Shadow Travel

An insufferable will to remember possesses me. Some days, my mind and I get along as we tumble back in time together. These days it feels we speak the same language. The language of trauma, of reflection, of reliving past lives repeat ad nauseum. We speak to each other, and I am enabled to write these words upon the page with a lucidity I dare not take for granted, because most days we are wasted.

We slur together as I stumble down the halls of time, stopping only to vomit and medicate my chronic pain. I open doors to find memories that do not feel like memories, they feel like places I never leave, like moments that never end. The party goes on forever, long after every guest has fallen ill and retreated to their own makeshift shelter behind couches, shrouded in darkness. The social becomes too much to bear, but all exits are blocked until the flashbacks end. None of us can get out. Not my ten year old boyself locked in mother’s house, nor my current self who sometimes lives in his skin. Trapped, we toil together with our imaginations, trying not to let the darkness kill us before the locks open, chains of time fall away. We sing together, we dance alone with each other, we take photos of our immutable surroundings, documenting the surreal stoppage of time.

We stare at our work: photographs that move and swallow the viewer whole. There too, we speak the same language: one of perpetual listlessness, of unbecoming as my sense of self fades into other selves that seemed to die long ago. My hands hold his against a guitar, rest next to his on the piano, vocal cords scream into pillows in a warped, guttural pitch that echoes us both. Together we break our silence, let time coagulate as we drink it down until we’re sick again. The doors open for a second, I leave as quickly as I came, abandoning him for present reality.

These words are a tribute to his existence, as a complete self that never felt like anything other than primal disquiet, enraptured pain, constant lack of being. A complete self that still feels that way long after I’ve moved out, grown up, left my home town, and done everything I possibly can to express myself and heal. A consistent pain that holds me together.

They say chronic pain is a symptom of complex trauma, possibly of complex PTSD. Dad says it’s dangerous to self-diagnose, because I’ll trick myself into exhibiting symptoms of a sickness based in belief. If this is true, then belief in my own existence is evidently an illness. These messages are all too clear to me; they live on in tense muscles and overactive nerves as I buckle down daily, attempting to shrink to a more invisible size. Both my father and I self-isolate.

Mother remains a mystery as always. I’m left to guess why she hurts the way she does, as my questions fall flat against her lack of memory. Conscious or not, her defenses work well enough to kick her own child out of her life on a continual basis.

As always, the parents are fully responsible for the negative conditions of the child’s life. Let’s just ignore transmisogyny and all of society’s other oppressive institutions for now—I was raised in isolation. The social was either too distant to be worth considering, or too intimate to be differentiated from my sense of self once I finally made it out. Besides, history loves to blame history for its own shortcomings, loves to displace its own accountability in the present.

Child is born. Plays gameboy till they get their own TV. Plays Nintendo till it goes out of style, then switches to Playstation to feel more mature. Eats junk compulsively. Does everything a good consumer is expected to. Gets a little older, starts getting stoned, wonders why jerking off feels so disgusting. Stops eating. Comes out as Trans. Plays Xbox compulsively, works full time. Does everything a good consumer is expected to do. Starts falling in love, ignores all the red flags along the way, like a good survivor is supposed to. Life melts, explodes, loses all form and logic. Has surgery, keeps getting stoned, wonders why jerking off is so painful. The pain stops for half a second or half a year. Falls in love a few more times. Pain starts up again when they realize they can’t count on anyone in life except themself. Child keeps getting stoned, starts playing Playstation again, does most of the things a good consumer is supposed to do, now with more radically aware self-consciousness and guilt. Feels about as mature as last time. Keeps having flashbacks. Keeps crying while jerking off. Keeps waking up with headaches, taking ibuprofen with hormones every morning. Tries to be responsible, like a good adult survivor is supposed to, especially at their age, no matter how young they feel inside and how desperate they are to return to a time when things where simple, when coping mechanisms actually worked, when a future still felt possible.

Is this a confession? A document of my trauma’s legacy? Something tells me these words are more than a journal entry, more than a personal memoir. There’s no real narrative, my steps do not walk down any set path. I can’t write a novel, and I wouldn’t dare to seduce you into my sob story. The child may not even be me. I don’t always cry when I jerk off these days. In fact, I actually enjoy it.

Perhaps this is all just an experiment, but I don’t know the controlled variables. If it was a game I’d hope to at least be able to tell you the rules. If it was a film we’d all be crying right now, or at least throwing things at the screen in disgust. This information I am sharing with you in fact has no set boundaries or scripts by which you can orient yourself to it. I don’t care how you feel. I don’t care what you think about the events of my life. This isn’t about me. It’s about what you make out of it. Does that make it worth sharing at all?

What’s worth sharing when the world is a towel too soaked with piss to absorb the blood on your hands? What’s worth sharing when every thought is killed by the next, when every desire fulfilled leaves ten wrought with longing? What’s worth sharing when doubt announces their presence in the room with a drunken yelp, trashes the house, and vomits on all their friends before any of them have time to interject with their own dreams, desires, and inspired poems?

Maybe every guest at that party once wandered into another house and did the exact same thing, and they’re reliving those memories for the rest of their lives.

Maybe that’s why we’re all hiding behind couches in the dark.

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