Infinity, I guess


Today I stared—it was only for a moment—at prescription oxycodone. In that moment I wondered how many I would have to take in order to drift off to sleep. Not because I want to die—in fact, just the opposite. I am deathly (ha) afraid of death. 

I was twelve when I came to the morbid realization that one day I would breathe and breathe and then breathe no more. I was at the house of a family friend sitting on an aged green couch playing 007 on a Nintendo 64. I’d just been resurrected as Bond for the millionth time and it was as though someone beyond me dropped the notion into my head. It came to me as a sentence spoken in my own mind by someone else: “I am going to die.”

For a month after I was afraid to sleep. My mom, in a moment of desperation, called my biological father for help. He asked, “are you afraid to sleep?” I lied and said no. He responded, “well sleep is a cousin to death. It’s just like going to sleep.” Unsurprisingly this did not help. It wasn’t as though I didn’t know what death was. I’d gone to my first funeral when I was three. In spite of what my husband says I do, in fact, remember age three, and I remember that funeral. By the time I was twelve I’d gone to half a dozen. I went to so many in one summer (three) that I began to equate Alabama with death and decay.

Eventually I moved forward. I did not move past this fear, but carried it with me, in all things. I lived in constant fear for everyone, including myself. I was obsessive about my health and the health of my parents, my siblings, my friends. I was afraid of riding in cars with people. I didn’t tell anyone about this fear, because it seemed like something we likely all share. Who wants to be around that person? Besides—what can anyone actually say to make the fear dissipate?

I had my first panic attack in the middle of my first c-section. My heart rate began to rise and I heard someone in the room call for, of all things, a cardiologist. I began gasping for air, stating that I couldn’t breathe. George and Bailey had already left the room for her bath, etc. so I was on the table alone. The fear was overwhelming and I was alone.

I spent Bailey’s first night on earth in the ICU being monitored. My doctor never came by to check on me. I never found out why my heart rate was so high—and I had not heard of anxiety at the time. Bringing Bailey home is a blur. In fact, the first year is a blur. I remember George’s first Father’s Day spent in the ER. I was convinced I was dying. The doctor on call, after extensive tests, sent me home. He likely told me that I was having a panic attack, but as I said—that year is a blur.

I had a panic attack at church and the women gathered there prayed for me, but from a distance. I was embarrassed and, as always, overwhelmed.

I suppressed a panic attack in the middle of a final exam in British Literature. I was struck by the notion that I would have a heart attack and collapse in that very room.

I did not get over that year. Instead, I learned to drag it like a weight with me. For the duration of my twenties I was in a heightened state of anxiety almost all of the time.

Exercise helped. I could think about my own termination without sweating and collapsing. After the birth of Avery I had relapses, but no panic attacks. I felt cured.

Now we come to this morning. I can’t pretend I haven’t felt this dread for weeks—in fact, I could feel it coming before we left the hospital with Emerson. I felt it when I sat in the ER the day after we came home. I feel it every single morning that I wake up, when my mind says, “you won’t do this always.”

I feel this every time I read a news article or watch television. I feel it in the dark at night. This time no panic accompanies it. There are no palpitations. Instead there is silence.

So as I was walking around with this wonderful baby this morning I saw that oxycodone and I wondered, and not because I want to go anywhere. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want to miss a single moment of this. I want to exist forever. Some people call this selfish—I’ve never considered myself a selfless person, so I’m not ashamed of that label. I’m here now typing about it because, maybe one day I’ll look back and think, “I’m glad I got through that.” I’m writing it here where others can see it because I can’t be the only one. We are alone in This, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

Right now I am in the midst of it, the existential dread. It’s weight is oppressive, but there must be a light in here somewhere.

untitled 

That our tomorrows could be endless. That we could be more than vapor

That each moment did not move us

Invariably

Towards that which we cannot know. 
The happiness of each moment

Is tinged by its finiteness 

And I miss the present

Fearing the future. 
Could I rest for a moment

And be here in the now

Unconcerned with an endless tomorrow

But basking in the heat of today. 
Even now

In your newness

I see past you

To you without me

And all that I would miss

And for this I am sorry and ashamed. 

It Doesn’t Hear Black Prayers

If

There exists a god

–Any god–

It doesn’t hear Black prayers.

It locks heaven when darkness draws near

And misses the wails

–hundreds of years worth–

For something different.

      

“If you cannot make this better

Make me different,”

Or so goes one prayer.

  

      

It does not respond.

  
Instead It turns away

And does not see the shape

A bloated broken black body makes

Rotting in the sun.
     

It misses the scent of hopelessness

And despair turned in upon itself.

It cannot feel the fingers pulling

Sunday after Sunday

–Dressed in what could be afforded–

Plucking pieces of It from dirt

Holding the remnants to the light.
     

Like the parents–absent and present–

Who stand as equals accused

It is gone from us.

It denies us and has learned not to flinch

When we cry for It

Babes who have only ever known the

Promise

Who will only ever feel The Void

As reality.

       

If

There existed

A God

I would tell Him

I hate him

For making me this way

For the skin that had to grow

Thick

The back that replaced bone

With steel

The face that had to find beauty

In itself

And for never once

Opening the windows

To let a prayer in.

rooms.

Waiting rooms.

Dusted with the echoes of those gone before

The lagging whisper of time.

Carpets printed with faded patterns of nothing,

Footprints flecking the floor like blood.

Emergency rooms.

Shrills shrieks of silence, assessing

The common brokenness.

Crisp bedclothes betraying nothing,

Every sound a death knell.

Classrooms.

Sticky hot with the exhaustive efforts to

Think/do/be nothing.

Chalk dust and pressed granite replaced by the tapping of keys

Loling their way to a muted end.

Family rooms.

(They are not for sitting: do not go in there.)

Bedrooms.

Laced with the strain of too little space

Arguments misremembered.

Walls of want crumble and rebuild themselves,

Ghosts of fingers reach through, but clasp nothing.

Motel rooms.

Scented with loneliness and the musk of

Desperation and dying.

Beds hard and stiff and not for sleeping, but for

The nothing that follows the too-quick ecstasy.

Hotel rooms.

Clouded with pretending and breaking smiles

Candle wicks burned down to nothing.

Salted tears arrive with room service,

Charges for the stains that will not out.

Crowded rooms.

Suffocating loneliness, the terror of being seen

And unseen.

Throats parched and closed, voice useless, legs tired

Mouth opens, but releases nothing.

Light at the Intersection of Bitter and Sweet

The morning distorts and fragments

The light

It appears, for a moment, to change

Brief, anointed, unified, delight

So we walk, without looking

Trusting as we were told

Blindly seeing tasting feeling

The sight we were to behold

We do not make it

They never do

On broken bones keep crawling

Towards the unseen

The vision of you

Still hearing the voices, not yet faded

Keep moving

You failed, but we are not yet jaded

Keep moving

We are better men

Keep moving

We will make it–and then

Stretched out vast and endless

Before

Darkness, but we dare not look behind

They promised, we would find ourselves in this

Before we could think, they broke promises in our minds

We do not make it

They never do

On broken bones keep crawling

Towards the unseen

The vision of you

Still hearing the voices, not yet faded

Keep moving

You failed, but we are not yet jaded

Keep moving

We are better men

Keep moving

We will make it–and then

Graying in our brittle bones, the marrow in us

Sour

We lay our friends to rest, the stones

Where young hearts once beat

Thumping bitter in our chests

And the time

The time comes faster than we can know

And we are whisked away before our hour

Nothing to show for us when we go,

Empty words without their power

We do not make it

They never do

On broken bones keep crawling

Towards the unseen

The vision of you

Still hearing the voices, not yet faded

Keep moving

We failed, but we are not yet jaded

Keep moving

We are better men

Keep moving

We will make it-

We will make it

And

Then…

Incomplete List Things I’ll Leave in 2016

Twice daily cupcakes (especially the ones with the cream filling in the center)

Every-other-day water (apparently every day—multiple times per day—is all the rage)

Reese’s cookies (alright, I’ll sneak these in occasionally)

William

Getting the last word (I’ll still have it in my mind, so battle won)

Sockless shoes (some people consider wearing all manner of shoes with no socks gross)

Those pants with the hole in the crotch (j/k I’ll see you next week, pants)

Twice yearly flossing (I’m flexible here, as teeth should have evolved to be self-flossing by now)

William

Anxiety (just kidding, you know you’re coming with me wherever I go)

High blood pressure (that’s how this works? I just say it and it leaves? Right?)

Sugar with coffee (some people say you can drink it the other way around. We’ll see)

William

William

William.

(Of course I won’t leave you behind.

You’ll come with us, but you’ll have to be content—we all want to take a piece of you.

Even now. We can’t help it.

We can see you in photographs

And on film

And you’re what we had to give up.

The year has gotten away from us

And it is the last year we will ever have been “us.”

And the last year you were in present tense.

This is the last year we will ever live with you in it).

Lorna Doones (they were alright, at first. Now they–as everything–taste of ash).

gravemen

You didn’t want to go to the party.

You weren’t just saying that, either.

You wanted to wrap your hair and

Take a bubble bath.

Maybe light some candles.

Put on your music.

Close your eyes

And just “be.”

 

 

But you didn’t have a choice. If you stayed

In your small bathroom, the space

That was yours, there would still

Be no room for you.

The party would (as it was prone to do)

Encroach on your space.

In your space you would be hyper visible

And invisible.

Questions would be tossed your way

But they wouldn’t be for you—

And besides, who asks a question

Without already having the answer anymore?

 

 

The party, you reason, could have been in

The Other Space. The Other Space isn’t called that, of course.

The Other Space simply is. It is the space that you occupy that is Other.

Still. It could have been there, in that space.

The one reserved for such

Events and such people—they who are

Not You.

Now that they decided parts of you are welcome

(But only if you are silent)

You have to come.

If you don’t you’re deplorable and you’re causing tension.

You are the reason the tension exists, if you don’t come.

You are making them uncomfortable, they can’t even

Align with you you make them so angry,

And how dare you not smile wider and thank them for inviting you?

It doesn’t matter that last week you weren’t welcome

And next week you’ll be called on to prove

Your humanity. They want you now, so you’ll come now.

 

 

So the party is at your place. It doesn’t look like

Your place. There’s furniture that you don’t recognize

And though you work hard you can’t afford what they’ve replaced your things with.

There’s food that you do recognize,

But when the party is here the food gets a different name

And a higher price.

You want your space.

They suggest that it’s wrong to call any place yours,

That you are creating tension.

They say this through the glass; you were invited, but you are

In another room. The room you are in is cold

And damp

And stuffed with a thousand other people who are

Nothing like you

And yet, you are all alike.

 

 

You are called upon en masse.

There is only room for one, the hosts say apologetically,

Except they aren’t sorry.

In fact, they wonder why there must be more than one of you there.

Why can’t you just enjoy watching the party?

They wonder.

Why don’t you have your own party?

They ask.

You point out that you did have your own party.

And you stocked your house with your own things.

And you made your own beauty.

And they came, uninvited.

They moved you from your place and blamed you.

They took your things—those they thought they could use—

And because they no longer belonged to you, they had value.

They renamed what made you beautiful

And they flaunted their new pieces for the world to see

And they made certain that you knew

What is ugly on you is made beautiful by them.

 

 

You aren’t allowed to want. You cannot feel.

You have to be in this space. Your shoulders are necessary

For them to climb on, you are useful

For when a soul needs trodding.

You are the bar below which

They cannot fall.

You move from their space—the space that used to belong to you—

And you breathe, but only for a little while.

They argue amongst themselves right now, but you understand

Their favorite argument is you.

Speaking for you and over you, but never to you.

Never with you, or after you, never silent enough

For you to speak for yourself.

The conditions of their hatred of each other always seem to be met

On the battlefield of you.

You wonder idly if there is a place or time that you might go

To find peace.

They are angry with you for suggesting this.

They reminisce about better times.

They would like for you to know that your place is nowhere

With nothing

And that you are no one.

And that this party that they keep throwing around you

Is meant to bind you

And eventually destroy you.

You lower your eyes and speak softly

And they cover your mouth

And muffle your words

And they smother you

And watch the life flee from you

And they never consider your life at all

For they are human

And you are other

And there is no place for you

Save for the grave that they have built.