I went out to feed the dogs this morning. Moments before, I finished reading Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett and identified too much with her best friend Lucy Grealy, a woman who made sure people knew her physical suffering should not be identified with because it could not compare. But what disturbed me most, more than her disfigured face ever could, was that I identified with her mental and emotional struggles.
I told one of my dearest friends, “Read this beautiful book. I’m hallway through. I’m Lucy.” And not knowing what would become of Lucy, she enthusiastically agreed.
Her clingy behaviors in the book become increasingly more annoying and identifiable.
“Do you love me?” she asks.
“Am I talented?”
“Am I the favorite?”
“Why am I lonely? Will I ever be happy?”
“After this next thing….then I will be happy.”
“Am I best?”
Do you love me. Am I talented. Do you love me.
Are you mad at me? Do you forgive me? Do you love me?
I opened the door of the dog box and Gracie yelped. I said out loud, “Gracie you have beautiful eyes.” And they are beautiful—light and dark and amber brown and olive-green. Like there’s a soul in this dog. And I cried. I picked her up, remembering, “It’s okay to need things.” I just wanted to feel her paws around my neck. Give her a hug. Get a hug back.
And I found a little tick on her left ear. I couldn’t pull it off. I made a mental note to tell Josh later.
And then, clearly, I knew. Something was trying to suck the grace out of Grace. And days before, I was just thinking about how grace would never stiffly sit at a piano or sternly preach from a pulpit…or perch,
because it’s Sunday church,
mediocre on a pew.
No. She prances, dances, plays and sleeps and loves. Just as Gracie leaps and attaches sweet tiny claws into me, ticks attach too. And I felt the hallucination of my own flesh crawling with them. Sucking all the grace.
The hallucination hadn’t come from nowhere. I know how my brain works. Yesterday, after morel hunting, I found a tiny deer tick on my chest. And while it was crawling around, I asked Josh what to do, what to do? “Throw it out the window. We don’t want to keep it as a pet.” And then we joked about checking each other for ticks later. Like the redneck song says.
But I didn’t want to later. Other things on my mind. And if he naked-examined me for ticks, he would find three burns on my left thigh. Three punishments I’d inflicted. And I am not allowed to self-inflict with any kind of harm. And blood was coming from between my thighs, too. And there’s nothing sexy about a shower with blood. Blood that’s not supposed to be there. Blood from pressure and stress hormones. I choose to burn instead of cut when I screw up or when something hurts my heart. And because I don’t like blood, my body’s goal is to make me bleed, somehow, with no reason or rhythm or schedule. And the friends who ask me if I’m miscarrying tiny little humans make my heart hurt more.
I took my too-hot bath. I locked the door and prayed he wouldn’t hear that little click. Later, he asked me why I took so long. The movie he’d picked up (a sweet Nicholas Sparks’ this time) was ready. I knew what he was thinking. He was hoping desperately the latest detail I’d screwed up on hadn’t driven me to burn my wrists.
I thought about how the welts and blisters and scabs were not on my wrists this time.
Thighs are not wrists.
“I’m so glad you are here with me tonight.”
“Me too,” he said. Kissed my forehead.
I am a shadow of what I once was. A sliver. A slice. A shiver. A wisp. A whisper. A ghost. So it doesn’t surprise me as the number on the scale goes down. It just seems fitting…..
Do they love me? Am I talented? Do they love me?……
Because something is sucking all the nourishment. All the life. All the grace.