It isn’t me he’s talking to. It’s someone else. He doesn’t share this trauma. It’s mine alone to live and relive. Every time we go through it together, but I’m the only one there. It feels like mine alone. It lives inside my body where it echoes inadequacy that compounds until I begin to believe.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the label given, and it gives and takes with a purpose all its own. Me and him and Post-Traumatic Stress.
I have long suspected, have said for at least a year that it is not me he’s responding to. But it is me who takes it and takes it in until it is me and I believe. So I begin the frantic scramble:
What have I done wrong?
How should I have behaved differently?
What can I say that will bring different results?
When do I finally break?
But I don’t break, and I thank God for resilience. And I don’t break, and I am scared because I can feel it coming but it has been coming for so long. What could it possibly look like?
He has been well socialized. He is a strong, logical male who takes everything in and feels nothing. He has been told to eat his emotions, and he purges in a trance, unaware. He is the boy mocked as effete. He is the adolescent who dates, who plays sports, who watches baseball because he is supposed to. He is the young man who defines himself by his work and nothing else because it is the clearest barometer of his worth.
I am less socialized, more concerned with my self, attracted to breaking rules and always questioning everything. I feel wild by comparison. And even as I attempt to ingratiate myself, to avoid the script he must play out, I feel a howling, shrieking beast of self-awareness distorting my face into secret snarls.
And maybe now that he’s willing to admit, to try to acknowledge and incorporate the pain from decades ago, my role will be done and I will finally rest.
Or maybe nothing will change and whatever is in me will carry me off to safety so that I can metamorphose because it is so long past due.
I have been attempting to move forward. I have been applying to jobs in lieu of certainty about reapplying to graduate school. I go to an interview in my high heels and my smile and I am transformed because I am not afraid. What could be worse than where I have been? Disenfranchised of my own volition. What could happen in a job interview that is worse?
It may look as if I have stayed stagnant, but these pains have been knitted into growing pains and the ferocity of the promise of my emergence pleases and startles me.
All possibilities lie within me and I cannot wait to see who I become.