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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36. Monkeying Around

this is an email that i wrote to a pen pall in australia the summer i lived with my grandparents. most of it is really just a recap, but it also includes a few details that i forgot in the time between then and now, and if you can pick it out like i can, also show where i couldn't be honest with myself or my friend about the extent of my guilt in certain respects. i don't have a date for this email, because i saved it in a word document without a time stamp.

 

Oh no! I just wrote you a really long detailed message and then my computer lost it! I'll try to rewrite as much as I can remember.

 

I just got back my internet access today, so I'm going to tell you about what's happened (can't believe my computer lost that message!). I haven't really described it in detail to anyone else. Recalling some of the details is really painful so I apologize in advance if there are gaps. BTW, do you have a Facebook? I got one today.

It's really fun for communicating with people and you ca Instant Message on it. I just got a facebook today.

 

I think the last time I emailed you was before Prom. Something interesting that happened before Prom: I asked out the lesbian I was interest in. Nothing came of that as she never really replied, but it was a positive experience anyway. I think I may not be feminine enough for her and also it's not a good time to begin a possible relationship right before going way to college. Also, I started to get interested a little bit in a boy and was going to do a painting of him but as you will see, that soon became out of the question.

 

I was really excited for Prom. I went shopping with my family and got a light green dress and even flipped my hair out. I'll attach a picture. I didn't have a date but that's ok because I thought after my bad experience with my rude formal date a boy would just be annoying. I didn't feel like being pressured into doing anything sexual I'm not comfortable with. So I just went with a group of girlfriends. I asked my mom and got permission to sleep over at one girl's house. Four of us were sleeping over. I assured my parents that there would be no trouble because most of my friends had never even had alcohol so I assumed they wouldn't want to drink or anything like that. I was surprised the day before prom to learn that my friends wanted to go to a party. They said it's prom night, a once in a life time opportunity, something supposed to be special and memorable, so they wanted to try something new. I agreed because it sounded exciting. Also, I realized some time ago that I never avoided alcohol or parties because I believed it was wrong but rather because I was scared and insecure.

 

Prom was very boring and awkward. Very few people danced. It was out doors, in the zoo which smelled unpleasant, the ground was muddy and got my dress dirty, and it was very cold. Mostly we just sat around talking about when it would be time to leave. The party, on the other hand, was amazing. My friend (alias jimmy) was supposed to be there; i begged him to, and that was half the rreason I decided to go at all, but it turned out he got sick and couldn't come. Also it was a very small party, and I know for a fact two other larger parties that night were much better. But still, it was amazing. I started with Schmeirnof Ices, then had two beers. Then one girl snuck in Vodka in an energy drink bottle and I started running after her stealing shots from it (all in good fun of course) even though she told me it'd probably make me throw up. I figured it was my one opportunity and I'd better make the most of it. 

 

Getting drunk didn't scare me at all. It felt great. I felt happy and relaxed. I was still me; I didn't have any uncharacteristic thoughts, and I knew I wouldn't make any decisions such as driving or having sex. The music sounded amazing. I remember running up and down the stairs just for the sheer joy of moving and dancing all by myself infront of everyone not caring what anyone thought. It lasted a few hours then I vomited and started to sober up. I was definitely wasted for a few hours though, and even came to a point that I knew one more shot of Vodka and I'd pass out. I was able to have the self control to decide to stop there, though, which I think is significant. I knew my limits and didn't risk it.

 

Our designated driver drove us to get McDonalds french fries and icecream, then we went to her house and slept. I didn't even et a hang over at all which I thought was odd but apparently since I eat a lot of oranges that protects you. In the morning, I went home, cleaned up, went to church like normal. I told my older sister about getting drunk because she used to tell me things about her romantic life and even texted me when she was drunk, which I knew my parents wouldn't approve of. She promised not to tell anyone. Also, I didn't plan to tell them, but two friends of my family asked me straight out if I went to a party and drank, so I admitted it to them. they said they wouldn't tell anyone. I decided to trust them only because I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. I've never liked them, but my mom and sisters adore them, and plus they've also told me many things much worse than one night of drinking and I'd never rat them out.

 

About a week later I'm climbing into the car after school and my mom tells me, "You're in big trouble, you're life is about to change." For a moment I'm dumbfounded and it doesn't even occur to me what she could be talking about. I'd been spending all my time trying to be a dutiful daughter, devoting countless hours to holding the baby, teaching my little sister to read, cleaning, cooking dinners, doing dishes, and taking to my mom because I know she's unhappy in her marriage and lonely, and I honestly believed that my family life was good for the first time in my life and that my mom would finally accept me beacuse I was working so hard to help her raise fourteen kids as much as possible. Her failure to forgive anything tore the ground out from underneath my feet all in an instant.

 

We stopped at a gas station, and I quickly texted James goodbye. As I'd known she would, my mom took my cell phone away. She litterally broke it in half with her bare hands and threw the pieces out the car window. When we got home, she stopped the car at the top of the driveway and let my brother and the two family friends who carpool with us out, and began to yell at me. I was shaking. Both my older sister and the two family friends had told on me. I panicked. My mom gets very verbally abusive when she's upset, and most of what she says basically means "How dare you," as if I did it specifically to hurt her. It's hard to remember every thing she said because it's really painful; going through it in my mind sometimes I start to hyperventalate. She's told me I'm a mean evil insane selfish vain horrible irresponsible witch before. She told me she was sending me away, that I could either go live with my grand parents over the summer, or just get out of the car right there and start walking, but that until I lived with my grandparents so that they could supervise me, I couldn't go to college. I honestly almost got out and started walking but I knew that really wasn't an option and she'd stop me and I felt possibly hurt me. She told me she was going to go through my room and take away anything she thought I didn't deserve and take my computer before I could erase anything so that she could go through it.

 

When we got in the garage my mom went strait into the house. I started to feel sick and panicky. I needed to do something to gain a little bit of control over my fate again. I took my laptop which my mom didn't know was in my back pack out and started erasing the memory. Unfortunately, my mom came back out just as I was finishing and tore it away from me. I went in the house and just crumpled and didn't move for hours. My mom took bags of things out of my room, I don't even remember what anymore. She took a lot of my clothes, including my prom dress. She took my paintings, my paintings that are my heart and soul, that I poured countless hours and energy into, that mean so much to me that they're like a part of my own body. She took them away and didn't even handle them carefully, stacking them on top of each other and stuffing them somewhere in her closet. I begged for just that back but she threatened to burn them if I didn't shut up about them. 

 

The next couple days while I waited to be sent away were torture. My mom had to arrange things with my grandparents and I had to finish the school week. I saw the two family friends who had told on me at school and tried to question them on why they'd told, but they are on a higher social rung than me at school and know it. Later that day I walked down a hallway and heard them laughing, describing to their friends in detail what I was going through, excitedly, like it was a great joke, even describing the details like the loud crack my phone made when my mom tore it in half.

 

I spent my time at home sleeping mainly. I had to pack up my room, because it'd already been decided which of my siblings would get it now. My mom would come in now and again to yell at me when she felt upset. I just don't know how to convey how hard those mainly one sided conversations were. My mom told me that I was a decietful liar, that she should have seen it before, that i was dangerous and immoral and couldn't be around the little kids any more. She started threatening to leave my dad again, blaming it on me. She has trouble with him because she married him out of shock I think after she was raped, and she never loved him but actually always despised him and just believed God told her to marry him. She can't get a divorce because of religion, but has confided in me how she believes he oppresses her personality etc. It's really hard to hear those things, crushing to my faith in families and love. She told me I'm not even allowed to talk to my siblings any more. She told me I'm not welcome in the house any more, at least until my baby sister is a teenager in thirteen years. She told me she doesn't want to do anything any more, that being with my little sister hurts because she has to remember how I used to play wiht her and teach her how to read, that she doesn't want to go on walks or cook or have intellectual discussions because we did that together and since I'm immoral  everything good I did was a lie. She told me she hates that I'm going to move on and go to college and discover myself and be happy but I tore a wound in my family that wouldn't heal and would still hurt them every day . That still really hurts me, especially when I start to be happy because I'll remember that my mom doesn't want me to be happy and feel so much shame.

 

On one particular day I got home from school where I'd been crying all day because I wasn't allowed to cry at home and my mom yelled at me for two hours. I stood in the middle of my room afterward, staring, in shock, wishing I could run away. I think I would have done it only I couldn't make my feet move because I was afraid of being stopped by my family and questioned. I also knew I had no one to call to come get me. But I needed to do something, to releave the tension building up inside me. You know those moments when you want to cry, and have every reason to cry, and you know it would make you feel better but the tears just won't come? I had to do something. So I got a plastic shaving razor, cracked open the head using tweezers, and removed the three razor blades. I climbed into the shower fully clothed, turned the water on hot, and tried to slit my wrists. I hope this isn't disturbing you too much. I went from lesbian to drunken party to suicide attempt really fast so if you're overwhelmed I understand. To make a long story short, I managed to ruin my clothes, and cut deep enough that the gashes no longer closed and my skin was tuning blue, but still there came a moment when I could no longer force myself to touch the blade to my flesh because my whole body recoiled from it, so I had to stop. 

 

I made through that awful night and the next few days at home by borrowing secretly my little sister's cell phone to text (alias jimmy). A few days later, I left home. I've only seen my family a few times since then at big family gatherings. It's been hard and awkward and painful, I have barely been able to speak to anyone, and was really hurt to see my older sister wearing one of my dresses that my mom took away to one of these events. I was horrified to see pictures my family had taken at some event where the two girls who are family friends went with them, almosst as if the stepped in and took my place in the family.

 

Overall, staying with my grandparents has been peaceful. I paint a lot. They treat me pretty well. I walk to church every day wtih my grandpa. I'll admit that I'm having extreme jealousy of skinny people, especially annorexics, and am working out hours a day intensely to cope, but overall I'm doing well. I'm still excited for the next chapter of my life, and the fundamental part of me is strong and unshakeable. I believe in life and I'm capable of finding good and joy everywhere. A part of me knows this was so inevitable, I shouldn't take it too hard because someday I was bound to make a mistake that my mom would decide she couldn't deal with. Part of me is releaved it finally happened so I don't have to live holding my breath fearing it any more. 

 

I'm ending this a bit abruptly but I've forgotten if there's anything else I wrote in my email taht got lost. If I think of anything moe I'll let you know. Write me please! I love to hear from you. How have you been? I missed talking to you.

 

Courtney

 

 

now, if you've made it through all that, you deserve something fresh, so here is an email i wrote, not to a blood relative of mine, but to my best friend from my one semester of college who has become a big sister to me.

 

 

Hello big sis :)

 

So I think I’ve heard from somewhere before that people tend to find faith in times of trouble. I don’t know if that’s necessarily what I’m going through, but I have been saying the serenity prayer to myself a lot lately and trying to place my trust in some kind of a higher power. Not because things are bad, but because I’m getting all my goals and dreams lined up and doing my part to make them happen. The thing is I don’t ultimately have control over whether things fall into place; I just have to keep going and waiting and hoping...

 

I know I’ve told you bits and pieces of things about my favorite dogs at the kennel where I’m working. Recently, my first favorite Reggie was adopted, the little guys I liked named Spike and Sarah were both adopted, an older Alaskan Malamute I liked named Maggie died, and the super intimidating girl named Chloe whose trust I finally gained was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I don’t know how long she’ll live, but it’s in her lymph nodes and she has lots of tumors and no matter how much we feed her she still loses wait. 

 

At some point, I started bonding with Chloe, and at the same time with a yellow dog named Simba who is a pit lab. I decided to work on bonding with them because they are both very anxious dogs who need attention and for people to work with them. Simba I call Monkey because he has an extremely high pitched bark that must be intensely annoying to anyone who doesn’t love him as much as I do. I now go early to work every day to walk him, and this week I became his sponsor. That means that I’m paying his bills, and once I am able to do so (once I move out of my aunt’s house) I will adopt him. 

 

So I have been reading this book of science fiction stories lately, and one of them was about aliens coming to earth to conduct an experiment on human beings involving what they call “Synapse 16” or something like that. This synapse functions when a person re-evaluates their entire life, their own character and choices, point of view, morality, etc. For most of the test subjects, the aliens really had to do a lot of stimulating by asking challenging questions that poked at the people’s world view and their most tightly held illusions in order to get them to use their synapse. For one of the subjects, however, she responded to every little obstacle or challenge in her day to day life by using the synapse, so it didn’t really take anything at all to get her to use it. I think that I’m probably like that, because I’m so neurotic second guessing everything that I can’t even enjoy blissful delusions that I create for myself.

 

Monkey looks like Old Yeller and has predator-prey instincts so strong I imagine him as the hunting dog in a scene in Where the Red Fern Grows.

 

As you can imagine, having been privy to my case of the chronic condition I call The Dog Wanting, bonding very deeply with a particular dog is always what happens when I work around dogs, even though most of my co-workers (who have their own dogs at home) try not to play favorites and are pretty successful, and it’s a very dramatic bittersweet experience. Ergo, it’s exactly the sort of thing I needed to write a long, drawn out letter to my big sister about. Personally, though I know I’m looking at this case of puppy-love through the rose tinted goggles that accompany any new infatuation, I think this is the closest I’ve ever been to a dog and it absolutely breaks my heart, makes me sick to my stomach, and furious to think that I cannot find a way to get out of in this condition of living with my NPD afflicted aunt marge and adopt him ASAPt. 

 

A little off track, but briefly, I have heard form UC Davis to say that they’ve recieved all my info and are considering me, but not about their decision either way at this point.

 

I love this dog to the point that it’s ridiculous. I love the white patch on the left side of his neck, and the velvety wrinkles above his eyebrows, and the way he sounds like an angry chimpanzee when he barks and his shoulder blades slide past each other when he walks like a lion slouching across the savanna. Earlier this week he bit me so hard on my leg that I’ve got a bloody puncture wound and a trail of bruises from halfway up my calf to above my knee. And I still love this dog to insanity. He hates cats passionately, and about a week ago he did get away from me when he saw a cat and he was chasing it, leaping through the tall grass, and it was really scary and I felt terribly ashamed but also it just struck me how beautiful he is then. (side note, the cat lived to tell the tale). I definitely believe all animals have a consciousness as deep and meaningful as humans do, and it reinforces it to realize how strongly dogs are wild animals, how much respect it’s essential to give them in order to build trust. It’s so incredibly rewarding to see him improve that I get choked up over it. He sits and waits now while I open doors and then I go through and call him and he follows me. At first I thought it was all a fluke based on him wanting treats and no way would I ever get him to respond to me without them. That I’d be able to make him sit, sure, but no way in hell was he going to be able to wait because he’s too excitable. He was actually on anti-anxiety meds up until the past two weeks. I got the idea of the waiting from watching the Search and Rescue Dog Foundation trainers who board their dogs at the kennel. They work with a lot of super jumpy lab puppies and get them to be really obedient - it’s amazing! What was really awesome was seeing how Monkey just caught on, and once he gets something he really gets it. Sometimes he still requires treats, and I especially use them if we’re doing something new and/or difficult, but most of the time he listens without them, and I used to have to carry a squirt bottle around with us just to get off the kennel property because he’d react so violently to passing other dogs that a fight was inevitable, but now I don’t have to carry a water bottle at all! We’re working on letting other dogs pass without attacking them by having him sit and wait while they go by, and we’re working on him laying down which he does not really like to do, and leash ettiquette, which involves not pulling the leash when I walk him but walking calmly beside me. I keep having all of these dreams about taking him with me...getting a dog friendly apartment and making him my dog...I know it’s not realistic, which hurts really badly. I want him to have a wide open yard to run around in.

 

When we walk, I see the world through his eyes. How everything is big and exciting and new; there’s always interesting things he needs to experience and smell and taste. I’m now as of last night able to scratch his belly, which has been a very long process to achieve. I don’t know. This whole thing has been a crazy experience but also a really great one because I feel very alive and like I’m going toward something right now. I haven’t been worrying about my weight and I just feel comfortable in my skin, healthy, active, tan... (lol) And I’m trying to stear clear of opening the door to all the fear that all of this could come crashing down so easily. I want to believe that I am meant to be happy and that life isn’t the hollow meaningless thing I’ve been living for so long.

 

Anyways, so back to my original line of thought. I am waiting to hear from UC Davis. I need them to accept me. Then I need to either get a substantial scholarship and/or student loans which will be very hard to get approved for without a cosigner (I’ve got absolutely no chance on finding one). Or I need to convince my parents to let me use the trust fund money that my grandpa left for me in his will. THen I need to get approved for a dog friendly appartment in Davis. I found a bunch of awesome ones but they are all at least $1000 per month. And you have to do an application and get approved for one...which I didn’t realize before. I though you just had to hand them the money and then get a room key...

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