And like any artist with no art form, she became dangerous.
Toni Morrison, Sula
My dreams are predictably nonsensical, now: apocalyptic, anachronistic, antagonistic, undone. When the night-panic returns, and my mind is sober, it betrays one vision, which lingers like a long scream. I close my eyes and the world dies out. I see things of terrible beauty, I see things you could scarcely imagine.
I see a mirrored face of not-mine. I see a single eye that blinks, tattooed across the night-skin of the sky. I see hands, so many hands, reaching out. I see buildings that leer like broken teeth. I see the rich, raw earth inviting me to coil myself in its chasms. I see the sycophantic glimmer of the blind, unfeeling moon. I feel that shame, the childhood shame, and it guts me as I glean and I gleam.
Perhaps this is why poets drink themselves to sleep, why prophets do not dare to dream. But then, maybe it is simply the season. I always go a bit mad in the springtime.
At least I am not what I once was–some undesired life compounded by attractions that nearly proved fatal, a mortician’s spectacle intent upon undoing itself. To read my journals now is to read the ravings of a child born wanting: a need incarnate, bound to the bodies that loved her own. Defenseless or indefensible, I was my own suffering’s source. My yearnings betrayed an utter lack of plain stability, and the horror was mimicked in the very fabric of my existence, in the structure of the world I created around myself—for those who build worlds are condemned to live in them, and this is especially true of women.
I hope I do the right thing, this time around. I hope I hurt less people. I don’t want to be this, exhausting, volatile, unpredictable, violent, extreme. I want to be closer to normal. I want to rest easy. But I also want to burn. I want to be beyond this body, to not be tethered to a thing that takes on scars so easily. I want to relinquish the pain but not the nightmare.
I read theses reams of ink that curled and dried, so long ago now, on the pages of diaries I still cherish and still loathe. I was so vulnerable then, so open, so strangely naked to the world. I hung my love and my self on the cross that was their faithlessness, their inconstancy: reaching between my own ribs, I plucked out my own heart, the lovely, crimson thing. Like a fledgling bird, still fragile, it hardly had a pulse. Desperately, recklessly I offered it to whatever words or fingers happened to worm their way into my life. I hoped someone would care for it, because I did not know how.
Now I am older, and so much more a stranger to myself. No more torn clothes and bleeding soles, no more howling winter winds and screaming at the streetlights. Are there things that even I cannot forgive or outrun? Have I found them? Does it matter? Losing her was just the punctuation mark on a sentence my father started when I was nine years old.
I should have been a proper girl, with kissed lips and starry eyes and half-staged love affairs, sitting on the harbor docks and combing out my sea-swept hair. I should have been a woman like the ones I saw in pin-up magazine pages, back when I was growing young, the cheap lipstick and candy skin. I should have been an image to be flattened out, cut and pasted, then forgotten, with a glassy smile to break and fade with the last of the summer skies.
Instead I am genderless, purgatorial, impure, with my father’s blunted bones and caustic mind, and my own strange desires, and clusters of burns, and knots of memories altered by chemicals, and that grudging will to live that even the fires could not purge. I want to wander the alleyways of cities I’ve never seen. I want to dance on glass and live on smoke and dream new languages. I want to bear down beneath the breaking waves , and lose myself to the dim Atlantic. I want to make love in strange places, to be desirous and dangerous, to be abhorred and enraptured all at once.
But it is a foolish, selfish thing, to wish for prolonged madness. I am still a part of some world beyond my walls. I owe it to the rest of them to remain sober, and wary, and comparatively sane. I have to feel my own affections move through me, like memory through a living mind, flaring then fading, and I must not try to keep hold of them for too long. I must wait for the day when I wake up and I realize that it feels better, that I have healed, and I can live as an ordinary person–not as the product of a past I cannot forsake.
To live or love at all, you must know yourself sincerely, must know your own strangeness and your own conviction. You have to understand what parts of you to cultivate, and which ones to fear. When the cold spring morning comes, you walk out and face it. You cannot consider it. You must not delay.