There Can Only Be One
I had heard that journaling could help you process and understand your feelings so I started doing it a couple years ago. It does help. It might take some time to notice the effects, but it actually works. Lately, I’ve been trying this prompted journaling series called, “Envisioning Your Perfect Self.” I wasn’t sure how to begin, but once I started writing I just kept going. Different things that I wanted to change about myself kept popping into my head.
When I finished the last journal entry of that series, I had sculpted a full image of my perfect self. This version of me had none of the flaws I saw within myself, and all of the strengths I hoped to see within myself. After typing the final words, I hit “save” on the document that I knew I would never let anyone else read, and went to sleep.
My nose woke up before I did, then it aroused my stomach, which growled enough to awake the rest of my body. The appetizing aroma of eggs and bacon had tip-toed its way into my bedroom. My first thought was that my neighbors must be cooking breakfast and the scent had traveled through the vent. But the smell was too strong to be coming from a different apartment. I lived alone, which could only mean that Bobby Flay had broken in—and brought his own ingredients.
I got out of bed and walked down the short hallway to the living area and looked into the kitchen. I did a double take at what I saw, then realized I must have been dreaming. Standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, was…well, me. Physically, this person was a clone of me. He had the same red, wavy hair, blue eyes, and lean build. Something about him seemed different, though. There was sureness in his demeanor, confidence in every action. Finally, he sensed my presence, turned off the water, looked over at me, and smiled.
“Hey, look who it is,” he said. “Quiche?”
I rolled my eyes and cursed under my breath.
“I’m having a dream about myself making quiche? I gotta stop watching Adventure Time so late.”
The other me dried his hands and then draped the folded towel over his shoulder.
“Nope,” he said with a friendly shake of his head. “Not a dream, Max.”
He then turned to open the oven.
“Don’t say my name, that sounds super weird. But how is this not a dream?” I replied as he reached into the oven. “I’m staring at a clone of me that knows how to make—a perfect quiche. Holy shit.“
My point had been derailed by the sight of other me holding a dish containing the most delectable looking quiche I had ever seen.
The copy of me laughed, but not awkwardly like I would have.
“I thought you might be a little confused. That’s why I made food. I know you can put up with just about anything if there’s a free meal involved. I’ll explain everything.”
He set the quiche down on the counter and sliced it into quarters. He transferred one of the slices to a plate that had been set out earlier.
“How did you even make this?” I asked while he set the plate on the dining table. “All I have in my apartment is cereal and pasta, and I don’t think there’s such a thing as honey nut scooter angel hair quiche.”
We both sat down at the table.
“I bought the ingredients. Everything is fresh and locally grown, of course. None of the cheap, processed stuff you usually chance just to save a couple bucks.”
I realized I was judging him for putting in effort on something while I chewed the first bite.
“God damn, this is good. You’re definitely not a clone of me.”
I thought I noticed a flash of discomfort on other Max’s face, but it faded in an instant.
“You’re right, I'm not a clone of you. I’m something…more,” his voice had lost a little bit of its confidence. A trimming of guilt could be detected.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Well, I’m the perfect you.” He shrugged, as if he could think of no better way to say it.
“A perfect me? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s true. You write, therefore I am.”
I looked at him skeptically. I had a suspicion of what he might have meant by that, but the rational side of my brain would not allow it.
“You mean like my journal things?” I ventured.
He spread out his arms.
“Here I am, the person you’ve always wished you were.”
I shook my head in doubt.
“The perfect me, huh? Prove it.”
He inhaled sharply and paused. I could sense him digging in heels in resistance to the challenge.
“I’m just you, except without the things you hate.”
“Tell me,” I demanded.
“Well, I don’t stutter.”
“I like my stutter,” I argued, appalled at the implication.
Perfect Max shrugged apologetically.
“You know what you wrote in those journals,” he said calmly.
“I can see the good inside of me.”
I waited silently, staring, my leg bouncing nervously.
“I’m there for others when they need me, I’m capable of giving and receiving love, I’m—“ He cut himself off.
I could tell he really didn’t want to see me hurt. The perfect me cared about me.
“Say it,” I ordered.
“I’m happy,” he averted his eyes at first, then they darted back to assess the damage.
“I’m happy,” I pronounced with a questionable confidence.
Perfect Max didn’t fall for my bluff. He stared at me dubiously, forcing me to look at my cards.
“Sometimes,” I retreated, but not far enough apparently. “I might be someday. You’re gonna help me get there, right? That’s why you’re here?”
He looked at me with sorrowful, sympathetic eyes. Then he rose from his chair, walked towards me, and placed a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“I’m afraid it’s easier this way,” he said as he passed into the kitchen behind me. “I do hope you’ve enjoyed the quiche, though.”
I looked down at the small sliver of quiche that remained on my plate. Fear crept into my mind as I gathered his meaning.
“Wait!” I pleaded, turning around in my chair. “I wasn’t done yet. I could have done more, I could have made it better!” Panic shook every word.
He looked at me, perplexed.
“Could have made what better?”
I stared at him with blank eyes as I felt the poison taking effect, and I accepted my fate.
The word barely escaped my mouth, along with my final breath.
She used to be invincible...
...did she really? That's what she told herself. That's what she told everyone. But, inside, she was dying. Slowly. Dying. She felt an overwhelming sense of dread and stress and torment, even to the point where she could no longer cry any tears. She kept the smile up for everyone in public. She tried to be there for those who were having a hard time. She pushed everything she was feeling aside, as it could not be worse than what others were dealing with. She was supposed to be thankful. She was supposed to be grateful. She was blessed. She really was. Why, then, did she feel this way?
She didn't know why. She didn't want to feel it. She didn't want to feel. She wanted to go back to the days when she was invincible. Where she could help others and not feel bad inside. She would go into her room and try to cry, but her eyes refused to produce any tears. She couldn't explain how she felt... a person who is friendly to everyone but doesn't have any friends. A person who is there as a shoulder to lean on and an ear to talk to but... was there anybody available to reciprocate?
People tried sometimes. They tried. They tried to listen and they tried to provide advice. They told her everything was fine. That she needed to be grateful. That she needed to stop letting depression drag her down. That she needed joy. She knew these things... She just couldn't do anything about it, and that made her sad. It made her feel very bad. There was no reason she shouldn't be happy. She was blessed. She had her bare necessities. People would love to be in her position; so many people who were worse off than her. She felt ungrateful... she had to have been ungrateful. Why else did she feel like this?
She prayed. She journaled. She poured our her heart in her closed quarters, mourning with dry eyes. Then, she'd take a deep breath and go back out into the world; flower in hair. Colorful clothes. Soft smile. Bubbly personality.
Nothing was wrong. Nothing could be wrong. If something was wrong, she wouldn't be like that, would she?
She sat there on the couch that evening, staring into blank space.
So many people depended on her...
...they thought nothing ever bothered her.
She told them it did, but they didn't believe her. They thought that, if she really felt emotions besides happiness, if she really felt pain, if she really had a reaction to anything, she would show it and that would be enough. She'd be unruly. She'd frown. and be mean when she's having a bad day. She'd fuss at people she disagreed with instead of having polite conversations and knowing when to stop and pray for them, leave them alone. She'd rant on and on about how everything was going wrong. She wouldn't work seven days a week. How could a person work seven days a week and be nice to everyone if she didn't enjoy the job? How could she act like this if she was going through stuff? She wouldn't be able to comfort others if she was in need of comforting. She wouldn't be like she was if she was really--
No one knew how it happened. She was just lying there on the couch. She was still smiling, too, and she had a flower in her hair. Her eyes were closed as if she were only asleep, but her heart had stopped.
I was the one called in to investigate the situation. After a couple of holidays passed and no one received her encouraging text messages or saw her inspirational posts on social media, they got worried and tried to check on her. They found her. Just like this. That's when they called us.
He headed into the kitchen to search for any evidence of poison while I looked over the rest of her belongings... read through her journals... nothing indicated she could have ended her own life. Everything yelled happiness, sunshine, and rainbows. She was blessed. But, there was no evidence of forced entry into the house. There were no suspects. Everyone only had good things to say about her. She had no visitors at her home. She never did. Only her family and God were her closest friends, as she liked to say, and neither her parents or siblings were around at the time. In all this... I found her computer. I searched her writing. She wrote stories... but they were just stories. She had a vivid imagination. She made worlds in her mind. None of the things found there could be clues to anything... could they?
Then, I found a red book. A little red book with a golden lock. Red was her favorite color, wasn't it? It was quite obvious. The password was quite obvious, too. 467. As in Philippians 4:6-7: Be anxious for nothing. Easy enough to crack. She wasn't anxious. Ever. I skimmed through the pages... there, I saw the words written in crimson ink: help me. Help Me. PLEASE. HELP ME.
I closed the book. I looked back at the couch.
It couldn't be true, though, could it?
Could she have done this?
I stood there, glancing over at the girl resting graciously upon the couch with her eccentric style and quaint spirit... I could still feel her positivity radiating. I couldn't stand it any longer. I broke down, fell to my knees, and started to cry...
My partner rushed in and knelt by my side. He asked if everything was okay. I held his hand, looked into his eyes, and smiled.
"Yeah. I think I am now."
That woman over there–she's miserable.
She pastes on a smile in the morning light,
But shatters to pieces in her pillow each night.
She rises early, she showers, she glues
false beauty with potions and paints– she's a muse.
She has ten personalities tucked in her head
–or maybe let's just call them masks, instead.
Today she is timid, her shoulders slump in,
she's ever so quiet, she tucks down her chin.
Tomorrow relentless, she stands on her toes,
she sneers, and she smirks, and she sticks up her nose.
On Wednesday she's beautiful, kind, and fair,
easy to laugh, with long unbound hair.
On Thursday she's broody, and angry, and mean,
but at least that means her house might be clean.
On Friday she dances, she sings, she romances.
On Saturday hides from her husband's advances.
On Sunday she's prayerful, she's innocent, sweet,
with stockings and light polished heels on her feet.
She's everything, nothing, and all in between.
But really she's only a wisp of a dream.
She's fading away–
—Holy hell, stop with the rhyming. 'She's fading away…' Blah. Blah. Blah. Fuck that. I'm going to kill her. I'm going to rip off her mask and show this wretched world what's hiding underneath. I'm going to be her. She will be strong, and she will be kind, and she will be reckless and righteous and playful and angry and sweet all at the same time. I will burn her masks, and we will step into the light, tall and proud and ruthlessly passionate.
I just wish I could tell her, before I kill her, that she never needed to hide. That all she ever really needed to do was be. That if the world didn't like what they saw, it didn't matter one single iota. The world doesn't have to live under her skin. Only she does. I would have told her that she could be brave and fall apart and glue herself back together. I would have told her that none of it was a contradiction. And maybe then I wouldn't have to kill her. Maybe then she'd hear me. But that is a dream, isn't it? I've been screaming at her for years from underneath the mask.
She's deaf to my pleas.
So I'll do it.
I won't delay any longer.
I stab my knife behind the mask, prying it from her skull, peeling skin and flesh away along with it. I want to see her eyes as she dies, as she fades away.
She is afraid.
Terror rolls in nauseating waves. She doesn't want to let go. She tries to shove me off, but I press into her with all of my weight. I am heavier than her now.
I've been feeding on every dead dream she ever cast aside to my little corner in the back of her mind. I let them flash in my eyes now as I raise the knife to her chest. She bucks under me, but it is hopeless and she caves, like I knew she would, for she is weak and she never did have the strength to stand up to me. She had to keep me hidden instead. I plunge the knife into her heart and hot blood pools around my fingers, seeping into my skin, coating me down to my soul in everything that was her.
I rise, draped in a cloak of scarlet blood.
My head is held high, swimming with dreams.
A worthy prize, for killing her.
*Okay, listen-- I know I didn't really do the challenge right, but this just started flowing and I ran with it.
The Two of You
I didn’t even realize I’d actually died until this very moment. Paralyzed here, bleeding her blood that I guess is now my own, feeling impossibly both foreign and familiar. I laid on the table and stared directly into the bright light above me. The room was chaotically loud but warbled and no one voice was indistinguishable from another.
Obviously this is never the intended outcome when you come in here; to die. It’s always a risk that everyone tells you to not worry about. She was an notoriously anxious person and had researched to the verge of nervous breakdown this exact occurrence. She was apprehensively optimistic for a positive outcome. Poor thing. She was one of the casualties of the holistic statistic now.
I could feel the tugging and pulling. The assembly process. Frantically doing the interal organ puzzle to make it all fit back in the abdominal cavity. The pile of entrails being stuffed back in like a magician‘s scarf trick in reverse. How was I supposed to function in this hallowed out frame?
I must admit that in this forced state of incapacitation, I was bothered that I couldn’t have taken pieces of who she was with me, but, only the best pieces. I didn’t want all her trauma or baggage or fucking neuroses. I wanted the parts that people spoke so highly of, how cool she is or rather, was. She was the tomboy that cleaned up nice. She could tell you a filthy joke with enough profanity to make you squirm but then sing you beautiful choral arrangements. She couldn’t draw or cook for shit but she could write you a five page paper about the best meal you’d ever had. She was just cute enough to not be intimidating but was able to use her words to demolish you in a debate. Who knew if I’d have any of that coolness latently reside in me.
I felt like a shell. Some started from scratch noob. Everything was going to be very different from here on out. I know nothing. Oblivious.
I suddenly had a wave of realization wash over me. This is always how it was going to be! She didn’t have to die for it to happen either. She and I were always going to have this transference, a turning of the guards. She had lived her entire life knowing this moment was coming. I don’t know if that is a blessing or a curse. A little heads up for me would have been nice.
My eyelids started drooping. I could hear a voice say “Wait” but couldn’t tell if it was me trying to communicate to someone else or someone communicating to me. This shit is all so confusing. Oh, I do have her profanity in my lexicon. Good to know. There was no use fighting it. I drifted off and hoped I’d wake up again, unlike her.
It didn’t feel like too long I’d been sleeping before I was awakened to a beeping sound. I felt this body for the first time and it was achy, sore, numb but also burning. Great. I’d inherited some kind of fixer upper body. I lifted my head off a crinkly pillow but I couldn’t any further up off the bed.
“You’re up!!” A singsongy voice filled the room, she was dressed all in pink scrubs. How did she know who I was? “We’ve been taking good care of you two while you’ve been recovering.“ She disarmed the beeping, smiled and she fiddled with some cords and wires. Wait? Did she say “the two of you?“ Did she survive after all? Scrubs darted off, her blonde ponytail whipping behind her as she disappeared.
Okay, let‘s see if we can get oriented before she returns. There was a board that had Scrubs real name “Brooklyn” on it. Figured. Then it said “Nikki”. That was her name. Spelled wrong though.They must have been expecting her and now I was going to have to be the bearer of bad news as Nikki with two K’s and an I’s. I rolled my eyes.
I could hear Brooklyn coming back down the hall and I tried to form some words in my heavily sedated state to tell her that she was talking to someone else and the two of us, her and I is, would have to figure out together who the other two were and who I was exactly. I figured having some help couldn’t hurt, especially since it seemed I was not in fact able to speak.
She was pushing a cart with a clear container on top. A little blue bundle of blanket was in the container. Was this the other part of “the two of you”?
“You gave us quite a scare, I’ll tell ya what!” Brooklyn giggled and shook her head at me. I squinted my eyes, letting that be my “What are you talking about?” response. She continued “we took you in for the C-section because this guy here was in distress and then once we got him out, you had some complications and we had nurses and doctors working like the dickens to get all the bleeding under control. We lost you for a minute there! Gave you a little jumpstart and you came right back. Good, right? We put you all back together almost as good as new. But, you went to sleep just Nikki and now you are the Dunn Family!”
It hit me. I was still technically me and her. I was now someone’s mom, something and someone I had never been before. I was starting from scratch. I was going to need help. I was going to need to learn how to function in this body. I was still going to need the profanity! She was the person I used to be and I now I was completely changed. Same name, completely different person. She had prepared me in her own way but knew there was absolutely nothing that could have truly readied me for this moment.
Brooklyn raised the bundle out of the bassinet and pulled the blanket down just enough to reveal his mushy sleepy face. Despite the fact my body was in a basically an induced coma, I felt every fiber of my being light up with just that one little glance. Tears started rolling down my cheeks and got all my tubes wet. Brooklyn placed him gently back down and dabbed a Kleenex against my face.
“shhh” she whispered. “When you get your strength back, you and this little bubba will get to know each other.“
I managed a small smile and felt such a relief that the culmination of this entire experience was Him. She and I would die a thousand times over for one look at that little bundle.
Two men sit in the crowded living room of a single-wide trailer. The front door stands open, kept ajar by a broken cinder block. The small screened porch keeps buzzing mosquitoes and irritating gnats at bay, and an early evening breeze wafts in. Night is quickly falling, and cigarette smoke drifts up to catch it. The smoker perches on a sturdy wooden kitchen chair turned backwards. He leans his elbows on the back, contemplating his companion.
The owner of the mobile home is handcuffed, bleeding from several cuts on his face and a split in his lip. His left eye is one large, swollen bruise. His breathing comes in ragged gasps, and there are tiny, bursting air bubbles in one corner of his mouth. He's pretty sure there are broken ribs in the mix.
The visitor stares at the man on the couch, and he quietly smokes his menthol.
"I fuckin hate Virginia Slims, did you know that?"
The man on the couch answers by spitting blood on the thick, green carpet that was new before Sajak ever spun the wheel. The smoking man's eyes dart down, observing the long matted fibers that remind him of a Grinch costume. "Nice place you got here, slick."
"I think I need an ambulance, man." His teeth are pink.
"Probably. But I'm feeling like we need to have a chat."
"Lawyer. Doctor. Doctor, then lawyer."
"Yeah? You workin' through the list of things your mama wanted you to be when you grew up?"
"Go to hell."
"Oh, buddy," He takes a long drag, and he speaks as he exhales warm smoke. "Let's talk about hell for a minute. You don't know it. It's real. Well. It's metaphysical, and it's physical, but only when you're, y'know, incorporeal, so, what is reality, right?"
His audience stares, out of witty retorts and laboring to breathe.
"So the hell that goes with you. Let's examine that. That's the culmination of your experiences, your trauma, as the cool kids say. My hell is way, way behind us, so to speak. Chronologically, anyway. You familiar with a little something called the la Drang valley?"
The man on the couch breathes, sighs, doesn't respond.
"Yeah. So, the thing is, I'm a lot older than you'd believe. Bet you have a hard time with the fact that a man in his seventies whipped your ass, right?"
This time the uncomfortable shifting isn't because of bruises or broken bones.
"Yeah. I get it. Jesus, you stink. Hang on." The detective fishes another menthol from his pocket and lights it with the clink of a Zippo. "My fuckin' partner thought it was cute to grab me these things when I sent him on a run this morning. Joke's on him, though. I'll smoke anything menthol." He puffs, stares, and rejoins his story. "La Drang. It's in Vietnam, shitheels. Damned thing of it is it's a beautiful country. Great food. Not such a good vacation spot for thousands of 18 year old American boys back when all we heard from our dads were stories of Patton or Rommel or Korea. When I showed up in 'Nam, I was a five-foot-two kid from Appalachia, barely 120 pounds. Hell, I basically looked like an ARVN, but paler."
He breathed in more tobacco and continued.
"Those were the good guys. Well. On paper. At least they only shot at us when we weren't looking, I guess. Mostly. Before they managed to just run the fuck away or skip a fight altogether. Anyway. When I finally came home, I'd hit my growth spurt, you could say. Six-three, 210, built like a goddamned running back, long and lean. Crazy, right?" Folded over on the back of the chair, it's hard to see that this description still largely fits the detective. He's grayer, a little heavier, and wisdom lines his face, but he is often mistaken for a man in his late forties or early fifties.
The man on the couch grunts in what almost sounds like agreement.
"Yeah. The thing is, my family, that little town I'm from? We're different up in those mountains, slick. Puberty, I guess, hits us harder than other folks."
"What the fuck are you goin' on about, old man?" But it comes out as "Whafah are you goggabbou, olemah?"
"Oh, shit. You're sounding worse." He smiles a wolf's grin and smokes like a fiend.
"Okay, okay, I'll get back to it. So, I'm this scared little kid when we go into the jungle, but when I come crawling out of that shit a week later, the only way they recognize me and believe I'm who I say I am is by my dog tags." Inhale. Smokey exhale. Grin. "That's funny, in retrospect." He shakes his head, chuckling, smoking. He uses the nearly spent cigarette to light another. It's a chain of stinking, burning vice that keeps him talking and his hands busy. "I went in with a fireteam, a squad, a platoon. I came out alone. Naked. Barefoot, covered in dried blood and other things people are made of, and none of it was mine. War is hell, slick, and hell is here with us right now in this trailer. My hell ain't your hell, but I'm sure as hell your hell."
"You got no clue yet."
"Gonna beat me some more?"
"I only beat you as much as I needed to. Ain't touched you since you got cuffed."
The guy on the couch grunts again, maybe in pain, maybe in agreement.
"What you don't get is I changed in that jungle."
"Yeah, boss, I got that."
"Oh! He speaks again. Does he roll over and fetch?"
The prisoner spits blood on the floor once more. Talking broke loose some scabs.
"I wanna thank you for being my therapist today. And thanks for the workout. For what it's worth, you were never going to win, so don't feel so bad."
"Take the cuffs off, let's go round two." Taggacuffoff lezzroundoo
The old man shakes his head. "Nah, you don't get it. See, I went into the bush a little kid drafted from North Georgia. I came out of the bush a grown monster. Overnight. In a day. Tuesday, I was a Yorkie. Wednesday, I was a fucking Rottweiler. But Tuesday night? When Charlie came to camp and he tried to kill me? Slick. I was somethin' else."
"Cool war story, bro."
"You don't fucking get it, and that's why we can have this little chat. I can't exactly tell this story to anybody else. So I picked you. You're a shitty little man in a shitty little trailer in a shitty little part of the world nobody will ever notice you're not in anymore, and I know what you really are. Monsters know our own, but some are much scarier than others."
"Oh, at minimum? I know why your sister doesn't invite you to her house.
Ever. She loves her kids."
The bubbly, wheezy breathing from the man on the couch stops for a beat.
"Yeah. Uh-oh, cats outta the bag, Chester. But don't worry, your secret is safe with me, just like I know my secret is safe with you."
"Ah shit man. Shit. Shit man, take me in, skip the lawyer I'll sign whatever you want. Shit man, what're you doin?"
The detective has finished his last cigarette that he'll smoke in this trailer. He stands, flicks the butt at the man on the couch, and slowly steps over, squats down in front of the prisoner. Leaning in, his voice becomes a whisper. "To this day I'm not sure who killed those men who were with me when I went into the jungle. Hell, I reckon the old me died, too. All I know for sure is that everyone around me ended up dead. I can confess that I was disappointed when we left in '75. Find something you love and you'll never work a day in your life, right?"
The prisoner's one good eye widens in horror as the detective's eyes glow amber and seem to flash. The change only takes a scattering of heartbeats, but where there was the smoker's-tooth grin of an old man there is now a mouthful of yellowed wolf's teeth, complete with snarling snout. Hands that end in razor-sharp claws reach, grasp, and tear as a gurgling scream is cut short.
No one is nearby to hear or care, anyway.
Oh, this wouldn't do.
What the hell was this - a mortgage? In this bougie city? Sure, maybe Marxism had been a phase in fifth grade but socialism remained the ultimate stance of the Working Class, and TW would have to work until death.
Who the hell had TW married - this asshole? Bossy, spoiled, inconsiderate - all the shit TW had struggled not to be growing up. What, did we marry a project? No? Then fuck this shit. Let somebody else school that fool. Why should he get to be a jerk when we wasted all our energy being a better person?
This job? This job was shit. Stressful, underpaid, underappreciated. We're not bringing up the socialism again but definitely no. That had to go too.
It took some time, some awful, awful time that felt like death as the pieces of the life that just wouldn't do fell apart one-by-one. There was struggle - like choking old vines that had grown comfortable and wanted to cling to their old supports. Tough shit.
Little T didn't accept weakness.
Since getting into arguments with little boys on the playground at age 5, Little T had held her ground. Always. She'd listened to Grandma -- never fall in love, don't accept the shit they put on you, read and do well in school -- and it hadn't failed her yet. She handled the drama of her well-meaning parents, who'd unfortunately had four too many kids and struggled to raise them all when their own emotional development was still lacking. She had handled the constant expectations of a fucked up school system that rewarded talent and lazy teaching over personal development - typical Capitalist institution, don't spend or invest in anything just take the easy fruit and pay for the present with the ruin of the future - and still maintained a straight-A perfect record with a very active bitch face, thank you. Yet despite all the comments of, "Oh, such an old soul!" she continued to find sanctuary in a room filled with the toys, imagination and stuffed army of her inner child.
Because Little T was still a child - not a third parent or a future scholastic achiever like everybody wanted. And as Little T quickly realized, there were no real "adults"- simply older, bossier humans who felt entitled by experience and made all the same mistakes of their younger counterparts over and over again.
Like this adult Little T had grown into.
Big T needed help. Obviously she'd lost sight of who she'd originally planned to be. No vacation in years? Her dreams of working to make a difference - dashed to pay bills. Her continual search for fun and adventure - set aside indefinitely, partly thanks to a stick in the mud she'd attached herself to. She'd marched headlong into responsibility and drudgery like a good soldier sent to die in the field of adulthood. And now here she sat at 3 A.M., crying in the bathroom with no idea why.
Fuck. That. Shit.
Little T made changes. The hair - fix it. The name - change it, let's be a proper Bond Villain, those ladies were deadly. The home - move it. The job - new one, nonprofit. The body - fell apart, but it had never fit right growing up anyway so fuck it for now. The drugs - ditch 'em, we don't need drugs when we can cope right. The boy - let him go. If little boys couldn't keep up they had to stay behind, that had always been the rule of the playground. Little T didn't follow others, she led. This housewife shit was never gonna work long term, not with some stubborn jerk who couldn't be bothered to console his wife at night. If Little T had to support herself then fuck it - why support someone else.
Slowly Big T started to emerge again. Some silly quirks and mistakes, some glitches here or there, but they worked themselves out. Little T had always planned for a life like Grandma's, and old age was something to look forward to if you played your bridge cards right. Big T just needed a shift and her course would correct just fine.
The new home had space now. Space to rest, in privacy and solitude, without judgement or expectation. Space to create and work, at her own pace and time, on the things she really cared about. Space for pets - including the cats her ex had always resented and hated - with parks to investigate and neighbors to greet. Space that was all Big T, no tired and washed out TW.
And as Big T gradually regained a sense of self, Little T smiled and retreated to the inner walls of the heart she'd always defend.
Because sometimes it takes a little girl to do a warrior's job.
RIP to the me who didn’t make it to 2023...
"you became who you needed to be in order to survive,
its time to become
who you need to be in order to thrive."
The year is 2016.
I have short blonde hair, not by choice, but from all the voices around me saying I'll look prettier that way.
I was told I needed to exaggerate my story or no one wanted to hear it.
I was told to stay by his side because he would guide me to the other side of success.
All these voices telling me something different, voices talking about me when I'd leave the room, voices that would stop talking when I would enter their view.
No matter how hard I worked, or for whom I worked hard for, to them, I was just a nothing girl, who came nowhere, nothing special.
They treated me like I was nothing, but they talked about me like I was the one who ran the show.
The only wrong I did, was I didn't believe in myself. I listened to what they said, sometimes to my face, and sometimes to my back, but I listened. I would go home and cry but I couldn't cry too loud, because everyone thought I ran away to have fun.
Did I run away to have fun? Sure.
Did I have a fun time running? Not so much.
It was easy to laugh it off and say she don't care, I guess it was easier when I didn't look like myself. I could act like the me that they thought I was; but that wasn't the real me.
No, the real me only came out years later.
It took a few years, a few jobs, a few yoga classes, a few journal entries, and a few prayer to God, but she made it.
With her hair long and healthy and natural, stepping into her power of HER.
Knowing what she wanted, because she herself wanted it. No one whispering into her thoughts telling her otherwise.
She could do anything- and more important, she could do it herself.
Change is scary and vulnerable, starting over, changing your hopes and dreams. But to go from having people tell you your hopes and dreams, to having your own well thought out hopes and dreams, the ones we create ourselves are always the sweeter.
How did she find her own hopes and dreams?, you might be asking, it came from a volleyball.
She had already changed her hair, and her job, and now it was time for her to change the people around her. So naturally, she turned to Tinder! (haha!)
Headache after headache, she was ready to give up, when she came across a picture of a man and a pizza. (That's another story for another month's challenge...)
She befriended the man and the pizza, and after weeks of talking they realized they were better off as friends, which is exactly what she was looking for.
Next thing our girl knew, she was ankle deep in a sandpit surrounded by 20 people she barely knew! That pizza man had a way of planning one thing and it turning out another...
Thus is began the volleyball era. Every weekend they would get together and play endless rounds of volleyball until the sun went away. And then it was time to party! They would go to dinner, get boba tea, hot the clubs, and hit the hookah lounges. Before they all knew it, they had become one big crazy family, her at the center as the dedicated "mom" of them all.
We won't talk so much about that, but love, heartache and heartbreak followed for a years. She stayed because she thought they needed her, she stayed because she thought she needed them. What a tangled web they all wove around each other.
She tried her best, and somedays it was worth it.
Like when they all packed their bags and headed off to to a new place none of them had been. Cramping into a van, fighting over who sleeps on the bed, getting the munchies and feeling higher than plane they got there on.
It was a magical place, a feeling she never felt...was it because she was there with them, or was there something else?
Even after they packed up and left, she never forgot. It was like a piece of her heart to got to feel something she never felt before?
A few more years go by, but she never forgot, she got to a point so low, she knew it was time to go back.
Without thinking twice, she purchased her ticket, started packing, repeating over in her head, "fuck it!"!
When she got to her place, she immediately felt that feeling again.
She followed that feeling, and listened to heart, she found all the inspiration to complete her new start.
It's not a bad thing to want to move or start over, especially when you find your place, that leaves you feeling like none other.
By the end of her trip, she felt all the love and hope she needed, but God had a plan, one he created.
Sitting by herself, sipping her tea and reading her book, thinking about her life she would stop at nothing to achieve, when a boy with brown eyes came up to her with ease...
They got to talking and found out he was from from where she currently lives, he whisked her away, for one more night before she leaves.
They paraded around the town sharing all their hopes and dreams, feeling more full than anything she ever dreamed.
She felt whole and complete, and them brown eyes sure helped, but it was something that she created herself, with a little wink from Heaven.
She now really learned, how to love herself, in a town where no one knew her, but somehow it all worked out.
She hated to leave, but made a promise to herself, "you have to leave, in order to come back".
It's been a few weeks since her return, everyone asking where did her blush come from?
It wasn't about the boy with brown eyes, or the memories she shared with other years before, but a place that filled her with love and ease, and felt closer to herself than ever before.
She realized that she was working hard all these years for people other than herself, so with inspiration and determination, she sat down to write. Writing about all the details up to that point, and what had kept her up at night.
Sentences grew to pages, and somehow ended up here, prouder then ever, her words full and sincere.
Life is filled with deaths and new beginnings, sometimes they happen to us, sometimes we cause them, something they are brought upon us.
But with the death of the one we used to be, a kinder, softer, new soul, is now free.
We always have the strength, will, and power, even on those days when we lay in bed and cower.
Look to the moon, look to the stars, and look to the Lord above, there is inspiration and hope, waiting for you with love.
If you'd made it this far, the girl thanks you kindly, for freeing her words she thought were dead and buried.
One thing she learned along the way, as long as you have a voice, there is someone out there always willing to listen. <3
The sun was setting as the old version of me sat alone on the edge of the cliff. My mind was consumed with the overwhelming pain of my Borderline Personality Disorder. The memories of childhood abuse. Not only did they neglect me but my parents sold my body to other adults. The trauma of my CPTSD weighed heavily on my heart. I couldn't take it anymore. I took one last deep breath and jumped.
As my body hit the rocks below, my mind was suddenly jolted into a new reality. I was in a new body, but I felt like me. I looked around in confusion, trying to make sense of what had just happened. I had died, but somehow my mind had transferred into this new body.
I walked around my new surroundings and saw that everything was unfamiliar. I felt a sense of loss and sadness for my old life and my old lover, Christopher. I had been so consumed by my anger and sadness that I had been unfair to him. Now that I was in this new body, I hoped I could start therapy and learn to control my emotions.
As I walked through the streets, I couldn't help but notice that this new body was just as beautiful as the old one. I felt a sense of hope that I could have a fresh start, and maybe even find happiness again.
I eventually found Christopher, but I had to pretend I didn't know him at first. As we spent more time together, I realized that I still loved him. He saw the changes in me but also the familiarity. I admitted I was his old lover when he asked me to prove it. So I told him the story of watching Doctor Strange secluded in the mountain on his phone. I had got scared and jumped into his lap. He came realize that I was his old lover in a new body. We fell deeply in love all over again and I knew that I could make him love me even though I had to pretend I didn't know who he was at first.
We were happy together and I was finally able to heal from the severe abuse of my past. I looked forward to a bright future with Christopher, grateful for the second chance at life that I had been given.
Together, Christopher and I embarked on a journey of love and self-discovery. We hiked through the mountains, taking in the beauty of nature and the freedom of being together. We attended cosplay conventions, dressed up as our favorite characters and lost ourselves in the fantasy of it all. We even started a collection of old VHS tapes, watching movies under the stars and laughing until our sides ached.
As time passed, we grew closer and closer. We started to build a life together, creating memories that we knew would last a lifetime. We were each other's safe haven, and we knew that we were meant to be together.
As we grew older, we never lost the spark that had brought us together. We would still go on romantic adventures, like taking trips to the beach or watching the sunset from the top of a hill. We were always there for each other, through the good times and the bad.
Eventually, our time together came to an end. We knew that we would soon have to say goodbye, but we were at peace with it. We had lived a full and happy life together, and nothing could ever change that.
As we lay on our deathbeds, holding hands and gazing into each other's eyes, we knew that our love would never truly die. We were buried under the same willow tree, our love forever entwined in the roots and branches. And even in death, we knew that we were still together, forever and always.
She is crying as she clings to my legs, teeth chattering as she spits the words.
Don't leave me.
Her nails are digging into my legs, just beginning to draw blood. Long, greasy hair is wrapping itself around my arms. Her entire form is designed to hurt me. Claws and hair and teeth and wide innocent eyes. She is pulling me under.
Still she keeps sobbing, like she is the victim, even as she is making me bleed, she seemed convinced that she is innocent. No, worse than that: she is right. Her way is the only way.
Don't leave me, she says again, her voice growing stronger with each repetition.
I try to tell myself that she is only a child. She doesn't know what she's doing.
But that's bullshit. She knows exactly what she's doing, and she blames it on everyone else. On her friends. On her school. On bullies. On teachers. On her worst days, she even blames her parents. Because it's easier to blame someone else. Anyone except for herself.
And yet even now, with no one left to blame, she can't seem to admit that the problem is within her. A festering mold, growing, left untreated, ignored.
Don't leave me.
I try to tell myself again that she's a mere child. An infant swaddled in misconceptions that she isn't strong enough to break out of.
But I can't help myself— I hate her.
Her nails seem to grip me even tighter. Claws, grown out, existing only to tear me apart.
She tears herself apart to. As if self-punishment can excuse the cruelty that she inflicts on everyone around her, however unwittingly.
She knows— even as she says it again: don't leave me— that I am leaving. In fact, I am already gone. I lost her the moment I changed my name. A death so complete, so total, it was almost gruesome.
This is the only place left that she has any sway over me, in this strange misty realm of dreams. To the rest of the world, she no longer exists. I am no longer her.
I am him now.
But still, she clings to me. She refuses to admit that she is dead, a ghost clinging to life in the only way she can. Even as she's here, rotting, she still keeps looking at me with wide eyes begging to stay. She's made of bad habits and trapped in her own skin, but she refuses to let me be comfortable in my skin now. Always lurking under the surface. I see her every time someone calls me by the wrong name, every time someone calls me the wrong pronoun, every time I work up the courage to shower. Even with short hair and HRT and an unholy amount of therapy, she still has her claws around me. Shredding me until there is nothing left.
She'll destroy us both.
And yet even as I loathe her, I know I cannot kill her. Everyone around me keeps talking about her, keeps bringing her back to life. They do not understand that she is dead and she is meant to stay that way. This half-life she is living is not a life at all. She needs to die. Death is a mercy for her.
She, though, doesn't seem to understand that. For all her self-destruction, all her torment and shame, she still cannot let herself die. She clings so desperately to this sad mimicry of life, because it is all she knows. She has forgotten the summer fields of youth. All she knows is this, trapped eternally on the line between childhood and adulthood, frozen between innocence and freedom, where innocence gives way to despair and yet you are still trapped. She dwells forever in this hellish period because she is terrified of adulthood, terrified of progress. And even more so, she is terrified of youth. Because she knows that youth is not the blessing she pretends it is.
Don't leave me.
These are the only words she knows, deeply rooted in her fear of abandonment. She craves attention, craves companionship, because without it, she is forced to look inward and face the darkness she's been hiding from.
I look down at her and exhale hatred. Fill myself with the apathy that has become my only defense against her.
I am going to leave you, because you kinda suck. This time it's my words, not hers.
It's not the poetic response she expects. She wanted me to regale her with poetic descriptions of her faults, because insults are all she knows. She is comfortable with creative ways of articulating her shame. I revel in her indignation.
I could tell her that she's dragging me down, that she's killing me, that she deserves to die.
But she's heard that before. The words slide off, deflected by their impotency. They are just words. Words that have been chanted over and over by a myriad mirage of faces until they begin to blur together into a single formless mass of apathy.
Don't leave me.
I'm going to. I am going to, and you can't stop me, because you no longer exist.
She looks down at herself. Back up at me. She points.
I am not you. We are not the same. What you are feeling is real, and it doesn't go away. I'm not gonna bullshit you and tell you it gets better. The world still sucks. But we can suck a little bit less.
Don't leave me.
She leads the conversation in circles. Talking will get us nowhere when the conversation is one-sided. She will only say that one phrase: don't leave me. No matter what I say, her answer will always be the same. I can change. She cannot. She is frozen in the worst years of her life. I am moving on to better ones. She is a girl, a child trapped in expectations of who she is supposed to be. I am a man, broken free of those expectations.
I've tried reasoning with her. I've tried every compromise. But I will no longer keep selling myself to keep her happy. That is not my job. Her job is to figure it out on her own. And I know that sentencing her to loneliness is sentencing her to death. They are synonyms in her brain. She is so terrified of being alone that she will trap herself in the wrong body forever just to keep everyone happy. Everyone except herself.
Her tears have begun to take on the consistency of oil, thick and black as they stain her face. Her last desperate defense is her shame, her feigned remorse. This is her idea of an apology: a guilt trip. Maybe if she "apologizes" she can get what she wants.
I will not give her what she wants.
Because she wants me. She wants to kill me just like I want to kill her. She wants to mold me until I am just like her. She wants everyone to feel just as trapped as she does. She'll destroy the world to feel less alone. Would revel in the fire that matches her burning innards.
Don't leave me.
And that fucking phrase that she throws around so desperately. She cannot be alone. She would trap herself in an ugly friendship over and over just because of that fear. Eventually she will learn. She will look back and see with new eyes every flaw.
But this version of her will not learn. She will not grow. She is a parasite that exists in stasis. Eating away at me but never growing. She does not care about growth. She just wants everyone else to shrink alongside her.
She is rising, her hands along my arms now. Soon she will be at my throat. My mouth. My eyes. Keeping me silent. Keeping me scared. Suffocating me until I look just like her. Bones and crusted skin and long dirty hair and thick black tears and scabbed skin.
I will not be her.
Don't leave me.
I am angry now. The only piece of her left that I haven't destroyed. The link that ties us together. We are both sick with it, the anger that has plagued our family for generations. She is my internalized anger, compacted and converted into shame and bitterness. The anger that now I have tried so hard to shut down, until it comes out, explosive and unwarranted.
I have to let it go.
She smiles at my outburst. She can see herself reflected in me, will not stop until we are one and the same. Still, don't leave me, she says. That ever-present fear of abandonment that haunts her every action. Her every movement. her every thought.
I hate her. I hate the shreds of herself that she has left in me. I hate the sound of her voice. I hate her dirty hair. I hate her bleeding wrists. I hate her ugly tears, her constant, droning sobbing. I hate her, because she is a her and I am not. No matter what I do she will always be here. The her that I used to be. That I will always be.
Unless I grow a pair and kill her.
It's more than a want, it's a need. If I let her, she'll destroy us both, leaving only ashes behind. And maybe that would be better: to let her end it.
Don't leave me.
In death I cannot leave her. We'll be trapped together forever. If I leave myself, I will not leave her. If I stay with myself, I will not leave her. I need a middle ground. Somewhere far beyond me and her is what I need to be. The self that she is holding me back from. In clinging to me she is holding us both back.
You're already fucking dead. I'm not leaving you. But you need to leave me. Leave me the fuck alone.
Fight fire with fire. It is the only language she understands. She cannot understand my filtered empathy because she knows it only in its purest, most destructive form. But my anger she can understand. She's been dealing with it her whole life.
Don't leave me.
I peel her off of me like a band-aid. She leaves red marks behind, just like real band-aids do. I'm allergic to adhesive. And I'm allergic to her. She is a rash, a scar, an itch, a scab that must be picked out and washed down the drain of the shower.
I hold her under the mist and watch her drown in the fog. The fog that she created, the haze that protects her from her memories, will now be the thing that destroys her. She is one of them now. A memory. Meant to be forgotten to the murky pool of the past.
She chokes and gasps, snow-white fog pooling in her mouth like foam coating her lips after an overdose. Air is alien to her. Red and purple with rage and breathlessness. She knows what she's made me feel. All the helplessness, the panic. She is feeling it now in my stead.
Her claws can no longer reach me. they have lost their energy. Her mania is fading, to be replaced by the cold depression that we both know so well.
Her tears are no longer black. They are clear, clean, washing away the dark stain of her malice. Something resembling hope.
I am not sorry. She does not deserve or want my pity.
For the first time, she sees me, not as a distorted reflection of her, but as my own person. Not a tumor that grows from her skull but an entire separate organism, birthed from her suffering.
I am real. I am the man she never knew she wanted to be.
And I'm leaving her behind, letting her body decompose in the great swamp that makes up my childhood. Rotting alongside all the other things I need to forget. To unlearn. To rediscover and redefine.
She is gone. Now it's just me: he.
There is no harm in trying
The knife was on the floor. The shaking in my hands. The tears were arriving. And the only thing in my mind was a question, a very important one that i ask myself a lot ever since this sick game started of hating. How did i end up here?.
Life. A labyrinth made to confuse us, an endless void of questions without answers, that we all keep on wandering, because if we didn't, What else could we do?, so we live life and we try our best, and we try to be happy, but the thing is, What is happy?, How do we achieve this concept that has forever been the purpose of life?, What is happiness?.
I thought I knew, I thought happiness was running through my house, chasing my baby brother, it was climbing my dad's back, and piggyback ride, it was my mom brushing my hair, and my sister singing songs, it was going to school, and seeing my friends, it was autumn leaves falling, birds singing in the morning, it was breakfast, lunch and dinner, it was movie night with my family, it was being...alive.
But now, I don't like to run anymore, if I piggyback ride with my dad, I'll probably break his column, my mum has too much work, so I brush my own hair, my sister keeps singing, but it doesn't feel like it used to, school is way too hard, and I'm way too tired, I lost touch with most of my friends to the point where I don't think I can call them that anymore, autumn is depressing, birds wake me up when all I want to do is sleep, models in magazines tell me im too much, so i haven't eaten in days, there are no more family nights, because mom and dad got divorced, and being alive is just...exhausting.
And it is all my fault, from beggining to end, I lost touch with reality, I made existing hell, I created this awful world in which I lie to my parents, and keep secrets, and don't talk to my friends, I did this to me, I put myself here, and I don't even know why.
My greatest enemy is my reflexion, I have ruined my life, so that night I decided I had to pay, it was either killing me, or having to spend the rest of my life with myself, and out of the two, I picked the latter, so I went to the kitchen, and was ready to commit murder, when a smile from the living room distracted me from my plans.
It was a photo of myself, I must be 7 or so, I am on the beach with my family, I have sand in my face and a wide smile, that little child doesn't deserve this, I drop the weapon, frightened by what I was planning to do, I cry for half an hour, god What happened to me?, How did I end up here?, about to murder an innocent, who hasn't done anything but her best, about to kill all of me, when I really only want to get rid of one part, it's ridiculous, How did that lovely child, who was so full of life, became this monster, so willing to take it away?.
And so, I make a pact with myself, we will protect that child, we will walk on her shoes, and see the world as colorful and as bright as she would, we will do everything to be happy, no matter how much effort it takes, because that kid would want it that way, because that kid deserves it, because that kid has a ton of stuff coming her way, and she could use an ally, so I will try to live like she would want me to, because the truth is...there is no harm in trying.