color key — blue: mental health; red: abuse; black: suicide. contrast of light and dark correlates with bright and somber tones of voice.
“Are you okay?” my Grandma asked me. Like it was a secret. Like it wasn’t something she should be saying out loud. Instinctively, I said, “yes,” for that was what I learned to say. I am conditioned to be fine; to smile even when the pain is unbearable.
It’s not like I could tell the truth. They wouldn’t understand.
I cannot say:
“No, I’m not okay. Every time I walk into the bathroom, I see that horrible night, happening all over again. I hear that stupid song singing, ‘I need you… I need you know.’”
It’s maddening and I feel completely unhinged.
A year ago, I witnessed the most terrible thing.
It feels like yesterday, when I look back to when we were young.
Playing hide and go seek.
I would hide in the hamper that our mother always had in the laundry room, and she would hide in the closet. Any closet.
It was our favorite thing to do. Hide from each other.
Looking back on it now, I feel like we hid too much.
As we got older, we took our pain, and stuffed it in our closets — our hampers, and covered it with our dirty clothes.
I wish that we had the space to say what we felt, and I often wonder how different we would be.
I look at the scars on her leg and think of all the times I’ve hurt myself.
“Did we do this at the same time? Were these gashes from the same night?”
No matter how many times she said it wasn’t my fault, I wanted to punch myself in the face.
No matter how many times she kisses her little son’s face, I get put back in that bathroom, on that night.
I fucking hate that bathroom.
I changed the shower curtains, to try to make it look a little different from before, I even put in a new shelf… nothing.
I walk in, and I see…
I smell popcorn.
I was going to watch a movie with a friend who was sitting downstairs.
She wanted a blanket, so I hurried upstairs.
But I never went to my room…
My sister’s music was loud, and I had a snack waiting for her…
“I need you… I need you now… I need you… I need you now…”
Was that message for me?
I went to the bathroom, I opened the door and found her with a knife.
The knife that was meant to protect her, if trouble ever found her.
She hurt herself… and I found her.
She slit her wrist… and I found her.
She was crying… and I found her.
I found her.
This is what I wake up to every morning.
This is the thought I have when I shower.
This is the lullaby I fall asleep to each night.
When my Grandma asks me, how I’m feeling or if I’m okay. I say I’m fine.
But I want to take her face between my hands, look her deep in the eye, and say, “Grandma, I’m tired and I’m scared!”
I hate what this burden is doing to my body.
It’s worse than the depression, it’s worse than the anxiety!
I’ve been holding my breath for so long, and no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try to forget, I just crawl back into that dark corner.
And I’m there in the tub, with her; she’s holding me underneath the water.
I try so hard to fight back, but I let her drown me…
I let her win.