At first, you won’t notice it. You will be young and freckled from too much sun, fawn-thin from too much time spent riding bikes.
You won’t notice it because children are not suppose to know sadness. It will feel more like a stirring, a fetal thing waking from a nap. It will keep you up at night worrying about death and saying awkward things on the playground that the other girls perceive as weird.
It will really sink its talons in you during your teen years. It will cause you to open yourself up, not once, but multiple times, as if bleeding enough could purify you. A hairline crack in your foundation, much like a glacier splitting softly from warmth, will start happening. And it won’t stop growing until five years later, even after the hospital visits, even after your father looks at you with a mixture of sadness and pity you can’t explain, even after it’s yawning wide open on both sides of you until you can’t tell the difference between your own darkness from the pitch black of night.
You will be 18 and a walking nerve ending. Winter will make you feel anxious. You will have a problem making female friends. You will go to Vermont. You will be 23, still awkward, still raw. You will go to New Orleans. You will be 25. You will have a good job, a dog and a Honda. You will go to Europe for the first time by yourself.
You will hide it under euphemisms. You will hide it under bulky sweaters and Miller Lite. You will hide it under poetry.
In later years, you will learn to control it, put it in a cage, shove it in the back of your closet, decorate it with pretty window curtains and flowers. You will go to the gym. You will drink plenty of water. You’ll forget about it.
But sometimes, it will come back. It will be a Sunday afternoon or an evening in autumn and you will be left on your knees. You will accidentally trip over something one morning – a book? a table? – and fall, and you will sit there in the dark crying for hours, not knowing why.
And you will come out of it. Maybe in six weeks. Maybe in six years. But you will not emerge like a race horse starting from the gate. You will not bolt into the sunshine, powerfully, charging. You will come out of it more like a victim of an oil spill, your feathers tethered by the weight of it all, flightless.