What to Do in the Silence

She is nine years old, this little girl in white. She is the one I most vividly recalled leaving prior to starting EMDR. She is little girl floating on a cloud, watching me with a sadness I can’t even put into words, but one that I know, deep down into the core of my being. She is the soul child who hovers around me, never making it into one of the white rooms, because, unlike the others, she doesn’t know that she had a choice, or a safe space to go into down the corridor into one of the white rooms. That night, she was so certain of her own death that she actually said goodbye to me with her eyes and slow shaking of her head, and she simply floated away. Hers is the whispered voice I hear when things are quiet, while driving in the car, lying in bed, simply being still. She wants me to stop, just stop. And let her go. She doesn’t understand that, when she made her choice to “die” all those years ago, the pain didn’t end. I don’t know what to do with her, or for her, because the ways in which I used to silence her, I had decided aren’t good for me.The distractions, I call them.
Back to to my nine year old in white…She won’t sit in a room, and won’t be quiet. The night she floated way, I was lying in my bed, having been awakened by the sound of Bruce slamming their bedroom door. Their room was next to mine. I heard my mother, with a sob in her voice, say, “What are you doing?!” He said something about teaching her a lesson. I heard a rhythmic whack whack whack sound that I thought was the sound of him hitting her with a belt, over and over and over, the way that he often hit me with his belt. He still had his policeman’s belt and it was big and thick and he swung it with the brute strength of a man his size and stature, a muscular man of about 6 feet, the kind of strength that wasn’t necessary to use on a child my size. That’s what I thought he was doing to my mother. But, no, she told me later, that was the sound of his fists hitting her skin.

As I lie there, my familiar ritualized mechanisms kicked in, as my breathing slowed, consciously forcing my chest to remain as still as possible, shallow, silent breaths, every muscle tensed and utterly still, like a small animal lying in hiding from a large predator. Most of those nights I wet the bed, the only part of my body which I couldn’t tightly control. After what seemed like hours as though time was standing as still as I was lying there, there was always the silence. In that silence, I was certain my heart beat would betray me and be heard in the next room. It was in that silence, I watched her float away. As I watched, feeling her sadness, I heard the door open from their room and footsteps. I lie there waiting for whatever was going to happen.
My door opened and I caught the heavy iron smell that I knew was blood. As the shadow got closer, I could see it was my mother. She hadn’t cleaned herself up yet. She came and sat on my bed. “You need to change your sheets,” she said, with a sigh, but to her credit, she never got angry about that. I think she acknowledged in her own mind that it was a reasonable reaction to all I was hearing in the next room. Then she left and, I suppose, got herself cleaned up. Then there was that silence, that calm after the insane adrenaline of the past 45 minutes or so of terror. I didn’t know what to do with that, but I was still aware of the “dream” I’d had of the saddest little girl in the world floating away in white, convinced that she had died. The thing is, I didn’t die. I had to stay and figure out how to travel through it all. As I changed my sheets, I heard the whisper from deep within, not even words but a message, “I died.” I wanted to go with her, to float away in white, pure and never to be hurt again, and not to be left with the aftermath of the silence, of being me, in that house, in that emptiness.
That is the feeling I have in the silence around me, when nothing is happening that drives my adrenaline, when I’m not on stage, or on a beautiful beach, or doing anything that makes me feel special for even five minutes. No, I will not hurt myself. That has never been an option since I first held my baby. My life is not mine, but… It is not even a feeling of wanting to be dead. Never has been. It is her feeling, that little nine year old’s who doesn’t know what she meant by wanting to be dead. She simply didn’t want to hurt any more, or feel empty. She didn’t know what to do in the silence

 

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