I imagine the garden was still. The coolness of the day giving off a sort of sickness as it was washed over by the afternoon’s breeze. The sky, as if it knew something my ancestor’s did not, hid its face behind darkening clouds. Clouds that deepened in their darkness as the breeze ransacked the groves. It was as if the sky was bruised. Yes, that’s it. The sky was as a black eye. An eye made uniquely to watch us; stricken by us.
In between trees a man and a woman hid themselves from something coming towards them. The sweetness of a new fruit was fading from their mouths. As each footstep shook up the dirt, I wonder to whom they felt heaviest to. The ones hiding or the one seeking? I know that there is a lot to explore there, but for now let’s let it be. The sky’s almost purple. The eye’s swollen shut.
Fear must have felt metallic on the day of its debut. Twisting and writhing up the man’s spine, the snake of dread crawled through the lockholes of the hidden parts of his brain. Parts that were never meant to be touched by anything, let alone reptiles.
Panic floated like smoke into the woman’s chest, and for the first time ever – someone felt cold. She drew her arms into herself, resembling a child, in efforts to fight the new feeling. It didn’t help however, and she looked down at herself. Looking down with opened eyes she noticed something she had never before.
This next bit is hard to assign the correct emotion to. There are words I could use, yet I feel as if I would be cheap in doing so. I feel as if the bones of it are too big to build upon. Best to trim back the flowering on it. Best to shoot the whiskey straight.
For the first time someone looked at their own body and saw it through the eyes of the serpent. They saw their nakedness. They learned shame.
Again I must write it. For the first time, someone was taught shame. They were introduced to it, handed it. An education of how to handle it, where to hide it inside ourselves. What to blame its existence on. How to toll its cost against our bodies.
Excuse the repetition, but I cannot pull its lips back quite right. I need you to see the fangs. I need you to see the garden grown from this seed. The roots of it are in everything and it sprouts out through everyone. Vines of generations and fruit for milenia.
“Who told you that you were naked?” was asked by the broken heart.
A serpent came to me when I was barely a boy. He found me not in a garden, but in a church. Careful slithering, this young corralled my innocence into secluded areas. With manipulation and evil, my garden was ripped from me before I had the chance to grow up in it. I was told I was naked after being made so for his pleasure. Shame came to me like a blurry-faced Jesus and I buried him deep in my heart. I memorized his verses and I believed in him.
Again and again, over and over, this happened until it didn’t.
Perhaps that is the most jarring part of it all. When something like that ends under the same silence it starts under, does it really end? Did it really start? I felt, or perhaps still feel, as if I was slaughtered and asked to bury myself. I was asked to wash up the blood no one saw. I was asked to hide the evidence.
I was told I was naked.
For fear of getting off track, I will leave that be. There have been years between today and then. There has been work done and bridges rebuilt. I wish not to dance about with my scars. I wish not for pity, nor praise.
Instead, I wish to expose a root of which I found once I dived down a rabbit hole hideous, and uniquely mine. At times a mirror can feel more like a scalpel than anything else. At times, one must allow that scalpel to cut into flesh hidden from sight. At times, one must be honest with oneself. The horror.
In the wake of sexual abuse, there is a river of things to wade through. A river that has its current pulled by satan himself. A river that varies for each person unfortunate enough to have been gutted and dumped into it.
It’s a river I wade through daily.
Since I am a man, my river makes no noise. It doesn’t babble, it doesn’t make a sound, despite the white water it turns up. Instead it keeps its mouth shut and takes it like a man. The water runs with muted feet as men are drowned by the water they hate. They are ended in silence by silence, begot by silence. There’s something to that.
Of all the things taken from me by this foul river, my words will not drown. Though I may sink like a stone in the end, you will hear me. Goddamnit, you will hear me.
So when I say that I am making a New Year’s resolution to get healthy, I fear that there is more to it than that. I fear there are rivers and serpents that both wrap around my intentions. I fear a rigamortis of which I have lived with the last twenty years to be stronger than my will. The separation between my head and my heart may be too great.
There are days, perhaps even weeks, in which I don’t even feel like I am inside of my body. It’s a numbness that sets in like a steady burn. A burn that will eat every emotion I have as it marches through my brain. I hate my body. I hate what it was used for. I hate what I have done to it in trying to feel better.
My body is a temple of which I want escape from. Beer cans and candy wrappers line the hallways and dust collects in the corners of everything. The doors are locked shut and there are rooms which haven’t been walked in for years. It wasn’t long ago when I burnt down the east wing with chemicals, trying to remodel it into something I could stand. I sublet rooms to opioid tenants who always paid late and trashed the place. I refinished the floors with acid that made the sheen on the wood into a funhouse mirror. I made myself sick in the reflection.
As long as my head was good, or numb, I could get my body to follow in suit. I have reached a point where that is no longer possible. I have gone down the rabbit hole. I have cut myself open with the mirror scalpel. I have made a resolution.
I am making a New Year’s resolution to get healthy. Serpents and rivers be damned.
I see my daughter’s small body. I see its baby fat roundness, not a hard line or feature to be found. I see the gentle and clumsy movements.
She is playing with blocks in front me as I type this. An occasional coo breaks through the music playing the background. It’s a sound of curiosity and excitement as she explores the newness of her growing body. Feathers of blonde, variating in shade, catch the sunlight from the window. Sudden jerks of legs still foreign in concept are ignited by excitement and a head too big for easy balancing pulls her shoulders towards the carpet. Again, a coo breaks through the music.
Bodies are funny things.
They are mysterious things. I don’t know if I will ever be able to comprehend the magnitude of their complexity. I will never understand how two bodies can bring into the world new ones. Love and passion resulting in something new. As a gift, or a blessing. Nine months of mystery as cellular dust spins and spins, into a person. How can I not lose myself in the wonder?
How can I hate my body when she came from it? How can I blame its designer for how that young man abused it?
The final days of this year are yawning towards the new. A gap between holidays where the world feels as syrup creeping towards the bottom of a glass. We all wait for the spoon to clink the sides as fireworks, mixing us all into the new year. In their presence I have put together a plan of diet and exercise for the new year. I have gone so far as to purchase a yoga mat. I’m still not sure what to make of that.
My compulsion to get healthy has many things that will fight against it. More so than most young men. That is okay. In the requiring of this life to be fair, I must remember my own role I play in it. The yellow feathers catching light, playing with blocks in my living room, are not deserved things. You can be assured of that.
My resolution to get healthy has many things to motivate it. Those things I hold as my own, I will save them for now. Perhaps they are to bring out for review when the war gets bleak. A seven month old bayonet to plunge into a charging lie. A brunette airstrike, called in at the eleventh hour. A rage from man who refused to lose one more thing to the silence.
I needed to get these words out of my head. I needed to map something I could not speak out loud. In some circular way, I offer them to whoever wishes to read them. Maybe in knowing that someone has read them, I will be consoled as I continue my fight for health. Maybe I am vain and I think that every thought bouncing between my ears is worth a platform. Whatever my motivation, I have set my course and hell itself be damned.
It may not be a masculine thing to struggle with the image of my body. It may not be manly to type this all out. It may not be understood by those of my own gender. Perhaps this makes me a pussy. Perhaps I won’t be accepted by my peers.
So be it. I set out to wage war against the brokeness in me. Emotions out loud and eyes wide open. I wave my yoga mat as a flag of liberation. Names fall as they may.
It will not be an easy thing. I am ready to fight bitterly for it. Be the trenches as days or seconds, I will battle through them. Habits stand as fortresses. I will disassemble you brick by brick, tooth and nail.
Body, I resolve to know you by this year’s end. No matter the cost required.