PC: Aryhadnë Sardà
Upon Identifying What Consumes Me
Static buzzes underneath my skin and fills my ears like cotton balls plugging out the world, or keeping me in. It rattles my bones and constricts my organs, tight and tighter. A valve shuts off my lungs and I, I am, I am gasping. I cannot breathe--
—until it loosens its grip. My exhalations carry the static out of me, curling like a snake from my panting mouth. It crackles the air and becomes lost against the backdrop of a television screen.
If you peeled back the roof of the house like the lid on a sardine tin, you’d see me at seventeen, lying on a sagging leather couch. My limbs are rigid, working secretly against an untamed need pushing against my body. This is sometime after my mother has threatened to enroll me in charm school, and the beginning of when I start considering the healing hand of Jesus to take away whatever afflicts me. I wear an invisible label—high strung—given to me by my classmates. They believe they need to find me a boyfriend because a good lay will get rid of whatever is wrong with me.
I spring upright, enthralled at a fussing character on the screen. Primetime has handed me a name: obsessive compulsive.
Laughter rakes the air, both mine and my father’s. He laughs because the show is funny. I laugh because I have tasted bittersweet freedom.
Knowledge conspires against me in revenge for all the times I subjected it to my will. Pressed my heel to its neck and told it to be still. It does not want to obey me any longer. It slips from my grasp and leaves me drifting, untethered in the world.
I have forgotten my date of birth.
I have forgotten how to tie my shoes.
I have forgotten reactions and equations and hoped that I did not ignite the world in my estimations.
I have forgotten how to get where I was walking to.
I have forgotten what it feels like to enjoy a stroll down the street. That absence gives space for worry that ignites my brain, heating my skull until I am sure it will explode.
Two girls pass by and a word floats up from their rose red mouths and anoints my brow: anxiety. This holy oil flows across my forehead then seeps into every cell. These priestesses have blessed me with a key that fits within a long-awaited understanding inside me.
That’s what that is.
The smoldering fire cools in waves that ripple across my scalp.
I pause in the shadows blanketing the sidewalks in lacework. Acacias hover like stalwart guardians. Their blossoms shower me in perfume as I listen to the leaves whispering secrets.
I control what crosses this barren scape. Chaos underlies the surface, tearing at the land until it buckles and splits.
I seal the cracks with a wide smile that disguises the terrors swimming beneath my eyelids. They do not cease their assaults. They frighten me while lying in bed bathed in pearl moonbeams. They chase me in slumber and jolt me awake.
For the length of time it takes the light to change from amber to pale yellow, I vibrate in sync with the surrounding universe. Reason places a hand on my elbow and guides me forward.
Speak, it says.
When I open my mouth, Destruction steals my voice and shows me the dismantling of the Eden I’ve created in the desert. I see divorce, my children ripped from my arms. I imagine my family branding me deficient. Silence glues my mouth shut. Keeps my teeth grinding into dust. And when I speak, I fleck the world with shattered truths.
I grind and glue and steel myself while searching the Internet. A woman online admits her struggles to a group of us. She is burdened by horrors, like me: intrusive thoughts. But challenging their existence in the world steals the kindling that fuels them.
She gives me language that flows like spellwork. It binds these mental demons instead of them binding me. Her voice exorcises these intruders and teaches me how to bend them to my will. When I follow her lead, I weep from relief.
The barren landscape cracks, geysers shooting forth from the desiccated earth. Laughter erupts from my mouth, and I lap up the baptismal rain.
About The Author - DW McKinney
DW's work has been featured in Bitch Media, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Stoneboat Literary Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine, and others. She is also currently serving as the creative nonfiction editor at The Tishman Review and Book Reviews Editor at Linden Avenue Literary Journal. You can learn more about her at www.dwmckinney.com.