The Introvert Girl Gang is the first place anyone ever told me that running away is easier if you’re already going somewhere. This was something experience taught me but I’d never heard it said before and I almost cried at how much it explained. This was why I shrank at the thought of vacations. This was why I hadn’t applied to more than one college — because that might mean not leaving but having to return home. Not that that’d made much difference. I went to college anyway. I ran away anyway.
A slow study in pressure. How much travel could I handle, how long could home escalate before I decided no more. It happened slow, bordering on silent, smothering magma-hot and black until I could see no horizon.
The summer I visited Mo is a blur.
Brian had been worse than ever and I had been living in a fog of flashbacks and ash. Nightmares about my teeth splitting apart in my mouth, falling flat against my rotting tongue followed me into the morning. I could always smell him and taste him and hear him breathing. Even at night the house wouldn’t quiet.
I visited Mo. I had nothing to lose.
Her mother was compassionate and rough and waited with me through panic and had no patience for my pretending at spinelessness. Her laugh was a balm for my nerves. She did not flinch at cutting away those dead things that no longer served a purpose. She was kind.
I simply could not leave again. The perfect excuse to carve out a place where I could breathe fresh air and madness and rain and remember that there is nothing quite like volcanic soil and rot for growing things.
It’s easier to run away when you’re already going somewhere. It’s easier to stay gone once you’ve planted something there.
I never left the house as a child. I do not know if this might be called agoraphobia but I had few friends and a great fear of the unknown that culminated in my only rarely escaping home.
Simply having the fear does not mean it was mine. I held it, kept it dear and safe, I had it, but it wasn’t mine. Not at first. That would come later.
Eventually I could not be made to leave my room except to go to school or to sing… Not that I ever truly went there but worlds away on ceilings and through crosswalks to watch classes and security guards drift by between narratives of kidnapped long-lost brothers thought dead in need of rescuing, wicked and neglectful mothers, deceptive lovers traded in for Sapphic best friends and touring bands. They told me I got straight A’s, read at a post-college level, was supposed to be in the 6th grade at age 8 but couldn’t be because of the social detriment that would cause– despite never attending to a single class during these years I guess I eventually figured out that as long as I turned in work no one would be disappointed in me and I was and ever will be a whore for praise.
Of course when I changed schools at fourteen I could no longer tiptoe the tightrope of dissociation-dissent, balancing worlds blissfully between my palms, atop my crown like so many dozens of books so I kept reading– Dante Orwell Milton Huxley– while my grades plummeted to the center of the three ring circus stories below. Kicking up dust I was too high to choke on. Who needs a safety net when you’re convinced you won’t fall in the first place?
I remember I was constantly bored. Moored in reality. Knee-deep in the muck of it, sanguine silt sticking thick between my toes slowing me down for years making me talk to peers, teachers, people I could not consider my friends because they were all imbeciles.
I had no respect for anyone anywhere outside of choir where I was required to make something— until I began to study the science of murderers and how to hunt them. Blood spatter was the subject that resonated most and to this day I can calculate the angle of it, identify a number of tools from the impressions they leave on a surface covered in it. Spatter, never splatter. No L. These were my two passions: music and death.
I didn’t read a book written by a woman until my senior year. 124 may have been spiteful, full of a baby’s venom but she made me kind. Beloved taught me empathy and rage and how to use my teeth and in retrospect I probably didn’t have a right to any of these things– but desperation was a second skin in those days and these lessons were sorely needed if I was ever going to leave the house.
I didn’t know I was in love with her at the time, I had no idea what love was I was too busy being full of grief and hate and sorrow and having a chip on my shoulder the size of the Great Basin. I’d just transferred schools from the slums to the rich side of town where no one knew or liked me and I was smarter than everyone but they refused to put me in all Honors classes– you wouldn’t believe how much this offended me. Or maybe you would. If you know me personally you definitely know how much this offended me.
Her name was E–
She had red hair that was four feet long and the end of her braid was thicker than my wrist. She sang mezzo-soprano in choir but preferred alto because it was harder. Spoke French fluently and casually whenever she could and was learning Chinese, wrote with fountain pen, and was taking 6 AP classes. She carried those textbooks everywhere and I wanted to carry them for her. She painted one of the murals outside of the choir room herself, a reproduction of Picasso’s woman descending steps or something like that.
She wore square-framed blue glasses and was one of the only students at McQ (the school) who was kind to me and did not think I was weird or gay (a bad thing there) for complimenting her all the time. And I did tell her all the time I thought she was beautiful and cool and smart and sang so beautifully and skillfully. She had soft, delicate hands with perfect fingernails. Her penmanship was perfect.
I didn’t know if I wanted to marry her or be her– I was 14 and couldn’t fathom a world where I could marry another girl so I settled for trying to be her.
Which is why now I’m a redhead who sings soprano with big blue glasses, fountain pens, and a lust for knowledge that is unparalleled. Granted a few of these traits I already had but E– influenced me during that short semester I knew her. I don’t even think she knew who I was.
She cut off all of her hair when she graduated high school. Now she’s an MD– I don’t know her specialization. I hope she still sings though. I can’t possibly begin to describe the timbre of her voice to you.
No wasted time.
No wasted days.
Only the best cheesecake will do.
a wise person once said
there is poetry in brutal efficiency
which I suppose is why
we remake our bodies and souls
temper bones like steel–
damn the consequences.
There was desperation behind those words
mirroring my own maybe this is why
I loved, idolized our captain
at the helm of the ship her voice
shy of cracking and
too well-trained for betrayals as cheap
as fear of death and broken homes.
She spoke a language I understood.