She was a knot, and a ferocious knot at that. If one was to peek through the window, they’d find a tangle of limbs passive-aggressively hating each other, all friction with no warmth, pinning themselves to the wall and floor simultaneously, locking skin and bone to the corner-iest corner of the room; a structure as fixed to it’s place as a lamp, and a posture of such absolute resistance, and such desperate dedication to a surrender, that it crippled under the weight of it’s own efforts to clam up.
If one was to peek through the window, it would be hard to look away: this knot was writhing in slow-motion, fixedly focusing on her free index finger trailing aimless shapes through the carpet while another hand clenched a cell phone tightly to her ear.
If one was to peek through the window, they would not hear what she was saying into the phone. The knot was whispering, sputtering squeaky answers to the carpet triangles, the carpet circles, the carpet pentagons— it was all tight, this careful twisting of drawing, clutching, sputtering.
But if one was to peak through the window, it would be hard not to try and lean in to hear what she was saying: her stress clenched even the air, her focus squeezing the color from the room; at a certain point, even the peering intruder would only see the small plot of tan carpet redesigning from triangle, to circle, to pentagon-ish, from triangle, to circle, to pentagon-ish.
But no one peaks in, no one leans in. Instead, the only person who hears the young girl is a woman named Clarice, who’s on the other end of the telephone call.
“Very good, okay. And would you say you feel alone often?”
“Yes.” Our knot, our girl, is in fact not so young; she is in her early twenties, but feels about five years old at this moment. The ‘Yes or No’ question game is the only thing thin enough to slip through the cracks of her iron self-craddling, and it’s only through both the utter childishness of it and her painfully adult resignation that such blunt questioning is allowed into her sacred, secret space. Our Girl hung up twice before the woman named Clarice answered, and Clarice’s voice is so kind that Our Girl hasn’t, for some reason, wanted to get off the phone.
“Have you ever wanted to hurt yourself?” Clarice asks. There is a pause in the carpet circle. Finishes the carpet circle.
“Have you ever tried to hurt yourself?” Fast carpet pentagon. Our Girl shrugs into the phone. “ I don’t know what counts.” Carpet triangle. Poises finger at top of impending carpet circle, waits for Clarice.
“I’m just interested in whatever you think,” said The Kindest Person Ever. Draws carpet circle easily.
An intruder, a passerby of the aforementioned window, can tell that her ‘Yes’ and ‘No’s are now loosening—like a strict aunt after several glasses of wine at Thanskgiving, a loopy flexibility has bloomed from the usual sharpness. Clarice, a professional, is aware of this opportunity and takes it.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Our Girl did, but had not known this. In any case, she never heard anyone ask it with so much care. No one had ever put in the time to ask it right. No one was willing to hear that she failed, failed, failed, everywhere, at everything, all the time, and no one knew, no one saw, Clarice! No one ever sees, yes, sometimes no, I’m such a failure Clarice I wish I was dead because I’m so bad at living, so very ugly, and not nearly as nice as I should be, am I Clarice? Whatever I think? You are so kind, I’m sorry I have bad answers, I’m bad at so many things, actually everyone knows I’m bad at things, I can’t hide, I can never hide enough, I hide everything actually, I wish I could—
Our Girl, the knot, was unraveling.
And if someone was to peer through the window, they would be swept up in the current— a massive cream-colored ocean replaces the stale, tan carpet; the rigid corner of deliberate pentagon-ishes and circles has become a fountain of memories, waves of failed futures. It still sputters and clutches, but the twisting is now a spreading, the jagged truth cutting Our Girl’s mouth on the way out AND THERE, SLICE RIP the knives she swallowed are coming out! passed the mouth! and not twisting and goring inside her! gag choke inhale and now we see Our Girl clearly, and she’s so messy, this sweet poor roughed pained soft perfect thing REMEMBERS. TO. BREATHE. SLOWLY.
Let’s look at this closer:
Our Girl, the knot…. maybe she’s someone you know. Maybe she’s several people you know. Maybe she’s many people we know. Maybe she’s sometimes me. Maybe she’s sometimes you.
The pent-up, aching person cannot always be saved… and we don’t always why that is. But the heard human is always someone we refused to lose, and we’re getting better at knowing how to do that.
From what I hear, feel, read, and believe– I think it’s about knowing someone’s there, and finding the language that conveys this.
So let’s work the story a bit: If you can’t be Clarice for them, find Clarice for them. Leave Clarice’s number somewhere they can find it. Because if someone isn’t already listening, trust me, someone is always ready to.
I love you! And Someone Else does, too.