I came as ice, I came as a whore
I came as advice that came too short
I came as gold, I came as crap
I came clean and I came as a rat
—Modest Mouse, I Came As A Rat
This is where my words lead. This is where they stop short too.
“Nope. I don’t want to go there,” they say. So I get up to get a drink of water. I put away some dishes. I thumb through the Ikea catalog. I clip my fingernails. I run from my words.
Dreams are slippery ghosts. I’m not talking about aspirations or wishes, I’m taking about real dreams. We have them every night and forget them every morning. But sometimes we don’t. I have a few that have stuck in my mind despite the passage of years upon years. They were so emotionally charged, so stunningly significant in some undefinable way, they defied the mysterious biological boundaries between sleep and consciousness.
My cat wanted to show me something. He beckoned me with only a stare. Deep dread and fear climbed up the back of my throat. I didn’t want to know what it was and the thought of confronting it made me want to run, to keep running and never stop. I begged not to but his stare held me fast and demanded, commanded. I started to cry and tremble as I picked him up and walked into the back yard of the family house.
There was a gaping hole in the lawn. Every step closer to the edge dialed my fear higher until shear panic overtook all thoughts. Clinging to my cat, I peered down into the dim deep cavern to see black rats, countless rats, roiling over each other like stormy sea waves. Every surface was bathed in them. They clawed and fought over each other, the mass licking at the edge of the hole like dark flames.
I woke violently, heart pounding, chest heaving. I had that dream over twenty years ago.
This is what holds me back.
I’ve packed away so much pain. It swarms inside, it’s infection total. So much shame. So much sadness. So much anger and resentment. So much ingrown hate. So much abandonment and loneliness. Worthlessness. Frustration. Confusion. Doubt. Cynicism. Depression.
I’m a cursed land inside. I don’t want to dig up the monstrous abscess and drain it. It will spew ugliness and poison. Black tentacles will burst forth and rip apart my thin veneer. I want to keep running, lose myself by any means necessary.
Like heroin, all warmth and sleepy bliss… It has a seductive appeal that I must never know. I would surely use it as an exit. Self destruction is a means I know well.
Like relationships, other people’s stories. Let me be what you want. Let me fix you. I’ll be your moon, waxing and waning for you alone.
Anything but my story. Anything but the vulnerability of ripping myself wide with words and exposing the horror, the weaknesses, the glaring faults.
Because I can’t possibly have anything beautiful inside.
Writers have demons. Through their art they attempt to make something beautiful out of nightmares and suffering. I’m afraid to try. I’m afraid of what will happen if I can’t.