When I close my eyes I see the haunted places inside of me.
That sounds frightening, I suppose. But it isn’t. Or at least it isn’t as frightening as it might be. The haunted places inside me are at once beautiful and terrifying—illuminated, fiercely.
When I close my eyes I find those luminous places that ache and bleed words when I press against them.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. There was a time before I polished these spots until they sparked to life. There was a time when I tried to cauterize the flood of words. There was a time when I closed my eyes and saw only darkness. And a time before that when I saw only blinding light, which is its own kind of obscurity.
When I close my eyes I see that it is possible to make the most painful things the warm glowing light inside you.
If you say the words over and over enough they lose their meaning: “When she was three months old my daughter had cardiac and respiratory arrest.”
When she was three months old my daughter had cardiac and respiratory arrest
When she was three months old my daughter had cardiac and respiratory arrest
Like any mantra, however, they also gain their meaning in repetition. We breathe in and out the things we tell ourselves. This truth animates the inside of me reverberating intertwined messages of gratitude, and fear, and awe.
She lived, she lived, she lived.
And: What if, what if, what if…
And: What’s coming, what’s coming, what’s coming…
My being is altered by this mantra. It is inescapable. My blood pounds out its rhythm. My arms still remember the weight of her tiny limp blue body as I walked through the doors of the ER.
It was just the beginning of her story. Just the beginning of doctors and hospitals and mantras. Just the beginning of an abyss of love and fear and pain.
I have made my home in those haunted places inside me. Lit comfortably in deep warm light and long shadows, I feel like I understand all sorts of truths that eluded me in sunlit time before the dark, their details burned out in the bright light of before. These same truths I dodged in the darkness after, truths I found in the dark as I slid my fingers over them, whispering to them as I learned their crevices, and textures, and sharp edges.
I learned them until my fingertips—blistered and bloodied—and my wavering voice worried glowing life into them.
This is the place that I retreat to when I cannot stomach another photograph of another five-year-old. Another perfect 20-week ultrasound picture. Another night listening to my neighbor’s children running and shouting. Another three month old whose breath does not come in thick and raspy catching in her fluid-filled lungs.
This is the place I retreat to when I cannot hear the words of another parent wrap around to complain about their child—however good naturedly. “He never shuts up,” they say. “Sometimes you must be happy she doesn’t speak.”
This is the place I retreat to when I field the unfounded worries that others seem to think I will understand. “I know it must be hard. Parenting is so hard. I’m constantly afraid she’ll have a brain tumor or something.”
This is the place I retreat to when I see the proud naïve smile—the mirror of my own smile five-and-a-half years ago—dancing on the face of the rounded fertility goddess who cannot imagine, cannot fathom that life would hand her a fragile baby. A damaged baby. A broken baby. An imperfect baby. “Did you know?” She asks, urgent for my reassurance. “Did you know before she was born?”
This is the place I see reflected in the eyes of others who cannot help but understand about the things that other people pretend don’t exist. Strangers, still we recognize each other’s battle scarred insides. We nod to each other’s blazing caverns of anger and vulnerability and strength and truth. And fear.
Always that fear.
We are a tribe that knows things about fear.
About how it can haunt you if you let it. But we are the tribe that knows how you can inhabit it. How you can step inside and breathe life into it. How you can claim it.
How if you whisper to it in the darkness and run your hands over it, you can haunt it.
When I close my eyes I see the lines of my daughter’s body, now five years old.
I feel the weight of her slight frame in my arms.
I hear her whisper the words I long for her to speak.
I taste her skin pressed to my lips.
I smell her breath, sweet and sleepy.
My daughter is there always when I close my eyes. Her inside of me, as before.
She whispers to me, Maman, like this. She guides my hands in the darkness, teaching me the lines of her fear. Or is it my own fear? For her? Of her?
When we find the spot, words appear, bleeding a stain onto the floor, running downward, deeper into the darkness. She steps forward and looks back at me to follow.
Her heart beats along side mine, inside mine. It sounds out, singing her name into light: Esmé, Esmé, Esmé
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “When I close my eyes, I see…” Your hosts:
As always, Finding Ninee
and this week’s sentence thinker-upper, Kerry Kijewski of Her Headache.
So beautiful and so raw + perfect,Girl, you did it. This this this. Perfection and amazing and you know of course that I’m going to ask for this for BTPM right?
Thank you Kristi! I loved the writing prompt! And, certainly, it is all yours for BTPM if you want it 🙂
Gosh! This is just darn beautiful take.
Absolutely loved it 🙂
Thank you! I really appreciate your saying so!
After reading this, my brain, of all things, decided to jump into a medley of Let it Go, “The fear that once controlled me can’t get to me at all…” But it does sound like you faced a lot of our fears we have as parents, and people like you make us face that fear in some way, and I think that’s why people say the wrong thing sometimes. It’s really easy to take our kids for granted, and some of us like being there in that spot in our minds.
Michelle, you’re right. There is something about these sorts of circumstances that bring out all the awkward things…I often feel like people must leave conversations with me and kick themselves thinking, “OMG she’s totally going to write about that awkward thing I said. Shit!” As a person who has said a lot of awkward things in my life, I have a lot of sympathy for well-intended awkward shit. 🙂
Beautifully, agonisingly written. Deliciously bittersweet. All the Feels for your writing and for your situation. Thank you for sharing it so eloquently.
Oh! Thank you so much! You’re very kind 🙂
That fear is shared among many… you’ve described it so well. Wonderful thought about retreating to your place on closing your eyes..and of either being haunted or you haunting them.
Thank you! I’m pleased that moment hit home for you. I’ve been thinking about that haunting notion for some time…it was great to have the chance to just finally get it out 🙂
Beautiful and I’m sure it will resonate with so many Moms who cannot articulate their pain and their fears.
I so hope so. I always feel as though I am writing to someone like myself…Thank you for the kind words!
This line, I love oh so much:
, truths I found in the dark as I slid my fingers over them, whispering to them as I learned their crevices, and textures, and sharp edges.
What a post. So many raw emotions and experiences here. You are right, as our battle scars make us stronger, when we can close our eyes and see the fear for what it is.
Thank you for sharing your story.
I’m grateful for the chance to share this story–thank you for reading it! And, that was my favorite line of the whole thing, I think.
Hey there would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with?
I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m having
a hard time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and
I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Sorry for
getting off-topic but I had to ask! http://www.yahoo.net
Hi Kiersten! Thanks! I’m using WordPress with a theme from theme trust. I would highly recommend going the route of WordPress 🙂
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