this is about a story i was told today by a woman in a relationship with another woman diagnosed with disassociative identity disorder. it broke my heart. i'm still writing and reading you guys' work. hey.
Mara made pictures without a thousand words, without sounds or touches; Mara made pictures with a whisper, when she least wanted to, much to her chagrin. They hung thick on her walls; faces frozen, eyes wide at Maras word.
Mara was thinner than she seemed, taking steps towards the bright light at the end of the hallway. Not as sure as she was stoned, she meandered; her feet leaving strange skinny marks in the thick carpet. Her hair, blonde on black, wagged back and forth as music played somewhere between her ears. She rounded the corner and asked the man on the wall a simple question. Where were you while we were getting high? He was slight, white, and awfully pretty. As with all of Maras work, his lines were charcoal; his eyes had been blue, Mara remembered, though now they were black.
Mara? A voice from another room. Whose voice? It didnt matter in the end. Just a voice. Somewhere else. Somewhere outside the music and the colors and the food. The hallway opened into a kitchen, a table with a chair that looked worn in the seat but fresh at the back. She sat down in it, contemplating the bowl of fruit at the tables center. A banana. Thats what shed always chose as a child. But today was a day for apples, she decided. The skin was a little bitter, a smirk in the midst of sweetness. Across the room, a large drawing of a fat man was prominent. He was holding something out to the viewer, a clump of roses. The angles and perspective were such that the roses obscured the fat mans face. In the bottom left corner will you be my valen- was scrawled in Maras uneven scratch.
Mara? Hey, whats taking so long? The voice again. Silly voices should stay in the rooms that concern them. She set the apple down, amused by the shapes her teeth made. Laying her hands atop each other, she rested her chin there and studied the apples grandeur with two, big brown eyes. Big as quarters, she imagined. People with quarters for eyes. That would be interesting. They would glint at a tilt, lilting with the light each and every way they turned. The world would be much brighter, Mara decided, if people had quarters for eyes.
Maybe silver dollars.
Mara! The voice turned angry. Fuck that voice. Voices in other rooms can wait a fucking moment, thankyouverymuch. She stood, pushed away from the table dramatically, and slowly moved to make her way up the hall, towards the bathroom. This would require her to pass the open door to the room that contained the voice. No matter, she would bring a peace offering with her. As she came to the fridge, she stopped, opened it, and selected a can of orange soda. The cold in her face felt good. The movement from the fridges open mouth was an unhappy moment, but then she remembered the can and the door and the voice. She smiled as she approached. Not slowing down, she chucked the can through the open doorway, hard enough to break a window. The voice hollered something, but she didnt hear, having leapt into the bathroom and closed the door quick behind her.
Mara loved moving from quick to slow. Her brother had chased her a lot as a child, made a monster face to initiate the game. Im going to get you, Mara! He would grin as he did, running lopsided like some loping monstrosity with steel for a spine. Hed never quite catch her, even when he could. She didnt want to be caught, after all, but never tired of the chasing. The quick pulsed darting around corners, sliding on the wide wooden floors that made up her childhood memories. The voice was making noise again. Mumbling that made her want to unlock the door and gather every small, heavy thing in the house and send an unceasing rain of small, heavy things upon it.
Instead, Mara brushed her teeth.
Mara, what the fuck? The voice was outside the door now. Swishing and swooshing plastic around her mouth, Mara felt better by the second, the sins of the night curling round the porcelain and down into that black dot that led nowhere, mostly. She watched her pupils as she washed her teeth, the way they bounced a little. Why was her head moving, anyways? Last nights makeup was still all around her eyes, dark enough and thick enough to say something. Something not so subtle, not serious, but absolutely something for sure, so for sure.
Mara always wondered, when looking, what she would look like when she was fifty. Always curious to see the first sign, the first crease in her complexion, she wrinkled her nose, toothbrush sticking out the side of her mouth like some strange cigar. She let her nose relax, watched the skin returned to its proper place, unyielding. She removed her cigar, stuck out her tongue. It was red, not pink; red like a fishs gills. Tilting her head to the side, she admired the pleasant line of her face. Mara may have been the only person she knew that liked their own face. She looked at it like a pet, a sort of companion that her mind and body brought along with them wherever they went. Like a purse dog, maybe, except her face knew to shut the fuck up on the train. The music rose in her ears; a man making words at someone, daring, cheering, goddamned beautiful defiance. You want me? Fuckin come on and break the door down!
Mara flinched as a solid thump shook the door beside her. Frowning, she pulled her earbuds out of their homes, and turned to face the door. I wasnt talking to you, please stop being a crazy person, she said, calmly. The voice started again, but she stuck her music back in her ears and continued brushing her teeth. She was hurting her gums, for a moment. The voice was getting to her. That was unacceptable. She stopped, closed her eyes, and let the interior overcome the exterior. The warm wash flowed out from inside and around her; she felt every synapse let loose of their respective receptors and when she opened her eyes again, only the music remained. For a moment, anyways. The voice was saying something now; long and complicated, something about her, she thought. It didnt matter in the end. The voices never stayed long here. Short barks now. Probably the word huh. Typical. Mara returned to the mirror and again, watched her pupils bounce as she flossed. This bouncing was more appropriate, she thought.
Mara, Im fucking serious! The voice hit the door again. Mara felt it begin in her finger tips; that old familiar feeling, a sizzle almost. Biting her lip, she used her hot fingers to spike the volume coming to her ears. Mara! Two pounds this time. Her eyes darted, watched the door flex a little in the center. Mara, I mean it! Three pounds. Three little flashes of light at the edges of the door.
Mara had a decision to make, a quick one that might slip away into a closet if she didnt snip it, just so. She marched around her amber walls; holding, appraising, measuring him up to the others. She tried the kitchen, but he looked just ludicrous next to the valentine. She tried the bathroom, which had been where it had happened, so why not? Eyes to big for early morning moments, thats why not. When her feet touched the cold carpet of the study, she stopped stiff. Ah, she said, eyes narrowing. So thats your game.
Mara made puddles in the deep Persian as she crossed to the wide space between the bay windows. There, one picture hung, dusty. Manic expression, a boyish grin shocked with crooked teeth and love love love. His hands were in front of him, fingers curled into claws, reaching out at her, but never touching. Mara didnt share his smile, though. Face flat, she broke the sticky putty in her palm into four pieces, tacking them to the back of the long, even sheet of rough paper between her teeth. More gently than she ever had in life, she put him in his place; two inches to the left of her brother Marcs best Frankenstein. She took two steps back, put her heels together and stared, adopting her best prospective buyer pose.
Im going to get you, Mara!
Smiling with the tips of her teeth, Mara shook her head and turned back towards the kitchen and the little noise of her earbuds on the countertop.
I am sorry for your skeleton, the way you carry yourself when you walk into a room like your arms are tied and your mouth is empty and you've been kept prisoner for a year, waiting for a bird to arrive at your window. Your eyes are full and I spread my hands and say this; sorry, like a man abandoning his lover in a cloud of dust. I am sorry for your eyes, resentful like a North American river.
Sorry, for everything, for your breasts and womanhood. You are standing on the edge of eighteen relunctant and awkward; you do not want to spread your legs wide and let the world drop its' pants to fuck you. You are standing on the edge of something looking afraid and saying no, I don't want any spaghetti. I'm not hungry.
I'm hurting and horrible the way that a person feels when they shatter the shell of a snail by accident. I cannot say sorry enough for your hands, scrabbling at the surface of a wooden panel unheard, clawing at one another like you're putting a deer in the headlights out of its' misery. Sorry.
I am sorry when I come across you in the mirror, surly little girl on hunger strike, frowning because the world wants her to lift up her dress and show them what's inside ; the pearly ribs, flowerbud tits, beating heart, blushing flower. I look at you and shake my head and say, poor thing. You poor thing.
"You never come back, not all the way. Always there is an odd distance between you and the people you love and the people you meet, a barrier thin as the glass of a mirror, you never come all the way out of the mirror; you stand, for the rest of your life, with one foot in this world and no one in another, where everything is upside down and backward and sad."
Honestly, if you struggle with an eating disorder and haven't read "Wasted" by Marya Hornbacher then you should. It's textbook reading, but the writing is far from textbook. It rips my heart clean in two.
I want to wonder, want to slide back-down and backwards across your glissandos, linger over the breaths and pauses, pour into the warm and dark hollows that you curve into your words, nestle there like water or skin:
I want to sink into the cracks between consonants, smooth them over, find the sighs folded into the velvet roundness of an O, contemplate each brightly fractured e in your name, how it is wrenched open to the world, wounded, and still curled tight as a fist over the wound:
I want to drink poetry like tea, in sips, with sugar, and then in longer draughts until it washes down my throat like heat and I forget, for a moment, that winter lasts longer than this and I am far from home:
I want to find you in dead trees and bathroom stalls, carved with some memory of permanence into the flat surfaces of my world accompanied by numbers I will never call for fear of breaking the intimacy of anonymity:
I want to picture you (a picture of you) with your hair haloed round your head, eyes closed, in an abandoned playground before sunset; I want to imagine your childhood as if remembering, in grayscale, pieces of a smile, a swing, a song; I want to discover fragments of your letters and say, ah yes thats you I found you:
My sagging heart always Returns to me; cringing Like a wounded animal, Tail between its legs, an India-ink river of blood Mapped across the kitchen floor. I blindly follow these maps Back to myself.
Like a wounded animal it lies Whimpering and grotesque On the tiles, flayed and shaking, Reeking of iron and fur. In my arms, my little animal Slackens, shudders, is still for a while. In it I can bury my breath, my face As I wait for it to howl.
Back down to the sea-floor she goes back to the coracle-clusters and starfish that clamour, cling to her heart too tight, walking barefoot towards where she came from. It is too hard walking on earth, the way she wears pain like a wedding ring frightens people. Back down, down, crawling on her belly on the forest-floor, alive with the buzz and crawl of worms and bird-prey. Back where she belongs with her crazy palpitating wolf-heart, her bloody deer-throat leaking in the snow, her yellow eyes in the dark. Back down, beyond subway trains, piano lessons, falling rain, from whence she came, to the snow-covered womb where she first gulped air. Back down to a place before wildflowers, fish on land, back to a locked box full of old souls, from whence she came.