These are the times I remember:
My ex telling me that the reason he cheated is because I was still like a dead fish during sex. He didn’t ask why or what could be better. Didn’t apologize. I had a dozen internal conversations with myself about how I fucked up, how I could be more desirable, how I could perform and be present. We didn’t have a conversation about what I saw as I wandered through his house while an unnamed ghost took over my body and made me not crave his.
Or the feeling that made me crave myself, in a different and similar way. How I didn’t listen.
I hated that ghost. How she’d go into Target when the lights were too bright, knowing that everything else is too. The clothes on the right are neon. And the crackers are neon. The baby’s face is fucking neon. When you close your eyes, you see the same thing. Those two bright bars above her eyelids. Someone asks if she needs help.
My friends say I have a bad memory. That I change stories and the “truth” never quite aligns with them. I live with high anxiety. I have been a high functioning anxious person ever since I can remember. I have always thought about death and dying. From broken glass 100 feet away, to brain aneurysms, to cancer, to jumping off of too high buildings because why am I there and won’t it happen anyway? Everything is a death trap.
Does it matter that there is no language to reflect the things that have happened to and within me? Yes. Does it matter that I’m searching? Yes.
I have imagined dying in ways you may never have. (You read hypochondriac in this story too? Yes.)
When my anxiety is high and I cannot process what’s happening, I dissociate. I’m dissociating right now. This is the not-feel. Or the less feel. I keep thinking about how this story could break me open, invite unsolicited advice, put me in a category as a writer (and person) that folk will deem as illegitimate, untrustworthy, unstable.
Life is complicated.
I am a Black woman who has experienced tremendous violence and surveillance. I am a Black woman who has enacted and is trying to counteract tremendous violence and surveillance on other Black bodies. This is the world, how I move through it. Hypervigilant, afraid, paranoid, on edge. Floating and sure. Sometimes thankful.
The times I don’t remember are often at parties or concerts.
Some think I’m radical and funny, shy and cute, an asshole, or an introvert that loves corners. Maybe this is true. They ask to hang out, call me cagey and wishy washy when I decide to stay in. When we talk, I am fighting to stay grounded, to hold something that weighs my belly and feet down. I’m trying to not run.
I have started ringing my hands again. My family used to call this a nervous twitch. I do all these things: stretch, shake my head, pinch my arm until it bruises to bring me back to myself. I don’t really know what this means. If there is ever a bringing back. What is back? What is functional? Will my hands return?
Imagine smiling and trying not to run while sure that death is coming, that it is following you. I “mastered” this when men began following me home or to work on buses, in streets, stores, continents. Each time, my bones acclimate to romance the thought of breaking, breathing, non-trouble. I want to be very clear that this is not a story about suicide. I have not tried to harm myself. I am very realistic about how this world has tried to harm me and how it has armed others to perpetuate that harm. I expect nothing less. This is not exaggeration.
My stomach is always sucked in.
Breathe as deep as you can. Notice the floating. Do not change it. Thank your body for teaching you that listening is responding. For being both bone and marrow. Do not apologize.
Find what brings you back. And come back.