Bad Poetry, a Mask, & Truth

Trigger warning: this one is dark
Content warning: bad poetry

Fifteen years ago, I wrote a poem. This was fifteen years before I had a name for how I was different. But, I always knew.

The Photograph

In the moonlight
Shadows bounce around
Eerily cast on the lake’s mirrored surface
She stands, wavering on the edge of the pier
A ballerina on her calloused toes
She prayed the wind would blow
Slant her balance so the blood of this deed would not be on her hands
Face pointed poised perfectly
Eyes fixated to the heavens before her
Mouth moving mumbling
Whispering a prayer
Crying out for guidance or a miracle
Begging the question
How could this seventh heaven be such a lingering requiem
She bent, folded in anguish and cursing
Empty and naked and broken
Startled at the face in the mirrored lake
A tear plummeted to break the surface tension
Distorting the ecological photograph
She saw herself for the first time
As others saw
That must be me
She was convinced
And having found herself
Dove headlong into the murky stillness of the basin
The waters stirred
In that very instant, she touched herself
There was no struggle
And the world read the story the next day
Under a photograph rippled by a single tear

Let’s just go ahead and acknowledge that this is shitty poetry, and it’s cliche, but you’re not reading it right.  It was never meant to be read.  This wasn’t for you.

She stands, wavering on the edge of the pier
A ballerina on her calloused toes
She prayed the wind would blow
Slant her balance so the blood of this deed would not be on her hands
Face pointed poised perfectly

See, there’s a reason this was written in third person.  When you live as someone so fundamentally different from whom you really are, you have a hard time referring to yourself in the first person. You see, I was no ballerina.  I was nobody’s princess.  I was piss and vinegar and gasoline and fire and grit and steel.  She was a ballerina, because she had to perform this delicate dance all her days, this dance that didn’t match her body or her heart, this dance she was just innately too clumsy and dyslexic to maintain.

She stands on the pier praying the wind would blow so she doesn’t have to jump.  She is afraid that if there is a G-d, she’s going to burn in hell.  That’s all she’s ever been told.  All her thoughts and desires and needs… deviant from the norm.  Impure for the anger that fueled them.  Monstrous.  Innately sinful.  But her face is poised and pointed perfectly.  She’s pious about the face she wears.  If she has enough poise, maybe she can fake being a ballerina.  Everyone is faking it, right?

Mouth moving mumbling
Whispering a prayer
Crying out for guidance or a miracle
Begging the question
How could this seventh heaven be such a lingering requiem

To beg the question is a logical fallacy.  It means that someone assumes the truth of a conclusion without providing support for the conclusion.  It is a type of reasoning which rejects the need for proof.  She’s begging a lot of questions.

She is hard-wired for truth.  At the level of her soul, she loves the truth.  Empiricism is the author of her core identity, but she has never been able to ask the questions.  It’s too direct.  It’s antagonistic.  It’s heresy.  It’s impolite.  It’s not what people are supposed to do and don’t ask why ever what’s wrong with you are you stupid do you just want to argue show some respect.   She doesn’t understand why this life is supposed to be so great.  She wishes she could get it over with because she knows she’s never going to do better.  She has always known who she was, but she has tried her whole life to convince herself otherwise.

She bent, folded in anguish and cursing
Empty and naked and broken
Startled at the face in the mirrored lake
A tear plummeted to break the surface tension
Distorting the ecological photograph
She saw herself for the first time
As others saw
That must be me
She was convinced
And having found herself
Dove headlong into the murky stillness of the basin

A tear breaks the surface tension of the water, ripples her reflection.  She’s never been able to tolerate a photo, because the person in those pictures was not her.  She was never that young or happy or carefree.  She was never really a child.  That person in the photos was a living lie.

To be that person was to die.  The unexamined life is not worth living.  –Socrates, OG aspie

The waters stirred
In that very instant, she touched herself
There was no struggle
And the world read the story the next day
Under a photograph rippled by a single tear

For one instant, she did something of her own free will.  She made one decision without influence.  To kill herself was better than being the ballerina.  It was unmasking in the only way she could conceive.

They thought she was happy.  They thought she was resolute in her religious piety.  They thought she was bubbly and outgoing.  They thought she was her name brands, her purses, her shoes, her yes sirs and ma’ams, her acceptance of suffering, her Southern accent, her manners, and her air-headed deference.  They thought she was just a hair north of mediocre, the acceptable level of exceptionality for a girl.  They thought she wanted to go into that career that women do because you’ll-never-be-able-to-make-a-living-if-you-don’t-go-where-the-jobs-are.  They thought a lot of things.

And the world read the story the next day
Under a photograph rippled by a single tear

The people who saw the story would see only the single tear, as if there was some single event or crisis that caused so acute a pain that she did something impulsive.  It was no impulse.  She thought of ending her own life since she was six years old.  She spent hours in desperate prayer– Just please, please, please let me die.  People would speculate about what caused it.  She imagined the conversations that would be had about her before the gossip became too rote to be worth repeating.

She was fresh out of college.
She was a pretty girl.  She had a lovely figure. She could have found a nice man and started a family.
She was young and at the beginning of a career.  All that schoolin’ for nothing.
It was those godless professors putting ideas in her head. 
She came from such a good family. 
She had potential.  She was pretty smart, right?
She always had a funny turn. 
Must have been that music she was listening to.
She turned her back on the Lord.
She was so selfish.  People loved her. 
This wasn’t like her. 
Was it drugs? 
It was those weirdos she hung out with sometimes.
Maybe someone murdered her.  There are a lot of creeps out there.  Could have been gangs.

The article in the paper, the obituary, would detail her happy life and how she was survived by her brothers and her parents and grandparents.  The shiniest details would be there: Valedictorian, summa cum laude, degrees, class president, protective, had a mean serve in volleyball, youth leader, loved to laugh, was a loyal friend, dedicated student, integrity, extremely honest.  There would be a funny anecdote or two, maybe about that one prank or the science fair incident, and the cause of death would be listed as asphyxiation by drowning.  It would be treated as an unanswered question.

She’d made a few attempts, gotten as close as she could to that edge without going over.  The worst thing, she thought, was that not one person alive would know why she did it.  They wouldn’t ever be able to put it into words.  They didn’t know how to see her, and they would’ve rather she suffered in silence anyway.

She didn’t die, though.  She just went on notliving and being the opposite of what she is most wired to be: the truth.  Truth is foundational to the core of Asperger’s, and there’s no resolution or being at peace for someone who has Asperger’s until they are able to explore and examine, and then live those truths.

That is, until she had a name and a path to understanding.  Before, she questioned her sanity.  Before, she had no answer for the medical problems she had.  Before, she was gaslighted by everyone who told her that all of her symptoms and thoughts, even her identity, were no different from anyone else, you’re not special, everyone has problems, you’re making a choice to be this way, you’re normal, you just read too much, it’s because you’re not putting your trust in the Lord, it’s all in your head

Asperger’s was the answer.  It was validation.  It was permission.  It was the ugly duckling finding its way to the swans.  It was community.  But most importantly, it was the truth.

 

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