This is a story about a sister's love and the struggles of mental illness, from the perspective of someone who is recovering from the struggles of PTSD. I hope you enjoy it.
The night felt balmy, but I felt no ease in its comfort. The lightning bugs danced among the weeds and vegetables, almost in unison, blinking away as I blinked away the tears already forming in my eyes. My efforts were in vain, as they fell away burning my skin hot with the love I’m sure they are fueled with. Feel no fear, hear your peace, I remind myself, as the images flash against my cold lids like a drive-in picture. His hands around my neck, his grasp leaving bruises. “I am safe, I am in peace,” I breathe aloud to myself, taking another deep breath, and feeling those pictures go with my exhale. I recite my mantra once more to clear the yuckiness, like the once-over you give to a Windexed window to completely clear any streaks left behind, because let’s be real, if Windex can’t be perfect, nothing is. The gnats and mosquitoes buzz in my ears as I swipe them away; the buzzing a reminder of what lives inside. I take another breath, folding my arms above my head to trick my brain into feeling joy. These are the tricks I learned and they do help sometimes, but when my heart continues to pound in my chest, it sometimes feels like shouting for help from a dark cave. Is anyone around to hear? She’s going to get worse, my darkness whispers inside me, but I stop it up as quickly as one would a crack in a wall letting in a shivering gale. She hates you. She should, I retort in my mind, attempting to reframe this thought that began to seep deeper into my mind. These are not the thoughts of my heart. Not that you literally think things with the muscle in your chest, it's more like what comes from your true self. I am the writer of my own production. If my audience, meaning my disorders or whatever is going on doesn’t like what is being projected, then maybe they’re displeased by the truth reflected back at them. These are commentaries made by the opinionated audience, sitting in the dark. My writer is projecting this pain, because it needs to be expressed. Their comments will subside. Because like in theater, the audience (and their opinions) are temporary; the story within the writer lives on, but the production will always change. I hope that she finds her way to organize that darkness. But knowing that this metaphorical organization of my disorders and fears is not always effective, I still worried that she may not find patience in herself to trust that it can work. The system has made her think that it has failed her, which it may have, but, seriously fuck the system. It mostly is designed to fail us. But you can’t give up, it’s what the fucking system wants. If you give up, you might as well take the blue pill and pucker up, ‘cause you’re signing up to be a human freaking Duracell, feeding the beast that enslaved you. I know; the drama! But that's just the way my anime-watching, DnD-researching, goth-queer-ass sees it. There’s plenty of metaphors out there that can appease one’s confusion, to rile you up to stand and fight. I have learned the hard way that the system works if you fight it; how do you think I was able to survive all this time with SNAP benefits and a tattered bag of coin collected from the struggling college human. However, I know that it can feel hopeless when it rejects you. It can feel like the whole world has rejected you, and I wished so hard that she didn’t feel this way. I can’t reject her, even if I tried. Which, why the hell would I want to? Bart and I love her, and Bart would do anything for his wife and kids, this much is true with the way I see him pace around, hooked onto his phone as he desperately looks for answers on how to remedy her situation. Treatment centers, number crunching, all to just help the woman he loves. That is love. I wish she could see him right now with my eyes, she’d see a man who would risk it all to keep the woman he loves, and to keep the mother of his children. Honestly, I see a goddamn fool, but that’s just my own goddamn bias. I don’t want to give myself to anyone, after having experienced what I experienced froom humanity: the drugging, the rape, the assault, the rejection, the control—-all just daggers into who I’ve tried to be. I wished so much for love like that, because it's not easy to find; and because, I’m way too cynical to accept it. But, she has it; she’s got it in her grasp! What can I say to convince her to not let it go. For me, it's easy to try to love Stace this way. I’ve always tried to love without conditions, especially with my sisters. I know nobody is at fault for what has been done wrong. But at the same time, we all hold some fault. We could have done more, we could have said more; but in the end, it doesn’t matter if you try and try if you’re being received like a threat. Even in the scuffle, I didn’t want to hurt her. I think she knew that. I hope she did. I just wanted to fight that part of her from hurting herself. I just wanted to sushi-roll her in her blanket and tell her to scream and yell and cry until she can’t scream and yell and cry and I’ll hold her, because I’m her little sister, the young ones always want to comfort the ones we love, and just hum to her a tune that, idk, comes out of my soul, nothing but sounds of healing, because I know her pain. I know that pain. It wrenches inside you and twists you up until you implode. And nothing but your shell is left (btw, Ghost in the Shell is like the opposite of that, if you wanna take a look-see). I blink hard while stretching, discovering a soreness from the scuffle earlier. She hurt you, that speaks volumes, they whisper, but I, the writer, know better. I blink again and there go the pictures again. His strength as I tried to wrestle him down. He kept pulling my pants down, but I rubbed the image out of my eyes, physically feeling my pants, even testing their elasticity around my fleshy stomach. My pants are just fine. But “Pants”isn’t fine, as my mind forces itself back to Stacy Pants, my beloved sister, getting strip searched during her check in to her 72-hour hold. I roll my eyes at that thought. Yeah, no shit, I think, slapping back that darkness again, she wouldn’t have tried to push her way through me if she was fine, I retort again. The pain in my ankle throbs and when I move it around in a circle, it cracks. Another flash of his foot trying to hold me in place, stepping on mine, and the feeling of the tendons stretching in all the wrong ways. My body remembers what is irrelevant to now, I think, but the pain and the memory stings my eyes with emotions as I feel my heart wrench and tighten. I hold my breath. Let it out. Take the deepest breath I can take, it even begins to stretch the skin on my sternum, and hold for a millisecond before I let it out slowly like a balloon, just blowing freaking air. Hey, at least I have a handle on the flashbacks. They just suck balls, I think. I look out onto the backyard, back to the corn and the lettuce and the tomatoes off to the far left. I take mental inventory of what is around me, another trick to remain present. The memories of the past are what my body shows me, but it's not relevant to now, I remind myself. This isn’t about me, this is about Stacy. The ottoman with the cat asleep on it, the ashtray near her, the bugs flying around my arms that still rest folded at the top of my head. The ash and dirt under my feet from all the pacing and chain-smoking that happened after she took off. I look further at the kids’ toys, laying around sad and forgotten in the darkness. I wonder if it feels the same inside of her. They can never be forgotten. As much as we feared that in her anger and frustration, she stopped caring about the kids, I know she values being a mother so much; she can never forget them. I will never let her. The sandbox with which they played, the hanging jump rope softly tapping a beat against the post as the wind agitates it. That's what my depression feels like sometimes. Like a reminder that the way out is at the end of a rope. The pain will agitate it and remind me that I can feel peace. But like my favorite character from my favorite cable T.V. show once said: “You shouldn’t have to die to feel peace.” That’s not my way out. That can’t be hers, either. I know she loves us. I will always love her. The tears finally flow, and I just let them, never rubbing them away, never considering that I shouldn’t cry. That’s what we’re supposed to do when we feel pain. It's the human thing to do. It's time to start acting like one despite possibly being a subhuman class of intergalactic aliens. (lol) Smiling at my dumb humor, I stretched my neck and sniffed, rubbing my nose with the sleeve of my sweater, when I spotted it. A big-rumped, silly-looking raccoon waddling by the discarded pile of yard refuse that sits a few feet away from the tomatoes that grow in a plot lent to us by a neighbor. Fucker, I think, hoping it didn’t go for the, I’m sure, juicy green tomatoes or any other sprouts that it might encounter. It stops and stares at me, and I don’t move. If it gets any closer, I already calculated I can use either the plastic softball bat hanging on the shed wall next to me or the broom a few feet further to scare it. This is how you get rid of a pest, you plan your strategy and look for tools. Okay, I think, standing up slowly and casually as though I’m just stretching, if it comes at me or the strawberries over here, I got that fucker checked. But honestly, I am afraid. I know, I’m afraid of a little raccoon, and maybe my city-slicking ass isn’t equipped for scaring away pests, especially pests as big as this fat fucker, but I know how important this garden is to her, her family, shit, to me! Ain’t nobody gonna keep this city-slicker from a strawberry sundae with fresh strawberries!! It casually sniffs around and begins to stroll over to the strawberries, like it read my mind. I jump and make a hissing noise to scare it off. It works with the cat and even the dog backs away from what it shouldn’t be near at that sound, so I assumed. I begin to chuckle in victory as it begins to run away, but as it realizes that's the extent of its threat, it comes back. “No, fuck off!” I call to it, waving my arms around. It does the same, eludes my threat and begins towards it. I go for the bat, but it's hung up by the diamond and T, and I can’t get it loose. The whole bat and T-ball set loosens from the wall and I end up brandishing the whole thing like a freaking Sandperson, not being able to figure it loose., but all the same jiggling the plastic pieces together and making a jacket akin to that of a bunch of pebbles shaking in a plastic bottle. Although it wasn’t what I intended, there’s success; It finally trots off, and I remain standing, just in case it only ran because of the noise. My cigarette in my hand begins to feel hot. I look down to my surprise and it's almost burned down to the butt. Shit, I thought. Didn’t I just light this? I snuff it out, not that there was anything left, and sit, sighing and burying my head in my arms and lap. Why can’t we find any peace? I think, knowing that this sentiment is not just an audience commentary, but a real feeling. It feels hopeless. It feels like no matter what I do, I mess things up. It feels like no matter how hard I try, I make a mess wherever I go, and when I reel it back and sit with the discomfort of knowing there’s nothing I can do, I still feel an insurmountable pain of guilt, weighing down in my chest. I wish I could do more. I sit up, my face sweaty from the heat of my lap, only to meet with the moisture of the air. I wipe my face, even though I am supposed to NOT wipe my tears according to my recent therapist, but fuck it. Her sources seem dated anyway. The fireflies blink out of unison and the rush buzzes throughout my body in a way I know is not safe. I sit up to see them. They blink when they’re watched, and they blink when they’re not. Fireflies will always blink no matter what, cats will always nap wherever they feel safe, and raccoons will always scavenge for fruit, waste and whatever they can find. Everything can’t change unless you battle to change it. But sometimes you just have to accept some things as they are. I stare at a firefly that blinked among the strawberries. I tried to follow it with my eye, watching it blink, then fade, dance around a little in the darkness, and blink again. I stared at it until I lost it as my eyes watered. I blink hard again, taking a deep breath. I need to focus and be present. My stomach growls, knowing I hadn’t eaten almost the whole day;I ignored it. That's unhealthy, the darkness whispers, but I slap it back again. One disaster at a time, dammit, I sigh frustratingly. I know I’m slippin’, but I can’t help but feel, idk, unstable in all this instability. Go figure, I think to myself sarcastically. I can always start again and continue again with my tools, I assure myself. It's called a reframe. I learned about it in therapy. When you’re constantly filled with mucky water, you have to let it clear out, and sometimes, reminding yourself of the opposite is like pouring a little clear water into the murkiness. Even if it's for a second, the clarity will refresh you a little. I know this. I know all these things, and they are useful to my everyday life. But I can’t help but feel like they're useless if I can’t share them with everyone. With everyone I love who needs it. But they don’t respect you because you’re the youngest, the audience murmurs here and there, and sure, fuckers, maybe it's true. And maybe I need to stop making it my job to tell people about these skills. Maybe it feels like I’m rubbing it in. Overall, I never intended to tell anyone how to drive, I just wanted to warn them they’re about to crash. But like all scenarios when you’re the one outside of the vehicle, you can warn all you want, you can wave your arms like a fucking chicken, but if they are too distracted to see it, they’re gonna crash anyway. She crashed, they whispered, and I began to feel angry. Fuck that, I said back, shaking the fear that has always sat in the back of our minds. Mom crashed, they whisper, confirming that fear, it's not a far reach that she has, too. I begin to shake my leg, feeling the frustration with myself luring me back into the dark. She has not crashed. My mom was completely lost, I know that Stace can make it through this, because she’s just as strong, if not more, because she looked death in the eye and refused, I argue back with myself, reminding myself that I’m fucking arguing with myself, which is like, get a fucking grip, child! Snatching up the box of Camels, I feel around for the lighter, grunting frustratingly in the darkness. I light another cigarette and as I take a drag, I notice something rustling behind the sandbox and the mini pool that's draped over it. I then spot that sneaker fucker; the raccoon, snaking Grinch-like up to the strawberries, reaching up over the terracotta pot and into the soil. “Fuck off!” I shout, brandishing the broom this time, hitting the concrete on the step below to scare it off, causing it to dart away behind the garage and its lean-to I’m sure heading over to the garbage cans that stand in the darkness in that direction. I stand there, tense and angry, hoping it didn’t get to any of the fruit, but then I think about how hard Bart worked to build that lean-to; how Stacy didn’t want to help, but I stepped in, because I honestly wanted to learn how to build some shit. And I wondered (because like all fears, they serve as vehicles of warning on how to mind yourself) if that day she felt jealous or was upset that I stepped in. That worries me so much. Especially knowing that her narrative is that she can’t win or fix anything. I wish I could tell her so much how, despite how strong we can be, it's not a bad thing to ask for or require help. I wish I could help her see. But like the strawberries, I can’t change where they are, I can’t always save them from harm. I can only help when I see it is needed. I wish I could tell her that it's always been an obligation of mine to make her feel like she is safe. She sacrificed her own well-being to save me from abuse at home, and I never stopped showing my gratitude in any way I can. I think of all I tried to protect her from. She hasn’t been through what we have gone through. That is such a blessing, because I know it means she can persevere. But you can’t tell someone what they haven’t discovered for themselves. I go over to the strawberries and discover one that had been picked at by the raccoon. Suddenly, I find myself weeping over the fruit. I wish I could have helped. I wish I could have saved her. I wish I was enough for her. I wish I could swat away the demons that creep in from the dark to pick the fresh hope from our hearts and soil it with its sickness and eat away at whatever hope sprouts. I wish I could brandish a weapon that scared everything away, not just raccoons. I wished so many things as the pain poured out of me. I want to plant so many good things in our lives, but there’s too much preventing us from planting anything to flourish. Too much exposure to the elements, too many predators, too many things out to seek our harm. As the sobs burped out of me, little by little, I had felt calm. The fireflies still danced around me, blinking and disappearing in the darkness. The softness of the hums of the air conditioner upstairs droned overhead. The balmy atmosphere begins to cool as a breeze brushes by. I stand, and step over to sit on the porch stoop. I take a drag of a cigarette that is barely there, and blow the smoke into the night sky and I wonder if she could see it too.