The Stouthearted

By Liza Rosen

It is with a heavy heart that I must expel the following news: I have made it through another day. Just like the rest of them, today I drove to school, didn’t swerve into a tree, healthily and gallantly sashayed into all three of my classes, drove home, arrived, and exhaled. Although I could have been more efficient in completing my endeavors (I took the long way home), I did it.

On days when the four corners of my bed hold me hostage, my mother asks me “Liza, what is it that you’re so afraid of? Is it someone at school? Is anyone bullying you?”
I reply, like the aggravated and irritated teenage girl should, “Mom, it’s nothing, please just stop.”

In earnest, I am not afraid of anyone at school. No one is so courageous to “bully” me, verbally assault me, hurl their unseasoned lexicon in my direction, or whatever it may be. I am not afraid of teachers whose assignments I don’t complete, I am not afraid of eye contact with boys who know my body better than my name, I am not afraid of crowded walkways during passing periods, I am not afraid of the sound of my voice in silent rooms, I am not afraid of anything.

I would like to omit the prior sentence, or at the least, I would like to revisit it. I am not afraid of anything that I should be afraid of. For example, I am supposed to be afraid of bullies, oral presentations, failure, and probably dying. However, I am more afraid of awakening to the sound of my steady breath, I am afraid of my pumping heart, I am afraid of the blood circulating through my body, I am afraid of the orchestra of life playing on a loop on the other side of my skin.

Each day, I drive home, alive and well, rotten with two parents who speak to each other and a computer of my very own. I seek refuge in the portal behind the screen. I broadcast my complaints and insecurities, and I seldom leave my bed. Things go very well for me when I am here.

It’s when hunger takes shelter in the depths of my stomach at around six post meridian––it’s at this point when I start to feel afraid. I am no longer afraid of eating, (consult my therapist about this) but I am afraid of my imperative need to eat. To perform basic human functions with ease and poise is rendered impossible by the paralyzing weight of performing at all.

Depression swaddles me in her maternal grip and asks me how I’m doing.
I tell her I’m doing well.

She whispers like a prayer, holds me like a Bible in her two languished hands, touches me like my mother would, lays upon me commands as though they are the most paramount ten. She brushes the hair shielding my eyes and breathes and––not above a murmur––she tells me that I will rest. She tells me that the world is too loud for my liking, that I am unequipped to handle it, that I am more comfortable shielded by curtains. I tell her she’s right, I cloak myself in pregnant blankets and isolation, I lodge sleep in my afflicted eyes and ashen cheeks. She and I know that with each breath, each heartbeat, each vessel of blood, the two of us are intrinsically entangled in one another.

But I digress. Here is the highly anticipated reveal, the center stage concealed by curtains, the small figure cowering behind the alias of “the wizard of Oz,” the bottom of the page, and the unremarkable conclusion: I am afraid that I am alive.

1 comment

  1. An incredible articulation, my friend. The words flew off the screen like music, and painted a picture that I resonate with. Well done, and far from unremarkable.