content warning: suicidal ideation, self harm
My burst of motive power is short-lived; it disintegrates when I go back outside to falling rain, just like during my car accident. Kevin* helped me with some of that fear. He won’t be helping me any more. Devastated, I sit in my car and let my eyes fall out of focus. I wish I could just stop breathing. Forever.
My phone buzzes. Christian asks if I want to go back and have Indian food. Margy wants me with her, and she repeatedly insists that she will come get me. I can’t let her do that. I keep asking too much of people and then they leave. I don’t want anyone else to leave me; I’ve lost too much already. My head feels like it’s in a vice grip and my hands are trembling. I tell her I had to stop but I’ll drive the rest of the way. I tell Christian I have to get to Durham. I can’t have them worrying about me.
I drive in the rain, frightened, cowering in my car, headlights agonizing to my exhausted eyes. I hurt and I drive. It is torturous. At some point I get downtown and suddenly can’t remember how Durham’s streets work. I weep in fear and confusion, circuitously circumnavigating where my friend lives, using every remaining resolve to stay just calm enough to drive until there is Margy’s street and Margy’s parking lot and a parking space. I pull into it and then I am petrified in my seat. Everything is terrible, everything hurts and I am feeling what I was feeling the night this began. I am so sick Kevin* has rejected me. I am too sick to love. I am a quaking ball of raw, naked need and pain and I can’t show anyone because I will be hurt. This is the part of me that’s scary. I’m afraid of it and I need help and nobody can see me like this.
I’m screaming at the top of my lungs in sheer terror, the kind of primal wail an abandoned child might make at the moment of comprehension. This is the kind of unhinged that gets people dragged to the psych ward. Nobody will love me. I can’t trust anyone. Nobody can see me like this. All my resources exhausted, I scream and scream. I begin to impulsively hit my head against the steering wheel. I stop; that hurts. I begin to moan, my voice hoarse, then to hyperventilate. I can’t remember how to breathe normally anymore, so I surrender dazed to the thing my body is doing and continue to pant until I begin to scream again. This used to happen after the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001. One time my then-boyfriend called an ambulance. I remember dimly that eventually I will pass out. Passing out would be ok. I hyperventilate some more and I scream some more and then my body begins to go slack and my face softens. I collapse spent into the curve of my car seat and feel numb.
I don’t know how much time passes; I am a shell, vaguely aware of the rain and darkness.
My phone buzzes; a text message. It’s Margy. Margy cares. She’s asking where I am. I don’t think I can move. I don’t know what to do so I tell her;
“I’m downstairs. I flipped out again in my car and now I’m afraid to come up because I’m afraid my shit will be too much for you too.”
Margy responds right away. She’s coming. Where am I? She’s coming to me. It’s raining and I feel guilty making her walk through the parking lot to find me. I don’t remember how to move but I will try. I open the car door and the alarm sounds. I shriek and shrink back inside the car, shaking. I remember that’s what happens when the door is locked. It’s a car alarm; it’s my car alarm. Margy is looking for me. I try again.
I can’t see and there are lights and dark and shapes. I stagger haltingly away from my car. I see spots. I see the front door. I turn toward it and continue struggling to walk. The lights are so bright. I am getting closer to the building. My foot hits a curb. There is a figure standing under the awning. I can barely see. “Margy?” I try to call out and hear my voice a raspy whisper, lost against the rain. I keep moving. It’s taking me so long to get there. She turns and sees me, comes to me, holds me tightly and tells me softly, tenderly and repeatedly;
“I’m so sorry.”
I collapse against my petite friend, dropping my face into her hair and weeping plaintively. A car goes by. The light hurts me. I yelp and pull back.
“Do you want to go inside?”
I nod. She holds me and pulls me toward the building, guides me inside. The elevator, too, is bright and terrifying and I recoil. She holds me around my waist with one hand. With the other, she takes me by the wrist of my hand that’s flown up to protect my face. Her grip is firm, and it gets my attention–pulling me out of the ocean of my pain.
We get inside her door and I sit on the floor. I start to feel things again–my connection to the floor, that I haven’t eaten and am hungry, most of all that I am safe and held, seen and supported.
She’s right; shutting me out was cruel. Not just because I’m vulnerable but because we fundamentally rely on our loved ones for our crucial sense of belonging and worthiness. Because he spoke to me about love and partnership and because that’s what love and partnership are. Love doesn’t work when it’s at your convenience, only when it makes you feel expansive and powerful, something to be tabled when it becomes messy. Love is respect and dignity. Love is honor and compassion. Love is the language of divine light that whispers in our darkest times: I see you. I am here with you. I will not let you go.
The first time I stayed at Kevin’s* apartment we laid on his couch together and he spoke softly to me;
“I see how much you’ve been hurting. I think I understand what you need, and I don’t understand why you haven’t been without it because it’s really simple and not so difficult.”
He was right. What I need is simple and not so difficult; it’s love.
Sitting on Margy’s kitchen floor, I shelter the precarious spark of my own divine light flickering in the darkness. My friend brings kindling and the steadying skill of just enough air to fan the delicate flame. My friend treats me with respect and dignity, honor and compassion. I am loved, she will not let me go–so I hold on.
*Name has been changed