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.


3. Reminiscence

many of my earliest "memories" are nothing more than stories other people have related to me with enough frequency that i began to imagine them played out and to actually believe these second hand interpretations were my own experiences. but there are some memories that i have of being very young that i know are my own, because nobody would ever tell someone stories like this about him/herself.


I remember standing on a reddish wood floor, sobbing. "it was an accident," i wail, meaning that i hadn't meant to do it and i was sorry and please, please don't punish me. my legs are warm and sticky from my own urine soaking them, dribbling down onto the cool red panels of the floor.


"it sure was an accident," my mom repeats, grimly, meaning the fact that i had wet my pants was very obvious and i deserved everything that was coming to me, to reinforce that this bad behavior would never, never happen again. i don't remember if she did punish me, then, with more than the abrasiveness of her harsh words.


around the same period of my childhood, i remember coming to my mom and telling her that i was sad and didn't know why. this was probably my first attempt to articulate something i struggle to come to terms with even as an adult: manic depression. what i did not say, because i didn't have the words, was that most of the time i felt a deep, gnawing sadness in the pit of my belly, and a strong sense of guilt and shame even in pleasurable moments, as though in order to feel happiness my mind assumed i must have done something underhanded. my good moments had to be the product of deception or manipulation, because at the approximate age of six years old my subconscious already know that i was among the lowest scum of the earth. i couldn't tell my mom how confused and troubled i was, how lost and alone i felt, and how much i wanted it all to go away. i couldn't express to her the way it hurt to even say those simple words because i was being vulnerable about a part of myself i didn't like. addressing an issue i would prefer to just wish away. something that also comes to mind is the innocent, childlike piety that was one of my attributes at this point in my life. saint anthony's name was on the tip of my tongue, and i'd already prayed to him fervently to remove the black hole that ate away at my insides. maybe i was hoping my mom would offer to add her prayers to mine, so that together we could convince the saints i spent a great deal of my time reading about to interceded before god so that he'd cure me of this affliction.


i don't remember what my mom was doing or if anyone else was present in the room. inexplicably, the image that's associated in my mind with with painful moment is the pattern of our brown couch. an intricate pattern probably emulating the whorls and leaflets of a middle eastern tapestry. my mom told me, evenly and without palpable hesitation, "well, maybe you need a spanking to make it better."


i didn't answer. i slunk away like a creature such as me should do. in my kindergarten way, i mentally cursed my weakness in admitting to myself and to my mom the messy tangle of emotions inside me. i began a process of building a wall behind which i would soon lock my feelings away. not that i ever constructed a mask that was very convincing to others. there are numerous family pictures i've found in which it's written clearly in my body language, the heaviness that i carried even as a small child. maybe everyone has pictures like this, that they can point to and say, "see, it started way back then." later, when i was a little older, my siblings would brand me with the nickname eeyore, because of the raincloud hovering over my head. gradually the chatterbox that i emerged from the womb playing for people gave way to a moody, dolorous pre-teen, then was replaced by an anxious, insecure, needy yet disengaged teenager who was dying for someone to save her but never let anybody near enough even to try.


these are a few of my most vivid memories of early childhood. and then, of course, there is the memory of the blocks and the beating and the saint rita book.


it was not until i was eighteen years old, at this point away from my immediate family and free of my grandparents' house as well, living in a college dorm, that i truly began to appreciate the significance of this piece of my history. somehow, it is not one that had haunted me over the years, but rather had fallen through the cracks of whatever sieve controlled the channels of information storage in my brain, and gotten lost somewhere in a dusty corner. until all at once it struck me with full force as something i had never truly forgotten but hadn't remembered to analyze.


i was in the middle of the street, at the time.  luckily it was a campus road that lead only toward dormitories, and therefore wasn't a high traffic area, because i don't know how long i stood there, paralyzed. my core belief that i had held onto for as long as i could remember, that my family was perfect except for the boys and that they had introduced evil and pain and ruined everything, was irrefutably shattered in that moment. i allowed myself to taste inside my own mind a word i'd never even though before in conjunction with my childhood: "abuse."


there are parts of this i wish i could just lift from previous writing i've done, mostly therapeutically, so that i wouldn't have to relive it one more time. but if i allowed myself that escape i know i'd soon disconnect, and never get very far in this exercise. so that's one of the rules i'm making as i go on, from here. this is all going to be fresh material, coming at you stream of consciousness. i won't even read over what i've written until after i believe i've gotten it all down.

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