Darkness Always Terrified Me...... Essay

Darkness Always Terrified Me...... Essay-74
It’s the revenant that won’t stop, the ghost that’s always coming for you. Do you remember how during our chat at Amherst I talked about intimacy? Super ironic that I write and talk about intimacy all day long; it’s something I’ve always dreamed of and never had much luck achieving. Every time we would get close to fucking the intrusions would cut right through me, stomach-turning memories of my violation. It was the first truly healthy family I’d been exposed to. From that one story I got an agent, I got a book deal, I appeared in , I published my first book, “Drown,” which sold nothing but got me more press than any young writer should ever have. He never checks the locks on the bedroom doors four times a night, doesn’t bite clean through his tongue. Beli, the tough-love Dominican mother who suffered catastrophic sexual abuse throughout her life. The nightmares, the intrusions, the hiding, the doubts, the confusion, the self-blame, the suicidal ideation—they didn’t go away just because I buried my neighborhood, my family, my face. After all, it’s hard to have love when you absolutely refuse to show yourself, when you’re locked behind a mask. Which you would think would have been a good thing. The longer we were together, the more her family loved me, the more unbearable it all got. Anyone else would have ridden that good-luck wave straight into the sunset, but that wasn’t how it played out. C., but I fled to Syracuse instead, where the snow never stops and the isolation was a maw. Entire literary careers could have fit into the years I didn’t write. If Black Is Beautiful had a spokesperson it would have been her; S⁠—, who would have thrown away a thousand years of family to make it work. The intrusions always hit where it would hurt the worst. I had a life a lot like Beli’s, the young woman said, and then, without warning, she choked into tears.

It’s the revenant that won’t stop, the ghost that’s always coming for you. Do you remember how during our chat at Amherst I talked about intimacy? Super ironic that I write and talk about intimacy all day long; it’s something I’ve always dreamed of and never had much luck achieving. Every time we would get close to fucking the intrusions would cut right through me, stomach-turning memories of my violation. It was the first truly healthy family I’d been exposed to. From that one story I got an agent, I got a book deal, I appeared in , I published my first book, “Drown,” which sold nothing but got me more press than any young writer should ever have. He never checks the locks on the bedroom doors four times a night, doesn’t bite clean through his tongue. Beli, the tough-love Dominican mother who suffered catastrophic sexual abuse throughout her life. The nightmares, the intrusions, the hiding, the doubts, the confusion, the self-blame, the suicidal ideation—they didn’t go away just because I buried my neighborhood, my family, my face. After all, it’s hard to have love when you absolutely refuse to show yourself, when you’re locked behind a mask. Which you would think would have been a good thing. The longer we were together, the more her family loved me, the more unbearable it all got. Anyone else would have ridden that good-luck wave straight into the sunset, but that wasn’t how it played out. C., but I fled to Syracuse instead, where the snow never stops and the isolation was a maw. Entire literary careers could have fit into the years I didn’t write. If Black Is Beautiful had a spokesperson it would have been her; S⁠—, who would have thrown away a thousand years of family to make it work. The intrusions always hit where it would hurt the worst. I had a life a lot like Beli’s, the young woman said, and then, without warning, she choked into tears.

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That I will cease to exist, and that I will be just gone.

I’ve heard that the older one gets, the more one comes to term with the fact that life isn’t endless.

Some think about it while lying in their beds at night staring out into the darkness, some share it with friends when drunk and some just try to suppress these thoughts as soon as they surface.

What almost every person seems to have in common with each other, though, is that we desperately try to find a reason for living, a meaning with our existence.

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My whole life, as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of dying.

The next day I swallowed all these leftover drugs from my brother’s cancer treatment, three bottles’ worth. I had assumed I wasn’t going anywhere, had completely forgotten that I had any schools left to hear from. By junior year, I doubt anyone from my high school would have recognized me. After that it was C⁠—, who did a ton of community work in the D. Classic trauma psychology: approach and retreat, approach and retreat. My depressions would settle over me for months, and in that darkness the suicidal impulse would sprout pale and deadly. Eventually what used to hold back the truth doesn’t work anymore. In the novel I published eleven years after “Drown,” I gave my narrator, Yunior, a love supreme named Lola, because in real life I had a love supreme named Y⁠—. A state-school girl raised in Washington Heights who worked her ass off, who never ran from a fight, and who could have danced Ochún out the fucking room. In the treatment world, they say that often you have to hit rock bottom before you finally seek help. And yet, irony of ironies, what awaited me on that island was not my destruction but nearly the opposite: my salvation. I’ve said elusive things here and there but nothing actionable, no definitive statements. And that’s what it feels like to say the words, X⁠—.

But as I read that letter it felt as if the door of the world had cracked open again, ever so slightly. I became a runner, a weight lifter, an activist, had girlfriends, was “popular.” At Rutgers I buried not only the rape but the boy who had been raped—and threw into the pit my family, my suffering, my depression, my suicide attempt for good measure. I had friends with guns; I asked them never to bring them over for any reason. Somehow I was still writing—about a young Dominican man who, unlike me, had been only a little molested. You run out of escapes, you run out of exits, you run out of gambits, you run out of luck. It doesn’t always work that way, but that sure is how it was for me. Over the last weeks, that gnawing sense of something undone has only grown, along with the old fear—the fear that someone might find out I’d been raped as a child.

How you walked out of the auditorium with your shoulders hunched. And always I was afraid—afraid that the rape had “ruined” me; afraid that I would be “found out”; afraid afraid afraid. And if I wasn’t a “real” Dominican man I wasn’t anything. At night I had the most vivid dreams, often about “Star Wars” and about my life back in the Dominican Republic, in Azua, my very own Tatooine.

It could have saved me (and maybe you) from so much. I’m still afraid—my fear like continents and the ocean between—but I’m going to speak anyway, because, as Audre Lorde has taught us, my silence will not protect me. That shit cracked the planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible. Not only the rapes but all the sequelae: the agony, the bitterness, the self-recrimination, the asco, the desperate need to keep it hidden and silent. I was confused about why I didn’t fight, why I had an erection while I was being raped, what I did to deserve it.

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