By Kate Chambers.
“I am bled dry by a man who likes to text me every day reminding me that I am a dumb whore, in case I forgot. I didn’t. He says I won’t be a good mother because of my mental illness, like him and my psychiatrist have been chatting about me over coffee.”
Your Blissful Shadow by Owen Gent.
I am high shoveling Cheerios from the box into my mouth at warp speed, pretending to be stable as I explain to him over the phone that caterpillars turn to mush before they become butterflies. Even their brains, I say. I am clinging to this metaphor. I am just a butterfly, I have been in the cocoon. It’s less to do with that butterflies are more beautiful, and more to do with that they are fluid and free. I am hell-bent on being fluid and free. The article I am reading uses the term “gruesome transformation” and so I know it is about me.
I dreamt a few months back about baby butterflies. I sat on the couch for half an hour that morning thinking that butterflies are never babies. They are caterpillars; they emulsify their brains and are born again.
I take my mush brain and am born again.
When I’m 12, I get tired of old men asking me if I’m born again. I get tired of having dreams of waking up in Hell, or worse – oversleeping during the Rapture. I just forgot to set my alarm, I swear to God. God knows, check with him. Just swing by and pick me up on your way back.
My grandma leverages my stepdad’s death by proclaiming he is probably in Hell and do I want to end up there too? I look at the clock. He hasn’t been dead a full 24 hours. I guess Hell doesn’t wait. So now I get to think about it during the day too, and I’m really wondering who has the time for anything else. I go ahead and accept Jesus Christ into my heart with my fingers crossed behind my back.
Not until I’m 18 do I understand it’s just a cheap form of detachment and I want the real thing. My grandma asks me if I like sundaes and I think she means Sundays and I get red in the face like the jig is up.
Once in a while I will catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and can just tell I look like someone who doesn’t know how to be loved.
Whenever I’m not real, whenever I come back, I get to choose who I want to be. For some reason who I am is always who I am to someone else.
Five years back, a psychiatrist makes me scribble my answers on a quiz that looks like it came out of the back of a 3rd grade science textbook from 1996. She tells me I have a personality disorder. She gives me medication and the wrong instructions. The next few times I go she makes me cry and asks if I worry about being a good mother one day. I go there just to get the medications that aid in my spiral.
I stop going to her and quit the meds cold turkey. I lose my mind, and declare my disorder dead. I am bled dry by a man who likes to text me every day reminding me that I am a dumb whore, in case I forgot. I didn’t. He says I won’t be a good mother because of my mental illness, like him and my psychiatrist have been chatting about me over coffee. A month later he calls telling me he is suicidal. He saves the best for last when he reminds me my body is not my body and I worry he isn’t 1,000 miles away anymore. I think he is every man behind me on a dark block. I tell no one.
I get fired from my retail job and they say it’s because I’m late every day but I think it’s maybe because they saw me pocket that vile of white powder I found on the ground. Either way, I am just relieved that I can cry in my room all day now instead of in the work bathroom every 30 minutes. I enter a new relationship and curl myself up into him. He is safe. His love is the antidote I need. I give myself a 4-year lobotomy until he cheats on me. Finally, a reason to destroy something.
In the spring, a boy tells me my secrets are like honey to him. When I hear this, my pussy turns to honey. I made a pact with myself I wouldn’t have secrets. But someone else holding your secrets seems like the perfect thing to do when they are homeless. Maybe they will grow into truths and get to live free one day.
And they will, but they are my burden to bear. They are my cross to carry. To me, they are not honey at all, they are daggers in my side.
I have tried to pass my secrets off to anyone who might be willing to take them. Please eradicate these demons from my body. Please just fucking hold them for me, I have to pee, I’ll be right back.
I will light this new bond on fire and hope that just once I will be the one to rise from the rubble the more enlightened one. But it never works this way. They probably left while I was prepping the sacrifice and I never noticed. I always just wake up in the ashes alone. Maybe this time will be different.
I stop talking to the boy who wants to hold my secrets for me. I didn’t like the way they felt in his mouth. They don’t feel at home, so I take them back to my house and we’re all getting along. My ex has moved out and it’s just us now. I am aware suddenly that somehow, I am different.
When I meet him, I think that I feel like I’ve always known him. The pandemic is still looming, and I haven’t felt a feeling in 5 years, so maybe I’m just confused. He is cute and he is taller than me and laughs at my jokes, and that’s the bar. Plus, he is leaving in two months. I try not to romanticize that we get caught in the rain or that we have the same tattoo but when I leave my body for a second during the conversation, he finally kisses me on the couch and I’m back in my body, and I know I’m done for. It’s summer and the version of me he meets is evolved. My heart is wide open and I let him in. I don’t feel the need to capture him, to hold him, I just let it be. But the next week I read articles on twin flames. I continue to capture and release all summer. Why can’t I accept that I am the one that is good for me?
His head is in my lap and it feels nice that it’s this way and not the other way, like I can be a refuge too. It’s not that deep, but I take note of that I’m making it so. We’re talking about suffering. I say I think I’ve had an ego death this year, but who knew she was so hard to kill. I feel my ego ghost coming back to haunt me. I make a joke that I’m rebranding my dissociation into detachment, but he doesn’t get it. That night I drive home on an empty BQE with the windows down and feel small against the skyline. I make a joke to myself that an empty BQE is the ultimate freedom. I think I’m a comedian now, and I make another joke that I’m on a highway of healing going 95 and he is going to make me crash.
My happiness is still fragile. I feel like I am treading water. We’ve never gone swimming together, but he seems like he would be a good swimmer. I know he is strong because of the one time he asked me to watch him rock climb in Central Park. I really didn’t mind it, I would’ve stared at the rock with him if he asked me to. When he fell I laughed a little to myself and wondered if that was mean. I wave and smile. I don’t feel real. I feel like a mom watching her kid on the playground.
On two separate occasions, I picked out bathing suits that I thought I looked hot in, thinking we’d be floating in the Coney Island trash-water together. But neither touched the water, they just ended up on the floor and added to the list of things that never reached their full potential. The first time we tried to go, I scraped the side of my car on a van and pretended I didn’t.
It’s not first time I’ve hit my car because of a boy. This isn’t my first rodeo. It’s raining and we give up. I dissociate all the way home. He talks too much and I can’t keep up. He doesn’t notice that it’s happening, but I do. He insists on watching stand-up and I dissociate during that too. It’s the wrong energy and I’m mad at him for not reading my aura right, but I don’t say anything. I give him all the power. We don’t speak for a week. I think it’s over before it even started.
I have to cycle through every reality until I decide on the one I want to be true.
I release it all, and he comes back.
At its core, the feeling of love has always felt the same to me. It’s like I hold in it my hands and place it on others, but I always get it back in its same form. It’s just a ball of energy that I’m trying not to drop. I wonder if love is a feeling or an action. I am in love with being desired, I am in love with being unattainable. I wonder if I am a good person. I place my love on him and it doesn’t fit right. Its desperate, and it’s too tight. When it doesn’t work, I go home and place it back on me and forget about him. I think I am so sweet and so kind, so evolved, but I think I’ve won when I do not want him.
I really don’t know how to tell him I am in real time realizing my own power, and he actually needs to get out of my way.
When he gets invited to go to the beach with his friends, I am hesitant to go with him. But when we get there, I feel more in the world than I have in a long time. When I speak now, it’s like I speak up and not down. The sun is setting and the light is golden and when I make eye contact with him it shocks me. It makes me want to say “aw” like I’m looking at a puppy and what the fuck is that supposed to mean? I can’t tell if it’s the Twisted Tea or that he is falling in love with me. I put it out of my head. On the ferry ride home, the scene is far from romantic. Everyone is drunk and sitting on the ground, and someone is getting in a fight over not wanting to wear a mask. But I’m hypnotized by the skyline reflecting into the dark water and the moment makes me want to rest my head on him. It’s hard to stand close to him and not want to stand even closer, but I snap out of it and regain my composure. It’s the end of the world and I’m still trying to play it cool.
We’re sitting on a bench in Washington Square Park and I’m flipping through the books we bought at the used book store. Inside the store, we are both excited and it feels like being a kid in a candy store with my best friend. Everything is magnified these days and I am letting myself explore all new forms of joy.
He is drawing and I am reading and for a second, we are silent. A wave of calm washes over me. I want to lean into this feeling. It feels too much like my dreams, and like I could get used to this, so I shift uncomfortably on the bench and ask him what kind of pen that is. He gets up to take a photo and on the way back tells me how cute I look. I want to tell him my love language is being told how cute I look. I want to also tell him my second love language is, as God’s greatest joke, physical touch so please just use my body again before I expire.
Why am I able to feel one way and have my body turn the car in the opposite direction? Who the fuck is driving?
I want to project myself into the world like echolocation and see what comes back. Am I really such a mutant of a human inside? Did my soul get damaged during shipping? What is wrong with me?
I expect everyone else to have the answers. To me they are entire encyclopedias and my research paper suddenly feels plagiarized. I’m waiting for all my excuses to evaporate so I can see what’s left.
I am wondering why I think I need another entity in order for me to be jolted back to life. Sometimes I don’t care what I feel as long as I can feel in my body. We walk on the beach and I explain at a mile a minute about how I can feel in my body now. I want to tell him that the way he holds my throat when we fuck makes me feel back in my body. He’s talking about exercise and I think we’re both just talking to hear ourselves. He doesn’t seem freaked out, and that’s the bar I’ve set.
Every day in the summer I wake up and get high and drink water and brush my teeth and wash my face and take my vitamins. I dance in the mirror and do yoga and in the afternoon, I get high again and go for a walk to the park. The world is heavy and the government is paying for my fantasy so I get a large iced chai at the café where I know the cashier. Recently I think that she gave me an extra cookie for free and I almost cry but then I understand they just come that way. I love when it is so hot out I can barely breathe. I walk in the sunlight and am in awe of all the beautiful homes in my neighborhood with their beautiful porches and beautiful trees. I see my demons across the street and we both nod and wave to each other. My heart is so full and I am transcending. Suddenly I am very grateful for my mask because I realize I’m smiling like an idiot. I heard Michelle Williams has a house around here and so I always look out for her. I never see her.
My apartment building catches on fire 20 minutes after I drive back from Jersey. I panic and open my window to the fire escape and look at my neighbors’ windows that face mine. I see the one who bangs on the wall when I have sex too loud and he tells me to just stay inside. I’ve never seen him in my life. I don’t know what to do so I start to pack. Suddenly I have no clue what is important to me. I pack my notebooks, my computer, and my Baby Phat faux fur coat. I want to bring my light up aquarium moving art but it’s too big. It isn’t mine anyway. Everything smells like burnt rubber. I text him like it’s nothing and he calls me with more concern than I could muster up for my own well-being and tells me to come over. I put him on a pedestal. When I get there, he’s playing video games and I sit on the bed and type on my phone that I can’t believe I’m almost 30 waiting on a bed for a boy to finish playing video games. Like the world starts and stops with me. I take him off the pedestal.
Look at me, but not too close. This is a video game and one day I will find the cheat code to make me go back and avoid the scars. I can be perfect and pristine, just keep watching.
The next morning, I leave when they start talking about packing up their apartment, it reminds me everything is always ending. When I get home, I eat mushrooms and move my bed to the middle of the room so I can lie upside down and look out the window at the clouds. I don’t really learn anything, just that I wished I wasn’t alone, and I wished I was outside. It makes me think of when I took them with my ex, and I wonder if I am an idiot for breaking up with someone who thought the sun shone out of my ass. I start to miss him, and hope he is doing okay. My love is really just hoping everyone is doing okay.
I don’t know how to tell you I am thawing, yet again. I don’t have to. It isn’t for you anyway. I wonder if each time I thaw, I thaw out a new part, and if it tastes different each time. Sometimes my heart is beaming straight out into the universe, sometimes my pussy is a tropical paradise. But never at the same time it seems. I worry I will get freezer burn one day. I worry if I’m not careful, I will melt onto the floor, or evaporate into the air. I said I would never water myself down again. I am syrupy in spite of you.
One night he is a little drunk and won’t stop telling me how cute I am. It’s exactly what I want. I think maybe I am powerful. I make eye contact with him while his friend is telling a story and it feels like I just stuck my fingers into an electrical outlet, again. I almost melt completely. His gaze is warm and he is smiling, and this time I know it is the alcohol, but I am transported into a different universe where it is just us. My brain doesn’t know the difference, and neither does my heart. I want to live in this universe. I want to settle down and make a home in this universe.
We’re in Walgreens and I don’t know if I’m mad because he’s trying on solar shield sunglasses while I’m buying the Plan B he gave me money for, or because I still can’t recognize when my boundaries are being crossed. It’s like I’m asking to get punched in the face. And so, what if I am? I can feel violated all by myself. He looks dumb and I can’t help but laugh. My heart softens. I realize I’m still learning the language and give myself a break.
In the morning before I drive him to the airport, I am lying next to him, repeating to myself a botched version of the Jenny Holzer quote that has been my mantra all summer:
It is in your best interest to be soft
It is in your best interest to be soft
Sometimes I forget how to exist next to a body, sometimes I forget I have a body. So, I run my fingers along his arm, so subtle it seems pointless. It feels excessive, it feels silly, it feels obvious. When he finally recognizes the gesture, he takes my arm and caresses it. I love being naïve. He pulls my hand from his chest and guides it to what matters. I oblige because that’s the only way I know how to get the love I want. I beg for crumbs.
I want to play John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” on the way to the airport as a joke but it’s a love song and that makes me want to throw up, plus I don’t want him to get the wrong idea, so I don’t think I play anything at all.
I pack up the apartment. I could never picture the end, but I am relieved it is here. I don’t cry because I’m just a fly on the wall in my own life. I leave the light up aquarium moving art, and when I learn my ex never came to pick it up, I tell him to go fuck himself. I don’t mean it. There was a lot of love here, and I’m taking that with me. I won’t unpack it for a while, but I’ll get around to it eventually.
I imagine a big ball of yarn inside myself and wish I could tug on the string and it would all unravel.
He is gone but he calls me often and I wonder why. He asks me if I like the photo he took of me in Coney Island and I say yes, but really, I think I look afraid. He sends me photos of his plants and dogs and the things he gets in the mail. I don’t get it. I am so far removed from reality I can’t decipher the message. I question his motives. I say I hate talking on the phone but when I hang up I see its been 2 hours. I look in the mirror and see I look kind of happy. It makes me want to cry. It feels like a game to me, and I’m ashamed. I want to have the power to make him miss me. He says he misses eating me out in the morning. Close enough.
I start to ignore the calls and only text him. I go in and out of inviting him in and pushing him out. I feel mostly just jealousy when he tells me he is moving to the city I want to move to. I wonder again if I am a good person. He starts to feel like just a story to me.
I want to be loved, but I do not want to be seen. I am thinking I no longer want to manipulate my words into a laser beam that shoots into my lover’s third eye, I just want to be that laser beam. I wonder what would happen if we made eye contact now.
It’s winter and this version of me is no longer evolved. I have regressed. Since he isn’t here, I am left only with a feeling. I see someone but he is shorter than me and when he touches my arm after a joke, I flinch. I stop talking to a girl because she is too cute, and I can’t go through this again. She asks if it’s because of the lockdown and I say yes.
I go back and forth in my head until I spiral out. I choose to nurture this feeling instead of myself. It’s easier to look away. I’m just a slave to the faux romance of missing someone, so I miss him. I didn’t let my guard down when he was near, and so I won’t when he is far. Still, as a robot, I know how to tell secrets, calculated and cold.
My head is above the water now but I still can’t stand. I am trying to get to out but he won’t let me. I have water in my mouth and can’t get a word in edgewise. He keeps pushing me under, like we’re 12 and I can’t tell if he’s being mean because he likes me or because he hates me. Just let me go already. He thinks it’s fun, he has no idea. I just wanted to float.
You have never had your power taken away, and it shows. If I had never felt so weak, maybe I would have never known my power.
I notice that when I am soft I am let in on secrets wherever I look. Now when I walk around I mentally videotape the love I see. I think about how I keep getting love and power confused. I know it shouldn’t be this difficult. The world is a movie. I am trying to let myself melt completely.
I dreamt about bees the other night.
They surrounded me as I walked in the parking lot. Maybe 10 or so of them. I think maybe they’re smiling at me, but I can’t tell. One gets me, right on my palm, under the middle finger or ring finger. I go back and forth in my head about which one I want it to be.
In the morning, I google the symbolism for no reason at all. I place meaning on everything, but not usually dreams. Maybe because I am dreaming all day, I can’t ever tell the difference. Maybe because all my memories seem like dreams anyway. But the voice in my head tells me this one is different. Google tells me I will be betrayed.
I want to be my own self-fulfilling prophecy.
The last thing he says to me is “We’re human.”
The last thing I say to him is “I thought it was obvious.”
I know it isn’t obvious and that he doesn’t understand, but it’s okay. I am trapped in a box I made for myself called “feeling misunderstood” and I like it in here.
I don’t do it to make him miss me, I don’t do it with ulterior motives. It’s an act of self-preservation. It is the kindest thing I’ve done for myself in months. I don’t have the energy to do the dance. He tells me to take my time. I am heartbroken he still thinks time is real and not an illusion. I am simultaneously fine with it now, and decimated by the shattering of my fantasy world. In the future, I will simultaneously be fine with it, and also decimated. I will always make time to mourn death.
I can move through time like I am walking through a door. I can move through realms like a ghost. I have the keys, I can access feelings whenever. I am the janitor of the emotional world. He has the one to my fantasy and I am taking it back. He was supposed to leave it with me when he left.
In bed, I stretch my arms wide as I yawn and knock over the plant he let me take when he moved. It is the first time I have done that since I moved here. The dirt on the floor reminds me the universe and I have the same sense of humor.
When I got her, I cut off all her sad tendrils. She is growing slow now, but she is growing. My new apartment doesn’t get much light but she is doing the best she can.
I used to say it in a defeated way and now I say it in a triumphant way.
It isn’t his fault. The man on the farm asked me if I was on the swim team in high school because it looks like I have strong shoulders. I don’t know why he thinks I went to a high school with a swim team. It creeps me out, but he isn’t wrong. I am a good swimmer so you can’t tell I am drowning.
I so desperately wanted it to be about him. How poetic. Sometimes I feel that everything needs to be poetry, and I hate it when it isn’t. I only wanted someone to be witness to my gruesome transformation.
A week after we stop talking, I lean back in the shower and feel the water hit my heart chakra. I get dizzy and when I turn around and wipe the water out of my eyes, I am confronted by my demons. Suddenly I’m sobbing, kneeling in the bathtub, kicking and screaming and saying, “Please don’t make me go” and “I can’t do this alone.” They tell me it’s for my own good, and it is. I remember I am not alone. I stand up and realize that when I stretch out, I really am tall.
Suddenly I am in the ocean alone. The sun is setting, I can see my feet floating on the sea in the golden light. I know exactly where I am. The water is calm, gently rocking me. I close my eyes and I float. I feel enveloped by the world, like Eve devouring the apple. I am the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; I am beyond the realm of good and evil.
I imagine finally letting myself be seen, really seen, and an angelic ghost-like figure coming down into my floating body, saying “Kate, you finally did it” and I would be whole. My secrets and I as one. I imagine saying to this angel “Where have he been this whole time? I have been looking for you everywhere.”
The Blood Pudding – January 4, 2021
Kate Chambers is an artist, designer, and writer who currently resides in Philadelphia, PA. She attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR, where she studied Sociology for a few years. She can usually be found somewhere in the sun.
Artwork: Owen Gent is a 26-year-old Illustrator based in Bristol, England. He works mainly with traditional painting & drawing techniques where he adopts a unique and deft approach to digital editing which allows a high degree of flexibility without affecting the sensitive, hand-painted nature of his work. You can find more about him here.