Shame creeps back in. Who are you trying to fool? It asks. What is this delusion you’re nurturing? Don’t you know how ridiculous this looks from the outside?
But then I remember that I don’t care about what’s outside anymore. What could be more ridiculous than culture at this moment in human history? What qualifies as shameful in the middle of this clown show? Who would dream of obeying these malevolent clown enforcers?
All of the points are sliding off the map. The clock is dripping off the wall, Dali-style. The elephant teeters on tiny feet. Can’t you feel reality warping and twisting? We all feel it. A gasp for breath lives in between our nouns and verbs. Exhaustion is starting to set in, the kind that grabs you by the throat and says, “You need more than this to survive.”
How much more? Much, much more. Everything. All of it.
Go ahead and tell me I want too much. I am living inside my hunger now. It’s brighter in here.
I can’t move in straight lines anymore. I don’t know how you do it: You with your busy and your important. I have meandered my way into a different dimension. I wake up and my shame whispers obscenities in my ear. I put on lipstick the color of some dark, cold planet that no one remembers. It’s raining on my fuzzy sweater. Virginia steps over puddles the color of rust, saying, “Oh, I’m alright. Still here, I guess.”
I am still here, too. Virginia is telling the doctor she has pain in her calves. The doctor says, “Keep moving. Wriggle your toes. Set a timer.” I wriggle my toes reflexively. Now the doctor is talking. I look at Virginia. She’s squinting which means she can’t hear him anymore. I repeat what the doctor says in a loud voice and Virginia’s face lights up while the doctor’s face dims.
Later we eat eggs over easy and huge pancakes. “You need a witness,” Virginia says. “So someone will remember.” She’s talking about doctor visits, but she could be talking about anything at all. Everything. This day. A whole life. We need a witness.
I am a witness. I see how it works so clearly now: We are each meant to eat our shame until we disappear, until every breath is too selfish to breathe. We are so inconsequential we might as well be imaginary, yet we have no right to our own imaginations. No wonder my truest desires have always felt embarrassing. I have always been sure that whatever I wanted, it was deeply trivial and unnecessary. Now my desires are everything. I beat back the shame with them. “This is not all I want,” I say to my shame. “I want more than this. I want everything.”
But when I tune in to your busy and important, I drift. I like the ferociousness you can conjure when you need to, otherwise I’m bored. Who cares about any of these shifts in power? You love the idea that you’re a part of it all. Your involvement is imaginary. Their involvement is imaginary, too. The powerful are just teenagers huffing spray paint behind the garage. No one is listening to each other, they all just want to get higher.
Slow down. My blood is made of drowning cities and burning hills and lost children and starving birds. I want lips the color of meteorites. I want eyelids like fool’s gold. Dance with me, sailor. Do you have a second? You don’t seem to.
I am living in slow motion, a 7/8 time signature, an alternative tuning. My hips rotate with the earth’s orbit. My heart aligns with the notches on Orion’s belt. I don’t think I can pass for normal anymore. The ways we used to measure time are dead to me. I rise at 4 am and stare at my face in the mirror, wondering if I was always this way. Am I supernatural? Tell me the distance from my fingertips to your fantasies. Let me know when your clock starts to drip off the wall, too. I’m ready.
Just don’t be impressed with what I’ve won, or your words will start to loosen and fall apart, a smattering of vowels and consonants raining down onto my feet. Notice my hunger instead. Dial into my hips’ rotation. Align your hands with my heart. Now you know where the whales are headed. Now you hear the dying monkeys crying. Now you understand that these men you admire are just fleas on a drowning rat. Now you feel your way in the dark to me.
We are all lost. We’re going to need a bigger bubble.
But I don’t need anything from you. I don’t need love. I don’t need admiration. I just want to watch you realize where you are. I want to watch your eyes register the loss. I want you to feel the void inside you, that empty place where heaven should go. You need more than this to survive. I am your witness.