I heat up. A ball in my gut, just a lumpy nothing-of-a-rock pushes on me from the inside and lights a spark. Heat, not the kind of warm heat when you step inside your well-lit home on a cold winter day, but a shallow heat that will burn faintly and exhaust quickly, crawls to the tips of my fingers and toes. It lazily floats through my blood and takes up residence in its own pit behind my eyes. I don’t know if it’s anger, frustration, disappointment, fear, hurt. That nameless feeling is the one I get in all of those situations. It just bathes my motionless body in it like warm milk.
The nerves in my skin and some part of me inside, the most vulnerable part of me, divide the unpleasantness. The outer layers of my skin resign to being unsettled with no physical reason. Confused and unable to determine the cause of the mildly agitating sensations, I can feel the entire outer layer of myself, my skin, my muscles, everything, curl up in inpatient frustration. Bracing itself.
Meanwhile an entirely different process occurs inside me as I feel my emotional self retreat, shrinking back from the points where it joins the tips of my fingers, connecting me to the world outside my body, shuttering and pulling itself in from my legs and my throat and my chest, rolling up on itself like an armadillo, absorbing whatever unnamed emotion made it past my skin. Whatever sharp object it grabbed as it sank back to its refuge, it holds, like a terrified snake that has wrapped itself around a knife but, because rolling up is what it does to protect itself, can’t release the tension that holds it there.
Like a President and a Vice President, the ball that holds me inside and the shell of my body that keeps everything unknown at a distance mutually and systematically have separated because the risk of having the two of them together is greater than the benefit. Together, they both become vulnerable. Instead, like boats in a game of Battle Ship, they spread apart because if one takes a fatal hit, at least one might avoid being punctured.
All of that happens. In seconds. That’s the beauty of routine and the remarkable nature of repetition. I do it on autopilot now, even with the slightest notion of possible hurt. At this point, it’s really my body’s decision. It’s like an overflipped switch; now it can flip itself and the defenses slam themselves into place like a veteran of bomb raids. My mouth, caught in the middle but forgotten, is still, uninformed by the inner recesses of my mind and deprived of the muscles and motor functions at the corners of its lips.
You can ask any questions you want. Blank eyes will be your answer. Because you’re speaking to an empty room that doesn’t reach the bottom of the well where I hold myself. Not that it matters. You won’t miss my voice. You likely wouldn’t even notice the silence if it wasn’t saying something about you, something which you then hold against me. My absence creates chasms of silence that your self-important words fill as is only natural.
I love you. Well, the part of me that can feel when it isn’t compacted into this claustrophobic ball really loves you. But I need not say this because you don’t miss my voice. I’m not even sure you’ve really ever fully heard it. You miss the reassurance that its presence means you aren’t accused of something. You don’t care what it has to say and it’s not personal to you. It’s just not important enough to even realize how much of me you’re missing. And I try so much to show you. I practically beg for you to glance but your screen holds your eyes a willful prisoner.
Is this all in my head? Am I too demanding? Or is it realistic to write letters you think the addressee will read? Is it too much to ask you to look at what I hold for you to consider for longer than four seconds before you return to your Facebook, trying to recuperate that missed time? Probably.