from the new book
COMES THE DARKNESS, COMES THE LIGHT:
A Memoir of Cutting, Healing, and Hope
by Vanessa Vega
published by AMACOM Books
The darkness started coming for me on Monday. Much like the flu, it hit the base of my spine first. The slight but undeniable tingling that just won't go away. I have a chill to my bones that I cannot seem to shake, even though I take two to three hot baths a day to try and alleviate it. My patience is nil. My sense of humor, gone. My desire to go anywhere or do anything has left me. I throw myself into a flurry of activity: if I run hard and fast enough, maybe I can beat it this time. Sometimes that works. But not this time.
By Wednesday, the darkness is in my dreams. I am hurt. I am alone. I am dead. By Thursday I start to shake. I know what is going to happen and I feel powerless to fight it. I read a book. Flip through a magazine. Flip channels on the television. Anything to take my mind off what I know is to come. The darkness waits for me and I can't seem to escape. By Friday morning I have shut down. I am so far into myself that if I were to try to withdraw anymore, I would implode.
At work, I can't seem to match the words coming out of my mouth with the voice in my head. People smile at me, look confused, and then walk away.
I am so tired. I don't want to do this. I desperately try to think of errands I have to do before I go home. There aren't any. Once I get home, I check the mail. Maybe there will be something inside that needs my immediate and undivided attention. Junk mail. As I walk in the door, I pray for a phone message, any message, any note or urgent plea for my help. Anything to save me from the darkness -- to save me from myself. Usually there is at least one message. One voice saying, "Please call me back." But not today. Today, there is only the darkness, and it waits for me.
I take the dog out, feed him, slowly take off my clothes and get ready. The darkness has come and it's time.
Like all rituals, mine is exhaustive and demanding. Nothing can interfere with it or preempt it, or else it doesn't count. I don't want to have to do this again. I don't want to be interrupted, and so I walk into the bathroom and lock the door. Naked, I stand and take a long look at myself in the mirror. I look carefully at my eyes. I'm not there, but the darkness is. I look at my breasts. My thighs. My stomach. My face. And then I see my arms. They hang there, trembling. Waiting.
I hear a voice. Clear. Commanding. Unmistakable. It is my own voice, insecure and relentless.
You know you have to do this.
No, I don't.
Yes, you do. If you were better than this, you wouldn't be here.
I don't need to do this anymore.
Oh yes, you do. No one wants to hear your problems. No one cares that you're out of control. I mean, come on. If they did, wouldn't they have stopped this? It's Friday. Wouldn't they have noticed you haven't been yourself and asked you what was wrong? Maybe they would have asked you out for a drink after work. At the very least, they could have called. Don't make this harder than it is. You're a burden and people don't have time for this. Stop screwing around and just do it. I'm stronger than you are. I've been waiting for you all week. It's time.
The tears haven't started yet, but they will. I reach under the sink and carefully lay out my tools: cotton balls, alcohol, and scissors. I see a razor blade sitting on the counter, but I can't trust myself with it yet. Maybe I'm not that brave. Maybe the darkness won't see it.
I run my wrists and arms under the faucet. I use soap to make sure everything is clean. I have to. It's the rules. I reach for a towel and stop. Breathe. Close my eyes. Try, one last time, to fight the darkness. Now, the tears come. I open my eyes and look into the mirror.
All of my insecurities come out through a venomous inner dialogue. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you for being weak. I hate you for being too pathetic to be anything but what you are. I hate you for what you're about to do. I hate you for what you've already done.
All of my failures come back in a rush. My eyes grow dark. You're a shitty wife. A marginal teacher, at best. If you were as great as you think you are, don't you think you'd have received *another* teaching award last month? I mean, come on! And a model? Yeah, when's the last time anyone ever called you for a job? They haven't because they know you're fat and pathetic. So, now you think you can be a writer. If that were true, you'd be doing it, not just standing here thinking about it. And what do you really have to say, anyway? You think the world cares about your past? Your pain? Your ideas? Stop kidding yourself. If you were such a great communicator, or had a "great message," your book would be out by now.
Face it. Nobody cares. You're a freak! You push away the people who love you the most. You can't communicate. You have nothing to offer. Give up. Give in. Stop jerking around and do this! Do what you know the best. Hurt. But you know you're going to screw this up, too. If you'd do it right, you'd cut out all of the parts of yourself that are unacceptable. But you can't, can you? You can't even do this right. Go on. Look at yourself. See how pathetic you really are. Naked. Crying. Ashamed. Is this what you were made for?
Alchohol. Swab. Wipe.
Face it. You're a mistake. If God really wanted you to be doing something else, don't you think he'd find a way to stop this? He isn't. There's no one at the door. The phone isn't ringing. The dog isn't barking. It's just you. And the darkness.
I look carefully at the scissor blades. I make a mental note to buy new ones. Here again, par for the course, I've dropped the ball. I should have bought new scissors already. But now, now all I have are the old ones. Used. Defiled. Covered with old blood and shame.
I look at my wrist and see the scars that I've put there over the last twenty years. I cry. I am living a lie. When I made my first cuts, I swore to myself they would be the last. That if I could just get over the hump, the need for scissors and razor blades and knives would be over. One day, I told myself, I would be in a better place.
I have to be careful where and how I cut. If I screw this up, I will end up in the ER, and then I'll be committed. Maybe I should be. Maybe I'm crazy and don't even know it.
I take the scissors in my left hand and hold my right arm stiff. The darkness surrounds me and I let it carry me away.
Copyright (C) 2007 by Vanessa Vega. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to duplicate or distribute this file, as long as the contents are not changed and this copyright notice is intact. Thank you.