Wednesday, February 06, 2013

SPE: "Slice"

{For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Kurt gave me this prompt: "When you cut into the present, the future leaks out." -William S. Burroughs. I gave Chelle this prompt: "If you have to decide, then the answer is don't do it. If you have a choice, then the answer is no." -Bruce Springsteen}

[Trigger warning: I have seen other blogs do this, and I think it's a non terrible idea. This story involves some pretty intense stuff. So if you're of a delicate constitution, you may want to look away.]

One of my earliest memories was of riding the subway with my mother. I think we were going to a museum. I remember how noisy the trains were, the squealing brakes, the mild electrical smell, the way the lights would flash off and on again as the train went around a curve, the enormous additional roar of a train passing going in the other direction, the constant rattling and groaning of the metal as it was pushed along. I remember all the people- men in suits, women in skirts and jackets with sneakers, students slouching in dirty jeans, all the adults looming around me, towering and enormous, as I held my mother's hand. I remember watching her engaging in a halting conversation with an huge woman in a patterned dress with a scarf on her head. They were talking, but I couldn't understand them. I remember thinking, with all the train noise and these nonsense words passing between them, that I might be dreaming, or maybe something was wrong with my ears.

I was crying by the time we emerged into the sun, my mother stopping and sitting me down and asking me what was wrong. I told her that I didn't understand what she was saying to the woman on the train, and I remember her explaining that she was speaking French, and that French was just another way for people to talk. I remember her telling me that little girls in France had kittens just like I did, only they called them a different word. It was such a shock to me, that the world that I knew was so malleable. I must have seen those Sesame Street sequences with Spanish in them, but for some reason this was the encounter that brought the idea home to me that my view of the world was not necessarily the only one. I spent the rest of the day, I was told later, torturing my mother with translation questions, learning about le chat and la voiture and la bibliotheque.

I think the horror of that idea, my experience being subjective and not objective, never really left me. I understood the idea soon enough, that a truth uttered in innocence can turn to ashes upon hearing, that my thought never made its way into another's head without being mangled beyond recognition. I knew especially that boys, those mysterious, rough, dirty creatures that so stirred my blood, would not respond to my urgent pleas, their thinking not aligning with mine no matter how urgently I wished it. . At least, the right ones wouldn't. And later, after my body betrayed me, I had the opposite issue, lecherous peers and pathetic, lusty old men receiving messages I was not sending. I understood this, but I never really accepted it.

As a miserable, mopey young adult, bumping along, failing at school and in life, my parents tried the usual attacks on the problem, calling specialists, asking friends, engaging in long, drawn out talks as I wailed and moaned, essentially asking, in so many words, "What IS it? What do you need? What do you want? What can we do to help you out of this misery and into a life that suits our need to brag at cocktail parties?" Drinking didn't help. The drugs didn't help, they just made everything foggy and distant, and the talk therapy was so many words, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I kept thinking of Eliza Dolittle- "Words words words/I'm so sick of words!"

I could never communicate it, because the dread, the marrow deep fear that tomorrow is going to come, and that it is going to be just as meaningless and as gray and as flat as today, was somehow beyond my capacity to explain. It was too large for my mind to contain it, never mind try to convey it. I could say it is "like" this, or it is "as if" that, but in the old phrase sometimes attributed to John Lennon, talking about it is like dancing about architecture. If you have felt it, you know. If you haven't, I couldn't possibly show you.

So my latest therapist, Dr. Fox, asked me to make a collage, to explain how I was feeling in pictorial form instead of trying to use words. It felt stupid and childish, but to humor her, a pleasant little woman with graying hair who wore long Western skirts, I went up to my room with scissors and an Exacto knife, a glue stick, and a pile of magazines from the recycling pile. I started cutting out pictures, whatever caught my eye, ridiculous high heels on starlets, desserts dripping with fat and sugar, mansions behind white pillars, airplane seats reclined on transatlantic flights.

I was trying to excise an image of a comically large artificial breast from a picture, some glossy mess from Vogue or some such, when the craft knife's yellow plastic handle slipped on the slick page and, to my shock, I buried it in the base of the thumb on my other hand. I guess I have the average tolerance for pain- not having any basis for comparison, I wouldn't know. I certainly didn't relish discomfort, but at first, it was really the surprise of the blade entering my skin more than the pain of its entry. I watched, horrified, as blood rose swiftly to the surface on either side of the hard angled metal, quickly beginning to drip onto the open magazine page below. An ad for maxi pads, I noted with amusement.

I got the idea all at once, like one of those movies where the frame dissolves and you can see what the character was thinking. I remembered seeing a painting, David's "The Death of Marat," the main character murdered, dead in the bathtub, stabbed by a conspirator, and suddenly I could picture myself, naked, my skin loose and flabby, the water tinged pink as my blood leaks away into it, my arms hacked open with my own fury. Like any depressive, I had considered self slaughter, but had never summoned the will. As sudden as a flash going off, I could see it as if it had already happened.

There was a comedian I saw once, really late at night on HBO, who said that suicide, in an adult, was like someone walking out of a movie halfway through. It was possible that the movie would suddenly get better, but if you have hated the first 45 minutes, what are the odds that the second 45 are going to be a lot better? I had given life a quarter century, and it had disappointed me at every single turn. I couldn't go on, and as my thumb started to throb, I looked at the silver blade, vibrating as my hand trembled, and I smiled.