The Music

Light shines into my charred room and illuminates one tiny patch of unblemished floor. songSomewhere, in the background, a piano plays Rachminoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” – both melancholy and sanguine. All those enchanting chords bounce off the barren four-walled space and remind me something is waiting for me outside. Hope. I touch the light. I feel it’s warmth on my hand. I let a smile spread across my face.

Someone, somewhere, believes in me. I need to believe in me too.

A cloud covers the light, and I’m plunged back into darkness. Stepping into the corner, I touch the walls. Fire has scorched the room. My fire. Anger over my inadequacy will never diminish. I’m in a prison of my own making. The music swells but is swallowed by blackened wood. Faint traces of “Stairway to Heaven” reach my ears and fade.

I will never amount to anything.

I crouch into the corner and tremble. When will this end? I think of all the times I have tried to escape my fate. I am reminded of all the times I failed in some way. I have spent the better part of my adult life being told “You’re so smart. You’ll go places.”, but that hasn’t happened yet. Am I meant to be a permanent reminder to all? You can work hard and do everything in your power to get ahead in life but “in the end, it is about who you know and not what you know.” I have had opportunities to achieve my dreams, and every time I have lost. I’m a failure. Maybe it’s time to give up on moving up?

The clouds fade away, and the light returns. It shines into the other three edges of my self-made cell and touches my toes, my fingers. The tempo changes. It’s a full orchestra – it’s a choir – it’s Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor”.

“You got the job!” I hear over the throng.

Success. I have finally reached the success I’ve craved.

The warmth tries to envelope me, but I inch further into the adjoining walls. I stand rigid as the light creeps closer. It tries to cover me whole, but I won’t let it, shrinking further into that dark recess. Why is my fear and anger of inadequacy still here? Why does it dominate so? I want to be happy.

I want to be happy.

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I Am…

I’m out at sea. Waves crash into my sail pulling me closer to the edge and filling my boat until it’s ankle deep. I hold on, life jacket securely around me, and shovel the water out. I can do this. I can weather this storm. I have been here before, and I know exactly how to see it out.The sun shines through ahead, and I focus on that. I just have a little bit further to go. Keep the sail from touching the water. Keep the water inside my boat low. Don’t think.

What if this is the best I deserve?

I catch a glimpse of where I have been. Those dark clouds, the rolling waves, my past. I have made it this far. 

I don’t see it coming, though. I am not prepared for it. A giant wave sweeps over my boat, and it capsizes. I rush to grab a rope, the sail, anything to support me, but everything is within grasp and nothing at the same time.

The boat disappears, and I am all alone. I swallow water, and I realize I can’t swim. I don’t know what to do. 

I never finished college. They would have taught me this in college, right? 

My arms and legs jerk in competing directions to get be back to the surface. The rough waters send me out further to sea or maybe closer to land. I cannot tell which. I only know one thing.

This is the best I can hope for.

Water fills my lungs, and my mind goes blank. All at once, my arms and legs stop moving, and with the help of my life jacket, I float back to the surface.

I am in the deep end of a pool.

The lanes are not roped off, and I am still so far from the edge. It’s only a pool. A lifeguard is here. The instructor is here. I have so much support around me. Yet I am empty and frightened and sad all at the same time.

I cough and splutter. My arms and legs have no muscle memory of how to survive here. I sink; the water washes away the tears but never the fear. 

No matter how hard I try, I will be stuck doing the same thing for the rest of my life.

The end is within reach but so is the deep. I touch the ceramic surface at the bottom.

My writing is going nowhere. Will I ever get published? What am I missing that others have?

My feet touch the bottom.

Am I ever going to get to see my family again? I am homesick for them. Will I ever be able to afford to go back to college? What if I put on the weight again after working so hard to take it off? What if my heart gives out like my dad? What if my PCOS develops into cancer? What if -?

I barely notice my arm being pulled. The instructor, the lifeguard, the other people in the pool are all helping to take me out of the pool.

I land on the ground and vomit the water onto the soft earth. I breath and push myself up overcoming the weakness in my arms and legs.

I am in a crowded field.

All around me, I can see people. I can see their lives before me. The woman who gets hit every night. The man who has been overshadowed by his father his whole life. The girls who can’t get into the college they wanted to. Every one of them has a right to be unhappy. They deserve to be lost and scared. 

I don’t. I’m a fraud. I shouldn’t be here. I have no right to be in this place.

I push through them all. Their lives touch me, become a part of me. I want to save them all, but how can I when I can’t even save myself?

I see a man standing above an entire peoples. He is driving hate and oppression. I watch their faces go darker. The shadow covers them all, and I see it cover me too.

How did I get to this place again? 

How do I get out?

I drop to my knees and sob. I can’t stop the tears. I want to. I want this to end. This too shall pass, but how? Someone please tell me how!

I lift up my head.

I am in a square room with no windows and no doors.

I accept it. Despite all the support I have around me, I know this is where I am meant to be. In solitude. Not bringing anyone else down with me. 

“You are so useless!” a voice hisses in my mind.

“You will never amount to anything.”

“You’re a gold digger. You don’t really love him.”

“You don’t care about anything but yourself.”

I lie down on the stone floor and let the chill of it sweep over me. I know it’s not true. I know it. The people who said it are no longer welcome in my life. So why are the words still there in the back of my mind holding me down? 

I pull my legs close to me and fill the cramped room with water.

I am drowning in a pool – no, I am out at sea. Everything and nothing is wrong all at the same time, and all I see ahead of me are gray skies, rough waters, and a minute trace of light.
 
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