The house is shining with the bright light of a new day. The cream colored curtains float like sails beneath the golden light of the incoming sun. The house is ringing in its coldness. The thick Persian rugs do little to deflect the chill of polished wooden floors and pale-green walls. Two rooms away, a TV is on and a little Korean boy sits on an overstuffed couch, absorbing the sounds of barnyard cartoon characters while he slowly eats his breakfast of fried rice and a single peeled banana. Two chambers away, past the kitchen, through the dining room, and beneath the ivory archway into the living room, is where I sit, on a mauve loveseat that’s parallel to the similarly styled couch.
I want to use the word hollow…I see a female standing at the edge of cliff while fluttering bats shake the night through her hair. I feel the coldness of the house, the artificial sounds of the TV…something is strange. It is my perception. It is me standing at the side of the slate rock cliff. It is I looking down at the collection of me that is the bottom. The thing that I fear, the thing that keeps me staring in wide-mouthed awe is the subconscious motivations I have just glimpsed. It is that, pulling back the blankets, opening the eyelids and discovering a naked creature that moves without thought, that moves as though pulled by levers and strings. The moment of discovery is truly shocking, like a zap to the core that laughs in my face as I discover the true intentions behind my own behavior. The behavior I have spent a lifetime justifying, spinning webs and circles around it with my mouth. It’s not that I lied. A lie requires some sort of consciousness. This is beyond a lie. These are the lies that I believe as truth. The things I call ideas, philosophies, thoughts, life choices. These are the things I call “me.” And I both want to laugh and cry as I look into the abyss of my machine and glimpse the habit behind the impulse.
We all sat in an artificially warmed room. From the shifting light of a glowing electronic box, we watched others like us self-destruct. Through this new form of entertainment, through the captured pain of another girl who walked and talked like Jennifer Lopez in a movie wrought with conflicting personalities and alcohol… through this, I saw myself.
“I started cutting myself when I was thirteen,” the girl admitted to the video camera. “That’s why I like tattoos, it’s a way of doing it without anyone knowing.”
There were a couple seconds of silence in the room. The sort of time that stops and quiets even a large TV and two speakers. There was something, something moving, shifting on the currents of artificial warm air, moving through the layers of my body and the soft fabric of the chamber. I felt my body, laying curled up between two pillows. I felt myself still, hardly breathing. A couple minutes before, I had just admitted that I had thought about cutting myself. I remembered laying in bed, in a heap of hysteria five nights ago. I had imagined myself walking to the bathroom and parallel to that vision, I had the thought that perhaps cutting myself would feel good. That night I didn’t get up, I didn’t walk into the bathroom, I drifted to sleep under a cloud of sadness and awoke nine hours later with anxiety ridden dreams grasping at my heels. And as we watched this girl on TV, I remembered that I had thought about it too. I had never done it, but I had thought about it. Now, as she admitted that her tattoos were part of her same habit, I realized that I too had a body covered in blue and green ink.
The show was paused. “Did she just say something about you?” I heard my friend ask. Another second that held still in the well of time.
And then I saw. I could think of at least three tattoos that were spawned from a feeling of anxiety that rattled inside like a soot covered wind I could not shake. There was the time Jay (my old boyfriend) was in jail and I was lonely and scared and felt like the entire world was just too strong and corrupt, it was then that I had the lute-playing mermaid tattooed to my belly. There was the unfinished doodle on my inner left ankle. It was me, that night alone in my apartment, while Jay went out to score some heroin, me that had picked up the tattoo gun on the coffee table and plunged the needle into my white flesh. I picked it up out of terror, terror he would not come back, terror that he would. That dark night, I was overwhelmed with his burden and disease, his recurrent need for money that weighed on my young shoulders. And then there was the word “warrior” on my left thigh, the permanent black letters that appeared only a few hours after discovering that another girl was visiting Jay in jail (at a different time), another layer of his lies revealed. I drove straight to a tattoo shop singing and crying to the lyrics of “I will survive,” or if I didn’t then, then I did many times later. The tattooist had looked up from his hunched position over my leg and asked me “what’s up with this word.” The explanation was crooked and an attempt at ego preservation and a self conscious attempt to hide my own addictive fixation on one diseased person. The man nodded while looking straight through my eyes, sensing the pain that my facial lines and puffy eyes had already outed. He nodded and kept working. And that night, as I walked through Bookshop Santa Cruz with a bandaged leg that stung with every step, I held my head higher and noticed that people seemed to be looking at me differently, as though they could see that the orgasmic pain had lifted a dark cloud. And there were more tattoos…stories and motivations even more murky and submerged in layers of hidden consciousness. I had painted large artistic circles around the reasons for a body covered in mermaids and foliage, explanations to justify the act. But now, I had glimpsed the energetic contortion, the habit and reaction I could no longer hide. And now here it was, here it is, explained in raw simplicity by a brown-skinned girl that still had a mark on her arm and streaks of tears across her cheeks.
The house seems strange around me, but it is me, not the dwelling that reeks of strangeness. This raw truth, this evidence has opened before me like a gutted pig. How strange to be fooled by myself. How strange to talk and ruminate and make complicated explanations for a behavior that goes deeper than skin and deeper than bone and deeper than the existence of this machine. I am ruled by these habits, these things that I cannot even see. The nature of lies goes deep. The nature of self delusion goes deeper. We have pulled a small layer back and looked inside, a small bit of the subconscious is revealed, naked in the light of day. It is shocking to get a glimpse. So shocking to realize the extent of circular lies and grand explanations.