I do not feel. Not now. Not for a long time. I numbed myself years ago. To survive the volcanic pain I held in the depths of my heart. The raging torrent that threatened to overwhelm and drown me. I intentionally twisted the massive valve inside my soul until the flow of caustic emotions stopped. Until only a trickle escaped. Until I was no longer being ripped apart by its sharp talons. Until the agony no longer crushed me with its unbearable weight.
Once closed, that valve is impossible to reopen. I did not know this when I shut it tight. Had I understood, I would have chosen to let the pain take me down and rip out my throat.
I have lived my life in this state of suspension, neither dead or alive. I have talked about all the things that will never matter and none of those that did. Or do. I’ve worn my poker face carefully, as if my existence depended on it. Said what was proper in each situation. Laughed when it was appropriate. Cried only in secret, if at all. Told everyone I was “fine” and “great” while turning the spotlight away from myself because I feared what it would revel if anyone looked too closely. I performed. Kept walking. Went through the motions. Amazed by the lack of a heartbeat as I took one step and then another. And another.
I absorbed each shockwave, each loss and trauma, without reacting. Took the next step. Feeling nothing. Kept moving because that was what I was supposed to do. What I had to do. Because it’s what “normal” people do.
Empty. Broken. Shattered. My only choice was to keep going somehow. Or die trying.
But when I am alone, when the darkness of night swaddles me tightly, pinning me in its cocoon, when the silence screams in my ears until I fear I will go deaf or insane or both, when I have nothing to hang on to and hope is a distant planet, I write. I search for words to tell my story because I have no voice with which to speak. Nor do I have anyone waiting by my side who will listen. I search for the perfect words to express all the things I would feel, if only I could turn that massive handle backward, reopening the rusted valve I closed so long ago. I vent my emotions through vowels and consonants. I use my pen to exorcize the decaying, pent up, blunted, deadened feelings. The words on the page are the only way I know I am still alive. They speak. Quietly and falteringly. They attempt to make sense of the repulsive tale. They are my tapestry.
I inject all of my buried emotion into those words. Into each one of them…each word and phrase. I don’t feel, so much as I write it out, then read what I should or would be feeling if only I could. I write about what I might be experiencing somewhere deep beneath the surface of my frozen soul. I pack the sentences and paragraphs full of descriptors, hoping to attain a reaction upon impact. I long for a response from my destroyed soul. Any response at all. But no matter how well I capture the moment or paint the picture or weave the tapestry, my words do not cause so much as a tiny ripple in my heart.
And so, I continue to write. Trying in vain to uncover even a microscopic sign of life.
I long for seismic activity. For the volcano to spew forth the hot lava that burns my insides and eats me from within. But there is no activity to detect. Nor even so much as a bit of steam escaping from the throat of the volcano. The fissure does not vomit out its contents. There is no relief. Only enduring silence.
I search for words I cannot find. Attempting finally to release the noxious toxic gasses into the atmosphere. But the crater is cold, sealed by too many thick layers and far too many years.
No heartbeat. The valve can’t be reopened. Time can’t be unspent. There is no going back to do it differently. All the paths not taken will never be traveled because I did not choose to walk them. I did not take the risks I should have taken, nor did I dare to explore uncharted territory.
There is a crater where once was housed a soul. There is a stone where I once nurtured a heart. There is numbness and death where once there was breath and life. And there are now only inadequate, insufficient, unmoving words scattered across the page where once there was a heartbeat.
My heartbeat. Silent forevermore.