I have always strived to be beautiful, even in my grief. I have hollowed out my stomach before allowing myself to cry, made myself presentable to the object of my sorrow even in their absence. To cry is to beg for mercy, and from whom will this mercy come to an ugly girl? I know as I pour another drink it will only add to the lines, to the soft, wobbly flesh of my body, to the ruddy face that will scare and defeat me in the morning. I have no illusions to shield me from the grotesque nature of my failings; they are written all over me and they are all the more reason to hide. Maybe if I could will myself up and out of this hole, I could tell my tale from the other side. The side where I am beautiful, just as I’d always dreamed I’d be. My pain would bring me their tenderness and I would acquiesce to the reprieve in my feeble glory. Until then, I will hide in the safety of the walls this hole provides, for no one feels sympathy for the ugly. We are repulsive, even to ourselves. The relief of letting go and letting the darkness overcome us is short-lived, for always there is the shame of knowing the disgust our visible distress would bring.
Document9 was a little brain dump I finally got the balls to write the other day. The central theme in my life as of late seems to be this little mantra: don’t lie to yourself. I would like to say it’s been liberating, but really it’s just been painful. Maybe the liberation lies beneath all the shame I have yet to dig through. And that is precisely what Document9 entails. In it, I describe what I consider to be my most shameful secret, something that has caused me a lot of pain over the last few years but has increased a hundredfold over the past few months. It’s become a daily source of humiliation, a reason for me to feel sudden pangs of embarrassment when I’m alone at night wondering how pitiful people must find me. How silly and stupid. I’ve tried opening up to a few people about it, scratched the surface but didn’t tell them everything. I felt like even that was too much and just made me feel worse. I feel they must look at me differently now. Realized I wasn’t as strong as they thought I was.
And so it’s become my daily mission to chip away at the inadequacies that fuel this shame. This seems like it would be a noble cause, one that should bring a sense of pride, but it’s just a constant reminder and it hurts.
I’m not sure if this shame is related to the horrific shyness I have been experiencing lately. Sometimes I cannot speak without blushing, and it seems to be getting worse. Things that shouldn’t embarrass me do embarrass me. I feel myself stumble over words as I try to seem casual. I wince at my attempts at humor. I try to push through, to say the things I need to say and ask the things I need to ask. But I’m horrified as blood rushes to my face and I have to look them in the eye, have to see if they can see the shame underneath. The shame of feeling ashamed, the shame of knowing your place when you’ve attempted to step out of it. Silly girl. I feel like they know. They know how pathetic I am. And of course they don’t care, of course they don’t spend much time thinking about me at all. I find relief in knowing that.
I just want to run off to a place where people don’t know me and I can remain nameless and move unseen through crowds. I feel I’ve done too much damage here, let the wrong people get too close, built my identity upon lies I told myself and tore myself down again and again when I was drinking for relief. The only option is to trudge forward. I just wish I had someone that would hold my hand through it and still look at me like they liked me all the same.
I was on my way to work when it hit me—the smell of nighttime summer air that sometimes slips unexpectedly into February on the east coast. It smells like hope and nostalgia and tends to make folks feel giddy. It came through the civic windows somewhere on interstate 40 and mixed with my anger to produce a drunken sort of elation. It was the kind of fed-up-with-this-shit feeling you finally reach after a long stretch of uncomfortably swallowing little annoyances. It feels good to be certain about anything in life and there’s something particularly freeing about being fucking done with something…or someone. I was realizing I had options.
In the weeks leading up to this, I had almost consciously kept my focus as narrow as possible to avoid feelings of regret for giving up my cheap one bedroom and moving into a house with two friends and their three dogs. I thought it would be good for me to not be alone, but I had become disgusted by my friend’s laziness and her crazy mood swings. I felt smothered living in a house that wasn’t my own and pretending not to be bothered by her neediness and her self-appointed authority. I had to get out and I was more than willing to burn bridges to do it.
I had moved so I could get away from the man I felt was using me, the ex I couldn’t stay away from. I had been drowning once more in the abyss of his past, his love lost, trying desperately to put together the pieces for him so he could see what I saw, the lies I was certain she had fed him. One night a bit of alcohol passed my lips and opened them up to him. We were in my living room, I had called him over late. I told him what I had found, who I had spoken with, and what they had said about her. I could feel the hot panic sweep through his body, his heart pounding as he sat next to me on the couch. I knew he was feeling that same painful rush of adrenaline and sickness that I felt almost a year before when I had found conversations between the two of them. I felt grateful for the alcohol in my blood and the numbness that allowed me to feel only slight curiosity when he insisted again and again on her purity. But I knew I had shaken him.
Over the next few days, I tried to help him fit the rest of the pieces together, practically handed him the directions. And what was so maddening was that he simply refused to do a thing. For the 19 months we had known each other, he had sworn he would get to the bottom of what she had done. I had searched for her wrongdoings but found instead what should have been better: a door. Behind it lay the answer, without context but plain as day. I handed him the key. He just put it in his pocket and walked away. Told me again how we could never be together because of her. Told me he couldn’t see himself with anyone for a long time. He expected me to swallow this rejection for the hundredth time, to act as if I didn’t mind and to carry on fucking him while he kept me at arm’s length.
So I moved, and for five weeks I ignored his existence. I told him not to call and I knew he would listen. I knew it was what I had to do but it felt so wrong. I was lonely and always crying in my car, grateful for any good thing in the day that reminded me how much bigger life should be than this. But not having him around felt like I was suffocating. I told myself that it was okay for it to feel wrong, that I just wasn’t used to being away from him and time would fix things. I told myself it was necessary, that I would come out the other side eventually, but I guess I just couldn’t wait.
That night in February, I got gas and bought a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. I didn’t go to work, I went to a bar, giddy to choose the beer that would break the camel’s back. I hadn’t had a drink in weeks and I had no reservations about breaking my dry spell in dramatic fashion. There’s something that feels empowering about self-destruction. I was tired of telling myself “no” and being so responsible only to have my efforts amount to what felt like a sub-par existence. I was living what I felt was a dull life, the kind that makes you feel kind of okay with dying. I just couldn’t stand it anymore when relief was at my fingertips. How the fuck was I supposed to say no? I drank my beer and texted him to meet me. He was free, as he usually was, and he was on his way. I breathed for the first time in five weeks.
Part of the allure was knowing exactly how things would unfold, I was cocksure and riding high on it. I knew the way he’d look at me, I knew how he’d act, I knew what I could get away with, I knew what we’d do and I knew the feeling I’d have all night. As we sat out on the bar’s patio, I let myself enjoy the power my drunken certainty wielded. With a swaggering grin and a drag on my cigarette, I informed him that the night was to be entirely without rules. He just kind of smiled, shook his head and said: “the night that doesn’t exist”. Yes, that was it exactly.
We talked about this and that, I bemoaned my roommate and enjoyed the relief it brought to admit my mistake in moving. I soaked in the anticipation of us fucking as I watched him across the metal patio table, flicking my ash and letting my desire burn through my eyes and into him. I felt in control when I knew he couldn’t resist me. Buzzing hard on our chemistry and alcohol, I went into the bar’s bathroom and noticed a small baggie sitting in front of the toilet. Oh, how fun this was all starting to get! I hesitated for a moment, thought maybe I shouldn’t do coke I found on the bathroom floor, but fuck it. That man is bulletproof, and I’m bulletproof when I’m with him. The night didn’t exist and I wasn’t done with it just yet.
We sat at his dining room table while he cut it up. I looked out the window into the backyard and felt myself prematurely reminiscing about the moment I was living in. The feeling was dark and beautiful and somehow familiar, and a longing swelled inside my chest, yearning for what was right in front of me. I did a bump and crawled into his lap, let the dopamine flood my brain with more pleasure than I had felt in months. I knew this wouldn’t happen again, that the world would come to wake me in a few short hours and I would have only the memory. We weren’t really the type of people to do coke at the dining room table, but in a strange way we also were, and in that moment I couldn’t have loved us more.
Riding to my car the next morning in the back of a cab, I secretly watched the video we had made. I blushed as I watched the way he grabbed me by my hair, still feeling a bit devilish but slowly resigning myself to the hangover. I had failed yet another attempt at an alternative life, I had cracked my heart back open. I sat back with my head against the window and felt the familiar hum of the looming pain and the relief of giving up. It was all I knew.
The sadist of my mind has been replaced by your voice. Soft, furtive lashings of the tongue and contemptuous glances have crept insidiously into my skin and paralyzed me in a turmoil I cannot escape. This affliction has left me tortured, for while my nature rebels against it, the shame that it brings leaves me spiritless in the prelude of what may be my awakening. I take defiant solace in the hope for music beneath the roar of insult, but the recognition of this hubris leads me further into shame. I have become so mired in the faults of my mind that I cannot enjoy its gifts.
she was your star, and around her we both spun
you as the earth to her fire
and me as the lonely moon, tugging at the waves inside you
when you turned your back to me, I wept in the cold of your shadow
for she alone held your light
now that she’s gone, we stay cold together
fumbling in the dark over wreckage we can’t forget
struggling to find light in the deadness
So tell me now if I should let go. Tell me now because I’m falling fast into this cocoon of security and of comfort. For once, I move away and you pull me closer. I used to sit by with a sinking heart as I watched your mind float away into a tormented world I had no place in. You seem to have left that behind you because you’re always here now, but will you stay?
I don’t know what I did to deserve this but I want to hold on, I want to believe it and I want to feel you. It feels real but I don’t know why it would be when transience has always been the essence of our story. I feel this affection is conditional, and the condition is that I act like a good little girl, that I don’t ruffle feathers, don’t cry too much or for the wrong reasons, that I’m always ready with a wet mouth aspiring to please and distract you. I’m not sure I can keep trying so desperately to prove I’m worthy a fidelity that may not even exist.
Maybe I put too much blame on you. Maybe the blame should be on the circumstances, hell, maybe the blame should be on me. I’m the one who keeps coming back for it. Maybe it’s not for the love, maybe it’s because something inside of me needed this. The insecurities that have long since turned to hate have shamed me. Again and again, I’ve run from this pain only to return upon a whirlwind of fantasy and find myself on my knees, a fire before me. Embers burn and glow in my eyes and I am transfixed by this fire you cannot see. The sense of desperation you impart beckons me into the flames if only I could be brave enough to burn.
Well, maybe this is hell season. Maybe there was just no other way for me. Maybe if your love was easy, if there was no struggle for your affections I would be in blissful ignorance resting upon the laurels that soothe me with the fallacy that I am enough. Maybe that security would have stunted me, made me soft. Maybe I’m sick for coming back to this place that makes me hate myself, but here I am in the fucking fire and I’m getting real comfortable now. I don’t know how long this will take but I’m starting to like it. The shame has burned away and the fire rages farther inside forging steel guts and thick skin slick with vim. Am I worthy now? Don’t answer, I’m not done here. If I needed to burn like this, then you were well worth the pain but it doesn’t mean I have to thank you for it.
I have thirty-two days. The first few weeks were tough to get through without booze but my body felt better every day so that kept me going. But something has changed. I can’t stand to be in my body when I’m working, or around anyone. I see girls so freely sharing themselves, so comfortable. I just want to run away. I don’t want anyone to look at me but at the same time, I so desperately need them to. No wonder I’m not making any money. I don’t know if they handle it because they’re more comfortable with themselves or if they have something fucked up about them that allows them to be so careless, so giving of their bodies. Maybe we’re just cut from a different cloth. Maybe all of the above. I remember from a young age feeling very naked at times. I feel naked now anytime I go out in public. I’ve fantasized about wearing a fucking hijab. I’m not kidding. I’m so tired of men looking at me, assessing me and judging me. I’m tired of people thinking about fucking me when I feel so broken, their lust feels cruel. I feel preyed upon and it makes me so angry. But the anger just makes me tired because I know I’d be too ashamed to express it. I wish I could walk through the world unnoticed, I wish I could just be left alone. Being alone is probably hurting me too but I just can’t bring myself to be around people. And it doesn’t help that I just can’t stand anyone. I can’t stand this culture I’m in, I can’t stand the posturing and the way some people just all seem to talk the same. I can’t stand the contrived earnestness people try to speak to me with at work. I feel like they’re trying to pry me apart. I want to run but I can’t run. I have to sit there and play the game with them. My stomach recoils as I watch their eyes bore into mine, ready to be entertained, enjoying themselves. I’ve always been this way. I cannot stand for people to try and pull out my inner workings so they can examine them. I don’t understand why people feel entitled to that. Why do people try to crack me open? It’s not from a place of benevolence, it’s perverse curiosity. Or perhaps sometimes it’s just an unexamined impulse they have. A man asked me last night “What makes you smile?”. I suppose some would find this question sweet, but I wanted to smash his head onto the table. I knew he just wanted a fun little anecdote he could put in his pocket and walk away with. He would smirk and give himself a pat on the back for being what he thought was original in a place steeped in cliche. But I refuse to let people think they can take pieces of me.
I’m not totally ignorant, here. I know I’m supposed to play the part, I know I’m supposed to have routine answers ready for this type of bullshit. After all, these interactions aren’t real, they’re designed to not be real. But I’m just so fucking raw right now. The armor I used for so long to shield myself from my sensitivities has been stripped, and for good reason. These used to be the moments where I would load up, take another shot, a way of saying “fuck you, I don’t feel any of this” while I essentially buried my head in the sand.
Now I have to build armor that’s real. I have to feel my feelings blah blah, I have to do a lot of fucking things. And I’m tired. I just cannot do what needs to be done right now and at the same time, I can’t afford to be like this. I can’t afford to lay in bed all day just because the world hurts too much right now. I don’t know what to do. I pray this will pass if I just let myself rest, but at what point does self-preservation become self-indulgence? Everything demands something of me, everything is screaming at me to get up, get up. But I just won’t. I can’t push anymore. Being at home alone in this hole feels like shit but at least I’m safe here.
This used to be this kind of thing would send me into a tailspin. Used to be I’d need eight drinks right about now. But I just don’t anymore.
You used that picture I took of you to advertise yourself to other women. Publicized a private moment seen through my eyes. And isn’t it ironic that if they truly gazed at you from my vantage point they would run the other way?
When we were together I ignored people’s distaste for your offensive brand of humor and your social behaviors that always verged on douchebaggery. The way bartenders just knew when we walked into a place that they didn’t like you. It was strange and a bit painful to watch as you thought you were winning them over with your small talk.
And how odd, when I mentioned your name to the people you told me to, they seemed a bit turned off. Or sometimes they didn’t seem to think much of you at all.
You’ve got some fancy ideas, babe, but no one cares. The disciples aren’t coming and you haven’t the discipline to work.
I don’t think you are what you set out to be, what you still pretend to be, even to yourself. And deep down I think maybe you know.
I hope you crawl back into that hole you came from and remember what you are.
Sadness creeps in at the end of each day and I’ve got nothing and no one to save me. Can’t even rely on the self-pity that comes with mourning your give-a-fucks for me because I’ve known for a while now that you’re all out. Or maybe you never had them to begin with. Is the chair that sits next to me too uncomfortable for you?
You’re tired and time will just make you more tired. You’re tired of me being sad, I know you won’t come around when I feel crazy. There’s no more room for me to be anything but a delight, a pleasure. There’s no room for my darkness, no room for me to mess up and no shoulder to cry on.
You listen but you keep me at arm’s distance. I don’t know how to inhabit this space. It makes me hate you and it makes me hate myself. But when I leave you accuse me of not caring. You can’t see that I’m just trying to live somewhere that doesn’t hurt so much.
I’m alone. But maybe that’s what I need after all this time.