The other night I was plagued by nightmares. They were all unrelated yet stirring in that dark place inside where all my traumas reside. One moment I’m asleep beside Stephen the next I’m wide awake reliving all those awful memories from my spoiled childhood. I haven’t looked at those skeletons in a long time. I forgot them purposefully but my subconscious dragged me back. It tends to do that because my nightmares tend to bring out the child in me.
When I awake in a fright, I seek the comforts I rarely had as a child. Someone to soothe my concern, someone who is warm and kind and hugs me back the present. Even now it’s hard to face the demons of my past and to acknowledge them, that proves twice as difficult. I have to face them but I was getting by on ignoring it. I thought that would work. When I awoke I thought perhaps it’s time to share what haunts me with the one I want to plan my life with. I changed my mind instantly.
I already told him about the horrors of my last relationship… to lay bare all the burdens I carry seemed too cruel. I didn’t want to give him my pain even if he wants me to share it with him. I don’t want him to carry it too. He already carried so much for me this past year.
So I lay there as he comforted me with a tight squeeze and he fell back asleep. I was paralyzed. I thought about all the shit I witnessed as a child, the times I was expected to be the adult, how I wanted to solve my parents’ problems but I didn’t know how and suddenly a book popped into my head. The Things They Carried was a book I had to read for my English class in high school. God, I hated that book. I didn’t know I hated the book until I reached the end. Some of the stories were intriguing: all the perspectives of different US soldiers fighting in Vietnam, the author was gifted but then I found out that these tales were a work of fiction. Or rather fragments were real and some weren’t. I felt fucking betrayed. I was livid. I was a very angry teenager as it was. Upon finding out this book was a fraud, I wanted to throw the book out the window like Bradley Cooper did in Silver Linings Playbook when he too found himself disappointed with a book’s ending.
Oh, I was pissed. Then I had to do a fucking group project on the book… Christ above, it was like my teacher wanted me to explode in class (I did a couple of times…) and I had to reread it over and over again. The things they carried, the things they carried were weaponry, photos, letters, their guilt, their fear, their trauma… FANTASTIC. So there I am present day remembering my childhood and this book I loathe pops into my head. It had no place there but I kept thinking about it. More specifically I kept thinking about the title. The things they carried… the things I carry. I am slow to things but I don’t really think about the shit I carry. I carry a lot yet I never thought about listing it out.
Mentally I tick off all the things I carry: wallet, keys, cell phone, pens, small notebook, coupons, lip balm, hand cream, random bobby pins, and all the awful memories that I have collected in my own personal chapter book of shit that I never want to think about again. Except my stuff really happened. It happened. It happened to me, some of it went on because of my actions and some were unwarranted.
I tried to clear my mind. Of course, that’s when your mind won’t let you be. The blurry memories didn’t stay blurry, they came into focus. The situations where I was a kid and witnessed some abusive things happening between my parents kept resurfacing. Moments I hadn’t given thought to in years. The foundation to why I don’t have a good relationship with my parents.
Stephen’s voice broke through these thoughts as he asked “are you ok?” and it’s like he knew. Was he even awake?! Perhaps he could feel the shock radiating off me in the bed. “No.” I was honest but I didn’t want to tell him more. He reached for me as if he knew I couldn’t say it yet. “It’s past stuff haunting me.” That’s all I said and he kissed my head and somehow I slept. Maybe that’s all I needed, to speak my truth before falling asleep.
That was only a couple nights ago and today I thought I need to face this. I have time alone. I need to think about why this is bothering me, why I am carrying this still. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop carrying these things but I decided to write down the things that came to mind first. Not in detail just a vague 3 word these-are-the-traumas-I-carry phrases, it sucked that the list was kind of long other things came out and there were the most recent agonies. I decided to burn them or rather I tried to! I burned them a little and the smoke made my eyes tear so I went outside with these papers. I burned them some more liking how the edges curled and then I tore them to pieces. I liked picking them up off the cold, wet ground in tatters and tossing them away. They may be the things I carry but I’m still here.