I was running. Running in the woods. Running from footfalls and panting grunts. The wind. The hole that I trip in. The struggle to regain balance. The out of breath-is this really happening-I am going to die violently-ness of it all. The flashback to bad choices that could have easily been chosen differently. The randomness of consequences. The fear. The low hard hiding place. Crawling. Skin slicing open. The struggle to pull myself under something low. The fear of breathing—of making a sound.
The amazement I feel that my end will be bloody and I will suffer greatly. Feeling like I am in a horror film, one where the heroine won’t make it out alive. Waiting. Waiting. The breeze rustling dead leaves across the pavement sounds like that man who’s been chasing me shifting his weight from one foot to the other, waiting to see if I am under this car or someplace else. Then a silence. Then another shift of the feet. Or is it?
Time has continued on while I have been existing under this car, unnaturally flattened, hiding in the woods behind a bar, very drunk and questioning my fate. I decide I must risk coming out—I will run for it.
Where is my purse? Where is my mind? I run, counting each breath, each breath a prayer to whatever god is the real one that I will not learn what it means to be tortured and left to die in the anonymous woods alone. That I won’t be the next missing girl on “Nancy Grace.”
Here is a sign for Home Depot. Lights up ahead. A thoroughfare. No traffic. No help. Looking. Crying. Wait—a cop car with lights on. I run across the four-lane street on limping legs, blood oozing from the pale membrane that covers a brain and a body.
I am safe. I experience a miracle. But I am crazy. Once I start trying to explain to these cops what just happened to me, I realize something even more terrifying—the whole thing happened only in my mind! It wasn’t real, not at all. Just one of my old nightmares come to life.
And while I am waiting beneath the flashing red and blue for my mother to drive the half hour from her mansion to pick me up at four in the morning, I realize I have lost two hours of my life because my mind is broken.
I have slipped through a crack in reality— because this horror show experience was as real as any other experience I have ever known. Or have I really known one? Has this happened to me before? Maybe many times, even?
Can I truly not distinguish reality from hallucination? Who and what in life has been real? Surreality is being stuck in between reality and a dream, the coexistence of both in the same experience—and the undoing of this is what I am experiencing. Who can know how thin that membrane is until they have stuck their head through it? Who knows what Dorothy was thinking when she saw the man behind the green curtain? That man, the one who was chasing me just then, I realize–it was that ballplayer from Lilly’s favorite novel…
There can’t be many things more terrifying than imagining you are about to be murdered, only to find that you created that all by yourself and no one else took place in it. Unless of course, it really did happen in real life…Oh, really, Eve, I say to myself–C’mon, now! You made it up! It’s your father chasing you, over and over, in your mind, made into reality–your own chrissakes father chasing you in your dreams, in your head!
This cognitive dissonance has been happening since the beginning of time, to who knows how many young women who dissociated from—I can see it now—rape and mental torture…And, yet it is not something I am prepared to accept in my own life. For some reason, and I think you have known what my reasons are because Lilly wrote them down for you, some people are not blessed with a quiet and rational mind that knows it is not crazy. But am I really crazy—now that can see clearly what has been making me this way for years?
But, I do not feel I’m in control of my own mind—my own inner world is a messy stash of images I can’t erase and what I still desperately hope is just imagined experience. I realize I do not know who I really am, and this hits me on a cellular level. And all of those old images rush back in, like it was yesterday, and I know in my heart they are true.
I am the blackness that swirls into horror—my mind is a mix of everything I have ever thought I have known, made of real, not just realistic, fear. I’ve been reliving the same wretch of a night in my dreams, all these years, afraid of that ballplayer in every way a woman can be afraid.
I must accept the truths of my childhood fears—they were real, unlike most other people’s…Their source? I know you know…
Can a person be so fragile? Can reality be so easily superseded? Who can help you when you realize that your nightmares really happened? That it’s all been your own terrifying secret, a big secret you’ve been keeping from yourself this whole time! I think back to what I thought was reality and question whether any of it really existed at all—this whole time, the true nature of my life was hidden by my own mind, by a bunch of dreamy bullshit, because I wasn’t ready to believe it. Until now.
I have fallen through a wormhole of the mind. No one saw me do it. No one pulled me from beneath the car so that I could run toward the realization that I actually do not have Major Depression—that I am an incest survivor instead! My mother expects me to make a living with a broken mind and a broken heart. I know I can’t. Not yet.
I want to die. He really touched me there and everywhere, he really chrissakes-ed me in my own bed, in my own motherless house, back when I was seventeen, back when I was whole and then suddenly so shattered.
I have felt I was going crazy before on a cellular level, too, but this is different. I am a gaping hole with an infinite amount of energy to scream and scream, but I keep it in. I am a walking black hole with a mouth that is yelling for the kind of help that never comes. I feel everything and nothing at the same time; I begin to believe that everything in my life led up to this random moment where words fail to describe just how lost a person can be.
I know that there is only one way out of my mind, but I don’t know what that is. I know that no one can heal this gash in my head, except me. I know only two people really know what’s wrong with me—he’ll never remember, and I fear I’ll never recover.
Who can describe the wish for nonexistence? It is a hope beyond all others, a yearning, a sweet promise of the end of this realization of my past that keeps happening to me despite my best efforts to become a better person who is well-adjusted.
This is the wish of my whole soul—a yearning to go back and back in time to when I was a zygote, so that I could let go of the wall of Annabelle’s womb and be flushed down the toilet, to just get lost in her brief sadness of another childless month.
I am Lilly, she is me. We are all of us suffering and happy, and suffering and happy.
I think now that I have been given a special gift, and that part of it was to be shown at last, however unwittingly, the way things really were and what had been twisting up my guts for five long years. The lesson is that the way things really went down is the beginning of making peace with myself.
Should I really write these most personal thoughts down for you to read? I am just trying to explain my own nervous breakdown—I’ve been forced into doing so by my twin sister. But it is more complicated than just dissociating from the rape of that ballplayer…
When you are in the throes of a depression, it feels like the whole world is a dark ball hurling through black space, and you can feel that centrifugal force deep in your stomach. It seemed to be a state of total possession, immersion. Or at least that’s what I thought then. I became darkness and the wish for pure nothingness. I wanted nothing but to stop the endless flood of images, images which over time became so painfully clear, and I couldn’t stop them. So, I sought to stop myself—first from seeing, and then, when I couldn’t do that, to stop myself from even living.
Suicide is a choice of desperation, of resignation, of a despair that seems too big for the world and too big for just one person to hold. It was a choice that seemed okay to make, since I inherited that tendency from that ballplayer and his side of the family—a solution, it seemed to me. But, suicide is against nature. It is not the choice that I really wanted to make.
I should be dead, but I am alive. It took me a while to understand the divine miracle of that fact. I have been given a second chance, a second life. I should be dead, but I am alive. And thankful. And ready to live. Or at least more ready than I’ve ever been.
I am listening to a song from my past, a promise of nothing. A song I can now remember being played in another room while my father was in my bed, years and years ago…I want to create a character that can overcome this, who can find the answer to the riddle of how one girl could dissociate away part of her childhood, but the answer hasn’t been invented yet. I am not capable enough to find it, although I have foolishly tried. Tried to outrun that devourer of promise and hope.
Others have looked at me with bewilderment, and the fear they must feel at seeing the naked rawness of a sick person must be visceral—so, it is right that they should recoil. How much grief can one girl hold?
Everyone else has an impenetrable place inside that defines who they are, but I am left with a childlike sponge filled with holes. I am stuck in rewind, in a cassette deck from the pink stereo I loved as a child, the one we took to Galveston so I could experience my disappointment in the Gulf’s brownness. The water was trapped by land, the water tasted like iodine and mud. Even the seagulls were heavy and off-white, just like the clouds and my heart.
In the car, on the way to the emergency room, I am uncertain of whether it is day or night. Sam has caught me swimming after hours in the Gulf, is making me come back in, but I want to keep on going, keep swimming out and out.
Through his big white megaphones, he’s calling to me from the shore—
“Eve! You’ll get too tired! You’ll want to come back and you’ll be too tired! Turn around, right now! It’s too dark out there, you’ll get disoriented, the tides will shift, you’ll drown! Hurry! Turn back!”
It hurts to see him jumping, flailing his arms at me, kicking up sand in the intensity of his pleas, but I am still compelled to go. I can barely hear his voice, and know that to him I must seem so tiny and fragile.
Struggling is relative, I guess. Sam can only understand me as much as he understands himself; I can only understand this as much as I can understand anything else, which isn’t much. I just know that I don’t want anything here enough to stay, and I don’t know how to explain that to anyone.
But here, in this moment, in the car, I couldn’t even if I wanted to because I can’t find my mouth—it has fallen behind my teeth, gone under my tongue and I hear gulls calling behind the pounding ringing in my ears and I long for silence.
And isn’t it sad, or wouldn’t it be, if the person you loved wanted to die more than love you and life and everything. It is, or would be, almost unbearable, at best. I’ve done this to my mother, my family, my lovers, my closest friends—and I couldn’t stop!
I wanted to go to the complete last place on the sand, the last place my feet could touch, just to do it to drown this awful sad reality I had found myself in. It has nothing to do with anyone else’s feelings, just my own stupid thoughts and realizations.
I was tired of always being overwhelmed. I was tired of the flashbacks of horrible things I was not ready to admit were real.
The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt the people I loved, mainly because I loved them and so should stay when I wanted to go; but, I couldn’t face my life, and I didn’t want to think about the alternative, of staying—endless suffering for me and me alone, suffering that I couldn’t explain enough for anyone else to understand.
To me, there was no in-between—there was life and happiness in one corner, and death and peace in the other. These opposing conceptions were just going to have to duke it out until one of them finally won.
I didn’t realize then that I was the one who had set it up this way, that I was the only one who could call the match and pick up these thoughts and take them to the hospital to get better. But that’s what my suicide attempts were, really. Me trying to kill the me that was raped by that chrissakes ball player—that me who was the idealist, the innocent, the kid. I kept trying to set that kid free.
I didn’t realize then that happiness and peace were really sisters, and that recognizing that good and bad exist to balance each other out was the mother of these sisters.
“Wake up, Eve!” This time a soft voice, female, lapping over me; and when I open my eyes, I am laying on a white hospital bed in a white gown, in a small white room separated by a white curtain. The woman leaning over me has been gently tapping on my wrist, which is connected to an IV. I can smell her breath, and it smells like cafeteria-prepared fried chicken. I am hooked to machines, monitoring my heart and breath and internal organs. I’ve been here before. My family is outside, waiting. My psychiatrist is, too.
“You’re a very lucky girl, Eve,” says the nurse. “You could have ended up on dialysis for the rest of your life. How do you feel?”
I don’t feel like answering. I pretend to go back to sleep.
I remember the first time my parents took me to the beach when I was about six. We woke up really early to get a head start. My mom grew up in California and I had heard all about how she and my uncle would go to the beach after school to surf and hang on the weekends and have big bonfires. My parents met in Corpus Christi, and used to drive down to South Padre Island to the blue water and skip school. They had hammed up the ocean for me as a child, so I knew all about it and couldn’t wait for my first chance to swim at a real beach.
The whole way there that morning, I kept asking questions about what Galveston would be like, and I remember my parents being real elusive, not wanting to disappoint me. Finally, when we were almost there and you could smell the humid fecund salt of the Gulf in the car, they told me that it wasn’t exactly an ocean. They told me they wanted me to be prepared so that I wouldn’t be disappointed because it wasn’t blue and the sand wasn’t white. But they still had me cover my eyes, and when I opened them, I was disappointed anyway.
“Wake up, Eve!” A new nurse, a new bed. The nuthouse. I am jolted upright. Involuntarily committed. The day before rushes before me in a blur that I cannot push away, like the lingering stink of that cigarette you just put out and now wish you hadn’t smoked. I had refused to sign the papers, remaining motionless and unmoved as my family, friends and medical advisors tried to convince me it was the right thing. Nothing had worked. Involuntary admission.
“It’s time for breakfast,” says the nurse with forced cheer. The nursing staff dislikes me because I won’t cooperate.
I ignore her and head for the bathroom, use it, and head back to the bed. After several attempts to get me out of it, she leaves.
I feel tugging at my feet, and I grab for the bed, finding only the helpless sandpaper sheets, the bedrock mattress, hiding my head at the sound of my name.
“Eve, it’s useless to fight,” they say, so I close my eyes and curse my shallow shore. As they dig me up and flip me over, I go flat just like the real mites did when my dad showed me how to capture them at the Gulf.
They lead me to a wheelchair, push me out the door, down the hall, to where my psychiatrist is waiting.
“Good morning, Eve!” he says, smiling blankly. “It’s time for your medication!”