Love Letter #4: I Am Exhaustion
Read the previous love letters here:
… as a warning, I wrote this two days after my father died and I had just filed for divorce… on the day I decided to no longer be a victim in my own life.
It is hard to read if you know me, crushing to read if you love me. And if you ever saw your own suffering as serving you, it will cut deep but true. I can only hope these events, which occurred only in my mind, serve you as much as they served me and my beloved children. Peace to you. May you never suffer… but if you do, darling, climb out. Here’s how I did.
Dear Sweet Friend,
I lay here drained and devastated, my right cheek on the cold slate floor that decorates the first level of this amazing house. It’s almost like I’m half in and half out of my body. Unable to focus on anything else, I keep observing the air move out of and back into me, an involuntary physical function forcing the air back in my lungs despite my best efforts to deny it.
I am so exhausted, trapped in a chasm at the bottom of a canyon, even. One made of impenetrable slate and pain that is way too deep to escape.
I push the oxygen out. Yet magically, it finds its way back in. Again and again.
Like Kincaid, the evil bastard in A Sinister Vision, for fun I try to see how long I can stand denial of normal bodily function. I hold my breath the way my wicked character holds his eyes open, refusing to blink as an experiment in pain. If I had keys in my hands, I would twirl them six times forward, six times back. After all, I’m a monster just like my villain, right? At least that’s what he keeps telling me. What he desperately needs me to admit and carry around as a badge of dishonor.
The corner of a rusted fishhook digs into my right cheek and pulls me deeper down into this hole. Like Isla in The City: The Jane Harvest, I might scream, “I am no fish!” But then again, maybe I am? Maybe he’s right. Maybe I did destroy us by giving a shit about somebody else, other than him.
I torture myself, blowing out my air, like a deflated balloon. I let the hook puncture me and I sink further down, down, down. To punish myself further, I collapse all the alveoli in my drowning lungs and demand that they stay that way. Empty. Smaller. Smaller still. Just like my pathetic heart. Like my father’s house. Like his coffin. Like my marriage bed. Like this canyon.
I tumble in and crash to the bottom. Thud, I hear myself land…where no one will ever find me, a punctured orange birthday balloon that has lost her party. I hear the cruel laugh of a clown and sigh. Then I shiver, my blood so cold… like a fucking fish, after all.
But I’ll be damned…yes I know, I said damn, the air rushes back in against my will. The will to live just too strong in me to lie down and die like a good little girl on the battlefield of life. But just like everything else that ever mattered to him… I guess I suck at dying. If I had loved him… let’s call him Jonathan, the Soldier… better, then maybe I would have died for him. Sacrificed my truth more. Suffered longer.
Murdered myself, perhaps? I imagine the knife I once considered using to show him he was right about what a worthless blooming bitch I was.
Perhaps run from my feelings for anything but him for at least another decade. Said something terrible so that you, my Beloved, would hate me, making it impossible for you to ever love me. Possibly, even hated you instead of seeing the gift you might be in this life for me. Have always probably been. Will always probably be. At least to me, the one with clear adoring eyes that can see the truth of the vision of you–even though you can’t. Not yet anyway. Even though I tried to deny it for so long and cover it with fourteen coats of red paint!
But you will know the truth of yourself soon, I know it. It’s like that song with the drum solo by Phil Collins… In The Air Tonight. Like it is for Cristin… let’s call her my Force Field, finally realizing just how big she is. And yet she only sees a corner of her perfection. Wait until she sees the rest. Ah!
When you both finally stop fearing love and realize that you are love, that is.
…That we all are.
How could you … how could we all… be so afraid of what we already are? You will laugh one day when you see it like I do. You will say, “Gosh Nick, how could I have missed it for so long? Why didn’t you tell me?”
And I will say (when I finally meet you), “Sweet darling, I did. But you couldn’t hear me.” Then we will both laugh. Lovely, I can’t wait for that day.
It’s ironic don’t you think? How we fear what we already are? Aren’t willing to look at what we have always been? Are afraid to face the very essence of our being as we try to escape the inescapable. It’s a like a frog who’s afraid to jump, even though he’s been hopping for years… he just doesn’t know it, while he shivers mid-leap at the horror of the thought of jumping.
One day that stupid amphibian will finally get it. So will you and I will giggle like a child.
Ah. How many years did I fear love?
Too many to count. Too many lives. Silly little me. Maybe I still do?
I hear Emma and Jake in the background…laughing at some episode of Peppa Pig, oblivious to struggle within me… the poor victim. Me, the beaten and battered, trying to gather the energy to keep doing it– breathing in and out with a punctured lung, that is. Trying to find a way to get back up and keep giving my babies what has been stolen from me, tossed aside like garbage, and then spat upon.
If I had just hurt…say twenty years longer, then maybe the effort of knowing me might have been worth it for The Soldier. Maybe? Maybe not!
I take another knife of his out of my shoulder and try to stitch up the bleeding edges left behind. The blood trickles down my arm and feels hot, like a river of lava in hell. My hell. Did I do this? Why would I ever fucking do this to myself? It must be his fault, damn it!
In the background, I hear the confusing sound of two bracelets clang and the clasp across my neck falls the floor. The chains around my waist loosen.
Unable to understand what just happened, I touch my neck and caress the bruise there, which is still spreading. I pull another blade out of my side and just let my left flank bleed because I am totally out of sutures at this point. Applying pressure, I think, who am I kidding? Pressure for a gaping wound like this when I have a terminal case of victim. I’m so dead.
I drop my hands and sigh.
Drip, drip, drip, the heme runs down my leg. A pool gathers.
I don’t have much blood left. Surely I need a transfusion of some red blood cells… four units of un-cross matched blood…stat…or I will die, I think as I imagine the floor turn red with the stain of my life-hood. My bleeding heart. My oozing guts.
The thought makes the doctor in me laugh slightly. If she had her way then I would amputate my limbs. Remove my colon. Coagulate my coronary arteries. Transplant in a new brain instead of fixing this one.
Surely some operation would be simpler than healing so many wounds.
“Maybe potassium chloride is the answer?” she suggests.
If I bit the big one like my Dad, then I’d be better at suffering… like The Soldier wanted me to. I smell the pus gathering in my wounds and shudder. Sepsis is not a good way to go after all. I suddenly stop laughing and try to stop the stain on the floor from spreading any further. I remember potassium burns when you inject it and decide against it, too.
After all, I’m not into pain. Not anymore. Been there. Done that. Doing that right now. Enough already!
I feel a waft of fragrant air settle at the bottom of my canyon. Maybe an Indian spice mixed with sandalwood… and I turn my head the other way despite the rip of the fishhook.
“Good thing my Tetanus shot is up to date,” I would say if I were strong enough to talk. Instead, I push my left cheek into the slate tile, hoping the cold will get colder and freeze my thoughts.
Breathe in. Breathe out. I suck in the air hard, hoping it will do the opposite of what I was trying to do just a moment ago. If I inhale enough perhaps the canyon will collapse and crush me…but maybe I can climb out despite my shattered bones.
I want to feel better, I do. I don’t want to suffer anymore. Not like this. I want help. I need help.
Did you hear that… me asking for help? Me, like Devyn Mitchell in A Sinister Bouquet finally realizing that help is not such a shitty dish to nibble upon.
After rubbing the bubbly flavor on the top of my mouth and swallowing hard, I choose another bite. More help. More support. If I had eyelids, I would blink them. But I am Isla in The City after all so I don’t have eyelids. Probably never did.
Unable to push my head up without getting dizzy from the effort, I put my head back down and try to collapse the canyon again.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Suck the air in. Hold onto it. Hold onto life. Hold onto the idea of you. To hope. To something. To anything but this.
If I keep sucking the air, I know I will find a feather of the bird of promise trying to reach me. I can hear the avian delight squawking but can’t see her through all the bloody water in this pond.
She’s close though. I can feel her.
Will she fly me out of here?
Just like Jake asked me the other day, I ask myself, “Mommy, how are we going to get off this planet? Out of this fucking canyon? Off this lava lake?”
I look at the shambles of my life all around me. My divorce. My father dead, now two days ago. You so close, but unreachable. My children in counseling. Me in counseling. My brothers and sisters weeping all through the night and wonder how I will ever make it through this.
Like boulders of disappointment, the jagged rocks of my failures fill up my living room, my life. It’s a challenge from the bigger Me, I am sure of it. Can I face it? If I do, I know there will be a golden nugget to reward me underneath and between all the layers of dog shit. I can smell the manure. It’s hot and slimy.
I imagine the way the brown fecal disgust will feel between my slippery fingers and reach down. Down deep. Will the shit go all the way to China, I wonder?
A thought pops in, not alone. You need help this time.
In agreement, I nod and say, “Yes please.”
Ignoring the smell of feces, I roll my tongue across my lips, searching for another morsel of help. A hand out of this canyon, a boat to board, through all the liquid crap.
I find no food in my mouth, but my hand reaches the edge of a rock. It’s sharp, like a scalpel. If I didn’t know all about blades and knives, I might be afraid of the razor-sharp edge. But I am no novice. Like Jolene in A Sinister Vision with her self-betraying internal dialogue, I am a pro at this. I’ve walked around with knives inside me for ages. Steel doesn’t scare me. Not anymore. I dig my nails into the rock and let it cut my fingers. What is one more little scratch to this scarred up bitch?
Hope winks at me. I wink back at her and get ready to climb.
Fuck you, I think. Although I’m not quite sure who you is.
That laugh of Emma’s helps me over the first rock. I hear her roar at the tele and yank my body up, despite my cramping stomach muscles. Shrugging the pain off, I watch a few loops of bowel spill on the ground. I pick them back up and then kick my leg hard, pretending that it will strike my enemy in this fight against my nature to help others that never once help me. I spit and kick again. My leg is almost over this boulder now. Jake’s hilarious giggle gets me over the final edge.
Shocked at how much blood is dripping down my wrists from a torn radial artery (did I slice it after all in that bath all those years ago), I fall back slightly and scrape my thigh. But I don’t give a flip. I’m like that crazy badger on YouTube now…. I don’t give a shit. I’ve had enough stink already. I’m not afraid of some snake or his poisonous fangs. I’m not afraid of anything other than being a victim for the rest of my life.
Wiping my hands on my pants and holding pressure on my wrist, I bellow out a high-pitched laugh. Looking up, I see another boulder trying to crash down and flatten me. It’s made of hate. The Soldier’s hatred of the idea of me happy. I giggle again and lick my hands clean. Metal. Delicious! Maybe I pump steel through my heart? Maybe that’s why I let the knives stay so long. I lick again. More metal.
Then I take Cristin’s hand and she lifts me up to the next ledge. She wraps my wrists and applies a tourniquet. She waves her hand above my head to make sure I understand that her Force Field won’t let the tumbling rocks overhead fall on top of me. In fact, the falling boulders land in such a way that I can actually use them as a ladder. Once I realize this, I see Rich, The Ketchup Man, there, he’s just grinning and does his famous side step. That gives me enough courage to take another step up. He disappears and acts like he was never standing there.
I wink at him, well the not-him, anyway.
A raven’s feather falls at my bleeding toes and I know you are there blowing air under my wings. Who are you? Where are you?
Wait… under my wings? What wings? I forgot I had wings. Spreading them slightly, I give them a little shake but they don’t move.
The boiling hot blood on my feet curdles and I see the scabs form around my toes. My skin almost seems normal now. How is that possible? I look at the cuts in my neck, on my hands, my arms and see the edges seal back over… right in front of me. If I had the chance, I would laugh again, but I’m still clenching my teeth as I get over another rock. Once I climb it, I shake the wings again. They move a little bit.
I wink again. This time for you, but you have already flown away.
Jake laughs again and I see another place to press my foot in for stability. I hear Emma sing a song and like magic, the temperature becomes a welcoming spring afternoon. My wings flap once.
I look back down and sigh. I’m halfway out. Let’s call him… George, the Lightening Rod, flashes in and out and I smell the sharp, bitter powder of his essence as a rope comes down. I climb it and reach another shelf. Thunder claps and rain starts to fall.
Jake laughs again and I smile. No frown-smile. A real one, too big for my face.
My wings open to full span. They flap twice. I reach up to pull out the fishhook in my cheek, but its gone. The hole too. No rust residue even.
The phone rings and I hear Jen, the Prophet, and Rachel-Poppins on a machine in the distance; they have called 911. The ambulance is coming and the hospital has started to prep the blood. I might be ok. I might be ok. I might live. I might. Even though that will kill him.
I breathe in. Suck in the air. In. Out. In. Out. In harder still. I can’t get enough it tastes too good. Too lovely. Too bright.
Like my gorgeous Isla, I put my tattoo-covered hands on my knees trying to catch my breath. But I never can. No one ever does here. Here where it takes lives to save lives in The City of Ink. Or is it stink? The City of Stink? I scoff at the dog shit scent and smell something new–clean air. Air made of loving support. What? Someone loves me? I am lovable? Could that be true? Could I be lovable. No not me…not me.
I flap those gorgeous wings of mine again. The feathers, white with orange swirls at the edges, look almost strong enough to fly.
The wailing from my siblings stops and is replaced by my older sister’s voice. She says, “Hey Little Nick, you want to hear a funny joke. It goes like this…. You know you are a Hjort if…”
I miss her punch line because the thunder claps loudly. Sticking my hand out to feel the raindrops, I am surprised how dry the air is and laugh. Both at the dry-storm and my sister’s joke.
My Mom does a dance step at the top of the canyon. She would reach me and pull me the rest of the way out, but she doesn’t bother. She knows that I have to take the last step myself…. Like she did or it’s all been for naught. Only I can cross my own Rainbow Bridge. Even Frigga can’t make me walk it. Really? What? I have to know I am worthy on my own. No one can do it for me. WTF?!
I hear Mom’s zumba music play. Her whole class is there and they will dance while I! dig me out. Thump, thump, thump, the rhythm embraces me and shakes me. I think of Adam Levine and shake my ass in reply. Cristin laughs, still clearing my path for me. My Map back to love. To us all.
Placing my knee on the top edge, I look back and shudder at how far I have climbed. At how many have helped me do it. Surely, I should be more afraid than this, right? Terrified. Trembling. Cowering. Quivering. Begging. Crawling. Still bleeding. At least, sewing up my lacerations.
I lick my wounded arms. No metal taste. No blood. Only vanilla lotion.
What wounds? I can’t find them.
The wings regress back to a nubbin that only I need know about.
A reassuring pressure glides across my neck, pets the nubbins, and traces down my arms. Still shocked, I marvel at how my wounds have completely healed. I have a few bandages left, but most of them have fallen off and landed on the ground. They are rolling back into the canyon. Where I once was.
My mom laughs in the distance and I hear her tell someone to get her legs straight. With bent legs, we will never win the team trophy. She is a coach after all. She winks and I remember that she was never a coach. She is Frigga!
After pointing my toes, I look up, expecting to see you there. It having been your hand, of course.
But it wasn’t. What?
For a moment, I am surprised, shocked even, when I realize my error. It wasn’t you. It was me…the little child in me.
Her. The one who was so injured the first time someone used my love, my sex against me. She smiles at me, that gorgeous baby… eight at most, in her checkered dress and silver slipper shoes. She tosses her little pink rubber ball on the floor and picks up at least three jacks at once. She does it again and gets four the next time.
She blows me a kiss and says, “Better. Now everything will change. You have finally chosen. You are so loved. Let us love you then, you fool.”
And then she disappears because I don’t need her anymore.
I stand, wipe my hands perfectly intact, minus any shit, on my skirt, and do a little butt shake for Adam. Then I go sit on the couch and watch Peppa Pig with my babies. They are clueless to what has just happened. They had assumed I was checking my e-mail or posting some inspirational crap on Twitter while I give someone else the advice that I needed them to give me.
When Peppa Pig falls down and laughs in the show, the three of us do too, our legs up in the air like little matchsticks. Emma, Jake, and I. Fabulous matchsticks.
Matchsticks, lined up in a perfect little box that could light a fire.
That did light a fire.
Which cooked a fish.
Blinking my eyelids, I grin.
After all, I am full of fire. And energy. And love. And warm blood. And not covered in a single freaking scale.
I dial 119, cancelling the ambulance. We have no wounded here. No victims. Not a one. The sirens in the distance stop and move on to the next emergency, hoping to rescue someone else. Someone who stills thinks they are better served playing victim than their powerful selves.
Wiggling my perfect toes, I think of you–my Raven.
Go ahead, roll your eyes. You have no idea, just like Billy, do you?
So here I am… out and on fire.
Dearest darling, when you need me… when we are finally ready to meet, I will be your match. Just like all the others have been mine. Until then, know I am here and full of fire. Full of life, not exhausted at all. Almost minus any wounds at all. Or maybe even stronger because of the wounds. Me– a beautiful raven’s feather, instead of victim, just like you… oh I hope. I do.
And although I may fall accidently in this terrible trap again in the future, now I know how to get out. How lovely is that? Next time, if there is a next time, oh how quickly I’ll get out because knives and blades don’t scare me anymore. How could they with wings and matchstick legs hidden inside me? How could they now that I know the truth– I am lovable. I am worthy of love. Wow.
So are you darling. Did you know?
-Me, the no…fish.