You have my word

One word can change your life.

They did that to you. It was not your fault.

cp-luhprpwm-christopher-campbellWhen home is ripped from your belly like a harpoon from the heart of a whale, you get used to forcing yourself to swim despite the bleeding – despite the pain, despite the monsters that come in dark waters. Because if you don’t you will sink in red till black and rock and depth overtake.

They did that to you. It was not your fault. You would not gouge out your own insides. You would not maul your own skin. You would not spear your own heart.

Repeat those words till your mind becomes the same colour as the sea.

There are whales here with hearts the size of houses – the size of homes. There are whales with veins big enough for a man to walk in, big enough for a man to live in, big enough for a man to break in. Big enough for a man to kill in.

This is for each one that made it out of the heart of the whale. You made it out alive. You have only yourself to thank (if “thank” is even the right word). I won’t say you survived; that only puts a timer on how long you have to live and you’ve already been through enough.

They’ll tell you that you were looking for trouble. They’ll ask what you were doing so far from the shore. They’ll make it seem like they would have done something. They’ll leave you feeling like it was your fault. They’ll try make you forget.

They did that to you. It was not your fault. You would not gouge out your own insides. You would not maul your own skin. You would not spear your own heart.

There will be days when you are afraid. You will not know when the next monster will show its face. Despite this, do not hide. Use all the strength you have to keep showing up – looking up. Keep your chin up; hold your head high. Don’t sink below the surface.

When the waves come, thrash harder than the tide. Tumble with the crash only to break the swell. Do not succumb to the wind – fight back. Fight till you have it on your side; it will carry you from here.

You will never have to flee the spear and barrel and trigger again. When you avoid the heart of the whale you might avoid death.

This is the only time I will tell you to stay away from a heart that’s bigger than yours. This is the only one that does not love. It is not safe; it is dark. Find another – it might be smaller but it will be lighter. Find one that is big enough for only you. No one else. This will be your new home.

Stay.

When I left you, they did what you never got to do

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I know your voice like I know the voices in my head. They are not gentle. They are still breathing down my back, their hands around my neck. This isn’t a conversation; this is an interrogation that I haven’t been able to walk away from yet.

I know the beating is coming. I know there is still much more to endure before I crawl across the glass they’ve scattered over the path to the door. They do all they can to keep me here. Their questions are Chinese water torture. They do not win because of their power; they win because of their persistence. Like a river through stone. Like glass run down by sand. Like a prisoner with a rock hammer. Like their words… their slurs… their swearing… the shame they IV into my veins too fast for my body to process.

My blood goes cold. But do not assume that I have frozen – that I have stopped feeling. I am an ice sculpture waiting to be worn down by the heat of their hands. They grip my arms and legs, I am strapped to a bed with leather cords from the tail of a whip. I am slave. I am trick. I am not treat. I am not sweet. I am waiting. I am hating every moment their hands touch my skin. I am spread-eagle pain – Vitruvian display. Just a girl. Just this bed and this girl and these voices in my head. Just you.

Just you with the stale stench of greed as you enter the room. You always want more. You always want me. You always want pieces I thought I’d be able to keep to myself, but I was wrong. By the time I’m untied and set free, with leather lashings still speaking for me, I will have nothing left. You will have taken it all, and I won’t have been your first. I have no doubt that I am not your last.

I am your prize trinket till rust and ruin begin to show – the thing you thought eternal has begun to get old, has begun to age, has begun to grow, has begun to grow up, has begun to want out, has begun to fight back, has begun to know better, has begun to want less of this, has begun to want death. Rather dead than beatings and bruises between my legs, across my chest, in my head.

The voices in my head leave bruises. I should be grateful that no one else can see those like they can see the leather scars left around my wrist – a testament to your madness, a testament to my numbness.

I thought that when I finally left you – when the sound of your words became a mere scratching on the air somewhere – that I would leave the voices too. But all that leaving you did, was give them more space to do what you never got to do.

A self-portrait in metaphor and rhyme

 

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Please don’t ask me how I am; I’m going to be fine. If you give me even a little of your time, I know I’ll have to explain more than you want to hear and more than I want to say so please… carry on with your day, carry on with your life – go home to your wife and tell her you love her because you don’t know when will be the last time.

The first time I told someone I loved them, I was sat in a very uncomfortable, badly-upholstered two-seater dirty-cream couch that was stiff enough to starch a shirt and not quite deep enough to hide myself in especially because all these throw cushions. What’s up with throw cushions anyway?

Anyway… I have never regretted so few words so much, in such little time, in so many ways that I’ve kept track of every single second I’ve said it since then just to make sure that it never comes out as strained as it did – especially when I one day say it to myself.

I have never said “I love you” to my body. I never told myself that I look lovely, I’d rather be put on a shelf in an abandoned house on that street we used to live on when I was five. When life wasn’t too complicated… well… when life wasn’t too clear in a five-year-old’s mind to be complicated. My body belongs on a shelf in an abandoned house on the street I saw as my yellow brick road, but it never led anywhere golden.

It just led to scraped knees and saying goodbye to friends that leave and getting lost and training wheels that would get stuck on stones and then falling and then broken bones and then broken homes and the only difference is that a doctor can’t fix that. They can prescribe pills and ask how it feels and give you medicine and tell you to come back for a check-up and the last time I checked, you can’t medicate memories without killing off your own character in the story. You can’t preach away adultery or prescribe treatment for a wound that isn’t visible on your skin. Can’t you see that we’re rotting? Can’t you see the bleeding? Can’t you see that the heart has already stopped beating and we’re just waiting for someone to declare the time of death.

When it finally happens, it will probably be a Sunday, at 11:45. I will have a talk with the moon and he will try and convince me of all the light that still exists and I’ll tell him that I know; I have pale skin. That’s proof enough that there’s light enough to still keep me a little white despite the sins.When I close my eyes I still see flickers and sparks in the dark and in the tunnel they tell me I’m walking through there is something bright at the end – like the sun or a train or my life, or just somewhere I can be everything and nothing all at once without having to worry about the right words to use when I explain myself.

Somewhere without having to worry about a convincing way to tell you “I’m fine”. Without having to worry about the fact that even that simple phrase has already wasted too much of your time and I have said more than I wanted to say… I imagine you’ve heard more than you came here to hear.

Because you know it’s not true.

Use your words, love, use your words

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When I use my words I take back the power that I have given the silence. It’s not easy; it’s a wrestle to draw the words out of the depths. It’s painful trying to name the thing I least want to name. She reminds me gently: “Use your words, love, use your words.”

They don’t pour out as I would expect them to. I am no stranger to words and it frightens me that I don’t know which ones to use or what order to put them in. So the wrestle continues and I find myself in this vortex of stifling what really needs to be said. Until… I open my mouth and for the seconds stretch aeons before I utter the first sound. I say “sound” because the groan that escapes can’t be attributed as a full word just yet. Language is a series of sounds and it comforts me to think that if I make enough sounds I might eventually be able to make a word. “I wish it didn’t have to be this hard.”

I feel the mountains shake with these softly uttered words and this light shell heart and these shaking hands and this strained voice. I don’t offer much in the nine words that make it out, but I offer what I have. It’s not enough, but at least it’s something. My words now matter.

I have encroached a little bit into silent enemy territory; I have reclaimed some of what was taken from me. If I refuse to use my words, I refuse to own who I am – I refuse to acknowledge where I picked up what I now carry. When I speak, I am being true to who I am; I am giving myself a chance to make better – make right within myself.

In the words of Shane Koyczan, “Make us comprehend the urgency of your crisis. Silence left to its own devices, breed’s silence. So speak and be heard. One word after the next, express yourself and put your life in the context – if you find that no one is listening, be loud. Make noise. Stand in poise and be open.

That is the power that I am taking back from the silence.

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