My teacher told me “Write about the darkness before the light.” This is what I wrote.
The way she speaks to me is absolutely shocking. So shocking that most of the time I just ignore her altogether.
She’s just a voice in my head, a voice from my past, I whisper to myself.
She’s like the crazy lady on the subway platform in Times Square, pacing in her flip flops and thick socks, picking at her scalp under her thick wool skullcap, who turned to me, hot breath reaching me in a cloud of oily smoke: “You are already dead. The worms are falling out of your eye sockets. You are already dead. What are you here for?”
She’s just a crazy lady, living in my head.
If someone like that is in your head, shouldn’t you ignore her, as you ignore the woman on the platform? Of course. Of course you should.
She’s the one I used to be afraid of. When I listened to her, I was afraid of myself, of my heart beating under my breastbone. I felt those beats, steady one minute then fluttering in terror when she arrived, and I knew that if I listened to her I would drive myself off the cliff behind my aunt’s house. I would throw myself off the top of the building. I would run naked through the park, letting those who prowl take me and butcher me.
It took me years to learn that she had something important to say. That buried in her foul words, her insults, her death wishes, was this terribly true insight: I am made of darkness, and I know it.
I am death, even while I am alive. And that’s OK.
In fact, it’s normal. It’s physics, for fuck’s sake.
And in order for me to live fully, I need to know that the darkness inside is my candle in the night.
It’s the way forward.
Because it’s not really darkness. It’s not really death. Just like this isn’t really life, this thing that I’m living. It’s all the same thing, really, just turned inside out and back again and inside out and back again, like those silicone baking cups that work both sides.
Black holes are inverted universes, and our universe is a black hole on the other side.
There is no bravery in this existence, there is no fear. There is only The Way Things Work.
Fear is what we feel when we are pretending that we are not Both/And. Fear is what we have when we believe in the myth of Either/Or and Neither/Nor.
And so now, sometimes, when that crazy lady speaks, I listen. Closely. I turn to her and take her hand, and say “What is it that you need to say? What is it that I have forgotten, that you want me to remember?”
I sit with her on the platform bench and let her sound, let her words wash over me and tell me what I have been afraid of, in secret, in my inverted self. What I have yearned for, but never acknowledged.
What I desire unbidden, what is there for me, in that other world that looks like darkness from over here.
We sit, and the wind from the passing trains lifts our hair and ruffles the pages of our books, and as she speaks, and I listen, I study her face, and see the wrinkles dance over her flesh, crinkly and twinkly like stars, and her snow white hair tumbling out around her face is curly and fine, and she stops spitting and hissing, and starts whispering and cooing, and when she is finished, she sits there, looking at me, shining, and I look back, shining, and she gestures to the track.
“There’s your train.”