Once upon a time, i had a beautiful mind. As a child, i memorized The Lady of Shalott, which is 1,010 words. i wanted to see if i could do it, and how long it would take me. It took two weeks.
i used to recite it in my head, during particularly brutal beatings, to keep myself conscious. Sometimes little pieces still float up, generally at inappropriate times.
There is more important poetry in the world. Yesterdays was Chrystos-What did He beat you with, the doctor said. Not He, She. I curled up inside of myself like a bound foot.
That is what i’m thinking of en route to the CT scan, trying to drown it in music, other poems. Anything at all.
When we arrive, the receptionist has me put my hand on a little box which will identify me by my palm print for future visits. It makes it so easy, the woman says, and i nod mutely and do what she is telling me.
i’m thinking of my mother, her wild eyes, and then the peace that comes after. She says that social security numbers are the sign of the beast. She makes us practice what we will do if my brother and i are asked to deny Christ. There are little capsules, one for each of us, that she reassuringly says we will take before the end of days. i ask if suicide isn’t a mortal sin, but she waves this away. The capsules are green and i hold them in my palm for a moment, feeling safe. She locks them in the safe with her diamonds. Reminds me where to find the combination, which is printed on the underside of an obscene clown figurine that plays music. We practice like a little army of three, and my mother is on the look out that the government is the anti-Christ. She isn’t alone, didn’t develop these ideas by herself. We go from Catholicism to fundamentalist Baptists, which didn’t last long because her front lobe damaged husband liked to be wheeled to the front of the church by her boyfriend to declare that my mother was Jesus Christ. When he got put slobbering on himself from the car wreck back into a nursing home, our family went to Jehovah’s Witnesses. i think that is where the cyanide idea came from. We then joined a fundamentalist Pentecostal Church with the Benny Hinn, where my mother was duly informed that my brother and i were demon possessed. By that point, i was hoping for the little green pill.
Sometimes, i still wake up with the horrendous fucking songs in my head. It makes me feel a little bit crazy, a little angry, like my mind is trapped in a confined, dark, and too hot room.
i ask Sir Raven if she didn’t find the forced hand print thing odd, and she tells me to be quiet.
When they take me back to wait in another area alone for the CT scan, i pass a woman who i know is soon to die, despite her youth. This is the part of being an empath that i hate the most. The fear and anxiety that chokes the air of the hospital, that i can feel and smell. i try to meditate and note the woman soon to die is light, peaceful. When Sir Raven and i are alone, after the scan, waiting for the doctor i ask how she deals with the feelings in a hospital being an empath. i voice my suspicious that she can turn herself on and off emotionally at will.
She tells me to be quiet.
i want her to be able to comfort me just now, or at least know that i’d appreciate a comforting word, a touch, anything. The room is too cold. Too quiet. The pain in my tailbone goes up and up and up. It feels like a hammer hit it and i’m fighting anger.
What did he hit you with? The doctor said. Not He, She.
Onward Christian Soldier-
Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.
Breathe. Just breathe.
Sir Raven’s angry voice interrupts my thoughts. “What is going on with your face?” she demands.
i look down at the floor. i’m disgusted with myself, with my bones for revealing the decades of abuse, for the goddamned music, for how much i need her to tell me everything will be okay.
Her tone has been snippy all morning, rushing me through the crowds, sighing when i drop my white cane and then getting annoyed when i apologize. i’m worn out by all of it, especially being calm and meek in reply to her clear annoyance at me. She can be grouchy, condescending, overbearing, disinterested. i can not.
When it’s all done, when we can finally leave NYU, we find a bar with good food and a champagne happy hour. She has been gruff and disconnected from me and i’m only too happy to watch her drink and make her laugh.
i careen wildly between thinking she got a raw deal with my medical stuff and i’m grateful she can be counted on to get me safely to places on time, to thinking that she goes out of her way to make a stressful situation worse.
To have an uncharitable or angry thought about her seems wrong to me. i try to stamp it out, but i’m exhausted. i try to meditate, but there is too much noise in my head. i walk the mile to the pharmacy to get our meds and return home calmer, sweeter. i’m trying so hard-so very hard. Her tone is still sounding frustrated though which i finally point out in a very quiet, very neutral tone.
This makes her angry and she goes on to say that i’m wrong, that she wasn’t frustrated but now she is, like i spoke it into existence. She tells me to fix my face, and her hand touches her belt. i hear it, don’t know if its conscious or not, but don’t want to find out.
She went to bed without telling me and without putting the collar back on, which causes a night of nightmares fueled by the anxiety of the month.
Sir Raven calls from work to ask if the Super has been up to inspect the new leak. That is what i woke up to, trying to navigate around a bowl catching water through the hanging light switch. She leaves for work without kissing me, and i feel bereft.
When i hear her voice on the line, its like the sun shining through a cloudy day. She tells me she forgot to put the collar on last night, in a gentle tone that listens when i say i had nightmares with it off. That i kept waking up touching my throat.
She doesn’t tell me to stop talking, just assures me that she will fix that when she gets home. And just like that, i’m okay again, able to happily chirp about what she wants for dinner and that i’m hoping to find her special beer again.
The past is sealed back up for a time, my head stops reeling, and i can focus on pleasing her and getting my list done. i’ve already been working for hours and the house smells like Mr. Clean, coffee, and scented candles. My tailbone still feels like it’s been hit by a hammer so beading will wait a bit, but i have plenty to take care of and feel like i can face the day with a smile.
One of the things