Seconds and Thirds: On Putting Back the Middle

It was my last night watching Eva Grace before we hit the road again.  The time before this, she was hardly talking.  Now, she was all ringlets and ideas.  We read one last story three times, and I sang her that song I had written when she was just ten tiny toes and diapers.  Finally, I was closing her door.

“Goodnight, Eva Grace,” I said.

“Goodnight, Miss Mallory,” Eva said to me.  “I’ll see you when I’m bigger.”

“I’ll see you when I’m bigger, too,” I said.

I don’t know why I said it, though.  All I have ever been doing is trying to make myself smaller.

I forgot until my Someone and I visited for two weeks.  Two weeks at my parents’ house is enough time to stir up all sorts of nostalgia.  And also enough time to conjure old fear.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, a three panel cabinet above the sink.  And right where one panel meets the other, a section in my middle disappears.  My arms are still there, and if I stand just right, I look perfectly proportional.  Except skinny.  Skinnier.

After my childhood baths and showers, I remember creating time vacuums standing there, willing myself small.  I counted it as motivation.  I counted it as something to work toward.  But all I was doing was cutting out my middle.  And no matter how perfectly aligned I stood and how good it looked, it was still disproportionate.

Ten, fifteen, twenty years later, standing in front of that same mirror, finding myself again in the same crevice, I furrowed my brow.  This middle of me that was missing was missed.  I moved to the full center panel.

That’s me.  Complete.  I smiled.

“Goodnight, Mallory,” I said, “See you when I’m bigger.”

I have a friend who is amidst carrying her fifth child.  She posts occasionally beautiful pictures of her pregnant self, openly reassuring that she is still someone who is lovable for who she is and not for what she is doing.  I mark “like” on each one.  Not because of how she looks, but because of who she is.  And this friend, she reminds me and the rest of the internet that her body isn’t something to be dissected, not to be laid hands on, not to be commented on, but that she is a person in there.  A full person.

Lately, I have been taking up exactly the amount of space that I am.  I have stopped apologizing for taking seconds.  I’ve stopped explaining my love of late night snacks.  Instead, I eat when I am hungry and laugh at the funny jokes that are being told over dinner instead of eyeing the last potato and wondering if I am deserving of it.  I don’t have to eye the last piece.  It’s already on my plate.

I am building up my middle– I am making sure that it is full.  And I am finding that the less I apologize, the bigger my insides are getting.  Soon, I will be able to say what I think right when I think it, instead of wondering if anyone wants to hear it.  Potentially with a mouthful of peanut butter tofu.

Virgins and Whores: On Selling Big Russian Novels.

My Someone isn’t going to finish his big Russian novel.  Each year when we trace back to my sister’s attic and exchange the books we read this year for the books we intend to read in the coming year, he picks up his big Russian novel.  He turns it over and makes a declaration.

“I’m going to read this big Russian novel this year,” he says.

“Do you want to read it?” I ask him.

“I should read it,” he says.

“Do you want to read it?” I ask him again.

“It seems like something I should read,” he says.

“Are you going to read it?” I ask.

“Maybe next year,” he says.

Each year he puts it back in the box for the next year.

“Next year, I am going to read this big Russian novel,” he says.

My Someone and I are recently learning how to get rid of the things we believe to be true about ourselves that are maybe not true, and are working, after we get rid of those things, to believe we are still good and whole.  This includes, but is not limited to, my following ambitions to become:

  1. a yoga instructor.
  2. a car mechanic.
  3. a park ranger.
  4. a person who loves sunsets without feeling sad or stressed out.
  5. a person who can sit with a hot cup of tea and sip it while watching the snow fall and not believe that I should, instead, be cleaning or cooking or writing a novel.
  6. someone who writes a novel.

The things we are getting rid of are not all bad things.  Having enough know-how to tell the difference between an oil leak and a transmission leak is fun, but does not destine me to become the only mechanic for miles around in a small town in Wyoming.  This also doesn’t mean that I can’t change my mind.  But like my Someone and his big Russian novels, sometimes keeping that intention around only makes me angry with myself that I am not yet the thing that I’m not sure I am or want to be.

Giving up my dream of chewing my gum really hard and polishing my ratchet while giving a bad estimate actually makes me enjoy the work of changing our tire on the side of the road instead of kicking myself for not seeing it needed changing earlier.

“If you take this Big Russian Novel, you have to put back these other three books you actually want to read,” I told him.  It was true.  We have limited space in the camper, and a Big Russian Novel is more room than we could afford.  “It’s your choice.”

“I am selling my Big Russian Novel,” my Someone said.

“What?”

“That’s it.  I’m not going to read it!” he said, a little louder than he intended.

“If you want to be someone who reads a Big Russian Novel, we can always buy you another Big Russian Novel,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, “but now, we need gas money.”

And that is how my Someone shed his guilt and sold his Big Russian Novel and put our first tank of gas into our truck for our third year living wild and free.

But then there are these things:

“I want to know,” he said to me, “if you were actually innocent in all of this, or if you were some sort of teenage vixen making part of this happen.  Because I don’t want to be with someone who was anything but innocent in this.”

This was the man who felt he had rescued me from the man who had been abusing me.  This was one of our last conversations, and the moment I realized I was not only alone, but also needed to keep quiet so that no one else could tell me to be ashamed of the years I spent with a Bad Guy who did bad things to… and with… me.

It’s the “with me” part that’s so hard.  In the years after the Guy Who Thought He Rescued Me asked me this question, I’ve been spinning it around.  I ran myself into other bad situations when I leaned toward the part of me who believed I was the Teenage Vixen.  I circled back to create a wholesome looking life that wasn’t really mine to make myself the more Pure Version of the dichotomy.  The Virgin or the Whore.  Innocent or Guilty.  The options are so limiting.

And I have been so scared to pick a side.  Or to admit that I was anything but a doe-eyed victim.  But this Thing I Believe About Myself finds me in sweltering attics and dark basements.  This Thing I Believe About Myself carries with it an expectation of Who I Will Be or What I Deserve.

I am learning that no matter who I was then, it wasn’t my fault.  No matter which way you spin it.  And I guess my gut knew I wasn’t so interested in someone who demanded I be the kind of person who reads Big Russian Novels or says that being sexually abused as a 15-year-old makes me a vixen.  Even if it is a Guy Who Thinks He Rescued Me.

I am learning to not put this thing I was told to Believe About Myself back on the shelf for later.  Virgin or Whore.  I don’t want to pull it out of dusty boxes in the attic and wonder if this is who I was or who I am always going to be.  I am taking a lesson from my Someone and burning this one down to fuel for later.  And all the guilt that goes with it.  Let that get me a few miles down the road, and I will gauge whether I’ve made the right decision.

Time Loop: On Returning to Save Myself.

January 2017

April 2004

Dear Future Husband,

I’m sorry.  I don’t know if I know you, yet, or if you are someone I have yet to meet, but already I do not deserve you.  I have tried to guard my heart, but have failed you in so many ways, my love.  Please forgive me…

The letter went on.  With a follow up tucked in later journals and later pages of those journals.  I pulled them out instinctively, for a laugh, and read them to my Someone.  I began with a dramatic hand in the air and placed it over my heart in a longing Juliet sort of way.  But as my teenage self spiraled down and down into a pool of remorse and fear and self hatred, the mood shifted.  I looked up at my Someone.  He was sad.  I looked into myself.  I was sad.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Me, too.”

March 2017

We found ourselves in a studio in the woods of northeastern Michigan, and the late winter was setting in with twenty degree highs and winds that knocked the power out for hours.   Some of my favorite friends are in therapy, and I am envious.  I ask them questions about what they are learning and pretend I am laying on my back on a couch with the psychiatrist from Animaniacs writing incessantly on a wire-bound notepad.  I blame my transience and my lack of health insurance on not finding my own therapist.  I am coming to realize that the work they have been doing is difficult, and I was not ready.

Like a wounded animal, I have been crawling to dark places alone, concentrating on the healing, with ears alert for intruders.  Even the well meaning kind.

There in the dark, cooling studio in Michigan, I started a page I had been intending to start since I had found the letters to My Future Husband.   Or maybe that I had never intended to write at all.  Or maybe one that should have been written fifteen years before.

I woke up cranky and angry with the prospect.  I was no longer envious of my therapy friends.  I was scared.  I entered into a place in my mind resembling something of an old mining shaft and started digging around.  All of those old journals I had carried around without cracking open were cracking open here with all I had carried around.  There on a windowsill for hours I watched the birds and walked through the old mining shaft.  I emerged more broken than before, still wounded, still alert.  But different.

I am ready now.  And have been since.  It’s been a long few weeks.  But I am ready.

April 2017

I spend days in coffeeshops writing things down and reading notes from my friends’ therapy sessions.  My Someone often sits across from me, and says nothing as I cry or stare out the window or draw pictures of birds.

Dear Future Husband…

This was a note that was not written for my Someone, we know now.  This was 15 and 16 and 17 and 18 year old me writing to 31-year-old me.

me: Hey– are you there?

Me: Yeah, I’m here, I’ve read what you wrote.

me: Do we make it?  Am I okay?

Me:  You are okay.  We made it.  And I’m coming back for you now.  I’m going to save you.

It was in this way that I found out that I had created a time loop to keep me safe from 15 to 31.  That 15-year-old me was waiting in her bunker of journals, not for her future husband or a prince charming, but for her to save herself.

June 2017

From age 15 to 19, I was molested and raped by a worship leader of a house church who was 15 years older than me.

I am just learning how to say that out loud.  I am telling on him for my 15-year-old self.  I am advocating for her.  It’s really, really hard.

July 5, 2017

me: How is it going out there?

Me: Good.  I think you can come out, now.

me: I would like to believe you.

Me: Take your time.

Back Roads and Bicycles: On Pedaling, Anyway.

I don’t know how much it’s true about getting back to your roots to find answers.  I’m acutely aware of the wealth of metaphors as my Someone and I spend the next couple of weeks in my childhood home, at my childhood cabin, with my childhood family.  I’m often coming here ready for something, ready for a solution to the problems that started before I could write about them.  This time, I am coming just to try this: being here.  Not figuring it out.  Just… hanging out.

So when we were walking an old road, one grown over and given up on by the county to floods, I was half rolling my eyes as I recounted the summer days I spent pedaling this route.  There’s something about nostalgia that makes me a bit skeptical.  And also, a little worried to be the one at the party talking about the good old days.  But here it was.  Me on an old road not far from home, overgrown and talking about the past.

“This one time,” I told my Someone, “my best friend Emily and I were trying to figure out what the exact halfway point was between us so we could meet without making our moms drive us.  So we were on the phone, and counted down, and the second we hung up we both got on our bikes and pedaled as fast and hard as we could toward each other on this road.  And then, by some strange miracle, we both ended up exactly where there was this mysterious bench by the river.  It was so perfect we couldn’t believe it!  We decided to meet there again just to make sure it was real.”

The metaphor wasn’t lost on either of us.  It was so thick I could practically hear 13-year-old me swishing past, doing everything she could to make it work with the friend she loved.

I’m not just being.  I’m not just hanging out.  Old habits die hard, or you can’t change who you are, or some other saying goes here.  I am pedaling as fast and hard as I can toward the people I love, hoping they are pedaling toward me, too.  And maybe, in some twist of miracle, there will be a resting spot in the middle for us to agree on.

Here’s a bit of a trick, though.  Even if they aren’t heading my way, if I keep pedaling, there’s a chance I’ll still reach them.

Tick Picks: On Extracting Fear.

We’ve been picking ticks for a few weeks, and it is alarming enough to be the first topic of conversation with new people.

They are worse than they’ve ever been!  

They are impossible to defeat!  

You know my neighbor, he got bit by a tick and couldn’t go to work for weeks!

I’ve been asking questions, remembering the ticks we would pick from our dogs in Western Pennsylvania.  But somehow, the fear of Lyme’s Disease and near death experience isn’t coming to mind.  Even the South, where every other infestation seems to be in abundance, doesn’t have a leg up on these ticks of New England, who are ever traveling north– killing baby moose calves and giving everyone’s friends hearing loss or fevers or paralysis.

We are sympathetic and nervous.  We are diligent about checking our entire family each night, while counting the days until we can leave for safer, tickless areas.  We find them crawling up our arms as we drive across Massachusetts, and we feel violated.  Invaded.  Afraid.  We can’t fight them alone, and yet everyone is responsible to fight them alone together. People petting our dogs quickly turn them to their backs to check their bellies for ticks.  The communal awareness of this infestation is refreshing, but it is a community based on fear.

“It’s like some sort of German warfare shit up here,” Kevin said to me at our intermission.  “We are helpless here.”

Kevin was bitten recently with no symptoms.  But he is worried, I can tell, because he keeps touching the same spot on his leg where I presume he’d been bit.  And he keeps telling me about his neighbor who woke up a year later, paralyzed.

A community based on fear is still a community, it seems.  Since November, a lot of us have been swung to tables with people we didn’t expect to be sitting next to.  The fear that got us there is quickly giving way to speaking, and the speaking to remembering what we were never taught: we have so much in common.  I have been lately trying to embrace the fear, not as an inhibitor, but as a motivator.  The one emotion that calls most urgently:

Listen up!  Pay attention!  We have something very important to learn right now.

It’s fear that keeps me picking over my pups for the hundredth time and, still, finding another tick.  It’s Kevin’s fear that keeps me from reassuring him, and instead stupidly tells him about my other friend who lost her hearing in one ear.

“Completely?” he asked.

“Yeah!” I said.

“Did she get it back, yet?” he pushed.

“Not yet,” I said.

I wished later that I hadn’t said it.  What was the point?  He resolutely changed the subject to maps and jobs and politics.  Which is when he, too, came around to it.

“You know,” he said, “since 9/11, it’s all messed up here.  Everyone’s afraid of everything, now.  No one can live their lives.  I hate it!  I really do!  Everyone is just afraid and acting on fear.”

“Maybe so,” I said.

“But really, I hate it.  I hate how we all just hate each other.  I hate how we all treat other.  I hate it more than anything.”

He paused.

“I hate that, and these stupid, goddamn ticks.”

Jesus Bears: On Mutual Friends.

I like to poke the Jesus Bears.  The thing about poking them is that the reaction almost feels aggressive, but there is somehow a safety in the consistency.  My persistence is partly a barometer for my own feelings about Jesus, and partly to challenge myself and the Jesus Bears I am poking into figuring out that we can love each other even if we aren’t so sure.

But here, I was not poking a Jesus Bear.  Mostly, I was trying to be friendly.  I heard him talking about friends I knew, some of my best friends, and so after our set, I asked this man in the back alley of a Boston venue if he knew my friends.  He did know my friends.  He loves my friends!  We are practically friends because of these friends!  And then he said,

“So, you’re a Jesus-Lover, then!”

“Um,” I said, surprised that I had poked a Jesus Bear, “more like a friend of a friend.”

“Friend-of-a-friend of a Jesus Lover?” he pushed.

“No, more like a friend-of-a-friend of Jesus,” I said.

He nodded and walked away.

But this is how I wish I had responded:

1. What does that even mean?

or

2.  Why would you think that?

or

3.  You do know that if I say “no” that I am denying Jesus like Peter, but if I say “yes” then you think I am like you, and judging by how I just accidentally poked the Bear, I am not like you because…

and/or

4. I think that I am a friend to Jesus.  But I am not so sure we agree as to who that is.  Plus, Jesus and I used to play tea parties together and you weren’t there and he never mentioned you, so I kind of think maybe you aren’t a lover of him.  Unless you guys started seeing each other later at a different tea party.  And maybe sometimes just because you have a mutual friend does not mean that you will be friends with the person that your friend is friends with, and that’s okay.  

One New Thing: On Believing What They Say.

Scientists or Buddha or some article in USA Today says it’s important to try something new every day.  Important for fighting dementia or depression or from cobwebs growing on the bottoms of your feet.

My friend Bryan told me that it’s hard to love yourself, because you know yourself best.  He also told me it’s important to believe the people who love us when they say unbelievable things.  Things like “You are good.”  Or, “You are special.” Or, when my Someone say, “My heart would break without you.”  Or even when he says, “I love you.”

No matter how unbelievable, Bryan says it’s important to believe.

I think that will be my new thing for today.  The believing.  I don’t know about the dementia, but it might work out all right for clearing the cobwebs that have me tangled from the heart down.

Resolution #2: On Mud Season.

2. Embrace the mud (roll with it and let it make me laugh).

We started this year in the mud, slogging around on January 1st on a Tennessee park trail.  We were turning over a new leaf, and the south was turning over nothing but rain.  But we were determined, two people and two dogs, to make this year one where we make the right choice over the third glass of whiskey choice.  We were sober and grinning as we slid down one hill and slipped up another on New Years Day morning.  Our short hike turned into a couple hours, and by the time we hit the grocery store on the way back, we were caked in a fine layer of mud from the waist down.  Walking Jackson Pollocks, really.  I laughed as my Someone grimaced and we slogged home to shower.

That’s when I wrote down my second New Years Resolution.

I’m an idiot.

I have this theory about the Universe– that it is listening and waiting for our next declaration.  I call it the Universe instead of God, because there is something about God laughing at our pain that keeps me from loving God.  And I am lately trying so hard to love God.  Whoever that is.

The Universe, on the other hand, seems more reminiscent of a Benevolent Trickster.  Like Puck.  Or the Devil.  Someone who loves the world too much not to poke it in the face while it is sleeping and delight in the spontaneous reaction.  For this reason, I love the Universe.  I’m not sure why it can’t translate to a God, after all.  I’m working on one thing at a time.  This year, it is mud.  And I made the declaration and the Universe heard me and I have been stuck in it ever since.

God damn.

It was February and we were T – 5 days from leaving Nashville.  We will be gone for months.  Or we will be gone not at all, because we are stuck in my sister’s backyard.  In the mud.  Our big ideas to store the camper in the backyard suddenly backfired after a cool-but-not-freezing winter full of more rain.

I did not laugh.

We waited a day for it to dry out.  We were still stuck.  We said angry things at each other.

We still did not laugh.

What we did, instead, was work through our things, getting rid of the excess, re-reading our old journals, giving up on our college goals of reading thick Russian novels and placed them instead into a box that would be traded for gas money.  Having nowhere to go had us remembering where we were going.  And we were rolling with the time we had left in Nashville.  We may never live here again.  Or, according to the mud, we may live here forever.

We rolled with it, but we did not laugh.  Not until the tow truck pulled us safely out another day later.  We would make it to our first show on time.  We were on our way.  Just as soon as we cleaned all the mud from the camper.

We are bad at lessons.  Especially lessons we are asking the Universe to keep us accountable to.

We were three weeks later in Michigan, and we were stuck in a stranger’s yard.  We were ankle deep in mud.  We didn’t hesitate this time.  We called the tow-truck.  We didn’t laugh, but we didn’t say the angry things.  Maybe we were getting better at the lesson than I think.

When I was working for my father digging ditches and laying pipe to make enough money to leave for a summer, there were a number of naked men who would appear.  The first one I saw was at the base of the hill from the manhole I was clearing, and when I saw him, I ran to my father.  He was unfazed.

It seems when you are digging in the dirt far enough and it rains, the thick mud lets loose a silky substance that is a perfect balance of clay, sand, and soil that drains to the bottom the grade and gathers in a latte colored pool.  This is where the naked men bathe– in the silt pool.  There is belief that this particular kind of mud, whose origin is quartz, is good for the skin and can heal anything from psoriasis to cancer.  It’s a gloopy fountain of youth.

My father didn’t indicate that he believed in its healing property, but he didn’t shoo away the hopeful mud-seekers, either.  But when I turned back to the manhole, he handed me a shovel.

“What’s this for?” I asked.

“If he tries anything, just knock him out,” he said.

“It’s real!” Ash had said.  We found ourselves back in Booneville, New York just a few weeks after Michigan.  We hesitantly parked our camper in the backyard of a farm we played last year at this time, a bit more skiddish as we drove across the rain-soaked ground.  “It’s the season between winter and spring– we call it Mud Season.”

We had planned a tour to follow winter, squeezing out as much chilly weather as we could before we find ourselves sweating and sleepless in our air conditioning-less home.  But instead of traipsing through lumpy snowflakes, we find that we are only kicking up globs of mud.  We have become more careful, rarely driving off of pavement and holding our breath down sandy back roads in Vermont.  It had been more than a month since Ash warned us, but we are ever northbound this spring, and the mud gets only thicker.

In the south of Maine, we had enough.  The dogs had developed a cakey layer under their fur and a distinctive smell that no amount of candle burning was eliminating.  So we hosed them down and headed even further north.

Further north where Mud Season is in full swing.

“I’m only five miles from home, but it takes about an hour,” George said.  He was our host and owner of the lone bar in Northern Maine.  We were thirty miles from the Canadian border where, the locals proudly told us, police activity is at a minimum, and everyone has had to call someone to get them unstuck at least once this season.  “See, it’s about three miles on paved roads to my house, and two miles back from the main road, so I gotta park my car on the street, hop on my tractor, and slug through the last two miles and just sorta hope I don’t get stuck again.”

Which is why, with our freshly bathed dogs the next morning, we chose to take long, easy gravel path through the woods.

The thing about Mud Season is that no one is safe at any time.  We made it half a mile before both dogs were chest deep in the slurry lining either side of our best laid plan.  My Someone grimaced.  I laughed.  Soon, the dogs were chasing each other, splashing it up, and full face planting in the mud.

“It’s a Fool’s Errand,” my Someone said.

“It’s Mud Season,” I said.

And then, it happened.  We weren’t stripping down and soaking in it, just yet.  We weren’t adhering to its healing properties.  Maybe next year.  But for now, we were rolling with it.  And for the first time in a while, we were laughing.  At the same time.

Phantom Limbs and Dog Bites: On the Transference of Pain.

I could have been any age, sitting there, waiting on the water to move me to feel something I lately can’t conjure by myself.  Six, sixteen, twenty-six– I could be any of those ages.  But the problem was, I was feeling the age I am now, and the age I am now is dealing with the heartache of earlier ages– dark things that have me hung up and snapping at my Someone and meddling in the sort of feelings that have me shutting down every feeling.  So in Vermont, alone in the woods on a rock by a creek, I was looking for the sort of answers that would help me be healthy, if not happy.  I was visiting all of my ages.  And a barefoot me in the woods on a rock by a creek is a common seance.

I was armed with journals and books and pens and an instrument, but for the love of the afternoon’s changing light, I couldn’t do all else but sit.  It had been ages since I’d been alone with all of my ages and a dog.  Which took me back to my other rock with my other dog.  The memory of that dog instinctively had me grabbing my right hand with my left, remembering every dog bite I’ve ever had.

I watched the river as I ran through the memory.  Any memory to take me back seems important.  Anything to get me to feel anything.  I was twelve or I was thirteen, and there was a knock on our door.  Our slightly neurotic hunting dogs snarled and clawed at the storm door window.  I reached for the doorknob, while Jake– the oldest and crankiest– tried to escape.  When I held his collar to pull him back, it happened.  Three big chomps to my right hand.  The surprise of what he had done sent him running back into the living room.  The shock had me politely asking the person at the door to come back later when my parents were home.  As I closed the door, I fell into a heap in the entryway, holding my hand and closing my eyes.  When I opened my eyes then, it was a stream of blood and an archipelago of bruises.

I remembered the entire thing vividly.

Which is why I was shocked when I opened my eyes in real time by a creek in Vermont, cradling the wrong hand.  My left hand, still with the distinctive scar, seemed surprised, too, and leapt up in front of my face to be examined.

“I’ll be damned,” I said to the woods, my right hand– the wrong hand– still aching from a two decade old dog bite it never had.

I have been thinking lately on the transference of pain.  This is partially due to the dark thing I am working through.  When time traveling to my ages, I am grappling with what was true– what happened and what is merely a side effect of what I can’t remember happening.  I am all wobbly on my memory’s feet, tripping over details and worrying that my full ethnographic study will be incomplete or, worse, inaccurate.

Each morning as I stretch, I rub my right knee and twirl my ankle.  I give my right side extra attention during yoga.  And then, I talk to my mother weekly to see how much longer until I am back to normal.  My knee started hurting just a couple weeks before my mother’s surgery.  The day of her surgery, I could barely walk.  In the subsequent weeks, its been a slow process of careful attention and long stretches.

My Someone calls this my witch stuff.  I call it inconvenient cosmic empathy.

Since my mother has been having knee trouble in the last couple years, even before she tells me, I have indicators in my corresponding leg.  While I am a believer in coincidence, I am also in love with a world filled with inexplicable magic.  It’s a complicated relationship, and one that I don’t often put stock in aside from checking in with my mother occasionally to see our progress.  The transference of pain here has become so literal, that when I complained to my Someone that my right knee seemed to be doing better except for at night when it was nearly causing me to lose sleep, he asked me when I had last spoken to my mother.

“Oh, I’m good,” my mother said to me the next morning, “the knee is much better.  I’m getting around during the day, except in the evenings it’s much harder.  And at night, I can hardly sleep because it hurts so much.”

I am bumbling through fears of victim blaming and no-one-will-believe-me-if-I-don’t-have-every-answer-correct.  But pain, it seems, is pain.  Even if not remembered correctly or carried by the right person.  And to better help me sort it out, I am attempting to give myself a pass on the grounds of empathy.  I am working so hard to believe myself, that my right side is empathizing with my left.  My fifteen-year-old self is trusting my thirty-one-year-old self, and the latter is believing the former.  It’s tricky business, and while time traveling through these ages, I am attempting to keep everything as I found it so that my present remains in tact.

But truthfully, meddling with time in any sense will leave a few ruffles.  Phantom limbs are still retracting from invisible dog bites.  And if the scars aren’t there to prove it, I am still learning to listen to any amount of pain, tracing it back to the source– figuring out not just where it came from, but from who. And remembering that, like it or not, it is connecting us.