People touch my neck the way they touch a hot stove– fingers immediately jolting back, not from heat but tension. The thing is…. the thing is, a long time ago, I didn’t know touch could be a weapon or that the ones who hurt us never enter with a warning sign. I was all green lights then, but since, I’ve grown an anatomy of stop signs and red lights and caution tape. They are not glaring to me. I’m used to them, so familiar they’re normal now. And then someone reminds me they aren’t normal, someone who childhood remains beside them.
I ignored that loss, never grieved someone whose existence I never acknowledged. The thing about the kids we once were is they never become past tense. An inner child isn’t a dust that settles inside us, but a voice that calls out in need. Only mine was in a hostage situation. The touch that made me tense took her, and in order for her to come home, I had to call the thief by its name: trauma.
And I hate calling it by its name. I have Stockholm Syndrome for my trauma, tell myself it was never that bad. But what is the line for bad when the bar is murder and to be alive is a lucky thing? I wasn’t hurt enough to call myself a victim. Look at how loved and fine I am, but I know that to be human is to sometimes hold love in one hand and abuse in the other– refusing to let either down.
I have such a good relationship with my trauma I let it live inside my body– my nervous system on the verge of volcanic eruption at any time. My eyes dart throughout every room my body enters, hyper aware of the bodies and space around me.
Trauma and I held reprisals where different lovers and friends played the roles adults once did. But we’re the adults now. And in these games, I’d turn the reddest of flags into blankets, break the mass that is me into tiny pieces through self abuse and call it communion. I chased folks who never wanted me, and got strung out on the high of a “hey”.
Trauma is a weaker bitch than she lets on. She’s strong, for sure, but she tells you love, real love, the kind that doesn’t ask you to carry bruises or mean names, will never find you. But it has. Love did not come with neon lights and confetti. It wandered in gently with patience, trepidation, listening, some organic flow. And I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere between 21 and now, this nomad build a home with more than her own two hands.
Safety fashioned a key to the locks inside me, summoned all the buried thoughts. My body knows it’s safe enough of release heavy feelings. Some of them are so hard I can barely breathe through them. Nobody told me about this part of healing. That my head would become a goody bag of random reactions. That stillness would make me so anxious I pullout my own eyebrows and eyelashes, or there are days when depression is so heavy I can barely stand. It isn’t all the time. The waves flow toward me ferociously, knocking me down, but I go back to standing. How am I still standing?
I am 26 years old; 18 years since the theft. Yesterday, I was laying down, eyes shut, and I saw it– the reunion. The release of the hostage situation, my inner child racing toward my current self. Each of our feet cannot run fast enough to meet the other. We are a flurry of tears and arms and red curls, falling to our knees beneath the might of emotion. I hold her in my arms, weeping, believing she was dead. Yes, there is still the re-acclimation, the healing, the settling, but in this moment, all I can do is run my fingers through her hair, and promise her I will never let her go missing again.