Hey everyone! I’m not sure how interesting this one is going to be. Mostly, I just want to warn you that there’s a graphic photograph about halfway through and it may be in very bad taste for me to post it. If you don't want to see something you won't be able to unsee, skip this post. This isn't art- it's real.
That said, this is life, life is messy, and we don’t always do the right thing. Sometimes we love things that we shouldn’t, and don’t love what we should. I don’t know who makes the rules, but this is what I did and despite it's blurriness it's one of the most raw and beautiful photographs I have ever taken.
“We need to take the mattress to the dump”, says Mitt, “just the guys. Come on.”
“Wait,” you ask, “before we do can I take a moment to myself in the room? I haven’t seen it yet.”
“Yeah, that’s fine. Take your time.”
You walk into the house. It still smells the same as it always has- like old people, laundry, aging dog, stale model projects, and a musty basement full of greasy tools and boxes of antiques. It’s a wonderful, nostalgic amalgamation of scent and warm memories.
You have to pass through the living room on your way to the bedroom and there you discover your aunt and your mother lurking. They’re sorting things, ostensibly together but it has an air of competition. You feel as though they don’t really want to be here right now; or at least, not at the same time. This whole situation is too intense, too hard to handle alone, and yet too much to handle together.
The floor-to-ceiling mirror still stands next to the bedroom door, flecked with motes of dust. You glance at yourself as you walk towards the bedroom and it’s nothing new. Same expressionless look you’ve carried for years, same old clothes, same feeling of awkward hideousness you’ve seen reflected for years now. It’s just there though- it’s how reality is and always will be and while you observe it, it doesn’t even register in your conscious mind. There are more important things taking up your mental RAM than self-pity. Vague memories from your childhood surface, but you ignore them also, enter the room, and close the door behind you.
It’s dark in the room except for a small window to your left that sheds light on the bed, which has a pale sheet with vaguely red spotting near grandpa’s side of the bed. You slide over next to it, displacing a crowd of floating dust motes in the process and pull back the sheet.
Your breath catches in your throat.
It’s one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen.
Hundreds of shades of red in splotchy concentric layers, true blood reds, from a deep burgundy to a sickly yellow near the outer edges coalesce to form an inset oblong stain. You’d expected something macabre, something depressing, but somehow it seems perversely joyous, flowering, utterly exquisite in it’s crimson exuberance.
Freedom, it whispers, I chose my own time because it was mine to do, and I didn’t do this to hurt you, but to heal me.
It’s unreasonably beautiful, so beautiful that tears begin leaking from your eyes. You’re overcome by an overwhelming feeling of love and trust, this sense that things are okay for him now. They’re finally back together, you think. It hurts, too, but the pain is a feeling of wishing you could have gotten to know him better, heard his stories, and learned from his wisdom.
“Your aunt’s driving down this way right now. If you give her a call I’m sure she’d be willing to pick you up on the way. We need someone to help carry out the mattress anyway.” Mom is crying, maintaining, stressed to the gills. All her parents are dead.
“You haven’t taken it out yet?” You ask, surprised.
“Not yet. We want to do that tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I’m coming,” you say, and then ask “How did it happen?”
Mother takes a minute to collect herself, and then tells you the story. Grandpa had written a note, put on a red flannel shirt so the bloodstain wouldn’t be as shocking when mom found him, taken out his old army pistol, gotten into bed, and shot himself through the heart.
The part about the choice of shirt is particularly striking. It means something important- grandpa was planning to die by his own hand, but even in his final moments it wasn’t himself he was worried about. He wanted to end his pain, and do it in a way that caused the least possible pain to those he loved. Rather than shame, it fills you with a strange sense of compassionate pride. This wasn’t a pity party- it was just his time.
Mom saw it too, but it was different for her. Her solid Christian belief meant that his decision had put him in hell with no chance of redemption, and it didn’t matter how compassionate his reasoning.
You ask her what the note says, and she tells you.
“I just want you to know I love you. The doctors won’t see me and they won’t do anything to help. It’s too much. Don’t fight over the house, just sell it for this amount and let it go. I don’t want this to hurt you and I don’t want it to cause a rift between my children.”
You start to sob. Even in death, he just wanted to make sure people handled it together, in hopes it could somehow bring his children closer.
You can hear your mother and your aunt beginning to argue with each other in the living room over a teapot. It’s so petty, you feel. It’s a teapot. And right here, there’s a miracle of color and life.
Why can’t they see it, you wonder to yourself. Can’t they tell that this wasn’t about hurting them? Can’t they see that it was just his time? How can they be oblivious to such a true work of art? His last creation? How can they not sense the love here? How can they not feel this? Can they really not see just how much pain he was in? How incredibly strong he was to endure so much for so long? Can they not feel grateful that he is finally at rest? We should be celebrating!
It isn’t right to chuck this thing into a dump. It doesn’t belong with a pile of dirty diapers and kitchen refuse. It needs to be saved, kept, preserved! If you could, you’d cut it out and frame it and hang it in an art gallery, and call it triumph over pain. Instead, you take a grainy photograph with your phone and then look around the room for something of his to take with you.
There’s nothing in the closet worth keeping, and the line of dusty model jets above the television and glass jug of pennies on the dresser seems like the wrong idea, somehow. As a kid, you loved these things and spent hours watching him glue them together. Nothing intoxicated you more than idea of flying, of freedom. But now... something has changed. You’re twenty-six. You’re not a kid any more. Most of the time, anyway.
Eventually you settle on a pair of brown plaid pajama pants, a small blue suitcase, and the old pair of binoculars that he’d always used to watch the squirrels with. You don’t know why he’d used them for that- those squirrels and him had themselves a relationship- he could walk right up and feed them by hand. He loved them, and they loved him right back. You’d loved him, too. He didn’t talk about himself much, but he was always, always fun. Time at grandpa and grandma’s was some of the only happy memories you have. And now they’re gone. Those models, they belong on that shelf.
And now the loss finally hits you, and the tears flow freely, dripping onto the bed. You were so brave, grandpa. I love you, and I’m so proud of you.
Maybe he took his own life, but it wasn’t a pity party suicide. It was a choice. He was old, in tremendous amounts of physical pain, and grandma had died six years before. He missed her terribly. Still leaking, you replace the sheet over the stain and exit the room.
Mom and her sister have stopped bickering over the teapot and moved on to how much they ought to sell the house for. Mom wants to honor granpa’s final request. Your aunt wants to find a realitor and list it for more than twice the amount, and she clearly thinks your mom is being stupid for caring more about grandpa than money. You’ve never cared very much for her, but in the moment you find her priorities utterly disgusting. A not-so-small part of you wants to smack her across the face and yell:
“IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!”
You don’t, because violence is not the answer and you can see deeper, anyway. This isn’t about the money for her: it’s about control. She wasn’t there to help him through his pain, she wasn’t there when he was found, and as the older sister no one asked her opinion on what to do. She’d just lost her father in the most horrific way she could imagine, and there was nothing she could do about any of these things. And so what she’s doing now is flailing for control in any way she feels she has logical ground to stand on. It’s understandable, and you hurt for what she’s going through, but it’s still petty pride in a situation that doesn’t call for that and that makes it repulsive.
As you enter the living room mom stands and goes into the kitchen to wash her hands, so you go up to her and ask if you can see the note. She retrieves it and hands it to you with a hug. It’s the last thing grandpa ever wrote. It feels sacred.
“You ready?” Asks Mitt, entering the kitchen.
“Yeah, alright.” You, your brother, and your step-dad head to the bedroom.
“Honey, can you hold the front door open?” Mitt asks your mom. She complies, and the three of you hoist the queen-size mattress and shuffle it out the door and down the stairs. “Turn it so the ladies can’t see the stain”, he says. The comment grates at you.
At his truck, Mitt makes certain to put the bloody side down. It’s painful for you, like keeping grandpa from a final bit of sunlight. In fact, the whole affair is starting to make you really angry. Like, what? What a waste. But you’re too much of a coward to say anything.
Mitt backs into the dump and you and your brother help him chuck it over the railing, again, bloody side down. You feel sorry for the employees.
Time passes, and the rift that grandpa was trying to prevent happens anyway.
It’s obvious why- they’re in pain. But even so, they’ve completely missed the point. Somehow you feel pride in the old man and disgust at the pettiness of his adopted children, even though you understand how they feel and why they feel that way. You try not to blame them, but you do anyway. Especially your aunt, who brings in lawyers to force the sale of the house at a higher price. She’s right- it’s worth it, but that’s not the point. The point is love, and respect, and honor. The less of these she shows, the less of them you feel for her.
For you, this is what hurts. Grandpa’s death seems natural, honorable even. But the dwindling respect you feel for your extended family? That’s loss.
And so as the year passes, you try to be there for both of them anyway, try to pull them back together; remind them that sometimes relationships are more important thab being right. You tell them the truth of what you’re feeling, and don’t pull your punches. At first they’re just busy blaming each other for a hundred tiny crimes, but as time passes your mother starts to come around. Unfortunately your aunt never seems to do anything but double-down on her self-righteous victim attitude, however, and one day, having lost all respect for her, you unfollow her on Facebook and just try not to think about it.
Hey everyone! This is another post that was incredibly hard for me to write. It’s a detailed recollection of one of my three worst nightmares.
It’s dark. Really dark.
I had this dream around the age of twelve, and it may be important to know that my only exposure to anything like this kind of horror was the hanging corpses of deer and elk my dad hunted during the yearly season. The only R-rated film I’d ever seen at this point was The Matrix, and it has nothing like the kind of imagery found here.
I’m sorry to subject you to this, truly, and yet it’s important because it’s relevant; however, I’ll let you work out the symbolism here for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Without further ado, welcome to my nightmares:
First, a frequency.
The high-pitched whine is nearly imperceptible. It’s not quite the sound of a television in another room; it’s piercing and disquieting, like screaming in your mind to keep yourself from doing it out loud.
Next comes the drip. Drip. Plip-ip.
Scraping your legs sidesaddle on concrete, you open your eyes. It’s desperately early in the morning, but no insect buzz or rooster screech. It’s just the cold, dark light of the pre-dawn, wafting into the cement bunker and pretending it comes from everywhere at once.
It’s just enough light to see black drip-drops and occasional plip-ulets that gravity has dragged in rhythm from just above you and which pool on the floor with a splish and splift before finally slipping down the central whirlpool slope and vanishing through the pinholes in the pock-marked grate.
You’re cold, shivering, filthy. Something tugs on the back of your mind, like desperate guilt or despairing deja-vu. You try to wrap your arms around yourself but a second onyx drip strikes your arm and you peer up in reflexive curiosity.
Hanging directly above you is the corpse. All dark shadows and vomitous odor contained within the confines of a neon yellow line, impossibly bright.
You stand and step to the side as revulsion and a devastating knowing flare equally within your chest and spread outward. You can see that it’s been hung from the ceiling via an impossibly long wire hanger wrapped haphazardly around a bloody yellow raincoat, which is in turn wrapped around something that used to be a girl, but is now an object: a horrific amalgam of hair and teeth and bones and meat; burned devil reds and decaying whites and long, golden clumps of somehow flawlessly shining hair-strands.
It’s too dark to see much, yet somehow the raincoat is bright canary yellow, lit up and yet not reflecting light, an impossible reality in the pre-dawn freeze.
You know her. You know you know her. Knew her. And you did this, somehow. This is all your fault.
The details aren’t clear, but somehow you know raped her, whatever rape is, and killed her and performed unspeakable mutilations, finally hoisting her up somehow. After, you must have laid down for a nap right under the filthy dripping carcass.
Regret pounds you directly into insanity and you try to reach up to unwrap the corpse and take her down so you can at least hold her and tell her you’re sorry, so sorry! It wasn’t you! It was. But it wasn’t!
Caught up in the moment, tearing at the raincoat and cutting your fingers on the wire you’re screaming out loud “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’M SO SORRY!” Over and over and over.
This can’t be real. It can’t be real! THIS CAN’T BE REAL!
It’s a dream. A nightmare! It has to be!
There has to be a way to fix this, to save her, to being her back to life. Frantic, mad, still clawing at the raincoat a piece of it rips away to reveal a scalp of silver-blonde hair pressed somewhere into the side of the mutilate by the wire.
You have to save her! SAVE HER! SAVE YOURSELF FROM THE GUILT! You have to undo this! You aren’t this kind of person! Nobody can be this evil when they’re only twelve! No. No! NO! SAVE US! Anyone. Save us?
Armed officers slam through a door in the side of the cement bunker that wasn’t there before. One handcuffs you as two others beat you into submission with their batons while two of them drag you to the vehicle and shove you roughly inside, batons bruising any part of you available to hit.
You say nothing, sobbing in silence for a person you desperately love but can’t quite remember. Nothing they could possibly do could begin to compare to what you truly deserve. Murderer, monster!
The backseat is cold plastic, nicer than the cement floor. It’s too good for someone like you.
You have to go back in time.
Closing your eyes, you focus harder than you ever have. There’s no other way, you WILL go back, and then you won’t have done this and she’ll still be alive and have a face and you’ll know who she is and you won’t be such a disgusting, horrifying creep of a meatsack. Redeem yourself. Bring her back.
You black out.
You come to, oblivion shattered by a frequency, piercing and disquieting, like screaming in your mind to keep yourself from doing it out loud.
Second, a drip, black and red all at once.
Third, the corpse, hanging directly above and dripping blood and worms.
There’s an overwhelming sense of deja-vu to compliment the horror. You’ve been here before, haven’t you? You’ve felt the same feelings in the same order. Did you dream this?
Everything seems familiar in the nightmare light, or maybe it isn’t light at all; more likely a palpable miasma of black-hole guilt. You have to take it back. This can’t be real! IT CAN’T BE REAL!
Sirens. Handcuffs. You squeeze your eyes and try to force reality to be different, to force yourself to take control.
As they slam the door of the police car, you black out.
You come to.
First, a frequency.
Next, a drip. Something is different.
This time you remember it: this time you’re prepared. This time you don’t look at the corpse and instead try to find a place to hide so you can find more time to think. If you can start sooner maybe you can go back further?
You didn’t see it the first couple of times through this moment, but the concrete cell has a pair of sliding false-wood doors. You know they’re brown and textured, with a set of brass disks instead of handles, shaded black in the pre-dawn anticipation.
You slide the door open on one side, and the closet is completely bare except for a cross bar, on which hang four skeletal wire hangers. They don’t swing as you open the door, and they creep you out almost as much as the corpse. Something about them is wrong, as if their dimension and form don’t match.
In the background, the sirens blare. You panic and manage to shut yourself in the closet just as the police break in. They find you immediately, and you do your best to ignore them as they beat you and scream obscenities.
Reset. Reset! RESET!
The fourth time, it’s definitely different, and this is when you realize that each repeat has you going back further in time one second prior to the previous. Hope?
The police catch you trying to climb up to the shelf at the top of the closet.
The fifth time, you feel around for the door, and they catch you just as you finally learn how to open it, tears for your mangled corpse still freshly dripping down your face.
The sixth time, you get out almost immediately.
Outside your cell, the pre-dawn light seems brighter, and you can see your breath. You make a run for some tall grass but they catch you before you reach it.
On the seventh try, you sprint for a nearby tree and begin climbing just as the police dogs catch you by the foot with their teeth in a cacophony of barking and snarling and ripping and chewing. You manage to reset before you even make it to their vehicle.
On the eighth try, you make it as far as the tall grass. Not far in is a fence that you try to leap over, but suddenly you’re moving slowly and too weak and they capture you casually, tangled in barbed wire.
You try to clear the fence again on the ninth and tenth tries, but make no progress.
On the eleventh try, profoundly fatigued, you give up running and opt instead for a new strategy: keeping your eyes closed in an attempt to reset while the blood and maggots dripple over you. The reset occurs before the police break in, but when you come to it’s still just a single second’s gain.
And so it goes. Over and over and over. You try everything, everything, but after hundreds of tries you’ve only made it two or three minutes back, each try ending in punishment.
The looping becomes a blur of infinite sameness, and this is it’s own kind of horror. Each iteration is a prison within a prison within a prison.
Somewhere in the blur of repetition you begin to wonder if you’ve died and gone to hell. Is this how it’s going to be for eternity? Continually reliving a horror over and over for eternity? Working backwards in time, second by second, swapping two minutes of hell for one second of gain that can only lead to the an eternity of moments as you are forced, over and over, to eventually relive every second of the crime itself?
You come to in the pre-dawn gloom and it’s just you, aching and sweating and crying on your bed, coddled in a kind of unbearable guilt for a crime you’ve never committed and never will. Have you really woken up this time?
Who was she? Why did you do such a thing? How could you? All you know is that you loved her more than anything in the world, and somehow you mean to bring her back, if you get trapped again the loop.
There is a sense that will remain with you for the next eighteen years, as if some part of you is trapped forever in the back of your mind, perpetually working backwards towards eventual resurrection.
Hi everyone! I’m legitimately amazed at the response to last week’s post. I’ve had about a thousand users check out my blog since I began, and over a third of them are from last week’s post alone. I’m not sure how it’s getting around, but thanks very much for reading.
You may have noticed by now that I’ve been alternating between stories from my childhood and stories from my adulthood. While much of the focus is on my experiences as a trans person, part of that involves the experiences we have when we’re not obsessing over gender. As odd as it might sound coming from a trans person, sometimes life throws you bigger curveballs than, well, giving you balls, for example.
This week is the story of one of the most intense crashes I went through while sick with the illness that HRT helped so much with. It’s the day the last time I was able to drive prior to HRT, and how my condition increased from moderate to severe. This became a fairly common set of physical experiences, but it’s a lot worse here because of *where* they happened.
In any case, without further ado:
Too Close To the carpet
It’s a beautiful day, and you wake up feeling energized for the first time in months.
Maybe I’m cured, you think, maybe it’s finally over!
It’s wonderful timing, too, since today is a doctor’s appointment and you’ve got a forty minute drive from the cabin into town. Normally that drive feels nearly impossible, in fact, last time you tried it you got pulled over for suspected drunk driving.
But today is going to be different! Today is going to be smooth-sailing, flying high with the windows down and an ear-to-ear grin! It’s finally, finally over!
It has to be.
You grab your purse and hop into the car, turning the key and rolling down the window at the same time. There’s so much joy in the little things! The ability to do two things at the same time makes your soul sing, and you’re humming brightly as you pull out of the green-glowing moss-carpeted driveway.
The pain begins at the nape of your neck before you make it past the first mile. Not a headache, exactly, but more of a vague sense of screaming fatigue in the muscles around the bone that separates the top of your back from the beginning of your neck.
No. You think to yourself. Not today. I won’t allow it! So you ignore it, which isn’t hard: it’s nothing new.
By the time you reach the 502, it’s spread outward in all directions in the shape of a kite: less up your neck, more down your back, middlin’ to the shoulders. Just three miles in and already it’s becoming a mild struggle to hold up your arms.
Fuck! This isn’t supposed to be how it goes today! It’s going to be fine, though. You can do this.
At ten miles, the brain fog sets in. It’s hard to concentrate on the road. The pain has risen into your skull, descended clear to your waist, and is creeping down your arms. Twenty miles to go, and this is becoming a race. You have to drive safely, but you have to get there before your body gives out.
Hold it together, just hold it together.
At fifteen miles the pain is so intense it’s becoming difficult to stay in your lane because your arms keep trying to drop. You have to get there as soon as possible, but maybe you should slow down. You don’t. Through sheer will and dumb luck you make it onto the freeway intact, but there is at least one close call.
By the time you pull up to the street at Katie’s house, you can’t see straight. Pain has your eyes watering and you’ve survived that last ten miles through willpower, terror, some kind of heavenly luck, and strategic hyperventilation. It takes a minute or two to get out of the car, but you do it just fine and lope your way to the door.
As you reach up to knock, the bill comes due.
You’d thought it hurt before, but that was nothing at all compared to this: it’s the difference between a needle prick and a bullet hole. Only it’s everywhere all at once, like some sneaky vampiric gnome replaced all of your blood with acid and razor blades. You almost fall into the house as Katie opens the door and helps you to the sofa. Unable even to say hello, you curl up in a fetal position, moaning and crying and hyperventilating.
It’s fascinating, you think, awareness imaginarily lodged outside of yourself and somewhere above. How can a body even feel like this?
As suddenly as it struck, the pain vanishes completely. No kite-shape fatigue sense. Nothing.
“Hey, are you okay?” Katie is asking; has been asking, you just now realize. It’s been half an hour.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Jesus fuck that was intense.”
She looks at you skeptically. Obviously she’s concerned but also used to this sort of thing by now, which is a relief. The only thing worse than chronic illness is that look that people get when they wish they could help but can’t. It hurts to see how much it hurts them to see you hurting.
“No, it passed. The pain is gone”, you sort-of wheeze at her. “I’ll be fine. It’s a good day.”
“Uh-huh. Whatever. I’m driving.”
You try to get off the sofa. It doesn’t work. Shit. You wait. Try again. Manage to sit up.
This is bad. Keep it together. You can do this. You do do it, though Katie is still giving you the look.
Maybe this is a good thing? The doctor hasn’t seen this yet. Maybe it will help her help me. And really, it’s not too bad. I can totally handle it.
Once you’re situated, you pull the lever to recline the passenger seat but it happens too fast and you don’t have the strength to hold yourself up, so it falls faster than you do and you end up slamming down onto it. You just let it happen, and lie where you fall.
The drive to the doctor’s office only takes a year or so, and you have plenty of time to muse about how decrepit you’ve become at the ripe old age of thirty.
Sometime during the drive, the sound sensitivity begins. Sound waves begin to warp and weird in your head, and rather than becoming louder it feels as though they’ve become somehow *more*. Not amplified, multiplied. Every tiny sound calls your attention, every scritch, every scratch. Every now and again your stomach muscles spasm, leaving you more exhausted each time. It’s nothing new. It’s fine. You deal.
In the parking lot, it takes a while to get out of the car, and Katie comes round and opens the door for you.
Has the parking lot stretched? You don’t remember it being so far to the elevators. You are secretly wishing you had a wheelchair, and ashamed of the wish. This shouldn’t be happening. You’re not that sick.
The elevator dings and you flinch.
On the third floor it’s a straight shot to the office, perhaps fifty feet. It feels impossible, and if it hadn’t been for the walls it probably would be. You rest your left shoulder on the wall and walk/drag yourself along. Katie is looking increasingly concerned. She opens the office door for you.
You didn’t know it was possible, but the moment you sit down the fatigue reaches a new level, and now it hurts again, though compared to earlier the pain is nothing. You are so concentrated on staying upright that it’s a surprise when Katie hands it to you.
Right, paperwork. Keep it together. You can do this. The mantra is the only thing running through your head, over and over.
People are talking in the office and it sounds like each voice is ten or fifteen people, speaking over each other in waves. Are they yelling? The click of fingernails on the counter, one keyboard but fifty typers. How can they possibly think to converse through all this racket?
You go to reach for the pen but your fingers can’t summon the strength to grasp it correctly. Lucky thing the cap is already off, but it doesn’t matter much because the best you can make your hand do is mark the page in the wrong spot. This is embarrassing.
You go to ask for help, but your tongue doesn’t work right. You somehow manage a slurred “Help”, and Katie does your paperwork for you. People are watching, but you’re officially too out of it to care.
For the next ten minutes, you close your eyes and try not to breathe, saving your energy.
“Oh, hey doctor,” says Katie, standing up. “I don’t know if he can make it back there. He’s really bad today.”
It’s not that bad, so you say “no, I’ll be fine. Just need a bit. I can. Walls are good.” Your tongue works again. Good. But the effort of talking just drained half of what you’d saved up. You don’t know if you can stand.
“Maybe we should get a wheelchair”, says Katie, after a couple of minutes.
The idea of a wheelchair is so embarassing it gives you the strength to try to stand. You falter, but Katie catches you by the armpit.
You’ve got this, because walls exist. It’s a fifteen-foot gauntlet, but you somehow shake her off and make it to the clinic chair. You find yourself being profoundly envious of the doctor’s tiny stature. It would be so much easier to lug yourself around if you weren’t so bloody huge. Maybe if you’d just been smaller in the first place none of this would be happening at all? Pointless thought, you tell yourself, there’s no sense dwelling on the impossible.
“So, you don’t look so good today.” Says the doc, the sound of her voice indicating that her face is probably mirroring Katie’s.
You want to tell her you’re fine, that it’s not that bad and to stop worrying, except right now you’ve just hit another new low. You can’t lift your head to look at her and your tongue is literally hanging out of your mouth like a caricature of mental disability. It’s so interesting that it’s actually not unpleasant, except for the growing pain in your neck from your posture, and...
...Wait for it...
...Yup. There’s the drool. What a crazy day. For some reason you’re sort of enjoying it. It’s not every day you get to drool like an idiot in front of people you like, after all.
Katie and the doctor are talking about something but it’s too loud for you to process. You can hear everything. Shoes shuffling through the office and the smaller whispering collision noises as the sound waves strike the walls and bounce off, muddling and distorting the waves coming after. The footsteps of people walking by the building outside and four floors below as they ricochet between buildings and are muffled by trees with chattering foliage. Cars crashing by like waterfalls, the sound reverberating through the building and propagating into earthquakes in your skull.
Abruptly, you realize that no one is loudly popping bubble wrap in your ear- it’s the doctor typing. Sound is a thief, stealing your ability to recover. And so you sit there, drooling, neck craned, and pain rising until you begin falling off of your chair.
“Lie down”, you mumble as you start to slip. Katie catches you, and the doctor joins her in helping you onto the table. They’re so small and light and you’re a golem, a bundle of stone-weight spuds and just as ugly. Not that it matters. Another complete waste of a thought- nothing’s changed and nothing ever will. Except you’ll get old someday and then you’ll get to be a moldy old potato with little hairs sprouting everywhere, which could, you admit to yourself, actually be fun. It would be quite good for yelling at kids to get off your porch and stop making all that damn racket and other actions of a properly grumbly nature.
Finally horizontal, you zone out for the remainder of the appointment, saving energy in order to later make it to the car.
It isn’t working. You aren’t recovering nearly fast enough. A half an hour passes. The doctor tries to do a strength test. You can’t even interact, because you’re still almost fully paralyzed. Time passes. Then it’s time to go.
You use everything you’ve saved up just to sit up and mumble “Do you have... Stupid... Chair-thing.”
“What?” Asks the doctor.
“He’s trying to ask for a wheelchair.” Says the brilliant and embarrassing Katie. “Can we get one?” She looks at you with deep concern, which is frustrating, and says “You know it’s okay to just ask, right?” Of course it isn’t, your pride retorts.
“Let me check”, says the doctor, and rushes out of the room.
Of course it would be the only clinic without a wheelchair. They’d checked all four floors.
This, you think, is going to be interesting.
With help, you make it to the front office. They try to make you set up an appointment and Katie takes over. It’s taking figuratively forever, and all you want to do is collapse. Somehow you’ve passed your energy limit and are going into the red, paying with expanding pain that seems to be increasing it’s intensity on a curve.
It occurs to you in passing that you could just use the rolling chair in the office that the receptionist sits on, but you can’t make yourself say it out loud. The thought won’t move from your brain to your mouth. Every ounce of focus is tied up in remaining vertical.
Katie opens the door to the clinic with a reverberating and painful sound like factory machines punching metal. Free Björk concert over, you just need to make it to the elevator.
You make it four steps down the hallway before you rag doll. One moment you’re standing, the next you’ve got a mouse eye view of the carpet. You can smell the dust and random bits of whatever’s been on people’s shoes. It’s fascinating.
And it’s over. You’re completely paralyzed. You can’t move. Willpower isn’t working. You’ve been reduced to a human-shaped lump in the hallway.
Katie starts to panic. She tries to help you up but you can’t help her help you and it’s useless. She doesn’t know what to do. She’s on her way back to the doctor to get help but you don’t want anyone to see you like this. It’s too embarassing.
“...I’m fine...” You whisper. “...just wait...”. She stops- she’s so scared that she actually listened to you. Two minutes of recovering well spent!
“What do we do? Are you okay?”
Why does she keep asking me that? You think, annoyed at having to process anything else. Isn’t it obvious?
“...Just...quiet...Give me time.” You mumble.
You’ve suddenly become hyper aware for the first time in your life that it takes energy to make your heart beat. Between breathing and your pulse, your body is using up energy as fast as it recovers. It would be terrifying if it weren’t so interesting and new. The good thing is that it’s quiet in the hallway, except for the wind of breathing and the muffled bass of passing cars four floors below.
Katie stands by, and when she crouches down to look at you her eyes are huge and terrified. You close yours, and the energy it takes to move your eyelids is worth the investment because once your brain has less light to process your reserve begins recovering faster. That’s another new discovery- you’d always taken vision for granted, and assumed that it just kept going with your eyes closed. But it’s so much more efficient than that- most of the energy required to make your eyeballs work is being used in a particular section of your brain, and you can actually feel it winding down. It’s a kind of whirring sensation, like an energy gyroscope in your brain. Except it slows and stops a whole lot quicker. Is that how vision and balance are related? Does the visual cortex literally spin the visual world into existence?
DAMN IT, STOP THINKING, you yell at yourself silently. You drop into pure aural experience, let everything go, play dead.
For a hundred billion solid minutes you breathe as little as possible, don’t think, silently moving nothing.
A moment. Now. You have just enough energy of will to make it upright. If you can do that you can lean on the wall and make it to the elevator using sheer willpower.
You go for it, but don’t make it all the way up. Your face and the carpet have a nice make-out session. How far did you go? It doesn’t matter. Just do it again. And again.
It takes a solid fifteen centuries to flop your way to end of the wall and the next challenge: It’s ten infinite feet of open floor.
It’s not that bad. This is all in your head. You can do this. You can do this. Stop thinking, it’s too much energy.
When you can speak again, you tell Katie to open the elevator. The plan is to use the same willpower that isn’t working right now to make a dash for it. Just because it didn’t work before doesn’t mean it won’t work now that there’s no walls to help you! Necessity's the mother of miracles, after all. You close your eyes, building energy.
The siren goes off unexpectedly and excruciatingly loud. It’s a bone-piercing screech that ripples through your skull like a sheet of velvet hell, vaporizing your calm and making you scream in involuntarily rage and pain. Your stomach muscles spasm violently. Katie allows the elevator door to shut.
“...Open...again...” you say, “...one...minute first.” You close your eyes and desperately hope no one else tries to use the elevator.
“...Open...” You mumble, then stop everything and wait for the siren.
It goes off before you’re ready like a crowd of screaming children all hitting the most painful note possible through a squealing loudspeaker. It doesn’t stop. It’s agony. It’s pure blood rage.
The pain and emotion does what you can’t and drives you all the way to the elevator door in a single go, towards torture. It deposits you on the threshold, and somehow you and Katie work together to get you inside, utterly exhausted and yet somehow stronger. The siren stops as the doors close. You almost cry with relief, but that’s too much energy.
The vinyl floor of the elevator smells like vomit. It’s not so bad really. What bugs you are the grinding cables and the look on Katie’s face.
At the parking garage, the doors open and you wait for the siren, once again using it to empower you as Katie helps you shakily stand and exit. It’s cement and pavement from here on, and as you stumble out with her holding you up, several people move into the elevator, pretending not to stare.
Six feet from the elevator is a trash can. You should be able to prop yourself up long enough for Katie to bring the car around. You have to. There’s no other way. She looks skeptical, reluctant to let go of you, but does and heads for the car as fast as she can walk.
The moment she turns her back you fall off the trash can.
This is going to hurt, you think, just as a random bespectacled man in a plaid button-up shirt catches you by the armpits.
“Are you alright?” He asks, shooting Katie a dirty look.
“I have...CFS... It’s normal.” You say, feeling strangely and uncomfortably happy at this turn of events. He smells good. “Can you help me to the pillar?” He does.
He leaves as Katie pulls the car around, once he’s certain you’ll survive. Remaining upright is putting you into the red again, but the elevator is in use right now and you’ll have long collapsed by the time she could make the siren go off again, so that option is now off the table.
Katie hops out in a hurry, opens the passenger door, and then comes for you. You fall in her direction and she catches you, then the two of you struggle the remaining few feet over to the car. She’s so thoughtful, you think, she’s already put the seat down all the way.
You manage to make it onto the seat and Katie stuffs your legs in for you and shuts the door as quietly as possible- only sounds like a slam! You could kiss her for that, but before she even makes it to the door the deficit comes due and you hit another low, and realize that you cannot breathe. The air is too heavy.
You can’t turn over. You can’t move your tongue. You flat-out panic.
This is where you learn the incredible value of fear. Being legitimately afraid for your life provides barely enough energy for you to get your shoulder up and over, twisting your upper torso onto its side, but the flood of relief doesn’t last long because now you’re driving and the cacophony of the rush-hour city traffic is deafening. Unendurable, but you endure it anyway.
We did it. It’s going to be okay. I don’t know how, but we fucking did it.
The ride back to Katie’s only takes a million years or so, and you manage to only cry out two or three hundred thousand times, which was greater than or equal to the number of potholes on the way. Katie is driving extra slow for you- only drag racing speed. You’re unreasonably grateful.
Finally back at Katie’s place, it takes about fifteen minutes to build up the strength to get your feet out of the car and make it to the front stoop with her help. She lights a cigarette for you. You’re too winded to take a drag, so you just lean against the house and let it burn down as you try to recover enough strength to move your arm. It’s halfway gone by the time you can take a first drag, and the ashen worm attached to the front falls as you lift it. It helps. The world quiets down some. You let your hand fall, breathing ragged from the effort.
You take another drag. It’s already almost gone, burning while you recover. Ashen worms look really cool.
Just as you start wondering where Katie has gone off to, she appears with both steak and a glowing halo. She cuts it into bits and starts feeding you right there in the open. You don’t mind. No need to feel embarrassed while sitting next to steak-sporting angels after all.
It’s the most blessed, perfect, brilliant steak in the history of steak. It’s like a video game where you recover mana by eating. She keeps feeding you until you recover enough to feed yourself the last couple of bites and light a second cigarette and share it with her.
You’re feeling SO much better. You marvel at the fact it only takes you about a minute to stand! You make it all the way to the sitting room sofa in one go! You can even talk almost normally again!
“Hey, thank you so much... I think if I keep recovering like this I should be able to drive myself home tonight.” You say, completely serious.
She looks at you as if you’re the world’s biggest moron and says “like hell you will, you’re staying the night.”
“But what about James? He’ll want you to himself.”
“James can deal, babe. Besides. You’re staying right there.”
She covers you with a blanket, and you finally, finally rest.
It’s hard to believe that all of that happened in less than three eons. You spend the time reviewing the details, which are shockingly clear in your mind. New experiences have a way of being like that, with you.
And after all, on that front, today has been a wonderful day.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment and share! n_n
This post covers some pretty dark stuff. It recounts my recollection of my first experience with dysphoria, and contains quite a lot of content involving genitals. If you’ve got GD, it could be pretty hard to read. It’s also a memory of something that happened to me before I turned two, and the combination of these two subjects could be seen as being potentially problematic. It’s a very touchy subject on a number of levels and I’m not sure what the rules are here.
It’s also a tough one for me to post, and perhaps it’s truly the first one in which I discuss aspects of my life that have always been exceptionally personal. The aftermath of this experience took me nearly thirty years to cure. Thus, for the first time, I am truly walking naked in posting this essay.
Also, I’ve no idea how, because I haven’t been advertising this much but the number of readers has increased steadily each week. Thank you so much for reading, and I sincerely hope that I don’t lose anyone due to this week’s content.
Anyhow, *deep breath*, and without further nervous dithering, let’s begin.
The memory is both vague and vivid.
Elusive, it shifts in your mind. An ethereal, colorful haze out of which details sometimes burst and then recede like solar flares into darkness. Only during these flares can you touch it, taste it, smell it, hear it, see it with a level of excruciating detail, and hope to write it down.
You have no idea if it is real. Most of the time it certainly doesn’t feel real. And yet.
It is the answer to a question that has plagued your mind for twenty-nine years. More than fit neatly, it assembles the entire puzzle as if you had dumped it from the box and it hit the table fully solved. So it must be real, it must be. And yet it can’t be. Either way, there it is.
Could something so simple, so silly, as the accidental convergence of imagination and innocent childish ignorance be the seed of so much?
As if in answer, the memory flares anew.
“Potty training” begins.
It sounds very grown up and fun, but it only takes one try before you realize that you do not particularly like this new development. Also, it proves to be absurdly inconvenient. You cannot help but feel that there are better things to do than run to a little red-blue plastic pot with a hole shaped like a Hershey’s Kiss, engage in a complex process of clothing removal, and do all of this while simultaneously trying to actually hold the pee in. It’s not easy and seems entirely unnecessary. One day ago it wasn’t even a part of life. Now it is, with no warning at all.
The training pants are super uncomfortable and chafe the thing hanging in between them, which you haven’t really paid much attention to before now, thinking it was just something extra that would fall off eventually. You don’t really know what to do with it, but luckily your mother helps you, and frustrating as it is, you begin to learn.
Wait. Wrong memory. You’ll need to fast forward. You cannot know how long- time worked differently back then. It moved slower and everything seemed more real and less familiar. Or at least that is what you suppose from the way you recall feeling about the moments in which the memories seem nested. In the end it is hard to recall- it’s just you watching yourself doing and experiencing things as if it were a film in which a version of you that isn’t quite you is the star. Just a twin, perhaps, playing you in the mental documentary of your life. This, you realize, is part of what makes this particular memory suspect: it is the only memory you have ever known in which an entire section of it takes place as if you are actually looking out your eyes and touching the world. It feels like an experience rather than a record, and this seems untrustworthy.
Recalling the sensation flares the memory anew: The correct one, full and vivid.
One day, you are feeling very grown-up and want to use the potty on your own. You know you can do it, and if you can it’ll be a big step up the growing-up ladder and maybe you’ll be taller afterwards. You go into the bathroom and shut the door, all businesslike. The red-and-blue potty chair is wedged between the toilet and the wall, and you stand in front of it to unbutton your pants, dancing slightly. You shuffle the pants down all by yourself to just above your knees and admire the fact that your training pants have no plastic over them. You tug them down too.
The thing is still there. You’ve done this whole process before, but mother was always there to help and distract you. You’ve never actually examined yourself before, and you tug on it a bit to see if it comes off. It doesn’t, and for the first time you realize that the thing really is impossibly stuck to you. How did it get there? Also, it just looks gross and kind of stretchy, and you touch as little of it as possible as you move to aim. The moment your fingers contact the thing, you realize what it reminds you of.
The thing looks and feels like a massive white worm. You know a lot about worms- you have an unreasonable love of collecting them in the yard after it rains so father can have bait to fish with. Those ones are super cool and wiggly and make you giggle. You know right where to go to dig for them in the garden. And you really like caterpillars too, especially if they are fuzzy! They just seem so utterly adorable, inching along as they work tirelessly to become butterflies.
But sometimes you come across a white worm, or an ugly fat grub, and these things give you the heebie-jeebies so bad you have shuddering aftershocks for an hour. They are so pale, or slimy looking, and they move in the creepiest way.
And the thing looks like the biggest white worm you’ve ever seen, poking right out of you.
You have a moment of abject existential horror when your mind can’t help but ask: What if it actually IS a worm? The thing has always seemed so alien. What if it burrowed into you one day and then made it’s home inside you so it could create an egg sack and lay a pair of eggs that would hatch out hundreds of little worms that would travel around your body and eat you from the inside out?
The question is an image in your mind, an entire sequence occurring all at once and with it a feeling has arisen in your chest, some combination of curiosity and fear, as well as another feeling that makes you want to do anything other than what you are about to do.
Somewhere in the back of your mind a part of you crosses the word “panic” from a list of previously unfelt emotions. With a kind of horrified certainty, you move the worm aside and reach your hand beneath to discover a part of you that you had never previously acknowledged or paid any attention to.
Your hand discovers the egg sack.
Holding your breath, terror blocking out your thoughts, everything inside you screaming at you not to do this, you press your fingers deep in the sack and discover the two hard lumps pressed deeply against the inside. The eggs. They have already been laid. It’s absolute confirmation.
It is real.
You stand outside yourself and watch contemplatively as your body screams and shits itself standing out of sheer horror. The worm starts squirting all over everything. Mother and Grandmother both come running and try to calm you down, assuming you are upset about having an accident and you are too scared and horrified to say anything.
The worm is stuck to you and you can’t get it off. You cannot edge away, cannot pull back. It’s everywhere you are, just waiting to grow up enough for the worms to hatch and eat you from the inside, bite by bite, burrowing tunnels in the dark space until they consume you.
While your body is cleaned and consoled by loving giants, you try to think this through. It is abnormally difficult, because you are continually distracted by the despairing horror between your legs. Still, you force yourself to ask: is it actually a worm? Am I correct? You don’t know, and for the first time in your life not knowing is an improvement. It doesn’t take the sense of repulsion and horror away, but it does provide the possibility of hope, and that allows you to think more clearly. Externally, you calm your body down until it's just sitting in the tub leaking tears every now and again. The loving giants leave you alone for a moment and you focus your mind.
You think perhaps you could cut off the worm, and you recall that grandmother has scissors somewhere on the counter. But the counter is too tall for you to reach and anyway what if it fights back and the eggs hatch right then? What if it’s not a worm and if you cut it off you can‘t ever pee again? Bad idea. Yet despite how hard you are trying to force yourself to entertain doubts, the truth is you have none. You know.
Your body has never felt a cauldron of emotions like this before and none of the words on your list fit either.
Somehow, you are seeing yourself as being outside of it all, or perhaps safe within the dark space of the body, but it’s not safe is it? Because if the worms hatch they’ll get you too. They’ll get you first. Then it hits you:
The eggs have to grow up before they can hatch.
With a shudder, you realize what you’d almost done.
You’d almost died just then. You were so excited to become a big kid and if you had gone through with it the eggs would have grown up too and maybe they’d have grown enough to have hatched. Until you figure this out, you can never, ever, grow up. As far as you know, potty training is what separates babies from big kids, and therefore you absolutely cannot master this before you find a way to get rid of the worm unless you want to be eaten alive.
Unless you’re wrong. What then? How could you tell? Maybe if a long time goes by and you don’t die you’ll know. But you can’t tell anyone, can’t speak of it because you don’t know how smart it is and you don’t want to risk waking it up- it might realize that you know and drop the whole plan, burrow in and eat you all on it’s own. You must keep this to yourself.
You pee in the tub.
Next to the bathroom, between the guest room and the grandparent’s room is a floor to ceiling mirror. You observe your body turn its head as you are carried past, bundled in a towel. You’d seen the mirror there all the time, and thought it was fun the way the people in it copied you. Mother had told you that it was you, but that had never made sense before. You were in front of the mirror. How could you also be behind it? There had to be another world of people doing everything you did, just turned around. The adults didn’t know because they were fooled by the way things look. But you knew that the person in the mirror wasn’t you, and he did too. It was your secret.
But as your towel-wrapped body passes the mirror en-route to the bedroom you see the reflections eyes and recognize them. It really is you. But it just doesn’t quite look like you. It’s a nearly perfect reproduction, but your face is supposed to be different, isn’t it? And there’s not supposed to be an evil white worm burrowed into your crotch either. The feeling of horror rises again in instant panic at this thought, but you shut it down and push it aside, feeling hollow. By the time you’ve passed the mirror, you’ve already forgotten what your face looked like. But not your eyes.
In the bedroom, you beg to wear a diaper again. You don’t remember anything more for another undefinable stretch of time except this:
Potty training regresses completely.
At some point after the incident your father begins to take a role in attempting to potty training you. Since the incident you’ve been either using your pants or insisting on sitting to pee so you can avoid touching the worm as much as possible. Father seems to believe that you are afraid of using the toilet, perhaps of being unable to aim so he decides to show you how to do it. He has you stand next to him and he shows you how to put a piece of toilet paper in the bowl so you have a target to aim towards and then demonstrates. This actually helps some, because the whole idea is ridiculously fun. But what’s really captivated your attention is the revelation that your father has got a worm too, and it’s as big as your forearm.
You do not recall exactly what you ask him, or what he says, but it doesn’t matter because this is how you discover that the worm is not a worm and that it’s supposedly supposed to be there. You feel extremely silly, and ashamed, and frustrated too, because learning that it’s supposed to be there doesn’t make the sense of horror and despair, the desire to recoil from a part of yourself go away. By the time you learn the truth, it’s been too real for too long.
For the first time in your life, you try to not-remember. There is no other way for you to handle this. You want to not-remember badly enough that it doesn’t take a particularly long stretch of time to accomplish this, but it’s only a partial success. The memory goes, but the feeling remains. And it never, ever recedes. Neither does the life or death conviction that you need to stay in diapers, a desperate ploy for life whose origins are already unknown to you. The memory itself has been replaced by a nagging terror of forgetting and night terrors that will haunt you for the rest of your childhood. While their frequency eventually recedes, the worst nightmares will follow you into your early twenties, always involving worms that have burrowed into you, that are eating you alive, and which you cannot grasp or remove.
A new ritual erupts within you. Each day you run down the list of every experience you can recall, over and over, certain you are missing nothing. You can clearly recall every face you have seen in your short life, in order. This has the effect of improving your memory until it’s functioning at very high levels for visual information, and yet you will remain terrified of forgetting until the problems of puberty muddy your mind and your body is taken over by changes you thought would make you into something powerful but instead serve only to steal away any feeling of power you already had.
The fear of forgetting is a valid one, too, because the act of repressing that one single memory is the catalyst that destroys your childhood.
Hey everyone! Bonus post! Friday post will still come as usual. n_n
I was feeling really stir crazy and suddenly had a strong desire to get out of the house and hit up a coffee shop for some sketching. There’s this place in Portland called The Southeast Grind that’s a 24-hour café so I jumped into my beautiful-but-ugly-as-sin Subaru and somehow barely succeeded in parallel parking.
I headed in, found a comfy seat, and started trying to sketch people. It’s been years since I’ve done this sort of thing and my portrait skills are super rusty, so I figured I’d brush up a bit. At some point I became bored with that and then began doodling on one of them and this is what happened:
The whole time I was sketching this, some dude was loudly monologging about his forays into being a really good Christian, how he hugged some homeless dude for an hour, how he liked to follow the holy spirit and do it’s bidding against demons and all that stuff. But he made sure to point out how humble he was too, so it was totally okay when one point he seemed to need to show off and targeted some dude who was clearly needed some good ol’ proselytizing right there in front of everyone a lot more than he needed to be doing what he was doing. Dude rebuffed him beautifully.
It was quality entertainment, and the whole time I’m sitting there trying to think about what I’d say if I became a target, but he didn’t try again. Which in retrospect is kind of disappointing and relieving all at once. Having had more time to consider, he WAS super cute. So all I’d have had to do was come onto him and try to get him to you know, hug ME for hour...
After that, I decided I needed to smoke (yes, yes I know. I failed hard a couple of weeks ago and haven’t quit again yet). So I found me a dollar and headed outside, but no one was smoking so I went back in and asked a group of people near the door.
Ironically, the person who blessed me by furthering my addiction happened to also be the person I sketched in the upper middle of the above page. They came outside with me and we got to chatting about dudely dude of dudeness and demon hugging and hit it off pretty well. They asked me what I was sketching and recognized themselves right off the bat. XD
Turns out, they were part of a band called Dyke Tension and had just come from practice, and their group were basically just hanging out and sketching as well so I joined them and this happened:
Anyway, it was a really good time, and after the last week or so it felt really fucking nice to get out of the house and meet some people.
And hey, maybe it’ll help kick me out of this rut I’ve been stuck in with a new set of lyrics for a song I’ve been crafting lately. I’m probably on the fifth draft of the lyrics but they don’t seem to connect right. Might end up being one of the rare ones without a hook of any sort, but... Wait... I have an idea.