Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
By Ilana Jacqueline
It took effort just to get out of the car. Just to open the door, and get out, and say hello, how are you? And to open the door, and get back in again. To sit and wait for the pleasantries to end, and to drive away, far away, to anywhere but here.
It’s not that you don’t like your editor. It’s not that you’re all that anxious about what you wrote in the issue. Its not that you’re nervous about anything in particular. You just feel it sometimes. You just feel it. A bubbling nausea, a searing ache in every bone. A cluttered, dizzy sensation. Like you're drowning. Like you've always been drowning.
You thrust open the paper on your lap and try to force the words out of your mouth. You keep trying to talk, but you keep getting choked. You’re so tired. You just want to read your article. You just want to be normal for ten minutes. Just long enough to get through this. Just do it. Just do it...
So you force the words out, and keep trying to read the whole paragraph out loud. You keep having to stop and catch your breath, like you haven't been sitting for an hour. Like you've been running your whole life, like you’re still running, and running, and trying to read out loud, and it's impossible. It's illogical.
That's the thing that strikes you. That no matter how much you ignore it, breathe, expand it out, empty your mind, meditate, medicate, relax, sit back, and try, it doesn't work. It never works. It's a natural disaster, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. A hurricane, a tornado, rushing through your veins, causing convulsions, causing nausea, causing dizzy swooping sensations. Makes you want to cry, makes you want to never stop crying. You thrive on logic, it's all you've got left. Because every waking moment is filled with the hopeless, helpless, fear that should have gone away, that you should be able to will away.
You try. You try so god damn hard that it's broken you more times than you can count.
She tells you that you can stop reading. That you can cry, that you can scream. But you keep forcing every choked miserable word out, because you want it. You want it so badly, you want to be able to open the paper, and read, but not just read a paper, you want to be able to sit in a classroom, to go on a date, to get in an elevator, to ride with strangers, to kiss, to love, to be. So you choke out every word, in a failed attempt at bravery, a futile realization, and an exhausting synopsis of every second of your life.
You keep reading. You have to. Every god damn person you've ever met has said to fight it. Has said to just do it! Just do it! To just fight, and breathe, and TRY like you've never god damn tried before. But you don't want excuses, or exceptions. You want it. You want to fight, and so you keep reading. And she keeps telling you to just scream. That it's just "energy" that it just needs to be released. And you open your mouth, but like the words, you don't know how to find them. You don't even remember what screaming is like, because you're always told to oppress, to control, to be the calm. The calm you can't ever find.
She tells you to Just scream. Scream like you feel, scream like you always feel. It's only us...just scream.
And you do, and it's so loud and wailing, and heartbreaking you can't even recognize it. It's human. Obnoxious, and irritating, and illogical. Just illogical, and that's the only thing that keeps you screaming, that keeps your tired slumped chest and lungs forcing out every molecule of oxygen you've got in you. Maybe it'll take away from your brain, and end the clutter, and the panic.
And this time, when you open your mouth, the words come out and don't stop until the end of the page.
Later you will tell yourself that it makes no difference, that it didn’t really hurt. You will smile to yourself, tell yourself that you’ve come a long way from who you were, tell yourself that you are changing and you are growing. Later, you will do what you have been told, and forget and oppress and start all over again. You will upturn your lips at your wall of platitudes --where quotes like “This Too Shall Pass” and “God Give Me The Serenity” --ebb their letters into your mind. You will stare and try to wire yourself to think of them when the feeling threatens.
You will close your eyes and pray like a child for nothing, to feel nothing, to know nothing of what you know. You will pray till you are on your knees, small fists clutching the carpet, and you will wait and you will wait and you will wait until it all passes and you will know nothing but the guilt of handing off your responsibility to fix this to some unnamed, unknown source.
Answers, you think, will cure everything and make light of your suffering. As if you could sit around the table one morning and know exactly why you spilt your coffee all over your lap and the cosmic justification for all of these little mistakes and inadequacies in human nature would dissolve these burns with reason.
Ilana Jacqueline is a feature writer for Today's Teen Magazine. Today's Teen is a division of The Palm Beach Post located in South Florida.
Ilana's articles have been published with the Anxiety Disorder Association of America, The Sun-Sentinel, Today's Teen, and Absynthe Muse.
In January of 2007 Ilana had her first book signing at Barnes and Nobles for a book she contributed to, along with 16 of Florida's best teen writers, in an anthology called "Will Write For Sandwiches."
Ilana is 18 years old. She is working on her third book, "Involved." To read more from her, visit her website at www.ilanawrites.com
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