Our Word :: Week 2 Day 3 :: {Circle Back To The Truth}

by Cassie

I’m laying face down on the floor in between the bucket seats of our old Ford van. I am nine, or maybe ten, and full of the misguided spite preteens delight in. He is in the seat above me, humming softly, then singing lowly, and I snap, “Somebody doesn’t know how to sing.” Very pointed, that arrow, and the poison tip of it meets its target, digging into the soft flesh of his throat. Silence leaks from the tiny hole of hurt I made for no other reason than I could and I’m sorry sits like a stone in my mouth. Against the rough carpet that smells like stale french fries, my body bursts into flames and I watch the ashes of me fly out of the open window and down the back of Blanding Boulevard.

He is not even two, and I am home alone, and something inside me snaps like a dry twig under a shoe on summer ground that hasn’t seen rain in far too many days. There is crying, and crying, and the kind of dumb defiance all toddlers possess, dying on every hill simply because it hasn’t occurred to them not to, and I smack the top of his head twice – thwack!thwack! – hating myself from the skin in even as I move my hand through the air. Ten seconds later my rage is spent and I am cradling him close to me, wishing I could put him back inside the womb where I couldn’t reach him, and through his hair there is a small red spot in the shape of my palm that burns my eyeballs like a desert.

The night air is cold against the bubbling over pot that holds twenty years of my anger inside. I stand at the threshold, screaming into his space, throwing the words at him like spears: I hate you! I HATE YOU! and then I watch in horror as the mask slips for the tiniest fraction of a second, allowing me to glimpse the unbelievably human face beneath it, broken down and dilapidated and so very, very alone. I can’t stand to see it and it’s all too much and I shove at him, shove all that ugliness outward into his chest, and he almost falls, catching himself right before losing his balance, but in my mind I see him falling falling falling away from me, cracking his head on the concrete stones, and later I say I didn’t mean it, but I really kind of did, and I fall asleep digging deep crescent moons into the lifeline of my skin.

Etc., etc.

And that is what I know to be true today: a chronological ordering of all the stupid shit I’ve done, a timeline of the truths that hurt so hard they keep me up some nights, wrapped around all that shame like a stomachache. That’s what I do, what I’ve always done, gather up all that greasy grief and guilt, stuff it in my mouth, lick it off my fingers one at a time. I pull regret around my shoulders, tuck the corners of it in under my feet, let the heat of it warm me up like breath caught inside a blanket. All those missteps, pulled over aching hands, a hundred pairs of mittens knit with the comfort of condemnation. And okay. Okay. I’m only human, and we all do this thing where we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we’d expect from anyone else around us, and I don’t know — maybe that’s where the love and hope come in, maybe that’s where we start to figure out how to extend the same hand of grace we offer strangers to ourselves. It’s a complicated process, wrapping up this gift of kindness, allowing it to be opened; our lives are spent in endless spirals of apologies and falling back into good graces after fucking up good and after awhile, it just becomes second nature to second guess our every intention, to wear the bones of all our mistakes hanging from our belt, to pile all that up on smoking altars of self-loathing and throw ourselves on it when we creep too close to the corners of loving ourselves unreservedly. So maybe the thing that we have to do is just sweep all that shit on to the floor, stand on it, make love on it, move to the music and feel it crumble underneath dancing feet. And maybe that’s the thing that feels most true today, this desire to drag these rags of easy darkness into somewhere with some light, to shake them off in the sunshine, to sneeze all this stupid remorse out of my sinuses and make space for a little mercy.