In melancholy dreams, I am always visiting childhood. Smelling pancakes and my dad’s special hot chocolate of which the secret ingredient is never disclosed to my sister and I. I am standing on the plastic slide in the backyard next to my best friend’s beating heart, feeling feelings I do not understand. I am jumping on a trampoline in my first ever bikini and hyper aware of my legs and my torso and my chest, puffing it out in pride. Bedtime stories where I get to choose the characters. Balcony hops to the apartment next door. Childhood in the white Jeep Cherokee: the smell of the leather seats, the glow of the dashboard, the cool wind from the air conditioner, road trips to California and Georgia and Florida, and winter nights coming home from soccer practice.
On bleak days, I return to the places that made me. And then I inhale, taking in the sweat, dust, and memories, be it lust or love or depression or spiraling or flying or vast obliviousness or whatever is present.
And it’s like—seeing plastic slides in backyards and holding tiny bikinis never used to be a big deal. And smelling pancakes and special hot chocolate has never hurt this much. Like how can sugar and calcium and carbs and fat hurt you? Sugar especially. How can sugar hurt so deeply?
Now is just now until it’s dripping in seconds past. Now is now then. Then is now gone. And in between now and then, there are all the never meant to’s. I never meant to mutter ugly words. I surely never meant to cry into a phone, “I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!” Voice cracking, “I hate you.” I never meant to turn a blind eye to the sadness of my sister. I never meant to break my father and mother’s hearts with my wild eyes and careless actions. I never meant to live a life where I hurt all those who made the mistake of saying hello.
I was sweet and fragile in adolescence, albeit a little too talkative and much too careless. Upon accumulated years and the increase in introspection, I, for a short-lived period, hoped that time would fix the parts of me I didn’t like. But time has done nothing for me. Now? Now I’m a lot of talk, no action. I stand on edges, but I am not daring. And I am not brave. And I am not courageous. And really, I’m just average in my intellectual capabilities (of which I want everyone to think is capacious). And a test from my childhood once told me that I’m below average in spatial reasoning and only average in reading comprehension. Frankly, the only thing I am particularly good at is my capacity to cut feelings, to fuck the love that ones who care for me so desperately try to give. Yes, ask me to turn off my feelings, and I am a champion. Am I proud of this? Absolutely. Am I ashamed of this? Entirely.
If you want to know a secret, there was a time when I used to look into my eyes and search for someone screaming on the inside, but now I look into my eyes and I don’t search at all because I don’t think there is anybody there.
Here’s another little known fact. When I lie awake in bed at night, I stare at the ceiling and tally how many people I wish I wouldn’t have pushed away, and the answer is too high to count. So I just lie in the midnight, hearing only sobs and church choirs and glass breaking and big bangs and silence.
And the guilt of all my erroneous actions and inactions is so encompassing that in moments alone, I am paralyzed by sorrow, trapped in a body of which I wish I could erase completely, just like how a mathematician frustratingly erases a numerical error from carelessly adding 1 + 100. Accompanied only by the tears as abundant as the droplets that fall from the showerhead, all I want is a hug from my five-year-old self saying, “But at least you tried. You tried.” But in reality, it is really just me in the solitude of the bathroom, hugging my 20-year-old self and whispering, “But I am a perfectionist. I am a perfectionist.”