I’ve never been more aware of the fact that I’m constantly falling at the earth, making my way through its gravity and losing my footing, only to regain it in transience. I’m moving, the drums are pounding, and I’ve never felt so much like myself. Better yet, I’ve never felt so perfect in myself, so content in my existence. With every quirky, awkward movement of my limbs I push myself further and further past exhaustion and into a numbness that’s the closest thing I’ve ever felt to home, the only thing that has ever felt like mine.
Images ooze into the cracks of my brain like honey through nervous finger tips. My chest is tight and my throat won’t close, preparing for this massive eruption of fervor that has remained dormant for so long. I can’t stop moving. Every fissure in my skull expands until Pangea is no more. I’m surrounded by beautiful bodies, lost in their illusions of stability, only hoping that the illusion can be mine, as well. But I’m not there at all. I feel weightless until I’m three years old back in that chair behind my mom in our messy old living room, making pictures on that magnetic drawing pad and watching the tears stain her cheeks while my dad — Daddy — looks stern and cross, saying words that I don’t remember noticing.
Now I think I’m playing Paint on the computer, making those stars just like my brother taught me. He’s only my half-brother but I don’t care. My mom rushes past me, then leans down real close, the smell of coffee and cigarettes settling into a familiar comfort. She tells me everything in a rush, or maybe that’s just how it’s become inside of me. She’s leaving but I can’t come. She’s gonna be gone for a while but I can’t know where because Daddy can’t know where. Then she’s gone. I’m six years old.
My chest grows tighter and tighter. With every word I type my throat swells and pulsates and breathes life into every image. I can’t write this. Here, now, we’re all dancing, leaving our impression on the surface of the earth and becoming these “eternal graceless circles” inspired by the entropy of a Gatsby mansion.
It could be weeks or months later; I’ve yet to develop any sense of measurement beyond bedtime. The house had seemed empty until she came back and made it full again. I’m sitting in her lap for the first time in what feels like millennia, and she’s talking with Daddy in a different way, now. It’s a way that seems so cordial and adult like, a way that feels safely tucked away from angry voices on a restless night. Mom’s going to keep me with her for a while, and Daddy’s going to let her. I’ve never been so happy as she twists her fingers through my tangled, childish hair.
The sun becomes tangible on my skin as each recollection becomes tangible in my esophagus. I just keep getting up and walking around, step by soothing step, changing the scenery so as to lessen my sensitivity, kind of like walking through a doorway and forgetting what you were thinking about. Now I’m sitting on the living room floor at my grandma’s house coloring in the white space on one of those fuzzy posters. My mom and sister and grandma are around me. She’s only my half-sister but I don’t care. I think someone hears a noise, or at least something provides the indication that a precautionary peak through the blinds is necessary. I’m jerked from my position on the floor and carried to my granny’s bedroom at the very back end of the house, hyperconscious of the uncapped markers left to dry out on the floor. Mom’s leaning over shushing me, my sister is beside me, we’re crouched at the side of the bed as mom rushes out.
I can hear screaming. I recognize Daddy’s voice reverberating off the cheap wood paneling that lines the walls of the single-wide. I can hear stomping, pounding, bodies falling against tables and walls and the box fan in the window. The door flies open and he charges in, jerking me up with his tough, grease-stained hands — the same hands that throw me up in the air in an alley-oop fashion and tickle me until my sides hurt– and slinging me over his shoulder.
I still hear screaming. Now we’re both barreling down the front steps and he’s throwing me into the car. Mom’s holding on to the side of the car as he’s backing down the dirt road, dragging her with us. She’s sobbing for me, screaming for me to open my door as dust from the driveway forms a smoky haze around us. I dive for the handle but he’s too quick, his thick, dark arm slams me back against my seat just in time for him to lock it. I know nothing of the drive home, only of being dragged back into our own single-wide trailer to cry breathlessly for my mama in a little plastic chair in our messy old living room. Daddy’s pacing back and forth, only it’s not really him. He keeps barking at me. Shutup! Shutup! Shutupshutupshutupshutupshutup. But I can’t. I’m six years old. I just keep chewing on grass, piece after piece. I get lost in the rhythm as my teeth make an impression on every
blade. It’s something I can feel and follow and hold onto.
Now I’m the daddy’s girl I’ve always been. Maybe it’s third or fourth grade. I’m living with Daddy because he’s the responsible parent who gives me baths and takes me to school. He plays with me outside and reads me books and tells me about astronauts and carries me back to my bed when I pretend to fall asleep just so he will. He loves me more than anything. When I see mom she is beautiful but unhealthy. Some days she doesn’t get out of bed. She doesn’t give me baths or take me to school. I just lay in bed with her, with her unconscious body, feeling the rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall of her chest, breathing in her smell and her beauty and wanting her to just be mine. It’s not her fault. Her chain is just too heavy to lift. If I’m not careful it’ll urge her further and further into the crust of the earth until I never see her again. She keeps asking me when I’m going to come live with her. I just always say I don’t know. That’s one more link to drag around. She loves me more than anything.
New places and new families become my own. But not really mine. They tell me but I don’t hear. Here’s my new wife. Here’s your new brother. Here’s your new house. And here’s your new school. I can’t remember the last time I touched my mom without cringing. One time she sat me in her lap like old times and I jumped when she playfully nibbled my ear. I pull further and further away because I can’t settle. I’m not allowed to settle. I’m always on the outside. Who do you choose? It’s your decision. It’s MY decision. My fucking decision. I’m like a satellite orbiting around every decision, every home, every family; there’s always something missing. Me. I think I’m always missing.
A traitor. Wherever I am I betray where I’m not. I get angry because I’m indecisive. I get angry because I’m unstable. I get so fucking angry until I don’t know what angry is and I shut down. Mom knows I’m heartless. Mom knows I’m cold and hollow and selfish and a traitor. Who could love him. For a while I didn’t, couldn’t. I couldn’t love anybody. But now I can and it’s wrong.
I can’t tell what’s precious and what’s pointless. I’m parasitic by nature. Every person I encounter I must love and devour. My destruction reaches the most innocent of bystanders before they can realize and run away. I spread myself to touch everything I can’t, everything I shouldn’t, because I’m absent and empty and I’ve never stood in one place long enough to determine where I am. But here I am because of love. They passionately held each other together until they passionately ripped each other apart. Then they loved me. They loved me more than they had ever loved anything in the entire world. They loved me until each one of them raged inside me and ripped me apart just like they ripped each other apart.
They’re like planetesimals that continued to grow until each of them finally gained enough influence over me to trap in their individual gravities. I’ll never be a whole piece of person. I will always love the man who dragged my mom along with a moving car so he could keep me as his own, and I will always love the woman whose self-loathing pushed me further and further away until it seeped into my own.
So I’ve got to keep moving. I’ve got to stay as far away from comfort as I can before the illusion of solid ground can shift and disorient me all over again. And here are the drums that carry me. My body sways and stutters but it doesn’t stop, it can’t stop. The rhythm fills my entire body until it runs through my blood, leaks from my bones like marrow and still is never really complete. I just keep moving, falling at the earth and making my way through its gravity. It’s inconsistency weaving in and out of a constant force of nature. It’s falling, and it’s mine.