WE ARE Narcissus

I have tried to write my story many times and have never been able to get far. I always go over my words again and again, editing and polishing and getting caught in the obsessive intricateness of arranging lyrical phrases. I am hoping that writing this online and posting as I go will keep me pressing forward.

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25. Invisible Man

i had an idea that i could get so skinny, i'd be invisible. my body would cease to fit the definition of matter; i'd weigh so little that i no longer took up any space. as a little kid, if i witnessed anyone else being the target of my mom's anger, i would stand very still and try not to make a sound and sometimes shut my eyelids tight, because i knew if i were seen at this moment, there was a strong possibility my capricious parent's rage would become redirected to include me. i cultivated the art of invisibility, and found that as i faded away physically i even became less noticeable to the hissing, bloodthirsty goblin that lived inside my brain.

 

but this wasn't the only thing about shrinking to a stick figure that appealed to me. ever since i can remember, i have carried a heavy weight inside my chest, a moodiness and sensitivity that earned me the nickname of eeyore as a small child. most of my life my struggle with depression, which has plaid out on my face because i am such an open book, has evoked in the oh so helpful bystander responses such as: "you just need to change your attitude"; "if you think positive, you can control your mindset"; "you're doing it to yourself, choosing to be miserable"; "i used to be like you, but then i learned to tell myself when i began thinking negatively that being sad just isn't productive"; "people who are worriers have shorter life spans than people who learn to let things go." and on and on and on.  i understood that because my ailment was mental, nobody was going to give me any sympathy. i was labeled pathetic, someone who just needed to get over myself and stop moping. it would have been different if i could have run to these same people and presented a deep, bloody gash in my flesh. loosing weight was a method of taking my internal anguish and making it tangible. if my appearance was that of a healthy, rosy cheeked, pudgy young girl, then it made sense that i would be expected to contain the strength to bear uncomplaining all of life's burdens; i didn't deserve any help. but if i had a body so delicate that it could practically be snapped in half like a twig by a breeze, then people couldn't simply ignore me, assuming i was really alright but just a drama queen. i just wanted to look as fragile and broken as i felt on the inside.

 

skinny was a tangible goal i could focus on achieving; every time i stepped on my mom's bluish glass bathroom scale and the digital numbers plummeted to a new low, i felt a rush, and the glow of triumph. finally, i had something to feel proud of myself about, and this idea either grew out of or gave birth to the notion that, because i knew i was fundamentally bad inside, with a mean, lazy, selfish, and sinful nature and an irredeemable personality, it was essential that i looked good on the outside in order to make up for my inner ugliness. how else would i attract friends? it actually scared me when people told me that true beauty lay on the interior of a person, because i was certain that in that respect i was devoid of positive qualities. i also knew i wasn't physically attractive, with my bulbous nose and chipmunk cheeks and squinty eyes and squat figure, so that meant my path was clear: losing weight was my only road to salvation.

 

i've been having nightmares again lately, nothing like the one i had for years, though, which i've sine captured as best i could in my novella "lionhearted."

 

last night, i dreamed i was trying to save a dog. he was low to the ground and thick, maybe a corgi mixed with something else, a soft medium length black and white coat and a narrow face. throughout the entire dream i don't think i remember the dog making a single sound or really doing anything, for that matter. he was found by a little boy, the ward of a stern, tight lipped single mother. instead of trusting her eyes and recognizing that the dog wasn't aggressive or a danger to her son or the other dog they already had, the woman sought out an expert opinion. there was a team of people in lab coats, lead by a very professional middle aged woman with strawberry blond hair, and they evaluated the dog, and judged him to be very aggressive to both dogs and people. he could never live in a home with another canine or a young child, they said. so the woman and the boy left him in a place that seemed strangely reminiscent of a hospital room, as if dogs got entire hospital rooms to themselves. he was scheduled for euthanasia at some unspecified but rapidly approaching date. in the interim i visited the dog many times, bringing him some odd sort of christmas tree shaped spiral of bins filled with toys like rubber ducks, working furiously to appeal his death sentence. my best guess is that the christmas tree contraption was some kind of psychological test, as though i could prove the dog's personal merits by demonstrating that he liked rubber ducks. i was not aware when he was rushed to what i suppose must have been an unseen operating room, not on a gurney but on a beige carpet that was held aloft by the strawberry blond doctor and her three compadres. though i'm not sure exactly how i know this is what happened, while her trio of goons watched the doctor performed a bizarre operation that involved draining all of the dog's blood. i hate including that information, because i can't handle even listening to stories, true or fictitious, in which animals get hurt, but i'm trying not to leave anything out in this project. then the doctor and her minions attempted to mount the same beige carpet, which was almost an overgrown bathmat, having texture but absolutely no pattern to make it lend it dignity. but it turned out that it would only work for the doctor because she alone had done the dirty deed. while the others plummeted to earth and their certain demise, the doctor, still in her pristine white lab coat that billowed out behind, flew through the air on what was now a magic carpet. i know, i've been watching too many scary movies.

 

for obvious reason i remember far fewer details about it, but my last interesting dream before last night's involved an underground fighting ring. i took part in bouts of brutal, unarmed combat with fully grown men, and somehow consistently came out the champion. the most significant detail about these matches, however, was that there was no prize for winning. participation was entirely voluntary, and both parties went into a contest fully aware that whoever lost would be summarily executed straight afterward. a gallows had been erected over the stage where we fought, especially for this purpose. despite this literal shadow hanging over my head, the anger was controlling me, an explosive force within my chest. i kept winning, but it didn't matter because no matter how much i wanted to i could not stop fighting, even though i knew at some point that it would inevitably be my turn to lose.

 

it's kind of unfortunate that unless i write down my dreams immediately after waking up, or unless i describe them several times to somebody within the window of time that i do remember them, i usually forget. one dream i've retained over the years that is relatively easy to interpret involves the home i grew up in, and in particular the classroom. i was entering the classroom, just past the heavy, darkly stained wooden doors, when i caught sight of an enormous spider busily weaving a web around the legs of my mom's chair. the spider was literally the size of a chihuahua, and not a small one, either. above it, my mom sat, bent over schoolwork of my adopted brothers' that she was grading. when i called out to her in warning, "mom! there's a huge spider under your chair!" she didn't even glance up in my direction. "i'm sure it's tiny," she dismissed my concern, "i'll get it later." at this point, my papillon alaska trotted into the classroom behind me. the spider's eyes swelled up to the size of golf balls, then he gave chase, and he and alaska both tore out of the room between my legs. 

 

i also had a dream when i was very young, in which i was the cartoon character Iago from disney's "aladdin." princess jasmine, abu, genie, and i all set out for some unexplained reason to cross a certain bridge. we were about halfway across when jasmine began to get sleepy. filled with a terrible sense of dread, i pressed her to continue, but she could not be reasoned with, and was very determined to "rest for a bit." unfortunately, this bridge happened to be the same cobblestone structure from the children's story "billy goat's gruff," so no sooner had we reached the midpoint than a brawny hulk of a troll appeared in our path. he didn't ask us the standard question, but instead challenged: "who's that sleeping on my bridge?" i don't remember that anybody answered him. what is clear in my mind is what the troll did next, which was eat jasmine, who never stirred from a deep, probably magic induced slumber even as her limbs were being munched. the dream ended with me uttering a load squawking sound and flying away, my crimson feathers showering over the companions i abandoned to their certain death below. 

 

when i was a little older i remember having a dream about being a cartoon (male) viking. for some reason i can't recall i ended up murdering my wife by hacking her to bloody pieces with a hatchet.

 

one repeating dream i have tried to write down several times, unsuccessfully, involves a very weird girl with freckles and pigtails who never utters a word except to speak premonitions of people's deaths, which always come true. somehow, despite the obvious limitations of her character, i am aware that, though "everyone" knows the girl's father is dead, she believes he was abducted by aliens. much of the dream's hazy plot revolves around her drawings hung from the walls of the attic and a search for her father. my name is brian in the dream, and i am in love with this weird girl, who is my cousin and lives with my family on account of having been orphaned. in one scene we kiss as we leap down from a balcony into some overgrown greenery that cushions our fall, all the while being watched from an open window by a disapproving female authority figure.  also, though i don't have a clue how this ties in, i, brian, have a little brother who ends up being fatally trampled by a horse drawn carriage. 

 

i also remember having very vivid dreams about being a dog in a pound, which, having worked at a rescue shelter/kennel, i now recognize were completely and entirely unrealistic. the golden child, with whom i shared a room in the new house at this time, complained that i would bark and howl in my sleep at night. 

 

there were dreams about binging and purging. terrible nightmares in which i would eat until the point that my stomach should have exploded, but then when i went to purge i just couldn't no matter how hard i tried. all those calories just wouldn't come out, and the panic overwhelmed me because i knew i was going to wake up and see all of that weight hanging in globs from my body. one dream in which my boss, before she fired me, ran a donut shop, and i was buying dozens upon dozens of donuts from her, trembling inside lest she guess what i planned to do with them all. dreams in which my mom popped up in my life behind every rock and leaf; she came to take me away from my struggle for independence and drag me back down to the hell from which i'd escaped. formulaic dreams in which i made some terrible, irreversible mistake and my mom was so disappointed in me that my soul shriveled like a worm in bright sunlight. dreams so real that when i first woke up i honestly believed that i was remembering not an illusion created by my unconscious mind, but the events of yesterday. a dream when i was relatively young in which my entire family except for me was turned into totally nonsexual vampires, and since i was the only human left in the house i had to stand on top of my dad's shoulders, even though he was also a bloodthirsty ghoul, in order to try to stay out of everyone's, including my dad's, reach. another in which i possessed the completely useless superpower of being able to restore a person's virginity by tracing a circle in the air around them. my mom locked me outside in the snow, so i wandered a quaint tudor village, barefoot, while russian orthodox icons wreathed by yellow light appeared and chanted dolorously in the grey, predawn sky above my head.

 

and here we arrive, unavoidably, at the place where i must tell you about my sex dreams. they occurred in our hotel room during the visit to the golden child at her university that sparked my mom's revelations about my dad. at this time, i was on an all liquid died, comprising almost exclusively blended ice lattes i made for myself with vanilla soy milk and a sweetened chai tea powder. it should come as no surprise that i was extremely unstable, not overly thin but feverish. the spaghetti straps of my nearly transparent no-sleeve shirt slid down below my rounded shoulders; the white of my shirt did nothing to conceal the black of my bra, which heaved as though i'd run a race, so much effort did it take for me to stand before the mirror and glare boldly at a reflected face that was totally alien to me. the afternoon leading up to this night, i'd taken part of a tour of the campus. i absorbed not a single scrap of information, because the struggle involved in merely putting one food in front of the other was herculean given the state of my body.  all i remember of the tour was blacking out for at least thirty minutes, my head drooping onto the table of the restaurant at which we made a pit stop, while the others in my party lunched. 

 

i lay in bed that night and and felt a heat that i did not understand spreading throughout my nether regions, as the images flashed through my head. in this dream series, i was dragged away from my home by men wielding wood and metal shotguns, and tossed into a third world prison that was classifiable more as a cave than anything else. here, i met him, and we had lots and lots of sweaty, mind blowing sex. i don't remember any erotic details with which to bore you, but what was most important about my first sex dreams was that in them, the object of my desire was a male, and so was i.

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