This is a personal response to Joy Kogawa’s poem “Where There is A Wall.” I wrote this short story (might be too short-sorry) within the span of 45 minutes so I apologize beforehand if some ideas aren’t explained clearly. The essence of this short story is about a narrator that has lost his/her mother and identifies themselves as the cause of her death due to their selfishness. This story is their coming to terms with their mother’s death and their need to save themselves (change their past self) in order to move on. Basically, the adversity that is prevalent for the narrator is his/her former nature, and this story is their response to that adversity.
I think I may be too young to carry myself. To find the stones of who I am supposed to be and fit them onto one another. Because somehow when I place these stones together, they never tremble, or seek to fall from where I have placed them. They protect me. They shield me from who I am. I am hard. And that allows me to breathe. Even if my breathing is ragged, I can still force air into my lungs. Air that I need to be human once again.
Its funny when they try to label me to figure out what I am. To find comfort for themselves. Because once I become a label, their momentary ignorance is uplifted. And no. They cannot deal with that momentary doubt. So I am simply a piece of cardboard in placement of a human to be stamped, and dealt with later. But they can’t label me. Because I won’t allow them. And even when I nod my head as they call me anxious or mentally depressed, I’ll smile a hard smile. I will look amused to them. And then they pause. I am not responding correctly. As if I am a human that outputs calculated movement for them; I am not corresponding. But it’s a small smile. Barely noticeable. It shouldn’t bother anyone, but it bothers them. And they will obsess over it. They will obsess over wanting to contain me. But you can’t do that. I have already contained myself. I am ice cold. And no warmth will ever allow the blood that seeps through my veins to change from its chilled form.
Sure. You can touch me. And sometimes I desperately crave a human touch. Because I can’t live with myself for brief moments of time. And I simply cannot take my own life. Because I do not believe in that type of cowardice. Never did. Never will. But I am human, and I need another human’s touch to remind me of that. So when I allow anyone to briefly touch my hand, I relish in it. Because it allows my blood to momentarily move forwards and backwards. Just like normal. Just like yours. For such a precious moment. And that moment becomes mine to relish within. And somehow I feel more alive. I am able to live again.
But that’s such a dangerous thing. Such a dangerous feeling. Which is why I quickly let go. Because for a moment I am able to feel again. And it hurts differently. It pains my heart. The frozen chamber of blood that the stones were supposed to protect. And I begin to remember my mother’s face. It begins to haunt me. Her tear stained face. Her pleading cries. And then nothing. And then her pained eyes hold no emotion. When I would give anything for them to return to their normal form. I begin to feel sorry. But I don’t deserve help. And when my blood returns to its chilled state, I begin to remember why I need to live selflessly. I can’t ask for help. It causes guilt. I never helped her. Therefore, I don’t deserve anything. I breathe, and can remember how selfish it would be if I did ask. And even though my breathing is agonized, I feel more free with this repeated revelation that I constantly need to remind myself of. I am more free. Because I don’t begin to hate mind for urging my tongue to speak what my heart feels. I simply don’t indulge in that emotion, because I have suppressed it. And it will be a while before it begins to worry me again.
I am safe from myself right now. Completely safe. Breathe. Only I can fix the brokenness of who I am. Because the only skin I want to cut itself on the icy shards of who I am and stain it with droplets of deep red, is only my own. Only. And it hurts. To live through life alone. To watch people take comfort in one another. When I can’t do the same. When I am not capable of doing the same. Because I will only hurt them. Like I hurt her. With my words. When she never deserved it. I thrived in her reaction, I relished in the hurt I caused her because it reminded me that someone cared. But I was too proud to tell her how much she meant to me. How much I loved her. How I she held such a great part of my heart in her warm hands. And it was my fault when she went. When her heart collapsed because she was holding the weight of mines. And I never carried hers. Because only I wanted to feel cherished. I was selfish.
And when I shut the door after every argument. She would never know that when she was crying on the other side of the door, my tears would flow faster. Always. And would last me through the night. I would endlessly make promises to the night. To be better. To help. To be kind. But the day could never seem to uphold what the night asked of it to. And it was a cycle. I needed to feel valued. But I did it all wrong. All wrong. Because it takes two to care for each other. Not one. Never one. And I want to let her know. That the stubbornness that I had. The pride that I let control. I would let it fall. I would let it go. Although it would be agony. Because losing you hurts more. It hurts so much more. I would do anything for you. But I learned that after I lost what mattered the most.
This is why if it hurts. If the loss tortures me. I will always have the cold to freeze my tears, and hold onto the droplets. The coldness seeps in. When I realize the utter criminal I had let myself become, the numbness allows my pain to become more bearable. I am able to let go of my former self. It is not there with me anymore. I can change myself. And I have room to breathe in this cold that everyone seems to desert for warmth. I am alone, but a little more free. Because through strengthening myself, through hardening myself with these stones, life is more bearable. It’s worthwhile. Because I remember why it is I who needs to save myself. My throat begins to burn when I swallow the agony that is required of me.
And don’t be mistaken. It becomes a little bit more difficult to be careful with who I am. I want to join them. All of them. Those I give a cold smile to. Those I always seem to be observing. But I am here. In this moment. I can’t get to that warmth if I can’t get past myself.
I am frozen in the very sheets of snow that you admire from the comfort behind your window. Your glass has not broken. Like mine has. And I want it that way. I need it that way. So please don’t let me touch it. Although sometimes it may seem as if my eyes are pleading of you to. I beg of you. I need to be the one to save who I am. It only needs to be me. Only me.
Image Source: “Cold Heart”. N0tisme.deviantart.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.