Tonight I can’t sleep, so I don’t try. Or I haven’t yet, I should say. If writing doesn’t help, I’ll be cleaning the bathroom next.
Two nights ago I woke up in a cold sweat. Not usual and still, not expected.
PTSD is the process of being re-traumtized. It can happen when a survivor is triggered, when they are in unhealthy relationships, or when they self-harm. I’m sure there’re other ways, too. I sought out a church that fed, unconsciously, into my need to be a “bad” person. The brain wrinkles around what it knows. Trauma survivors know how to be traumatized.
I had been standing in the…I don’t know what the family title was for this room, but it stood in the center of Jim’s house. You passed through this room, elevated by a few stairs, to reach the living room from the kitchen and vise versa. If you went down the hallway leading off this room, you reached a bathroom, the master bedroom, and the double-size kids’ room. I was standing in the that unnamed room. My shelf was in that room. It was where we sang Have Mercy on a karaoke set. This wasn’t a place that existed anymore in reality. This wasn’t real. Granted, I feel that frequently. I make a note that from here on out, I am an unreliable narrator.
The light is on in the kitchen, and I slink along the inside wall of the room. I’m listening. There are two people speaking in the kitchen. One is using an inflicted accent. No, more of a squeaky sound? Higher than normal pitch and with unnatural giggles at forced intervals. The reply to this sickly sweet tone is a deeper, thicker voice. An older man replies between coughs, words sloshing from his mouth like excess bourbon. I prepare to see a younger version of myself with my father. I’m having a flashback or a nightmare. Depending on which, things could get really outrageous. Nightmares deal far less in logic. I breathe deep and steel myself. Facing my fragments are the best way to reform the way my brain works. I was taught to fear and harm, but I have proven that I am strong, able to challenge what others think and able to deal with this insane shit. Yeah, I tell myself. I’ve got this. I slide further down the hall and can see the pair. Down the four brick stairs that lead to the garish yellow kitchen, I see my father seated at the dining room table talking to a woman seated before him on the dining room table.
It’s my ex girlfriend. My ex and my father are acting out…something. Something I can’t watch.
All of the air in my body goes out of me. My gag reflex is suppressed by the fear of being discovered. Niki can see me if she looks up. I don’t know if she has her glasses on or not. Wait, I tell myself. It doesn’t matter if she can see me or not, because this is not real, and therefore not happening. I start to recite my current reality: I’m an adult, a thirty year old adult, living with a dude who loves me, and a cat, and my paintings. Jim is dead. Jim’s been dead. This isn’t happening. Breathe.
I’m cut off in my mantras by my father asking, “what happened?” in the way Niki liked being asked that rhetorical question. My stomachs regains my throat. Pushing it back down gives my mind a moment to try and find reality. It was just here, and I can’t still be having these nightmares. I can’t still, fucking still, be depressed and broken over this old bullshit. My anxiety rises as I circle back on how mentally fucked I am, to have this unconscious pairing.
Niki starts reading those goddamn texts. The ones that didn’t have anything to do with what she needed to fess up to me, but totally, explicitly, in graphic detail, explain what she and Daddy Mike were gonna do in my bed. Those text messages. Yeah, and she’s telling my father how she wants to be treated. Every thought in my mind is a train at full speed, followed by another, and another. I’m being rushed down by huge steel monster thoughts with blaring lights and screaming horns, hopelessly warning me about my eminent death. What the fuck is happening? Where am I? When am I? This didn’t happen. This couldn’t have happened. Do I save her? Does she need saving? Jim isn’t alive. Jim can’t hurt anyone. Niki can hurt herself if she wants, she’s an adult. Niki does hurt herself. I can’t let Niki have Jim hurt her. She has no idea what she’s doing. It’s not my job. I couldn’t do it if it was my job.
He’s going to rape her. I just know it. I don’t know what to do. I can’t fucking move. I can’t cry out, I can’t stop him, and I can’t stop seeing this nightmare unfold. My brain is melting. She’s got a pacifier in her mouth and I hear a chair groan across the floor. Jim’s standing.
I’m so angry her. I don’t know if I could ever be angry enough for someone to deserve this, though. I hate that woman; that child; that idiot that I was in letting myself be strung along. But I can’t let this happen.
I’m not breathing. I see my skin start to fade into shades of shadow purple. I’m fading away into the dark of my hiding spot.
The room is presented to me through a new lens. I’ve moved to the back part of the house, where my father added in a spot for Alex’s room. I think he spent one partial summer there. We don’t talk about it.
From this vantage point, I see the dining room dead on, save for the black stripes of shadow. My view is filtered by old wooden slats over the bottom half of the door. I’m shorter now. I sit with my knees bunched up to my flat chest, and try not to rock back and fourth. The door might not be locked, but checking would draw attention. The room still houses the same two hosts of my horror, but the surroundings are silent. I can see her mouth moving, I see him pulling, pushing, her screaming and laughing, his lack of stamina due to drink, ashes falling from his lit cigarette onto her back and it’s slow. It’s all happening in deafening silence, in slow motion, before my stupid, stupid eyes. As I try to talk myself back to proper height and time, I start to hear three sounds. They layer like a mix track no one wants. I hear the brown Crown hitting the inside of the bottle before it enters inside him. I can hear the paper on hisCamel burn closer to the filter as he takes a shaky drag. And lastly, I hear a child crying.
I don’t know if it’s me.
I wake up. I’m sitting upright. I must have cried out because Jared is awake, talking to me. He’s rubbing my back, telling me that we’re safe. It was just a nightmare. The cat was disturbed from her slumber as well. An indignant noise is made softly as the tiny lion circles her people, seeing why we are moving. I breathe. I hold one hand to my face and try to find my center. I pull the blankets off and the ceiling fan blows over the sweat. My body is suddenly chill and I am tall again. It was a nightmare. Jared is making soothing sounds as he lays down again. The cat sits between our heads and is unhappy when she’s moved to the foot of the bed. I’m at home.
I am ashamed for even having such combinations of ideas in my mind. I’m disgusted that people do this shit: to their children, to themselves, etc. I fucking hate Niki, which is kind of annoying. I’d hoped that bitter phase would be over rather than out like the tide. A glimmer in this shit pile is the realization that while I’m comfortable hating Niki, I’m not okay to hate Jim. I’m afraid of him. I feel fear, shame, guilt, doubt, suspicion, and any other number of emotions; not hate. I’m not brave enough to hate Jim. Niki is easy to hate because she’s a blip on my late twenties that I regret, in part. I don’t like regretting things. I regret not talking to Brian for months the way we did in the last week. I regret that I lost good friends and a sense of family when I ended things. I really regret that I didn’t dump her when I first thought to do so. The hate part is probably more about me hating all the dumbshit things I said and smoked to keep myself blind to Niki’s drama. It helps that several people have told me that Niki downright fears me, and that she goes to great lengths to avoid me when I’m up north. The image of Niki in my mind is that harried girl who obviously had been up for nights crying, but still couldn’t manage to form a goal after eight days of thinking about “things”. She isn’t a threat to anyone. So, without fear, I feel hate. All the hate I would feel towards Jim, towards the situation, towards my whole general trauma, is easily sloughed onto my ex. Again. lol
With Steve it wasn’t quite like that, but I did have Steph comparing him to Preston, saying he’d financially raped me, etc. lol Steph telling me about boys taking money they didn’t earn. And with Steve I mostly hated that I’d sold my car. I still can’t believe I sold my car. What an idiot I was. Am, potentially. I feel and fear that I am an object with unlimited potential motion towards idiocy.
Aside from nightmares that have made me fear sleep altogether this week, life is pretty grand. I have amazing love surrounding me. I’m doing good meditation work. Mindfulness progress. My Carolina jasmine is climbing with gusto and my creeping Jenny is dropping down vines over the fuchsia bird cage turned planter. I can’t quite remember the day, but I haven’t bailed on commitments or social things. I had open, honest talks of note with my sister and mother this week. I entertained the idea of aloping over the long weekend but choose to sleep in. I finished season three of Grace and Frankie. I took pictures of a frog in the bayou. I sang, had it recorded, listened to it, and fucking shared that nonsense. I’m facing the challenges. My challenges feel like privileged, first-world, pretend, and highly unrealistic challenges, but they knock me on my ass all the same. I’m fighting. I’m waging my own battle and I’m trying really hard here. What else can I do but that?