How do you explain something that does not exist anywhere but your head?
How do you form words for feelings impossible?
How do you talk about the cracks in your brain caused by no weapons?
13 new countries, 16 new homes, 60 interviews, 500 new friends, 459 good-byes, and 1 lie: “Yes, I’ll come back”–because the truth would break those quick-beating hearts more than my absence ever could–$15,000 USD, 22 plane rides, 1 lost forever, and a singular trauma drawn out seven months.
Caged like a bird, imprisoned in a church, and
A palpable loneliness as my mind swallowed itself whole.
“Why don’t you talk about your trip?”
Because I lived it alone and there are not enough words to explain the nothingness and everything that it was.
A lifetime of languages could not articulate the forever in those 18,396,020 seconds of my life.
Because if I tried to tell you what it meant to me and what happened you wouldn’t understand.
There was no other body nor witness to my experience–no validation of how wonderful and terrible it was, and no one to help me unearth the words I need to make it matter to you.
Memories come back to me in snippets–like dancing in the rain while my sketchbook was stolen in the hotel of Bangkok, and the shop in Macedonia on a corner in Skopje where I picked out a set of graphite pencils perfect for practicing a new hobby, and sitting on a plane careening toward New Delhi where I drew my seatmate on the first page of that sketchbook.
And the PTSD that kept me awake at night tucked in with my bedfellow nightmares, soaking in my sweet sweat.
How do I explain what I saw in the darkness?
How do I give voice to the demons that pursued me in the night, caressing me with the promise of silence and the release of my grave–a tombstone defined by a dash that declared that I should be happy?
When my mental illness became so much more than a monster–my best friend–intertwining her fingers in the neurons of my mind, creating synapses drenched in hopelessness deep enough to drown the whole earth.
I was alone, and in those months, that was all I knew–haunted for years by the person I once was who believed so much in everything–but now could barely believe in the promise of tomorrow.
How do I tell you these things without falling back into the darkness that I once wore as clothing?