At One Remove
When I was three years old, I would drag our beige, plastic laundry basket up the stairs to the living room, where the floor was wall to wall blue and green shag carpeting. With a fistful of cereal and my blanky embroidered with the alphabet, I would curl up in the basket, folding myself into the bottom until the blanket hung smooth across the top. I would close my eyes and imagine that the carpet was the sea and that I was lost adrift with no one to find me. In reality, I lived in a city far from any ocean, but I must have paid rapt attention to television, because I knew to eat my cereal very slowly. On the sea, you see, there is nearly nothing to eat.
I felt most comfortable when alone and following my mind through its knots of thoughts. When around other people, I felt far away, as though I were on the other side of a glass, slightly off dimension. People talked and moved around and wanted things, and other things made noise and touched me. The world was a circus of too much too much too much. In a corner on the floor of my closet, it was quiet and cool and still. I could hear my hair against my t-shirt.
This sense followed me throughout my childhood and teenage years and persists now as I type this. Even typing is an external interaction that causes me to go behind my eyes and look out. Lately, I think about how being an adult pushes you out into the world in front of people, in offices, on the street, at stores, on the telephone, in restaurants. You will be medicated if you choose instead to set up a tiny reading room in the back of your closet with a lamp, a pillow, and a small desk made out of a box and a man's handkerchief.
Anyone who knows me out on the street is now wagging their heads No, no, no, she is extroverted. Schmutzie comes out all the time, and they are right about my being out socially a lot. The bit about extroversion, though, is entirely wrong.
Since I lost my uterus over a month ago, my sense of separateness is amplified. In a way, that organ was one of the few concrete things that grounded me in this reality. It bled, it contracted, it made it possible for me to bring forth life from my life. Now it is gone, and everything seems to be at a further distance than it ever was. I am the ghost in a shell.
As much as I enjoyed the space in my mind when I was a child, I tend to run from it now. It is a much more difficult place to navigate at thirty-four than it was at three years old. So I go out for hours on end, I watch television, I surf the internet. Dodging myself is almost effortless.
I do not know if my sense of remove is a congenital defect, but I do know that it is all I have ever experienced, and I have wished to feel stapled in place, solidly put, for decades. I want to say I am here. I am in this place. I am breathing this air. and mean it as though I can feel it all at once, but I am only aware of my foot pressing into gravel or my hair against my cheek. I am an experiential zero. The concert of perceptions is too much too much too much, and it is the drug that keeps me running time and again.