Cathartic. The word has been coming up a lot lately.
They say if you meet more than one asshole on any given day chances are the asshole is you. Staring at the mirror, trying to shake the feeling everything I’ve ever done is wrong and all of it is sitting on my chest.
On Saturday night we listened to The Wall. I stretched out on the couch with my hands wrapped around a glass of water. Remembered sitting next to my dad, his legs crossed toward me, mine curled up and leaning toward him. Both our armrest-hands swirling tumblers of bourbon.
The first note grabs onto my shirt collar and for the next hour-and-a-half I’m staring straight forward, breathing hard. Every once in awhile Mason and I lock eyes and shake our heads. “It just doesn’t make sense. Like… How the hell did they even..?”
My family listened to this album countless times while I was growing up. We had the vinyl version, the CD version, the tape my mom made so we could listen to it in the car. I know every line. Every note. But I hadn’t just sat down and listened to it in years.
Retraced my fingers along the spine of it, inspected the curves. Placed my head on the rise and fall of its chest, moving my lips in sync with its. The words I knew perfectly before I understood them. The words that explain myself to me with a confidence I’m afraid I’ll never learn.
Before I found words, I used these ones. Often they are still the only ones to make sense. When my whole body shakes and the corners of my vision dip in and out of focus. When my hands curl into shapes only good for dragging across bricks, breaking mirrors, or pounding dents into the roof above the driver’s seat. When the things I can’t sort through to explain knit themselves into a nest in the bottom of my throat. My brain just repeats:
There is no pain, you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move, but I cannot hear what you’re saying
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I’ve got that feeling once again
I can’t explain you would not understand
This is not how I am
I can give perfect directions back to the places I learned everything. I can tell you exactly why I associate love with terrible things. Repeat over and over, “I know it’s not right. I’m trying to do it differently. I’m learning. I swear I’m learning.” It is easy to distill out the parts of myself I consider separate. Tag-alongs. Experiences, thoughts, and feelings that complicate the experience, but do not contribute to who I actually am.
Cue existential crisis.
At what point do we admit we are on both the inside and the outside of our wall?