All my memories are loud, in the house where I grew up. There were scheduled yells, on nights when sports were on the screen or if we were all sitting down to eat together (which only happened twice a week, anyway), but scary were the unexpected outbursts: When things were calm, bordering good, suddenly not.
When things got too loud for my single ear, I would close my eyes and listen to myself. To the Inside Voices. It was kind there, where I could control the conversation. I used to dream of coming to New York. Of how different my life would be. Of the sort of people I would let it, when the decision was only mine to make. Of how happiness would feel next to me, holding my hand, dancing.
But then the things you imagine for yourself come to pass. And they're never how you imagined them. In ways, they're better: I spent the last few months in grad school, meeting some of the greatest people I've ever met and meeting myself all over again; teaching children who taught me more than they'll ever know. In ways, very little seems to change. There's this tendency to mask progress. I battle with the idea of change: Yes, Obama loves it but do people have it? Can we (the people) change?
I thought I had. That, moving to New York, I had shed the layers that belittled me, that weighed me down. I was determined to be that person I had painted in my head, while the world around me was an avalanche. But maybe I didn't so much. Yes, I was in a new state, collegiate: But I had brought myself with me.
Writing that felt like a betrayal to fourteen year old me. To the girl who listened to the Inside Voices. Lately, I have come to the conclusion that I am my mother's daughter. In many ways, this is what I have aspired to be: a pillar of strength, a well of kindness, a song of good hope. But we are also inherently sad people. Who so desperately want to be happy. We live off of mantras like 'fake it 'til you make it' and so we fake it. But it is not false because it is everything we want.
We say we don't need much but I'm beginning to realize that's a lie because what we need is love. And love is everything.
I lost the Inside Voices, around the same time that they lost their sound. Months had turned into longer and I called them names, told them they were wrong, isolated myself from my voices. I've realized things can only really go if you let them. And I am a prime example of the kind of person who burns the town down before she leave it. And who regrets it, in the aftermath.
So, here I sit, my mother's daughter, on the floor of my new studio in Bedstuy. I have an empty mug of tea next to me, a fan whispering as it scans the premises for warmth. The warmth is coming, but, right now it's all just heat.
I've started listening, again, to the Inside Voices. I think they still remember happiness.
Walking across the crowded New York City streets, we bump into more than our fair share of characters. Face-to-face with extremity, I search around it, for purpose. On my way to HomeGoods, I saw a man whose face was covered in tattoos. As we passed each other, I could feel him watching me, wanting me to watch him. I have spent a lifetime playing the part of someone more subservient than the person that I want to be. Have given in, when I knew I shouldn't (when I didn't want to), to appease others. So, in light of the many ways I'm trying to grow, I stared straight ahead, instead of giving into his display. Instead, I pondered purpose.
What would possess you to tattoo your face? Like that episode of Grey's Anatomy, where the guy elected to be a cat: Are we so unhappy with our form that we would opt for feline? Or are we so starved to be memorable that we would mark ourselves? I won't forget tattooed man but that remembrance doesn't come from respect or a chance encounter, it serves as a sort of cautionary tale.
It also makes me wonder, though, what I would look like, if everything inside me lived on my face, for the world to see? If maybe he wears his tattoos like badges of honor or scars he can't seem to shake? Instead, I hide those things away; a thick layer of flesh to cover the ticking of my heart. Time turns us all into bombs.
Each time we are broken open, we rush to tape over the parts of ourselves that have been made vulnerable like, if they see what the world looks like, they won't ever recover. And maybe they won't. My eyes didn't used to be so blue but they've gotten sadder with age. Turned the color of water, from all the waterworks. So I hide them under large spectacles. Afraid to become a spectacle. Afraid they might fall out, electing to see not at all than to see this.
Truth is we can't unsee things. Like men with too many tattoos or text messages not meant for us. Or truth. Truth is the hardest thing to unsee. Once you do, it's written all over your face.
This is Me:
My name's Melissa. I'm the girl with her hands in her journal.