From the Asylum: It Will Help

First, start here and read the series.

They said to write to you, so I did. I wrote something. I wrote something because they said to and they said it would help. “It will help!” they said, so I wrote to you. Apparently maybe I’m not getting better. Dear Lover, maybe I’m not.

My lover has brown hair. Curly, crazy brown hair that changes every day. Like the tides, I used to say. Like a sandbar under changing tides. Have you ever seen pictures of sandbars? Changing all the time. Slowly, of course. My lover’s hair changes every day. My lover has eyes like the princesses do in the movies—the ones whose long lashes frame big round eyes and bat and shimmer when they laugh at things like woodland creatures or Prince Charming or funny TV shows. My lover has a wonderful carpet by the fireplace where he watches the games and the shows. My lover’s home is warm in the winter because there’s a fireplace that always has a tiny spark and the walls are insulated with books and stuffed animals and family photos and so much love. My lover’s home is so goddamn warm that it burnt me the first time I walked in— seared the tough skin I thought I needed. It had messes and it had a dishwasher and worst of all it had family photos and so much love. My lover’s voice echoes through my lover’s lips that I can’t forget and down staircases and sticks to the furniture. My lover’s voice dances with curious confidence, swinging with a fake southern swagger, accented with that beckon, “MOM!” —The call that feigns a demand but acts as a reliant request. My lover’s voice echoes through my lover’s lips that stuck in my mind the first time I saw them. That stuck on the end of my pencil and stuck in every corner of my notebooks the first time I kissed them. Ever since I first kissed them, I’ve been tracing that top lip whose sharp, twin mountains carve down into eternal corner smiles and rests on the softest, sweetest, reddest bed. Over and over again, I traced them— Lips in a big-toothed smile, lips hanging just apart, lips kissing my lips. I traced them and traced them and put them on my wall until you saw them and I lied and said I’m chill. I’m chill. My lover has big hands with long rectangle fingers that never quite fit in mine. My lover has triangle shoulders that stand straight, except when he leans forward at the dinner table to ask you another question with those reddest lips. My lover has legs that let him jump higher than I expected and run faster than I expected and hold him steadier than I expected. My lover wears t-shirts that rest on wide shoulders and basketball shorts that swish around his knees and tennis shoes that I helped him pick out. My lover wears khakis sometimes. My lover wears what he wears because he’s always ready to run but I did my best to make him stay until I didn’t. My lover makes wonderful friends who think he is wonderful, though he’d never notice. My lover tells stories with loud voices and excitement and he’s so damn kind. My lover is funny and made me laugh until 4 in the morning and then he made me laugh until he didn’t anymore and no one knew why. Here, I’ve grown harder. I’ve received, rejected, and accepted advice. I’ve earned Words and worked at disassembling them. I’ve earned Words and often reassembled them. I’ve watched others’ letters stop as others’ lovers fell out of love and the strings they attached unraveled. I became dubious of your stack of letters because I thought I didn’t know you. And furthermore, I thought you forgot who I was when I wasn’t from here. And I got scared that you were part of the present life when I wanted to live in the past. I got scared that we didn’t have enough in common. And I fought you. And I shriveled. And I bore no more fresh fruit for you to taste, but grew thorns I asked you to climb. They say I should explore those feelings. They say I should find how to fix me. And I ripped up your letters and thought I’d feel better and changed my address and so you changed yours and I ripped up your letters and ripped up my letters and got so damn mad and you changed your address you changed your address. You changed your address? My lover has brown hair and a big, warm smile, and isn’t sure about all of this. My lover’s hair was like a sandbar and his mind doubted the voices I made that my mother made too but his voice picked them up slowly and surely. My lover spoke so kindly it hurt. My lover cared so earnestly, I stopped caring. I tripped over the roots and forgot that this was real life and my lover loves me but he changed his address. Brown hair. Long fingers. Soft sheets he always kept clean. Stuffed animals he named and cradled at night “for his shoulder,” whose spots I took. I imagine him now, in bed in his changed address, holding the soft fur of a being he gave a mind to. I imagine him now, in bed holding the heart of the girl he once gave love to. My lover is a man man-enough to be held. A man man-enough to whisper bed times stories. My lover has brown hair and uneven nostrils and a tall head and brows that look like he’s always interested. My lover changed his address and so did I and while I was here in this place with white jackets and walls I lost his letters in a fire I built then extinguished and I can’t find him. They said I should write about him but why write about him when writing about him makes you remember that you lost his address and it’s your fault not his. My lover plays devil’s advocate and it drives me crazy. My lover played devil’s advocate and changed his address. But now I’m here, in the quiet of the night, realizing that I’d rather argue his advocate than wrestle the devil himself.

That’s all I wrote.

One Million Invisible Earthquakes

I’ll call it The Crippling Fear of Leaving No Legacy. How does that sound? Not strong enough to make an impact, I know. Maybe One Million Invisible Earthquakes. That’s slightly snappier. It could start with some boxed Ikea intro like, “Every day, there are approximately 32 earthquakes around the world [I should probably look up that stat before I make it the first sentence]. Almost always, the shiftings, givings-way, and collapses of the Earth’s crust go completely unnoticed, excepting a few needles of a few machines that hop and mark one more rumble on a graph. This is the story of my million invisible earthquakes–My ground-breaking, jolting, foundation-rattling, unnoticed and unrecognized journey away from ‘okay.'”

Perhaps I should keep away from first person, though. I read an interview with an author who said that most bad novels are written in first person. Do I even want to write a memoir anyways? Perhaps I should just keep blogging and keep my three readers happy.

Heres the thing. I want to write a novel. A great novel. One that changes everything tastefully and gracefully. I want to be spotted in cafés in Provence and rumored to have died on multiple occasions in a variety of styles. I want to create legend, but I’m very aware that what I have here is quirky, familiar dialogue. The shit you hear when some girl does a voiceover during the introduction of a rom com right before that record-scratch audio clip that precedes some minor complication, a camera swing, and the premise for a mediocre plot. That kind of stuff doesn’t build legends.

Though it sounds gag-inducing, I’ve always anticipated greatness. During college applications, I wrote a resume that was three pages long and designed to grow into the Moby Dick of excellence. How I Became An Author, Artist, CEO, Nonprofit-Starter, Teacher, Politician, and God. 

Unfortunately, I’m finding that not only do I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life, I also have no idea how I’m going to do it. Undoubtedly, I peaked senior year of high school. Then I entered the big bad “real world” of Harvard College and went to polo practice as my earthquakes started silently rumbling. Things that defined me–interests, drives, relationships, personality traits– revealed more fault lines than I ever could have anticipated. Everything gently collapsed, and the pieces are still gently floating to the ground, dust settling on my city, catching the light and fogging up my horizon. When the earth quakes are silent, you see, no one sees the fall. No one digs through your rubble. Even you don’t give a damn because Look! You’re still standing! You’re smiling, even!

In the immutable restlessness of an undefinable ache, you continue your days and weeks until someone or something knocks on the front door of your mind and asks if anyone’s home. As you search desperately for some cogent set of honest and functional pieces, you realize that the high school achiever isn’t there anymore and all you have is an index of expectations and a dictionary of observational knowledge to undersatisfy them. No one is home–only a storage space of cured memories, jarred emotions, and bottled, aged dreams that all seem to be spoiling.

I am not who I thought I’d be, but what kind of pride is it to assume that I deserve to write those words? “I’m not who I thought I’d be…” Who is? How could I be? how could I ever have anticipated where I’d go and if I’d follow that path? There is no uniqueness there.

That’s an interesting discovery I’ve made since exploring this diagnosis I’ve earned of anxiety. The more I research, the more I find patterns of thought and behavior I completely identify with–thoughts like “I’m not good enough for this,””How can I make it through the day?” or “Anyone could do this… Then why am I still shaking?” There is great comfort in knowing that the darkness doesn’t only touch you… That there are others in that shadow. These moments of connectedness are often minimized, however, by a sense of overdramatic and naive provinciality.

I’m not the first person to have unfounded fears. I didn’t invent travel nervousness. If there is a romantic sadness about anxiety, it fits in the rom com I was writing the voiceover to earlier. Emotional, yes. Difficult, hell yes. Unique and poignant? Not quite.

But, just like any post about anxiety I’ve seen, I must conventionally end on a happy note. I must remind myself that it isn’t my job to tell a fantastical story. It is my job to tell the story I know, and to tell it well. Even if I write fiction, I write with my pen, at my desk, drawing on words and voices and echoes in my mind.

One Million Invisible Earthquakes won’t ever shake the world and flatten mountains. They are invisible. They are unimportant. But they are the story I know I can tell.