These days, winter comes angrily. Or maybe not. I project onto the weather sometimes, you know. Am I an onion? Strange question, I know. Obvious answers are evident, but who could possibly be that interested in the obvious?! I’ve thought about onions a lot. Vegetables that peel away, layer after layer, until there is nothing left. The (non)core of an onion is but a layer itself, the whole thing is cloak with no-one to dress…
And what about stories?? Stories that I have to tell about myself. People always want to know, who are you? What makes you, you? Why ought we care about anything you have to say? That’s what academia is sometimes. The peeling of the onion and the selling of it. Or worse maybe. I try not to think about that.
So, I sit around and think about who I am and why I am her and nothing really bobs to the surface except for old things I don’t want to accept as truths anymore. Sigh. Back to the drawing board. Come up with something exciting and unique. Think about all the ways you are a minority, an enigma, an exotic: line them up, parade them around the page. That’s good, that’s better. Sit for a second and wait for the words to thicken. Exaggerate everything, make your voice seem louder than a sonic boom, your own life span three times the circumference of the sun. I have been trained to do this and yet I do it so very poorly. Always fumbling, (always scrambling after silly pieces I’ve dropped like a rookie with olive oil for hands) nothing sticks.
Sometimes I remember I am too old to be this bruised by myself. That is harrowing, so I again, try not to think about it. But you can’t hide things in your head too long before you run out of space, and something shatters again and you are left to contend with the aftermath. I am the vase and the crash and the shards and the aftermath. I play each of the parts in my own show, quick-changing in and out of my own consciousness. Today I am good, tomorrow, a student, in an hour I am the employee, the next I am a lost girl in a city she does not know despite having lived in it for three and a half years.
That’s right. This is it. The final stretch. The home run. senior year. Here is where I can no longer stand to be around people more accomplished than me. This is when it becomes sickening, the pile of self-doubt, the looming garden of loathing I have carved into my own chest as retreat. What happens if I graduate with nothing (but a degree…of course) that any of these other students desire?!?! Who will I be if I come home again, with nothing in my hands but a certificate of the end (everyone worth admiring seizes the moment and writes about their undergraduate career on their resume for the rest of their lives…. I spent too many hours writing about sadness what ever did I THINK was gonna happen??).
In the cold room where I live in I feel the uncertainty (the future?) pressing on my back, bending me, breaking me. Sometimes I am too ashamed to pray about it (who am I to ask for anything when I have destroyed so much in my path??) and I wonder what God thinks of me for both the guilt and the pride. I feel a thousand eyes upon me waiting. Sometimes I can see my ancestors laying their heads against my pillow, kneeling by the windowsill, tucked into the corner of the cement wall and the other one. They stare at me, waiting, all waiting. Will she make it? Will she make it? Will she make it? After all these years (and money!!) and all these years (and tears!!) and all these years (and time!!), will she have anything to show for it? My parents have been to the moon and back (carrying a thousand pounds of glory) and I have yet to even name a star. It has been the beginning for so long no one told the middle had passed. This morning I waited for my bus in the wrong line and missed it. The metaphor swallowed me in real time.
I am so swollen with regret that now and again I cannot breathe. Do I take that as a punishment, or surrender to the ancient abyss of “what now?”? Gratitude is a choice, I know. I want to choose it. But I don’t know how (and am absolutely terrified to let go of mourning, it is my one true skill!).