We struggle. Isn’t that the story? We all struggle. We wrestle with ourselves and we call our own weaknesses demons. We lacerate our own sinning hearts with our sharp tongues, in hopes that blood will absolve us. That the metal in our mouths will swallow down into our bellies, where the rest of our burdens live. We mistake heaviness for gravitas, for weight, for a stability we do not feel.
I have never once been addicted to anything in my life.
This is a thought I have had, a quiet voice attempting steadiness in an empty room. It’s not a very certain voice, and it is a very empty room. Or was.
There are secrets I have not admitted to myself. Sins of shame, acts of will, an abandonment of something once held. Something once held tightly, sinewed to skin. We excise whole chunks of ourselves like molting, like shedding, like making ourselves whole.
I am struggling with the idea of dependence, of habit, of morality and willpower. What can you be addicted to? What can you not be addicted to? What defines an “addict”? I saw addiction as a private room, a confession booth, where you list your litany of excesses until you hit the magical combination that earns you your token, your badge, your scarlet letter, your lifelong cross. Listen to my quiet voice. Listen to the things I have seen people swallow and spit out. Listen to the stories sunk in my ear. Listen to my broken friends.
Curls of smoke, red wine teeth, blackout Sundays, shakes for days, vomit in the sink, eyeballs tinged pink, shredded leaves in an old metal tin, shredded veins, a dealer, a druggie, a junkie, a drunk, glutton for punishment, all the slices of cake, razor blades, bruises, tally marks on skin, eyes glued to the scale, eyes glued to your waistline, eyes glued to the screen, a gaping hole, a widening void, a gaping mouth, a hunger, a hunger, a hunger, a thirst.
There is vice, there is habit, there is sin.
There is denial, there is guilt, there is shame.
There is the darkness where the truth lies. Who are the addicts in our lives?
Once I wrote a fairy tale of a girl in a tower with long fair hair that filled the room. Her name was Isley. She sat all day brushing it, and looking out the window at a prince standing in a field. Her friend would come to visit and watch her do this every day, until she got sick of it, and decided to speak to the prince for Isley. He was bland as porridge, but that wasn’t his fault, I was just a poor writer. Isley’s friend looked back to the tower, meaning to wave at her friend, to tell her that the prince knows now. The prince knows she has been watching. But all she sees is hair, covering the windows. Isley has been swallowed up, nothing more than a face in tangled locks by the time she climbs the tower again.
What did it mean? Why am I telling you this? I read the story out in class, proud of my puzzle of a tale, my little half-cooked egg of a story, which my deft and kind-hearted and bemused lecturer tore to shreds. “Wilfully oblique” she called me. I was both flattered and aghast, feeling more transparent than glass.
In our recesses, we are all just mouths waiting for food. We want. We are needy.
My vices are small and ordinary, my life a quiet room. Everything I am saying is half true. I wrote my secrets and covered them in paint. This is all I have to show you. One day, I might be able to tell myself the story of addiction. The story of lives too big to handle, bloated from excess, bloated from all the things we need and do not have. One day all my secret little shames, all my indulged vices, one day they will weigh no more than words.
A Contracted Life is intended as a place to explore and examine the negative spaces in life — the things a person don’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, can’t do. A reflection of evasions, secrets and covered truths — the things that don’t come easy and take time to face.
Featured image by Syar S. Alia.