Bad Poetry, a Mask, & Truth7 min read

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 cliché, 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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