Friday, January 12, 2007

Written for a creative writing class a few years ago...

[I've been going back and forth over whether or not I should post this here. At the moment, I've decided that I should. And yes, I am rather fixated on writing about invisibility - there is a reason for that, you know.]


The difficulty is knowing where to start, what to tell, what not to tell. The difficulty is knowing whether or not to tell at all. The moral responsibility I feel that makes me want to lay it all in front of the world, the pressure to tell what cannot be told, what cannot be heard, what cannot be borne continually nudges at me. But I want to forget what I know, hide it, avoid it.

And so I vacillate, bouncing back and forward nervously on my courage, trying to convince myself that it’s safer, better this way, that I’ll save myself the terror of disbelief. But I am pricked by something inside me that instinctively wants to regurgitate what I know, consequences and cowardice be damned. But where to start. If I think too long I know I’ll never start. So I stop thinking and just jump in. And start with feeling.

The feeling of fingers on flesh. The harshness of the distant clinical touch, the reciprocal revulsion. But that’s no start. It’s too distant, you have no idea what I’m talking about, do you? And so cowardice wins. This round at least. So try again.

The insistent hum of the fluorescent lights. The sharp shock to the retinas of the reflected glow off the white clinical walls, the terrified isolation. And that doesn’t work, either. The difficulty is obvious, I’m sure you’ve picked out the flaw already. And cowardice, or its better dressed sister, self preservation, wins this round too. We’ll try again, shall we?

A child stands in the middle of a room. She wears a white gown. She is surrounded by men - well, mostly men, who are also wearing white. They stare, and discuss, and scribble on pads of white paper. The child is staring too, but she is not talking, and can write nothing down. She is almost naked under the gown, wearing nothing but green cotton underpants with white spots. She stands with an unfamiliar rigidity, her body stiff, fear layered on a everyday tension. She tilts to one side slightly and there is less natural movement in that side. She stares, but she is not looking at the men, her gaze is fixed on a spot past their heads. And unlike the men in the room, her face does not hold a confident arrogance that can simultaneously take, assess, and discard its object without a second thought, it is a blind stare that turns in on itself and has no object but escape. The men talk amongst themselves, ask endless questions that are addressed to, and answered by each other, even though the child is the subject of the clinical inquisition.

Every now and then she is ordered to walk up and down the room and they throw around disconnected words and phrases like, ‘spastic movements’, ‘unnatural gait’, ‘inflexibility’. Or one of the white-coats leaves his seat to lift the child’s arms away from her body and hold them in midair for what seems like hours. Or another will ---

But no, this way doesn’t work either, it’s boring, easily ignored. We’ll go down another path. How about this?

You stand in the middle of the consulting room. The cold air from the air-conditioning lifts goose-bumps from your exposed flesh. It feels like you have been standing for hours, your left leg is starting to weaken, to wobble slightly, and it takes every bit of self control you have to keep standing up straight. The doctors stare at you, and talk about you using words you don’t understand. They call you ‘the patient’, and look through you coldly, scientifically. Although you don’t know exactly what they are saying, you know they are picking out all things about you that are wrong, that don’t work as they should. Every time one of them looks at you, they find another thing wrong.

You stand there, shivering, and you can feel yourself becoming nothing more than a collection of broken parts, legs and arms and a brain, damaged and defective. You stand there until you can’t even remember your name, or how old you are, or anything else about yourself, other than what is wrong with you. The room seems to get bigger and bigger, and the empty space around you is endless and unforgiving.

From a great distance the piercing eyes of the doctors continue staring at you, and look right through you. You can feel a series of glass shells surround you, one for every person in the room. They slide around you, one by one, slowly, smoothly, without making a sound. And at the point where the indifferent gaze of each of your observers becomes too much, you can hear a metallic twist and click, like the key in a lock, shutting you off from the world. Until at last, you are surrounded by a dozen of these glass shells. And inside the shells, deep inside yourself, you feel another empty space open up, black and cold. A space filled with the almost unbearable pain of forever being looked at, but never being seen, of always being observed, but never being known. But you will try and pretend for many years that the space does not exist, until the terror of it will cause you to spend a night trying vainly to fill the space with handfuls of little pea-green pills. But this will not work, and you will spend the rest of that night crouched over a bucket painfully vomiting into it the pills, and ---

And definitely not. I am undecided as to whether or not that works, but I have no doubt that it is possibly too painful, too manipulative of my audience, perhaps too unforgivably gratuitous. So I will try out my third and final option.

Mending the flaw in this whole drama, there needs to be an ‘I’, there is a ‘she’ and a ‘you’, but there is no ‘I’. You have been expecting it, I know. But that’s all I know. I don’t know how to put myself into this, I don’t want to put myself into this. I can’t. There is no ‘I’ here, there cannot be. I do not exist, I do not feel, I do not breathe. I am not here, I cannot breathe, I cannot feel, I cannot exist. I am invisible.



seahorse said...

I disappeared too under the glare of my illness and the scrutiny of doctors. Your post really spoke to me.

captaiN dandY said...

I think that this is the opposite of being invisible. I also think it's true:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. You were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within you. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." – Marianne Williamson
Quoted by Nelson Mandella in his inauguration speech 1994.

Robert said...

Thanks ...

That's really good writing. Horrible in the way that it truly is, but really good writing.

And that's beautiful.