The circle.

Winter, 1998

I am sitting in a circle of crazy people.  Each of us still, solemn, a little crumpled.  One at time they tell the story of how they got here.  Some were driven by grief, their children hanging from trees in the back yard; some by fear, their father locking them in closets for days; some by their brains, a life of chemistry knocking them out of jobs, families, reality.  Everyone has a compelling story.  Everyone but me.

I am quiet, which is against the rules.  You come to the group, you have to talk. The therapist pushes me.  The eyes of the group, strangely dry, pull me.  “Nothing happened to me,” I say, closing my eyes.  The man across from me, the one who just retold his tale of finding his son hanging by an extension cord, speaks to me with alarming tenderness.  “This happened to you,” he says.

I run my thumbs over my wrists.  The scabs don’t hurt at all, and I’m disappointed.

I explain that my parents are preachers.  Real ones who are good and love Jesus.  I don’t know death or abuse or abandonment.  All I know is that I have everything anyone ever needed, and yet I hate myself so much, I want to die.

Later, I sit in the doorway of my room, curled up on the floor.  I want to watch them strap the man into the straight jacket again.  I want to watch them carry him into the padded room with the tiny window.  I want to be able to scream like he does.  I want to flail and bellow and throw my whole self as hard as I can across the room.  I want to need the straight jacket, but all I can do is lay here, on the floor, and watch.

I love being here.  I love being surrounded by these people so much more surrendered to their crazy than I am.


One month earlier…

I am sprawled out on the driveway of the Yiddish Book Center.  I am pressed hard into the ground by the hand of an invisible God.  The stars are boring down through my body, pinning me to the earth below.  I hear His voice, like a river, my skin like a fine sieve.

A hundred songs are born in my mouth and poetry runs out of my eyes in firey tears.  Flames burst out from the crown of my head and down through the soles of my feet.  The pleasure is so immense, I cannot help but scream.  The planets swirl above me, moved by my sound waves like a paper mobile.  The constellations bounce and twist to the rhythm of my breathing.

Songs of thanksgiving tumble out of my mouth in huge sobs.  I am so grateful to be out of my mind.

4 thoughts on “The circle.

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