different."

And he was right. I did make it out of that bed. But all I remember about that, what Hell won't let me forget when I was finally able to leave that room; my father was crying.

----

Yesterday I made it to the bathroom. The most beautiful bathroom I have ever seen. The marble sink had an array of perfumes lined against the wall. Immediately, I went to smell them. Once I got a smell of the first, my stomach clenched in revulsion.

Each perfume smelled more wonderful than the last. Glorious, as if made of the air of Heaven.

But, this isn't Heaven. Those sparkling top notes were laced with an underlying tone that was the same of each and every perfume. Regret.

The time my cousin ran into the street, and I tackled him into the soft shoulder, feeling the hot breeze from the truck ruffling my hair.

The time I fought with my Mom, the last time I ever saw her, because she died in a car accident the next day.

Coming home to my family after I'd spent years away, trying to sort my life out.

"Does everyone have this many perfumes?" I managed to ask, barely a whisper. He clapped his hands together, delightedly.

"No. Not everyone has let down the people they love as much as you. This?" He picked up a perfume, closed his eyes while inhaling the fragrance, as if it was divine, "This is the time your brother almost drowned, while you were supposed to be watching him."

"This? My favorite. This is when you were in that terrible car accident and you came back to your family."

I felt my eyes burn, and with a throat thick with tears, barely managed to say, "I know I've let my family down a lot."

He tilted his head toward me, almost sympathetically, "You have, but not in the way you think. After your accident, you thought they invited you back into their lives with open arms and all that business. They reguarded you as a rabid dog in their midst. Your instability, your unreliability, your irresponsibility. Their only regreat was that you survived."


That was Hell yesterday, and Hell today. I don't know if I can face Hell tomorrow, but then again, I really don't have a choice.

That one thing, that one thought, like a mantra, that won't quit, that string of words that are almost as bad as this house.

(was it worth it? was it worth it? was it worth it? was it worth it?)

And Dear God, I just don't know anymore.

--

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Absolution and Reprieve

There is an unseen world all around us. Most people pass through it, like fog.

Then, there are others, like me, and instead of fog, it's a tangled web of invisible wire.

I've tried running from it, tried pretending, tried hiding. But the one thing I know, the one certainty in my life is this: you can't run from who you are.

There will always be something, or someone to drag you right back. You'll always end up facing yourself no matter how far you run.

No matter how far you run, you're only fighting yourself.

I wish I didn’t know that. I think of writing this, and I think of the disbelief of someone else finding it and reading it. Maybe shaking their head, maybe rolling their eyes in disgust, and I envy them, I envy them in their disbelief.

--

From what I’ve pieced together, there is a long history of that sort of thing in my family. It was the great unseen. That which never was spoken of.

There was the way my dad and my grandpa could speak to each other, without saying a word. The way they’d talk about me, sometimes thinking I was already
asleep.

They’d talk in whispers about this thing called ‘it.’ About whether or not I had it.

They’d discuss it late into the night.

I remember laying in bed, trying to figure it out, trying to understand.
Whatever ‘it’ was, I didn’t have it.

I’d puzzle it out during class, or recess, or anytime I had a spare moment to think. It was always there, waiting for me to turn it over in my mind, trying to make those puzzle pieces fit into a pattern that I understood.

On my last day of fourth grade, I was sitting on a bench, waiting for the recess bell to ring, once again turning it over in my mind. Trying to give it a name, so it was manageable.

The bell ringing startled me out my thoughts, and I started walking behind a fifth grader, noticing the contented humming of bees, the smell of honeysuckle, the drowsy warmth from the sun.
I watched her walk up the steps in front of me, and this dread, this terror seized me.

It felt like my throat was full of hot, packed glue. I tried to yell at her, I reached forward to grab the back of her shirt, but I was frozen in that spot.

The heat, the smell of flowers, it was too much. Every one of my senses was in the red. I knew what was going to happen, could feel it in every part of my body. Worse yet, I couldn’t do anything, all I could do was watch.

As soon as she reached for the door, someone else slammed it open. Her hand met the thick, tempered glass with a sickening crack. Time slowed down to the point of insanity, and I could see the drops of blood as they fell from her arm.

Time surged forward again, and slapped me back into reality. I remember my knees just folding and spilling me to the grass. I sat there, trying to breathe, trying not to throw up.

That was the day I found out what ‘it’ was.

--

You’d think something like that would be a gift. Who wouldn’t want to know things like that?

Me. I don’t like knowing things like that.

The upside of it is knowing when your friends or family are upset, and knowing what to say or do. Knowing exactly what they need. Knowing what they need to hear, and being able to say it. Those are the good days.

But the bad days, so many of them, so many thoughts invading the privacy of your mind. Most people know what it’s like to be alone with their thoughts. Imagine someone else’s thoughts, or panic or anguish invading your head. It feels like an ice pick lodged in tender flesh. It’s intrusive, and it burns. The more intense the emotion, the more intense the pain it brings.

You get used to it. But you never get completely comfortable with it.

It’s having something inside you that you can’t share with anyone else. You try telling someone “so, I can hear your thoughts.” Because most people don’t believe you. That’s okay. The ones who actually do, are even worse. It makes you a bad person, prying into something, being something you don’t want to be. And the worst thing is the look in their eyes. Like you chose this for yourself.

--

The worst part is knowing things, and knowing you can’t change them.

The first couple of times, I went through stages of grief and denial. Played accuse-a-palooza. Blamed who I was for what I couldn't change.

Now, I change what's in my power to change, and what I can't change, I think of on sleepless nights when there's nothing but the tick of the clock. Those nights when there's no such thing as minutes or hours, those nights when there's no time, only darkness.

--

The janitor, the one who has a smile for everyone, is going to fall down the stairs and break his neck. He'll lay there, the last few seconds of his life draining away, and his last thoughts will be of the daughter he never sees.

The girl I work with, three desks down, is planning to kill herself tonight. We’re not friends, we’re not even close, but I’ve tried to talk her into going out and having a few drinks. I’ve tried to do everything I can to distract her, but the thoughts in her head are getting louder and louder and I can’t drown them out anymore. She’s aching inside, her heart feels like someone poured gasoline over it and set the entire mess alight. My hands are shaking at how much she hurts.

There’s the woman who rides the same elevator I do everyday. She doesn’t know that today is her last day here. When she goes home tonight, she’s going to die. Aneurysm. I told her she looked beautiful this morning. Her eyes lit up like I was the best person in the world. I should've told her that everyday, just for the look in her eyes.

Days like today, I want to jump out of a plane with no parachute.

--

Instead of lunch today, I have errands.

The janitor first. I meet him on the staircase, just as he slips. I get a taste of his elbow in my side, as he falls into me. He's still thinking of that daughter he never sees, the one he abandoned; she's never far from his thoughts.

He thanks me when I keep him from falling, and I nod at him and go on.

Two phonecalls later, and I've ordered flowers for suicidal girl (The card is what will make her change her mind, I'm sure of it) and for the lady who's going to die.

I know flowers won't make up for the fact that there's nothing I can do, but I want her last day to have some distinction. I want to do something for her, as if that will make up for her forever nap.

--

Passing people on the street gives me a headache. It’s picking up the minor things that ride on the top of everyone’s subconscious. It’s like having a hundred radios tuned into the static, so loud, it drowns everything out. And no matter what I do, I can’t run away from it.

It’s like a fire, it rages and raves, and nothing can put it out. I walk past people and their lives just seep into me.

I used to want to save them all, and I ran myself ragged the first couple of years, just trying to do that.

And then I met him.

I was walking in the park, at night, the only time I can get away from things completely. I saw a man on the opposite side of the sidewalk, walking north to my south. As I passed him, I braced myself for the normal onslaught of thought bleed.

As soon as we passed, nothing.

Uncomfortable, church quiet.

When I turned to look at him, he was looking back at me.

“You can see me?” I nodded to him, slowly.

He ran back to where I was standing, and that awkward silence descended. I couldn’t hear anything he was thinking. Nothing.
--