I unravel. I break.
“Why can’t you?” they ask, and the subsequent silence is ever my refrain.
Words are tossed towards me. They grow bigger and darker as they wend their way through the air. I fight back with platitudes, but some words are steel and can break through barricades.
I see you. I know you. You think you can control me.
I unravel from living in a world that looks at me and scoffs. My heart remembers the moments that never happened, the moments that should have happened. My heart has a good memory, but few defences.
I was always told I was fragile.
I unravel and, in quiet corners of my home, I take the time to slowly and carefully put pieces of myself back together. I pick up the strings of my heart, I twist, twist, twist, until there’s a resemblance again—to myself, to me that I recognise and the me that people smile at and shout “hello” to. The me that smiles back.
I always leave a string out somewhere, never quite tucked away. Is this bravery? To leave a piece of myself so brazenly exposed in the world? Is this an act of martyrdom? A sacrifice of psyche that I myself place upon the pyre and prepare to watch as it burns?
Inevitably, as I knew it would, the world finds this solitary string, and tug, tug, tug—I fall apart.
He said, “Most people tend to push themselves.” The meaning was clear, frozen in the eyes of the boy who said he loved me. I didn’t push. Instead, I collapsed. I hid. The love faded, but the words never did.
I unravel at simple things. At expectations and imagination; things that happened a long time ago, in another life. The cold cup of tea that sits on the counter, another reminder of the weight I bear in loving my family. A weight that I cherish, but makes my limbs heavy nonetheless.
I spend my time explaining, to my children and to the world. Trying to be seen and heard and fix something that people far greater than I could not fix. They have gone to their graves waiting for the victory, tools gripped in cold hands because the fight never ended. The fight never ends.
I can’t unravel the knots that bind me up. I hand the string to other people, “This is too hard today,” I say helplessly, “my hands don’t work and I am tired.” I can’t even begin the twisting to put myself back together.
Sometimes they pull too hard, “Stop!” I yell, “it’s hurting me!”
“But it’s what you asked me to do?” they reply, “This is how we undo knots.” They rummage around, while I try to protect what’s left—the pieces that belong to me and me alone.
“Oh,” they say when the mess becomes apparent. “It must be your fault. Maybe you need some armour.”
But the armour doesn’t fit me. It never has.
I am not built for armour. All I have is string. String that unravels, crosses oceans, fields and cities to connect me with friends far away. String I wrap around my children, binding my heart to theirs. String that feels like steel when I think of my lover. It bends and twists but it cannot break.
I find the pieces. I collect them slowly, careful not to break any. I tease them apart, gently, for they are bruised and so am I. All the threads are precious. It takes a long time to wind them back up. I am more careful whom I ask for help, who I show my heart to.
I unravel. I break open at words. I hand out the bits of string to people I love, people I trust. People who hold them carefully, just as I hold theirs.
I find the corners of my home and I twist, twist, twist. I always leave one out. Because I do not wear armour.
Author: Kitty Black
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Philip Estrada/Unsplash