Disclaimer: I don’t promise that it’s good, only that it’s real. Proceed at your own risk.
I can lie to myself all I want. I’ve a limitless supply of self-deception, it would seem. But underneath, I am drenched in chagrin. I know I am waiting for him to call, to text, to send a carrier pigeon. Anything. I stare at my phone, and feel the words jittering to be typed–a flood of horrifying honesty, the fast track to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The phone goes in a drawer. I ache with shame. Or maybe it’s only the fact that I woke this morning knowing that pants would once again be my Ancient Nemesis. As if I needed confirmation not provided by a herd of tiny, angry cats armed with RPGs and Bowie knives who were trying to claw their way to freedom through my lower abdomen, I sat hunched on the toilet holding a wad of toilet paper.
That’s right, the Lunar Lady Flu strikes again, and it goes a fair way to explaining my current sullen moodiness. Knowing this does not alleviate my misgivings, nor does it do anything to silence the litany of self-accusatory statements that have cropped up in my brain. How could I have been so unguarded, so foolish, so naive? Why was I honest? Why was I open? Haven’t I learned anything in the last 30 years? I should never have let him get close. He was only using me/being charming/being nice/take your fucking pick. How could anyone love me as I am?
Kroger is the Place of No Mind
I can assure you, there’s more and it’s painful. I don’t think any other human being has ever been as cruel to me as I am to myself. And while I’m better than I used to be, in times when I feel vulnerable, hurt, disappointed–it comes back to the surface. It is my fault for being hurt, for expecting too much, for pushing too hard at the boundaries of courtesy, for being weird or loud or unladylike. I should have kept my head and remembered what I am, that voice tells me. ‘Be realistic,’ it whispers. ‘You know you’re an ugly girl with too much to say. No one wants that.’
Last night, I found myself wandering the fluorescent aisles of my neighborhood grocery store, pausing to look at items I had no intention of buying. I’d gone there on purpose, not to buy, but to escape my internal monologue. I’d gone there seeking the familiar comfort of tinny soft rock played over the loud speakers and abundance, purchase for my consciousness. But even there, my conditioning found me.
There I was, with a box of blueberry frosted miniwheats, held gingerly between thumb and forefinger as if it would contaminate me with its sugar-soaked devilry, reading the contents on the side label when she kicked me in the head.
“Why would he want you?” She hissed at me from some dark corner behind my eyes. “You’re old. And yet somehow you still haven’t learned not to share what you think or feel. You fucking child.” She kicked again, “He was just using you. And yet it never occurred to you to question why he was being so nice?” I feel her words scrape against the inside of my skull. “Fool. He called you a spinster. Don’t you know what that means? Fat. Ugly. Unaccomplished. Worthless. Unwantable. A spare thing. That’s you.” She, who is only myself at my worst, laughs, and it sounds like bones breaking. My bones. “And yet you had the idiocy to feel flattered. You got comfortable, didn’t you? You trusted. You’re a moron and you deserve to be hurt.”
I left the box of cereal lying on its side in the middle of the too-bright aisle, welcomed the chilly darkness of the parking lot. There, in the space between Chicago wondering if anyone knew what time it was and Foreigner wanting to know what love is, I had told myself the truth of what I really thought.
When a Truth is not True
All these months I’ve been swooning and refraining from gushing on paper about how I felt about this young man, these thoughts were there. Granted they were in a box, locked with a dozen pad locks, where I hoped they would gather dust and never get free, but I know they are a part of me. Whatever comfort I achieve with myself, they always will be. For those of you who did not grow up fat, gender non-conforming, and painfully extroverted in the Deep South, my congratulations. In my estimation, I am proof of the statement that you can take the girl out of the psychological trauma, but you can never really take the psychological trauma out of the girl.
By and large, I’m far better than I once was. I love myself on most days, even if my hair is doing something funny and my face looks like it was hit by a Zamboni machine. I have confidence in my skill and intellect. I am comfortable. But I realized, there in the late night quiet of Kroger with the box of miniwheats clutched in my numb fingers, I am all of these things because I have been alone for the last five years. I haven’t dared to love or want or even really look at any other human being, and that effectively creates an emotional vacuum. Stability under these conditions is relatively simple, because no one can get in and nothing can upset the delicate balance I created.
Do I think that the hurtful things I said to myself are true? Yes and no. I feel ashamed for having trusted another person, and for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with him. What was I thinking, to succumb to infatuation without a thorough investigation of myself, of him, of the situation? But there are the ghosts of fear with which to contend, and with them, I must be honest. I fear rejection because I am fragile, because I have not ventured out into the world in many years. I am not so strong as I would like to believe. But I allowed myself to believe that he might be just sweet enough to deal gently with my breakable components. I forgot to calculate his own human flaws into the bargain.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Strike That Match
So, did he actually deal ungently with me? Not precisely. He didn’t have to. I am more than capable of breaking shit all on my own without any assistance from anyone, I’ll have you know. What’s more is that this is a part of a pattern that is so old, I don’t even remember when I started doing it. If I feel rejected, I engage in a campaign of Scorched Earth that the Soviet Army would regard with envy. I don’t just break my own shit, I set it all on fire. Then I trigger a massive volcanic eruption and cover everything in lava and ash.
And that’s really what I’m trying to avoid doing as I write this. In fact, writing this is, itself, a part of that effort. Perhaps by putting it in print, looking at how pointless and self-destructive it is, I will manage to avoid doing what I always do. Maybe, I’ll even manage to do something different, to not throw around my emotional furniture and set everything on fire like a frenzied phoenix toddler who didn’t get her way. Because, no matter what actually comes out of my interaction with this person, I am tired of myself being…myself. I wanted something different.
Well, even if I don’t get it, I still have to follow through and do something–anything–differently. That’s for me, and that has to be enough for now.