Visual Anatomy is a bird's eye view of my inner workings, a pixelated spilling of my guts and thoughts spread out into a trilogy. Find out more here.
I used to see the world in a different way.
We were all little programs running around in this great, big gigantic environment, doing things, repeating things, trying to solve problems. I saw codes on the screen of the subject I study today inside of me -- strings of 1s and 0s impeccable to the last line zooming through my brains, thought out and coded out to perfectly run a series of steps precise to its function, never faltering, never failing, immaculate.
But when I started to see my code falter -- a little too slow, a little too clumsy, a little too big -- I did what I could to keep things in order; I tried to fix things. Debug. Find the error in me. And then --
We were sitting by the lamp in my room, fluorescent, casting treacherous shadows. It had been an hour since I had crumbled on my bedroom floor before picking up the phone and an hour since I'd sat him on the bed trying to get the words out and an hour since he had arrived at the door in his stupid yellow tee that made me laugh whenever I saw it -- 99.9% Perfect, it said.
Oh life, I thought, you great, unsympathetic irony.
I'd been trying to get the words out and he'd been sitting in front of me, palms wrapped around mine, looking at me with his dark, tired eyes. Quiet. Patient -- he was never patient, not usually. I was pinching myself with my other hand underneath the sheets. Black and blue and bruised; the way the flesh breaks in frustration.
The thought of what I wanted to say was swirling endlessly in my throat and my tongue was trying to scoop everything out, but I didn't know how to put it into words. I didn't know how to tell him that the constant need to be perfect had driven me to the edge of self-destruction and that I needed to be defused. He was waiting.
"Are you tired?" I asked.
He was tired, I could tell, by the way the bags under his eyes bulged and the way his eye lids fluttered shut occasionally and the way he was smiling the smile he smiled only when he was falling asleep. But he said, "No."
He continued to wait and I continued to pinch. I looked at him, a hazy shadow in the dim room breathing quietly at two in the morning. He was supposed to be a figure in bed on his back sleeping the hours away, not sitting and staring at a pathetic being in her too-cramped, too-messy, too-far room. I hated myself for making him come all the way here. Black and blue and bruised; the way the flesh dies in repulsion.
We spent a while in silence again before he lifted his fingers and brushed over the scars on my shoulder. They were black bumps in the dim light, but he brushed over every one, "Is this something about your scars?"
A lump caught in my throat and I stared intently at the window. I tried to count the stars in the black sky but there were none. Still, I continued to stare and stare. Scars and stars and stares. Anything was better than looking him in the eye.
"May?" he said my name.
I didn't respond. The lump in my throat was still there.
I swallowed the lump away and tore my gaze from the night sky. It was dead tonight. I croaked, "Yeah."
His hand had slid off my shoulder and were holding mine now. His thumb was rubbing the back of my hand.
"Have you been cutting again?" he asked. My heart swelled at his question, grateful for his patient persistence and his willingness to understand.
"Yeah," I replied, "But it's worse this time."
"What do you mean?"
"Do you remember that time we were at McDonald's?"
And I knew he did. We always talked about that December moment where we spent hours exploring each other's life for the first time at the fast food restaurant over salty chips and dodgy burgers.
"Do you remember what I told you? Besides from the cutting?" I asked.
And he knew. I could see it in his eyes. Fogged over, dilated. Our shadows danced on the walls.
"Have you been thinking like that again?" he asked.
Like that again. How mildly he put it, yet how effective. I couldn't see his face but I felt his gaze boring into me, trying to find an answer to the question I had dumped onto him. And so I told him. The plan. The date. He let me cry on his shoulders but all I wanted to do was stop the tears. I felt weak and pathetic.
"It's okay to cry," he whispered into my ears, "Shhhh."
The dam I had built around myself broke as streams kept pouring out, his arms and voice a haven I could lose myself in. It was overwhelming and liberating to finally let it all out. It felt like there was a weight lifted off my shoulders, but it didn't end there. There was something else.
I slipped off the bed and pulled out a stack of notes I hid inside my wardrobe, the notes I kept right next to my clothes with sizes I was all too aware of. They were ugly yellow post-its I had scrawled on over the months to remind me of everything wrong that I was.
You bitch, stuck right on my wardrobe door. It was the first thing I saw every time I took off my clothes to grab clean ones.
You failure, another said. Right next to the jeans I thought were twenty sizes too large.
STARVE, YOU WHALE, another shouted right smack in the center of all my tops and dresses. Next to it: goal weights. Under goal weights. Unhealthy under goal weights.
I was looking at them quietly, feeling the words slap me as they usually do on afternoons and evenings I sat staring at them, meditating at them, and I decided I didn't want to show them to him. What was it? Shame?
I closed the door hurriedly, but I was too late. He was standing behind me, reading.
The next few moments, in my memory, always happened in slow motion. He had taken one of the notes and was reading it over and over again. His mouth was gaping and he was swaying on the spot and I felt my heart about to rip out of my chest. I was looking away, silently begging for him to put the note down but he didn't. I snatched the note from his hands, crumpled it up and threw it in the rubbish bin.
"Are there more?" he asked, his hands still frozen from the ghost of holding the note.
"Yeah," I muttered, "But come on, let's go."
I turned round to take his hand, but he had his hands over his face, and it was this moment that will be forever imprinted in my mind and it was this moment that I realized how much a heart could be shattered. His face had contorted into something I can only describe as disbelief and confusion and pain all at once. His broad shoulders, the very ones I loved for its strength and resilience, was slumped over and it felt like the swinging pendulum of time had warped into an alternate dimension fueled by inertia.
The first tears formed in his eyes and he shut them tight. It was at this moment that a pain so sharp seared through my chest and it felt like my heart was being gouged and wiggled and severed out of my chest and the vessels holding it in place were cut into a mess and its beat was being muffled and muted and the world around me started spinning and my ear started pounding and I clutched at my chest to stop the pain because all I wanted to do was stop the pain -- but I couldn't. There was nothing there.
"Why?" A sniff. A break. I think.
"I'm sorry." A pause. A tear.
A bug -- but that wasn't me.
Just wanted to pop in real quickly and say that this anecdote was a memory from a year and a half ago, so I've been clean for quite a while now, don't worry. This installment is a very personal one to me but it's also one of the memories that I think has a huge significance in my life. It explains why it's still so vivid in my mind because really, without it, I wouldn't be here sharing this.