fixations of childhood, obsessions of adulthood

Do you remember when I was in middle school and so obsessed with John that I created an imaginary friend named Jay who looked just like him? He was like my mind’s replacement. I think I said he was twenty-three (much older than I was at the time but still tame, although inwardly I wished he were older) and had blond hair and green eyes, but I could never keep track of the eye color, so sometimes they were blue instead. I imagined he walked with me when I went out, and he slept beside me with one arm draped around me. I never thought I was starving for romantic affection, but I was, and desperate for a man to accept my obsession. I don’t know why. I don’t know when it started. Back when I was eight years old, I fell in love with a forty-year-old singer from American Idol, and I don’t think that was the first time. I loved the Doctor because he was nine hundred years old. I loved Motorcycle Man, the 33-year-old from my church. I was absolutely dumbstruck by every single male pastor and teacher and counselor I ever had, so I kept up with ten-page journal entries about every single one of them and I gazed at them, chest aching, from across the campfires of youth group retreats. I ought to burn all the journals I kept before ninth grade. At least after ninth grade I began to learn to hide my obsession.
At high school graduation, I proceeded down the line of teachers with outstretched hands to shake, and instead, I hugged all the ones I loved the most, and the one I’m too scared to name said “thank you for everything, Emily” and when I sat down I realized they could not see me the same way after this. In adulthood, everyone is the same. But the way I love men is divisive.
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Obsessions

I’m eating Captain Crunch at midnight and reflecting on the ways I’m like a mussel, or a snail, clinging to whatever I can. I’m thinking about a particular sensation that comes over me when I’m given too much time to think. It feels like I’m drifting away, somehow, mentally, and I ground myself again by grabbing hold of the thought of something that brings me comfort.

I have the feeling I have some sort of mental disorder. I’m sure I’m not like anyone I’ve met. I’ve asked most of my friends about it, and they relate to a certain degree, but never entirely. I have such an obsessive personality. I’m afraid of it.

I’m talking creepy. I used to write letters in my journal to my youth pastor. They were sometimes ten pages long. I kept anything he gave me. I religiously recorded every word he bestowed upon me. Anywhere he touched me burned with holy oil and I thought of him like an angel and a saint and a savior and a God, and I think I’m not quite describing this well enough. I’m not sure I could employ any words extreme enough to describe it. I’m ashamed of it. I cried if I had to miss a church service because it meant I was missing an opportunity just to look at him, to glance at him across the room. I don’t know why I didn’t realize then how weird it was. I guess I always figured everyone felt the same way but they were too ashamed to admit it.

It wasn’t just my youth pastor. It was nearly every adult male in my life. I say “was,” but it hasn’t stopped. Authority figures: youth pastors, teachers, leaders, actors, etc. I hate trying to describe this because it’s so difficult, and because I’ve built up so much self-loathing because of it. I can’t understand it. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been made fun of for it. I know exactly why I have, though. Because it’s fucking creepy. And annoying as hell. But I cannot help it. I can’t. I’ve tried.

It used to just be male authority figures (two of my youth pastors, one of my head pastors, three of my history teachers, one youth leader, one creative writing teacher), but now it’s more. It’s actors and fictional characters. It’s John Barrowman and Zachary Quinto and Gillian Anderson and Mads Mikkelsen and P!nk. It’s Spock and Kirk, Jenny and Vastra, Captain Jack and Ianto, Furiosa and Max, Dean and Castiel, Maleficent and Aurora, Shepard and Liara. I could go on, because it doesn’t really stop. It doesn’t really let go of me. When I listen to the thrum of my existence and my soul, I hear them.

It’s normally a whole cocktail of people. I’ve got a hat of names to draw from, thoughts to choose from to distract me from whatever it is I’m distracting myself from (I haven’t figured it out yet). It’s hard to tell who or what I’ll be obsessing over on a given day. Recently it’s been a girl from my English class who I can barely even call my friend and whose wide smile fills me with such incredible white-hot frothing bubbly glee that my chest tightens and my skin feels clear and my soul is scraped free of sin. I could relate to you, in painstaking detail, every occasion I’ve made contact with her over the last four years, because my memory is crazy good and because I am frantically obsessed with her.

When I was a freshman, I had the hugest crush on this girl (who’s now my best friend). She made me realize I liked girls, actually. And I remembered for years every time she touched me. I remembered almost everything she said to me, even if I didn’t write it down in my journal. It was because I cleared out everything but her. I filtered reality through the shape of her body, the color of her Irish skin, the freckle in her eye, and the masculine quality of her voice.

Obviously, there are some benefits to being so fucking obsessed with people. For one thing, it makes my days a lot more interesting. It gives me something to write about, to think about, to live about. But also, I’m really afraid that nobody will love me the way I love them. I think it’s probably impossible. And I know this is unhealthy. Very unhealthy. Destructive to relationships, possibly. It gives things a weird tint. It makes me overly anxious. Clearly, something will go wrong if I spend every waking moment of my life reflecting on my latest interaction with someone I’ve barely gotten the chance to know.

1961

look. I know I matter to you in some way. it glows a little in the back of your neck when I talk to you. and you smile. a lot. so much that it burns my tongue. and I can’t look at you. because I don’t want you to know. so I’ll just tell my memory card.

when I’m not thinking about running my fingernails along the skin of your back, I replay the image of you telling me your dreams. not expecting me to interpret them. just allowing me to glimpse through the keyhole and into your mind. I think of you, in the solitary wasteland of your subconscious, sand stuck in the soles of your boots, saltwater spray drying on your eyelashes, standing wordless with open thoughts before the great unknown beast of the sea. it’s beached. there’s no one but you and the gelatinous shell of a once living creature.

when I’m not thinking about getting stuck between you and a hard place, I think maybe I should draw you again. maybe this time, I can really memorize you. maybe this time, I’ll become a little more like you. and maybe you’ll remember me.

I am so fucking fascinated by you. by how God could have managed to piece so much wisdom and wonder into a puzzle so seemingly ordinary as you.

I want you to grind into me and burn me out from both ends.

I imagine how it would feel to sit in your lap and trace my finger along every visible vein and artery in your arm, press my thumb into your wrist and find where our hearts drum the same. you exist, and that’s what’s intoxicating to me — that’s why I wish I could count your heartbeat and let your stubble scratch my palm, why I wish we could lie naked in the desert and wait for the sun to find its way back to the morning. you are at once grounding and overwhelming. just imagining the bones in your fingers, the tendons in your neck sets my blood panting for air. just because you have a body. because you exist at the same time as I do. because our timelines merged for a moment in eternity flung in the air and you, for whatever reason, let me see a little bit of who you are.

Fly Me to the Moon

I told you I would jump over the moon if it would help you

but I can’t wind up my legs enough to clear 238,900 miles

and even if I could you’d tell me I did it for myself

because there is no way on earth I could love you

 

did you think blowing air through your teeth

would stop the affection from pooling in the gaps between my fingers

did you think you could stop me from feeling

if you told me I didn’t understand

 

I know I can’t see the man who hovers in the corner

of your room at night and screams at you

I know I can’t see the little black dog climbing the stairs

or fly away with Peter Pan

 

I know I wasn’t there when you cried in your bathtub

and held knives over your wrists and remembered the times

we said we would live together when I’m in college

and visit Cole in prison because we all know he’s headed there

 

I can’t see the same things you see

but I can see you

and I wish you hadn’t told me I couldn’t love you

because if I didn’t know you then you didn’t love me

 

you cut off my circulation

because you were afraid I might try to save your life

and I can’t even write your name anymore without feeling

like I’m stealing something of yours

 

I hope I never touch you again.

Love Isn’t About Sex

we sat together, you and me, against a tree
coming back into our own skin
and the colors were winding back down
the kaleidoscopes fading away
we wrapped our arms around each other, and we watched kids throwing a frisbee
and we laughed because we knew all the tourists figured we were dating
just because you’re a boy and I’m a girl
just because we were cuddling

everything felt raw
and new
and a little bit worthless
except for you

a few tears ran down my cheeks
but the emotion ran deeper
they weren’t quite sad tears
they were just existence falling through

I began to touch your arm
with the tips of my fingers
to run my skin along your skin
not romantically, not sexually
but I found solidity and meaning in you
your existence, your soul, inhabiting your skin
and in that moment, we were the same being
with our limbs entwined and my tears on your shirt
we were falling through time and space and reality, together, one and the same
both looking for meaning
and finding just a little bit of validity
in the presence of each other

I felt you
I loved you

you and I
are under no pretenses about the word love
it is neither purely romantic nor sexual
it is the joining of souls
in light of forever

I love you.

But I Cut You Off Because You’re Horrible

There is a world inside of you that I didn’t even know existed. You are insane — you are actually psychotic. You’ve beaten people to the brink of death with no regrets because they offended you. You’re fucking scary. And I love you.

You’ve hurt me a little. But you tore this veil from my eyes without even meaning to. I understand the world a bit better because of you. There’s a tornado inside you between your passion and your depression. Look, don’t let that kill you. Let it bring you alive. You can change the world. You changed me.

I feel your presence even in my sleep, in my subconscious. You’re chaotic and unpredictable and hard to handle. I’m a little jealous of you. But that’s fucking horrible, isn’t it? That’s horrible because why would I want to be schizophrenic with attenuated psychosis and PTSD and chronic depression? I don’t want those, no. But I wish I had your charm, your wit, your allure, your pretty mystery.

I’ll never have it. But that’s okay. I’ll experience it secondhand for the rest of my life, because I love you. I love you.

Stars and Their People

I wonder why nobody pays any attention to me. I analyze my actions and think, I’m so worthy of attention, I’m so fucking smart and talented and why doesn’t everybody love me? I ought to be famous by now.
But I take a look at the stars, and I look around as I walk in public, at all the faces, listen to all the voices, and I don’t know any of their fucking names, I don’t know who they are, I don’t fucking know what they even do. I look at the sky and I don’t even fucking know if we’re alone here, I don’t know if humanity is all there is. Fuck, is there a God? If there isn’t, we’re tiny, we’re fucking tiny, and I’m tiny, and I can’t even remember people’s names when they tell them to me, and I sit in school and laugh at how stupid my peers are compared to me. They aren’t stupid.
I’m trapped in my mind, and I only have my eyes. I can’t fucking comprehend how many people there are on earth. I can’t imagine being someone else, not enough to care about them more than I fucking care about myself.
I talk about myself too much. Hell, I’m starting almost every sentence here with the word “I.” I only stop talking about myself when I think I’m annoying, because I’m so scared of what people will think of me, I’m scared they’ll think I’m selfish.
I am selfish.
I’ve always been selfish, and I’ll always be fucking selfish.
There are so many people without names. I want significance, but I can’t even manage to give significance to my best friend without fucking everything up.
The truth is, I don’t know what to do. I want a God, but the God I’ve been raised to believe apparently made us just to send us to hell. People say we’re born sinful, and that means we deserve to go to hell unless we accept grace from God, but didn’t God make us? He makes us sinful and then punishes us for being sinful. I’m too fucking scared to try out another religion. I’m too fucking scared not to believe in a God. I don’t know what religion I am. I don’t know what sexuality I am.
I don’t know fucking anything. I say I love people, but I don’t know how to love.
I want to care enough to make a change, but I just cry when I look at the stars because there is so much I will never know, and I just cry when I look at the people around me, because even if I become significant against so many odds, there are so many people who will die insignificant that I could spend my whole life naming them off and I still wouldn’t make it to the end of the list.