It’s like a word train, one hooking right after another and frequently stopping to block traffic for no obvious reason before chugging along again, slightly briefer or longer though never quite making sense.
After a long session of preening and poking about and taking pictures of myself with my bright red lipstick and my cat’s eye eyeliner until I found one I really, really liked, we went to the mall today. My little sister and my mother and I. I didn’t buy anything because I was kind of in a daze.
So I’ve mentioned how my back and really my neck have been killing me every morning? Well, it’s sort of extended well past morning right now and it’s been stiff and painful all day and after the mall goings on and my pre-menstrual emotional upheaval, my dear mother was getting concerned for me. And this is not in the basic attention way I like and crave. She was actually concerned that something might be wrong with me which, whether it’s true or not, is not something I actually want to share with anyone or actually try to face and resolve. But my mother has read books on pressure points and massage and really, at this point, my neck was bothering me so much that I felt entirely meek and sort of past defending my completely false sense of personal gravitas that would usually prohibit me from letting someone take care of me or touch me or anything like that. So naturally, she’s appalled at the knots in my back and how stiff I was and my little yelps of pain as she pushed into the knots for 8 seconds and eventually she had me lay down on the floor and she was rubbing this pain cream into my back and shoulders and it hurts so much I just start involuntarily crying and all my liquid eyeliner pools below my eyes and I can’t explain to anyone that the tears are not just because she’s pressing where it hurts and it’s hurting but because it’s foreign touch, a sensation so foreign to my skin and I’m laying there in front of the both of them just completely wracked with agony and loneliness and emotion and all the stress of work and the way I sit and my hunched over shoulders bent to protect me from any stray eyeballs and the empathic trailings of the hundreds of randoms at the mall battering around in my head like a bird at a window. Just overwhelmed with emotion, so it’s spitting out of my face, and it’s making my mother’s concern even more severe. She says it shouldn’t hurt like this and my little poetic brain so flush with all those hormones that have the semiotic gift, reads a thousand layers into that statement and more tears come and I can say nothing but thank you. Thank you for helping me.
Of course, then my sister says “Maybe your back hurts because you have such gigantic boobs.” Which is funny, now, to type. But then it felt pretty shitty because when you’re in this sort of semiotic free-fall, everything connects to the meanings of everything else and you sort of trip through your own memory, illuminating everything as you go. I think about tits. About being among the first in fifth and sixth grade to have them, about feeling swollen and broken and unready to own any of it. Completely ashamed. Back then, I figured that if you bent your shoulders and hunched a bit, you weren’t thrusting anything out at anyone. You weren’t asking for anyone to be aware of you at all. Long hours of computer work, abject shyness, whatever it is, I am slowly crippling myself just by living.
She says these kind of things in an effort to help me. Or so she thinks. She points out that my lipstick is too bright and messy. She tells me my jeans are too short. Am I wearing that? Why am I not answering her? She rhetorically asks. If I’m going to be such a bitch, we’ll just go home! I used to think that she thought she was better than everyone, but I’ve seen enough of her insecurities to know that’s not true. What’s true is this: she just thinks she’s better than me. I try and consider if there’s anything in that to motivate me, but right now, I just don’t…know. I want to be mad at her in the vein of our usual rivalry, but what rises to the surface is that if she thinks she’s better than me, maybe she’s not the only one. Maybe given every thought in my head today about how she dares to walk around in the world without pulling at her clothes to better cover herself, her appraising eye turned outward instead of in, I must think she’s better than me, too.
But I always forget that the revelations I come to when I’m in that sort of headspace are not always coming, whole cloth, to everyone else. So I gather myself up, slowly, dab out my raccoon eyes and breathe and try and have a good dinner and I drive home and have a nice visit with my friends, however brief and try and keep pushing my shoulders down. I do feel better, but maybe also more keenly aware of how big the hurt was and how much could come back.
I am a good person, but sometimes I just feel so stuck in a quagmire.