Figure

Notions in my nervous system leak out from time to time

Potions in my stomach leap back up from time to time

I zombie-shuffle around the hospital on a 24-hour shift pulled between urgencies and emergencies, my ID badge clipped to my scrub top, dangling like a nipple tassel, swaying immodestly with each step.

Despite the stress of my current life, I feel deeply blessed

In the dark of winter, I feel the sun rising below my feet, supporting and uplifting me

The sky’s the limit

I feel it all- my invisible mental illnesses concealed by my silence and my simultaneous self-healing chipping away at the the plastic false-front I put up for survival, replacing it with vines organic growth that I hope will one day blossom with radical authenticity.

‘Did you come?’ he asked me, I didn’t know what he meant by ‘come’ but I was used to faking it when I didn’t know the answer so I said yes because I was raised to tell people what they wanted to hear, and never appear flawed, weak or wrong. I believed my ‘yes’ was the truth because I didn’t know what ‘coming’ was outside of arrival, so I figured that my coming had happened without my knowing, and I said yes because I figured it was the right answer- the answer he wanted to hear. It didn’t bother me at the time that I hadn’t wanted him to put his penis inside me- I was hard-wired to do what everyone wanted of me, and still am. I had suddenly entered a world of new vocabulary and new unpleasant sensations. We were kids, barely adolescents, yet he knew things I didn’t and had done things I hadn’t. The honest, informed answer would have been a resounding ‘What does it mean to come?’ followed by a ‘No, not even close’. Jersey boys grow up fast, didn’t even seduce me before they induced me grow up fast; the recovery is slow. Trauma lasts; a few seconds echo across a lifetime.

‘Don’t go in there- he’s a bad man’ was the stern and tremulous forewarning from an elder woman on a stoop watering her urban flowers. I wish I had followed her suggestion or asked for an explanation. Ever the workaholic, I brushed past her, attributing her words to eccentricity, and knocked on her neighbor’s door. I had told this man I was coming to visit, and I follow through with my word and maintain utmost punctuality, on principle. Hungry from a lifetime of poverty, I was determined to make my fortune on the high seas of the internet by socializing with rich men who I later learned were impoverished in spirit and cost me far more than the pittance I garnered. He locked me in his apartment and shouted commands at me to take off my clothes and get on my knees. He proceeded to rape me in every orifice and slapped me hard across the face, choking me as silent tears streamed down my cheeks. I had mastered the art of silent crying in early childhood. The man and I were both deeply disappointed by the events of the evening. He was furious when I hesitated to follow his commands. He asked, ‘didn’t you read my profile?’ I hadn’t, but I figured he wanted me to say yes, so I said yes. He followed with, ‘what did you think of my profile?’ I replied, ‘I liked it’. I never read his profile, but I imagine it might have read something like ‘heinously unattractive morbidly obese abusive alcoholic with tiny, foul-smelling penis seeks young woman to verbally and physically abuse through rape and violence.’ Hours after I initially wanted to leave, he released me from the hell-hole of his apartment. The city air never smelled so sweet. After fearing for my life that night, he motivated me to quit sex work. Silver lining. I wonder if the truth would have set me free sooner- if I had simply said ‘no’ when he asked me if I had read his profile or told him that I didn’t like it if he had paraphrased it. How much waste can one haste make. Speed made me sloppy. It still does from time to time.

Despite the horrors I have survived, I feel most distressed by those closest to me- my explosive nuclear family who I care about deeply and who hurt me deeply. I didn’t imagine that my own happiness could cause so much upset amongst them. They take what is beautiful and make it so damn ugly, shitting on my truest joy- my union with my life partner- with their dramatic accusations in which they mistake their feelings for facts and make my ‘special day’ about them and their insanity. They already ruined all the special days of my childhood- I shouldn’t feel shocked or even mildly surprised. It seems they only celebrate alongside me when I fit into their vision of vanity, when it is convenient for them. The frustrating part is that my partner is a good person who loves me and we are happy together, although he doesn’t fit into their narrow ideals for race or finances. The aggravating part is that we got married in part for them, to keep our love proper and kosher and acceptable. I figured it was what they wanted. The enraging part is that we got married in part for our future children, after I aborted my first three pregnancies partly for my family’s honor, without stopping to reflect how they dishonor me. I am now struggling to become pregnant at an advanced age. My uterus has suffered untold abuses. There is nothing I can do to make unhappy people happy. All I can do is cultivate my own inner glow and shine.

As usual, I am frozen in fear and anxiety, and also exhaustion. I’m tired of the indentured servitude of residency, tired of battling on the front lines of the pandemic, and tired of a lifelong pattern of catering to the emotionally labile who believe I owe them my life and that I am responsible for their unobtainable happiness. For the longest time, I believed them. My bleeding heart didn’t know any better.

I choose to collect my thoughts before responding without reacting from a place of hurt. Overwhelmed with emotion, this will take time. I want certain family members to think more thoroughly and compassionately before spitting venomous words at me. They want me to speak on demand, yet are quick to give me the cold shoulder and now that I am older I want to cut the cord between us like surgery to free myself from the malignant tumor of their energy.

May I stop trying to figure out what other people want of me- it has only lead to my misery, over and over and over and over.

Back at work, I hear the whip crack. I haven’t met most of the people who are getting rich off my back.

I observe people’s bodies with judgement even though it tastes bitter- ranking them in attractiveness- what an unattractive habit. I remind myself to stop imagining their thoughts, to focus on the flame instead of the candle, to behold the melting wax in awe- the interface between spirit and physical form.

I’ve put forth an immodest amount of effort in my life, pushing through severe anxiety and depression without accepting help, least of all from myself. I did seek help a couple of times during childhood when I told my mom in my little voice that I was depressed, to which she reprimanded, ‘you are not depressed’. If she only knew how frequently suicidal thoughts have dropped in to visit me. I no longer invite them in for tea- social distancing. My mother taught me to replace my feelings with everybody else’s feelings.

I feel emotionally ready for retirement even though there are many moons before I will receive my first real paycheck. I have come to treasure quiet peaceful moments. Doing less is my goal, even if I rarely allow time for it. Simply being present in the now, basking on the soft moss of inner calm, feeling that I belong, that I am lovable just as I am. I hope the same for you, and not because I figure that is what you want to hear- I sincerely wish that all beings be happy, healthy and free.

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