When I was young, everything inside of me felt full, aching and brimming to the surface with a warmth that shimmered when it caught light. It was a seeking light, curious and unweathered, all consuming in everything it touched. The world waited for me to touch it, to seek it out, and it answered like a tidal wave.
Car rides with the hot Texan sun beaming on my face reminded me of home, of a place that was everywhere. The sun touched everything; the porch, the swing set in the backyard, and the patch of blood I left when I crashed my bike into a trash can. The smell of a sticky summer day tattooed cross hatching of my jelly sandals across my feet. Orange Fanta spilled on the front of my pink shirt, forgotten as I built elaborate indoor forts. These little things, like buttons on a shirt, strained against everything I felt inside of myself.
My mom often ran errands into town early in the morning before the blazing sun could pierce the sky. At five in the morning, I would grip both ends of my bed with my feet and hands, slinking down the mattress with skill and attuity, and ever so quietly, creep down the ladder of my bunk bed. Below, my younger sister slumbered, letting out an occasional mumble.
In that moment, when I would hang my leg over the edge of the bed, my arms wrapped around the metal bars, was a silent moment between myself and the world. Half of my body suspended and weightless, while the other remained tethered to the bed, time stood still for me. The sunrise peering shyly over the horizon was frozen in a cascade of magentas and honey dew yellows on the walls of a piss yellow room. The tops of the binds, closed and dark, held the stars cupped in their curved blinders. In my careful dalliance with silence, I reached out and claimed it for myself. It belonged solely to me. My sisters’ breathes caught in the unmoving air, as they too, were unwelcomed in my silence. Carefully threaded across the ink stars of my ceiling, the echoes of Greek gods hung heavy grace onto my shoulders, molasses words that dripped down onto me as I descended each rung. Mysteries, ghouls, and delights, haunted my pained contortion of my body. Then, heavy, the weight of silence pressed into my shoulders, as I held myself into place, my feet bent and scrunched on the lowest rung.
I took a breath, one foot pressed onto the carpet, and the world awoke.
Late at night, I would sneak into the living room with a faintly glowing toy that illuminated the shifting path in front of me. Shivering in the desert night, glaring into the dark, I would force the shameful childhood fear to manifest before me. Monsters and ghouls would transform from boxes and furniture, growing devilishly long horns that twisted and disappeared into the black void behind them. White, flat eyes glared fresh holes into my skin, daring and mocking me to challenge them in a dueling battle. If my eyes closed or looked away, their floating faces would appear closer to me, their albino eyes unblinking. I would continue this horrendous game of attrition until one monster stepped too close to me, sending me to tears and dissolving them into the night. Every other night for several months, the monsters taunted my aching chest of fear, instilling a white hotness inside me that would burn everything inside my head away.
I cannot explain, at the tender age of three or four, why I would seek these fears out. My first memories I can recall are clouded by a yawning ache of panic and fear, of white hot terror, that existed outside of any situation I found myself in. A dark lion roared behind me, a punishment too great for any child to carry, yet, I felt its breath at the back of my neck. Every decision weighed at the bottom of my stomach, churning and churning inside me until I felt it come up.
I felt it come up in ways when I was older and I was no longer young, that hurt and felt like I was choking on the dust that had become glass inside my throat. Then everything cracked and faded, a mirror facade that revealed the other side, the other me staring back at myself.
For a long time, the world was unforgiving. I thought the world of my childhood was a comfort or a shield for the turbulence of all the world’s ills. When words one should never shout came at me, they existed for so much longer within me than they did within the person that they originated from. When those words took form of my childhood monsters and I shined a curious flashlight on them, to only watch them grow into a beast I couldn’t control. When those words became me, and I tattooed those words to my soul. When I repeated those words over and over again inside my head, until I couldn’t wake up and allow my feet to touch the floor anymore.
And everytime I spoke those words, something died inside of me.
I did not rise. I sank.
I sank, and sank, and sank, until I couldn’t sink no more. Then, when I was at the bottom peering up into that hot sun that warmed my cheeks when I was a child, I remember the silence of the world. The suspended moment, teetering over the edge of my bunk bed, my heart fluttering in excitement and the dewy, unwoken morning answering in response. Innocent mysteries floated like dust particles that were lit ablaze by the peeking lines of window blinds in the living room, when I would sneak a bowl of cereal onto the couch. And I waited. And the world waited for me.
But at the bottom, here where the darkness eats away at me, time passed too quickly.
I thought of the way the world seemed to no longer respond to my cold morning walks, or the anxious thunder that is like liquid lightning in my veins. In moments of quiet solitude, I cannot get the world to wrap around me. And so I descended further. I sank, and sank, and sank.
I am sunk. I finally thought when I was at the bottom.
I thought this in a quiet whisper to the world.
I am here: I thought as the sun peered indifferent between clouds that looked like shattered glass.
I am here.
I thought to the empty boulevards of my own brain.
I am here.
I thought to myself.
I AM HERE.
The urgency arose inside me, fire and burning and liquid lightning in my veins. The world was silent, but I was not. My ears roared with the sound of the night injecting itself into my bloodstream, cracking my spine, and electrifying the tips of my fingers. Who says that I’ve forgotten who I was when my flesh was young and my mind was attuned to the dust and silence of the world? I will not settle here where it lays still, tightly packed together. I will float like the dust of shattered childhood monsters. I will not yield to the yawning ache to respond to the dark lion of fear.
I am dust. I am light. I am me.