I have been drowning and I can feel it now, feel the water leaking into all things called me. Four years ago I cut myself for the last time until four months ago when I pressed the razor into my skin and dragged, ripped fresh flesh open again and remembered for the first time in four years that the blood near my chest is a brighter, fruitier red than the rest. I carved an X into the skin above the bone where beneath it the heart must be, a poetic display of what you had done to me, or so I believed, yet even in self-harm my poetry was embarrassing at best. A week before I had elected to cut my hair instead, my long locks you had loved since we first met and lamented whenever the pressure of Florida heat would weigh down on my scalp as I gave it trims and reinventions over the years you knew me now gone, and with it a face I could recognize. Those years are gone now, and part of me with them. There is nothing to point at to show what is missing, but making ruby and raw steak scabs line my arms and chest like worn trees cut by wind and flying debris is the closest thing to physical proof of damage and loss that I can offer.
It is funny, how when the people everyone tells you are your friends see that you are drowning, none will tell you to swim, none will offer a raft, all will stand from the safety of shore and question why your lungs are aching as fluid fills all like smoke you cannot cough away. The only person who loved me enough to swim out to me and sacrifice the comfort of land surrounding was you, your small soft hands grasping gently but just tight enough to guide me back to shore, water dislodged from lungs swollen as your gentle lips as red as the blood I now wipe away on once white bath cloths in self-orchestrated shame met mine. There is no porcelain-skinned doll setting to swim out to my salvation this time. There is no raven-haired Samaritan bringing me to rescue.
This fluid is closer to dark oil than water now, a lack of light casting all in shades of obsidian and jet black steam in its collective form reaching up to my chest at first, then wavering, lapping at skin as blood streams off in red and pink pearlescent rivulets until I am up to my neck and there is no fear of something deeper below swimming up to swallow me whole for there is no life here, not even within me. Nautical self-exploration of lifeless depression pushed down beneath the surface tension called anxiety. The weight of an emptied heart is truly a curious thing.
This sinking is all I want now; all that comes to me easily like breathing or being does for all others. So much of life is so much easier to them, these self-righteous onlookers not believing that anything could truly be so hard as walking seems to me on those sun-bleached sands now cast in night (hopefully) unending. For so long I fought to stay above the surface but now here I am falling down into oceans unending as I realize that the water was never rising, I was always sinking. The weight of accumulated anxiety and clogged emotional arteries called unconditional love for an abusive, self-entitled, manipulative snake in the garden of my veins wearing a face like yours spray freely like kinks in a hose of blood as depression gives way, drifting downward to the bottom – if there even really is such a thing, information which I doubt for I have been fooled by seemingly steady surfaces in these depths before – while the only monsters in this ocean are memories made of you. I have always been so close to never swimming back to the surface and this time I think I may never long to breathe again, stale air harsher than the fluid filling my throat.
Let this black water fill these tired lungs screaming with polluted air. So what if I cannot see clearly; I had to wear glasses amongst them anyway. Even on the physical level I have been less than all others, never enough, always insufficient, in dire need of supplement, supplement, supplement. Nothing more than a problem, a laundry list of symptoms for which all responsible or surrounding will seek to alleviate from themselves. Commiseration is a foreign idea to them. Let the rays of light from your pale moon echo down and dissipate, wide and low waves of light overextending across the silhouette of me.
When I was a very small boy I saw footage of a crocodile drifting like a feather to the bottom of a murky body of water, predatory and free-falling, a natural machination of destruction and fear. I imagine that now I must resemble it, and for the first time I feel sympathy for something that horrified me so. If I was born into these waters, then maybe they are my own and in this way I am self-absorbed, amniotic fluid in this womb of self-obsession and rumination of aching losses unending. Childhood trauma has nothing on you. A father incapable of love and all too capable of abuses too numerous to name, a neighbor seeking pleasure in the skin of a young boy, a cacophony of collected hatred and distaste spewed from all peers in school across years so formative all have nothing on the ache you cause now. Maybe I am exaggerating. Just another flaw you observed before leaving me for the trash you attract. Not that I am any better.
I want to stop cutting pale skin and start vomiting blood in hopes of spraying all these feelings I have swallowed out of me. For all I share there is so much I will always retain. Never really know me. Never really see me. I will stay in silhouette, a black shape never breaking free of negative space surrounding.
There were songs I used to sing to you as I brushed my fingers through your soft, black-dyed-but-secretly-brown-to-match-your-eyes hair, songs I would let play as I held you, sometimes sleeping and other times approaching there. I play them now as I shut my eyes and try to return to a time that no longer exists, try to recapture memory. But every time I remember something I dissociate the memory further from the truth. In psychology class we both learned that we really just remember the last time we remembered things. I am terrified of the day that I am remembering a memory of all things called you. What will I see in there? What gaps will be filled? What colors will be washed? What horrors will I elect to omit from my mind? How much will I still want you? What am I going to do to myself next? When did I stop being the man you loved and start being the man you mimicked emotion beside?
I used to wear a lot of black because I liked the color. Now I wear a lot of black because you can’t see blood stains form in fabric drawn tight across separated skin. I finally find a bottom. The last bubbles of air flow softly now from a mouth opened wide, jaws ready to swallow this ocean whole. I hope I never see the sun again. My legs can rest down here. My eyes can shut and I can dream and remember a memory named you. I bite my lips and taste the blood and remember a time when you would have put it there and in that memory I find the closest thing to love I can even hope to feel anymore. These reflections of the face you used to hold like something worth handling with care, a wild flower whose petals may fall apart in your very hands if you are not considerate enough, reveal themselves to me inside of the diving bell I crawl in when I must finally breathe again, the copper and bronze dome insulating me now. Soon I will swim out again. Soon I will see where the downward slope of sand leads to. I will let the pressure pop my ears and justify never coming back up for air by telling myself that I am too deep now, ascension will surely give me the bends. Never let me forget these things I tarnish each time I relive them. It is funny, I think to myself, that you will never suffer like this because of me. You are not this wrapped up. You are not this wounded. The blood that seeps from my skin will never attract a shark whose rows of teeth tear into arms you used to stroke so softly as I’d curl into a ball that you would hold while tears burst out of me. I am the only monster here.
Photo by mumucs