Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dog came over, which was weird.  Not that I minded seeing him, but having him in this context when I was used to his being part of the outside world.  

I guess I did mind. Just having anyone over at all. Opening the door to people coming in to Cam's place.  My place.  The safe place.

The apartment felt small with Dog in it.  I wasn't sure where in the room I ought to be.  I didn't like the fact that he could just look for me and see me. At a club or even outside, if I wanted to get away I could.

But I like him. He's in some ways even lower key than Cam, which is really going some.  Barely talked to me, but not in a mean way.  Not like he was ignoring me or couldn't be bothered or anything.  Just seemed to know I wasn't really there.  He said hi, but didn't sit there staring at me for an answer.

We watched a movie. He's the kind who actually watches a movie, not the kind that talks all through it.  It was a weird movie, about a world where everything is getting darker and darker, and I really had to pay attention to understand it.

"Honey?" Cam asked.  

I realized that I was standing up.  I didn't remember getting up, and the movie was in a completely different place than where I'd left it.  Either a character was missing or I'd made someone up.  It was like how reading has been lately, except that I couldn't check because I haven't seen this movie and there was no way I was going to ask.

"You okay?" Cam asked.

Dog was looking at me. Very quiet and alert.  

I nodded and went into the kitchen for something to drink, like that was the whole reason I'd gotten up in the first place.  They had some beers over with them, but I've never liked that kind of thing. My head doesn't need more messing with.

I sat down and I could tell that Dog was kind of keeping an eye on me even though he was also following the movie.  It should have bothered me and I guess from pretty much anyone else it would have, but with him it just made me feel safe.  I felt guarded.  Cam would do anything he could for me, but if Dog decided I was on his list he'd tear apart anyone who tried something, and enjoy the exercise.

I don't like violence, but there it is.  

I liked knowing that some of it would be on my side for once.

I opened my eyes and the movie was ending.  Was already over, really, but they were watching the credits to see if there was anything hidden at the end.  I didn't move or say anything, just opened my eyes, but Dog looked over at me.  "Should we start it again?" he asked.

I shook my head, embarrassed and not looking at him.  

Cam got up and stretched.  "I'll be right back."

Dog kept looking at me.  "What's going on, little sister?" he asked.  "You're fading fast.  You look like you were filmed in black and white."

I didn't know what to say, and then realized that I couldn't say anything anyway.  I've been talking to Cam okay, but now with Dog I didn't know how.

Cam came back in. "So what are we doing?" he asked.  "There's a sequel, or if you want to go out -- "

"I don't," Dog said.  "Something to eat, maybe."

"I'll see what I've got," and he was gone again, rummaging around in the kitchen.  Dog turned back to me.

"You need to get some rest," he said.  

I shook my head, hard.

"Why not?"

I shook my head again.

"It's easy. You shut your eyes and -- "

No.

Well, I'd remembered how to talk.  It was a lot louder than I'd planned, though.  Dog looked a little surprised, but other than that he didn't care.

"What's the worst thing that could happen?"

I could scream. I have been.

"I can take it."

Cam came back in. "I don't know how old this is," he said, putting down some cold pizza.  "If it's the stuff we ordered Saturday, it should be okay."

"Let me try it first," Dog said.  "I've got a stomach of steel."

"Echo?"

I shook my head. I wished they would leave me alone.  I had two blankets and I was sitting between them and I liked knowing they were there but I couldn't stand the other kind of taking care of me.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"We're going out," Cam announced.  Didn't ask if I wanted to, didn't give me any warning the way he usually does so I have time to get used to the idea.  Just said it.

Where?  Why?

"I don't know where.  Just out somewhere. I need some air."

I don't.

"Dog's coming," he said, as if I hadn't said anything.  "He doesn't have anything going on, either."

I don't want to go out.

"It's been too long.  You need it."

I don't.

"Just for a little while."

No.

I think he was surprised.  I don't usually say stuff like that to him.  I'll choke down anchovies rather than tell him I don't like them.  He's always on me to be more assertive and all that.

Except tonight, I guess.

He looked at me a long time, and then he sat down next to me.  I was holding a book but I hadn't actually been reading it, and he set it aside.

"I'm worried about you," he said.  "I don't know what to do to help."

You're already helping, I said.  You're letting me be here.

"That's not enough."

I don't want to talk about this.

He looked at me again for a minute, and then he sighed.  "Okay," he said.  "Let's just go out for a bit, okay?  I really think it'll be good for you."

I can't.  I'm sorry.

"We don't have to go anywhere.  Just outside.  A little fresh air, that's all."

I'm just not up to it.

"Okay. We'll stay here, then." He didn't say it in a guilt way, but I still felt bad.

You can go. I don't mind.

"I mind."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lately I can't read anything I haven't read before.

Because sometimes when I'm reading, the story will get really strange. I'll follow along for a while, just watching for what's going to happen next, and then it's like I snap out of it. I turn back a few pages and start reading again, and it turns out that nothing I thought I just read was really there.

I was reading Jane Eyre, and I got to this part that I never remembered reading before. The madwoman in the attic was telling me what she was thinking, and why she did what she did. She said the worst part about being crazy was that it was like dying. It froze everything into place. You couldn't get away from who you'd been, what you'd done. Nothing new could ever happen to you. That was why the lovers in Dante's Inferno whirled around in circles, tied forever to one another. That was all they were, now: a picture of their own passion. The outside and the inside were one and the same. And all she was was wanting and unwanted. She knew she shouldn't love Rochester any more -- she never should have, really -- and if she could just get her mind back for a minute, she'd be able to talk herself out of it. The heart follows the mind more often than we think, she told me. But she'd gone mad while she was still in love with him, and so now she was madly in love with him. It was humiliating.

I could have listened to her for hours, but when I looked at the page again, everything she'd said was gone. I looked through the whole book, but I couldn't find anywhere that she got to talk. I knew I must have just come up with it myself somehow, but it felt so real.

And when I tried to write down what she'd said to me, it was like trying to write about music. I knew how it made me feel, but I couldn't get it down just right so anyone else could hear it.

I guess I'm dreaming with my eyes open now.

That's okay. It's not bad, I guess. Just odd.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cam says I can't get away from dreaming by not sleeping. But I've noticed that when I go to bed absolutely stupefied with tiredness, it's like I'm too tired to dream. That's good.

He makes me go to bed every night, but he can't make me sleep.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Feeling haunted, hemmed in. Tired. I'm not sleeping unless I can't help it, and it turns out I can help it a lot.

If that's what sleep is going to do to me, I'll damned well do without it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

More bad dreams, and I don't know how they can be so frightening even when I can't remember them.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bad dreams. Woke Cam up twice.  On a night where he had to get up early for school the next day.  Poor Cam.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"You're safe."

I swear I almost hit him when he said that.  Not nice, but true.

How can you say that?  Are you saying if they came to get me, you could stop them?

I felt bad after I said that.  Cam's not very big, physically, for a guy.  He's not a dwarf or anything, he's just not huge.  That's kind of part of why I feel safe with him -- I don't feel threatened.  I didn't want him to think that I meant he wasn't a man or something.  It has nothing to do with that.  He could be twelve feet tall and not be able to keep me safe if it came down to it.

He seemed to understand what I meant, though.  He didn't seem hurt or anything, just concerned.  "They're not going to -- "

How do you know? Why won't they?  Because they can't find me, or because they won't bother to look?

His face got that puckered expression.

"I don't know how to tell you this," he said.  "I don't want it to come out wrong.  I'm not coming on to you or anything, you know that.  But I'd die before I let anything happen to you."

I looked at him, but he didn't let me say anything.  "Let me finish," he said.  "The thing is, I don't think you'd let that happen.  I think that if someone did come for you, you'd be so afraid that you'd freeze up and let them take you away.  That's what you're afraid of, and you're right -- that's probably what you'd do.  But if they tried to hurt me -- and they'd have to, to get you -- you'd stop them."

I had no idea what to say to that.

"You're so afraid of how much power you might have that you spend all your time either tamping it down or pretending it isn't there," he said.  "Or you let yourself believe what they tried to tell you -- that there's nothing there, you're just crazy.  But you're not.  And if push ever comes to shove, I feel sorry for anyone who tries to hurt someone you care about."

I think you're the one who's crazy.

He just smiled.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cam, trying to be nice again.

"You'll be okay.  I promise."

I didn't think I could ever be angry at him, but I really was when he said that.  

As much as he cares -- and I know he does -- it's way too easy for him to say that.  He's not the one who has to deal with it, not in the same way anyway, if he's wrong.

It would be bad enough to have to look back at -- to look back.  Just looking at it.  Why would anyone want to go there?  If I was really safe.  If I could know it could never happen again.

But I'm not.  I don't.  I can't.  It could.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

He didn't.  He just asked me to finish saying what was really bothering me about looking back.

The dreams aren't bad enough?

It's true. They're not.  They're really not the worst.  

What I'm most afraid of is that if I look back, I won't be able to do anything else.  I'll be trapped there.  Not turned to salt, but turned to stone.  

My past is a gorgon.

I thought I was telling the truth, but I wasn't.  Not completely.

I am afraid of having dreams, it's true.  God, so much.  I can't even tell what it's like to feel like those are waiting for me.  

I live with a monster I'm afraid of waking up.

The worst part is that no matter what it does, how often it attacks me, how much blood it draws, it won't kill me.  I'll still be there for more.

I haven't had a good dream in so long.  But I remember what they're like.  So fragile.  Flighty. Indifferent.  If I move or blink or a breeze blows by, it'll fly away and won't come back no matter how still and quiet I lie.

Nightmares care. They're just so glad to be with you.  Even if you manage to get away, they're so polite.  They think you only had to step away for a moment.  They're more than happy to wait for you to come back.

They'll wait forever for you.  

I was reading one of Cam's magazines today.  It had a cartoon of this man lying in bed, trying to fall asleep.  Over his head was this thought bubble. There were a bunch of sheep in it, waiting to jump that fence sheep always leap in cartoons when someone's trying to fall asleep.  But these sheep weren't jumping.  They were cowed, cowering.  The man thinking them looked pretty cowed himself.  On the other side of the fence was a grinning wolf.  Just waiting for the feast.

I'm going to show that to Cam.  Maybe he'll stop bugging me.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I don't know how to do this.  I don't know how.

It should be as easy as writing about any other day or night.  Just say what happened.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cam is bugging me to write more.  

"You started to write about the night we met," he said.  "That's good."

I didn't say anything.

"Why don't you finish writing that?"

Nothing.

"I'll give you a dollar."

Didn't smile.

"Those doughnuts you like?"

I glared at him.

"Hey, I'm just saying I'd do a lot for a box of my favorite doughnuts.  Nothing wrong with being cheap sometimes.

"What's it going to hurt?" he asked.  "It happened, you write about it, you prove to yourself that you can go back and take a look at whatever you want whenever you want to."

Except I don't want to.

"It's one thing not to want to," he said.  "It's another thing not to be able to.  All this stuff that happened to you has power over you if you can't face it."

I don't want to have more dreams.

"I'll be there for you."

I don't want you to have to be.

"I don't mind."

I just don't see the point of going back there.  We both know it happened.

"Let me ask you something," Cam said.  "When you look ahead at the future, what do you see?"

I thought for a minute.  Nothing.

"Yeah, and it's going to stay that way until you've faced your past.  You're not a whole person until you do that."

Just because somebody saves you doesn't give them the right to be a pain in the ass.  

When did you turn into a self-help book?

"I'm a selfish jerk," Cam said.  "I love having you here.  I love how we are now.  I'd be happy to live this life for the rest of my life."

Then why do you keep poking at me?  Why can't we just keep things the way they are, if we're both happy that way?

"Because I don't think you're happy, and I'd like you to be.  I'd rather risk losing you than not do right by you."

It had been a long time since I felt really terrified.  They say you don't remember pain, but I hadn't forgotten an inch of that.

I'm not going anywhere.

"I know you're not."

Are you going to let me stay?

"Let you? I'm asking you to.  But I want it to be a choice for you. Right now it isn't.  That makes me feel mean.  Like I'm using you."

I looked at him in amazement.  What was he talking about?  He's given me safety, warmth, cleanness and softness, hot water and stories and food.  I can't pay him a dime.  And he's so hands-off it's almost silly.  I half expect him to put on a chastity belt every night before he goes to bed.  

How could he be using me?

"I can't explain," he said.  It was nice when I didn't have to go to the trouble of asking questions and he'd answer them anyway.  "I've never lied to you, so you're just going to have to take my word for it."

Okay.

"Will you please try to do what I asked?"

I'd almost forgotten what we were talking about.  Didn't like being reminded.

I thought for a minute.  He didn't push me.

Can I really have the doughnuts?

He smiled.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

We went out again. Dog's band was playing, and we went to see them.

They were good. Dog mostly played guitar.  I liked the way his face looked when he played.  Just really focused. Even when he saw us, and he was glad to see us, his expression didn't change.  He was concentrating.  

The music was hard, really fierce.  I had to be careful not to let myself get too tangled up in it.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to get back out.  

One song, though, really took me with it.  I went ahead and let it.  It felt so good to step into the storm instead of making myself an eye the way I usually have to.

Cam touched me on the arm, gently.  He was smiling.

"Hey," he said.  "Check out the room."

I looked around. I didn't see anything much.

"They're loving it," he said.  "They're feeling that extra edge."

It's a good song.

"It's not just a good song."

Dog came over after they were done playing.  "What'd you think?" he asked.

I nodded.  Cam glanced at me sideways, trying not to smile.  "I really liked that one song, especially," he said.  "About looking for darkness."

"Yeah?" Dog said.  "I wrote that."

"It works."

"Thanks."

He stayed with us until we left.  People came up and talked to him sometimes, but he didn't give them anything much and they'd leave after a minute.  I liked him, but I was nervous about being with him.  I was worried about talking.  It was going to come up sooner or later.

It came up when it was Cam's turn to go get drinks.  "You never told me what you thought of the music," Dog said the second he was gone.

I didn't know where to look.  He was looking right at me, and he wouldn't look away.

"That bad, huh?"

I shook my head.

"Here's what's weird about how loud it is in here," he said.  "It's actually easier to hear somebody when they're talking quietly.  It's like it goes under the noise level or something."

I really liked the music.  

"Yeah?" He didn't act like anything was any kind of deal.

Too much.

"Didn't know there was such a thing."

It makes me feel bad to have to come back to regular life.

"At least you know you can get away again."

Cam came up just then. He kind of looked at me, but didn't say anything.  I felt like he was upset.  I wasn't sure.  Maybe I was just worried he would be.

I didn't say anything else that night.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I don't remember having a dream and I don't remember what it was about.  I opened my eyes and Cam was next to me, talking, trying to wake me up.  

"Hey," he said.  "It's okay. You're okay.  You're safe now."

Here's something: There was a clear few seconds between his saying that and my remembering where I was, who I was, and what it was all about; and that was the sweetest time I've ever had.  I knew he was telling the truth, and I could just feel safe without knowing what, exactly, I was safe from.  Just for a minute, I got to not be the person all that happened to.

"Are you all right?" Cam asked.

I nodded, wishing I could have stayed there in that safe place.  Did I make any noise?

"Only to me," he said.  "Don't worry."

It was a night he'd actually let me have the couch, and he wanted to trade, to make me feel better. I wouldn't, though.  Bad enough I'd woken him up.

I'm going to start sleeping during the day for a while.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

But doesn't that depend?  Cam and I read that Wells story together, about the man who could see in the country of the blind. That man had a sense no one else did.  He should have been king.  Didn't quite work out that way.

Or look at people who have too many fingers.  I've heard they do surgery on that kind of thing, get rid of it.  You'd think an extra digit could be an asset, but it isn't.  Because the world isn't set up for it.

If you don't have all the senses everyone is supposed to, they'll help you out.  But I don't think it's out of the kindness of their heart.  They just want everyone at a certain level.  

When I was in kindergarten, the teacher said to stop reading at school.  The other kids didn't know how, and it would make them feel bad.

I spent pretty much the whole time in school being teased for being too smart.  It started getting better in high school, because people started caring about their grades.  One guy was really nice to me.  I knew it was because I helped him with his homework whenever he asked, but I didn't care.  I was just so glad that somebody was even pretending to like me.

He wasn't completely pretending.  There were other smart people, and he picked me.  We had even started hanging out together.  

That was when they took me out of school, and I didn't see him again after that.  

I wonder if he wondered where I went.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cam gave me a hard time today.  About something I wrote here.  

"How can you think you were wrong?" he asked.  "How can you even imagine that?"

I didn't have an answer for that.  I wished I could keep reading.  Rochester just proposed to Jane.  But Cam wouldn't leave it alone, so I listened.

"Do you think I'm wrong?" he asked.  

I looked at him curiously.

"This is the kind of thing I know," he said.  "I don't make mistakes about this."

I nodded.  I didn't want to have that argument.

"It's a gift," he said.  "It's not a curse."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

We argue about books. Not fight, just bicker back and forth.  Cam likes books that are like real life.  Even old books have to pass the test:  could this really have happened?  Jack London and J.D. Salinger, yes; Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf, maybe; the Brontes, no way.

I like books where there's no way it could be true, but you wish it were.  What's the point of reading about reality?  That's what I'm trying to get away from.  

So he goes to the used bookstore and gets me the books I used to look at when I spent my days in the library.  Books about fairies -- not the cute kind, but the ones who look and act more like demons. Ghost stories.  Charlotte and Emily Bronte.

"Cathy!" he groaned when he handed me a used copy of Wuthering Heights.

Shut up.

He grinned.

Our only meeting place is, we both like monster stories.  The old kind.  Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, and Jekyll and Hyde.  H. G. Wells, but I had to stop reading The Island of Dr. Moreau.  It just felt a little too close to home.

I read all day, almost, when Cam's gone, wrapped up in the quilt that smells like his shampoo; and when he's home I bake things.  They don't always turn out very well, but it makes the place warm and baking is like coffee, it smells better than it tastes.  

I'd like to mess around in the kitchen when he's out.  He doesn't care if I do, in fact I think he'd like it.  But when he's gone I go into hiding.  I hate making any noise at all, and a scent would be just as easy to trace.  

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cam's place is so small it only has one full-sized window.  I wish it didn't have any.  I don't want to look out and I don't like the feeling that someone could look in.

He never says anything, just keeps things shut.  When I'm in the bath or something, he'll open things up to air the place out a bit.  But he closes them up before I come out.  He likes things dark anyway.  He says he's a night person.

I don't know what I am, if I'm anything.  I feel safer at night, if that counts.  

Friday, May 11, 2007

I don't want to think about the past.  I don't want to write about it.

It isn't good news, either way.  

Either I was right and almost everyone else was wrong, in which case I have to live with the idea of being something a lot more than just the sum of my parents' parts; or I was wrong, in which case I really was insane.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cam and I met in a club.

That's the kind of thing he wants me to write about.  He won't mind so much being in the story if it's my story I'm writing.

Cam and I met in a club.

He wants me to go back to that and then back more.  Make my story whole.

I can barely talk about just that one night, and that was the night I was technically safe and started being safer.  Found a home and didn't have to be cold any more because:

Cam and I --

I'm not writing about it now.  It's giving me a headache and I've had enough of those.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I couldn't eat all day, and maybe that was why it didn't go too well at first.  I was shaky, I could barely get dressed.  He got me some jeans, and a pretty purple shirt. Swears he didn't even pay ten dollars altogether for both, and how much would he have to pay for the kind of live-in maid service he's getting now?  Coffee and a clean bathroom every morning?

He took my hand and kind of pulled me along when it was time to go.  I've watched him go out that door every day, but I haven't been through it myself since he brought me home.

"Hey," he said.  "What's wrong?"

I was holding the doorknob, and I couldn't let go.

"Honey, we're coming back," he said.  "I promise.  We're going to go out, listen to some music, watch people dance stupid, have a drink, come home, and sleep in.  Crash until noon if we feel like it.  I have the whole day off tomorrow.  We can watch a monster movie, maybe some Buffy reruns."

I knew that.  I knew all that.  It was ridiculous to think he was going to dump me somewhere like a stray puppy.  If he didn't want me staying with him any more, he wouldn't have to work that hard to get rid of me.

It didn't make any sense for it to be so hard.  For me to be afraid to be outside, and seen.  No one was going to recognize me, and as Cam pointed out, I'd been going to clubs every night when we met.  

But that was to have somewhere safe to hide.  This was supposed to be for fun.  And I had so much more to lose now.  Cam.  Home.  

He's the one person I can't hide from, so I tamped it all down before you could really call it panic and went along.  

It was cold out. It had been so long since I'd been outside, I was startled by the air moving against my skin.  

Just to make up for lost time, I'd be happy to stay inside forever.  As long as it's this kind of inside.  The good kind.

It was crowded when we got there, but not too much so.  The music wasn't bad, wasn't great.  Nothing for me to hang onto.  Cam didn't say anything about that, just got us something to drink.  Didn't ask me to dance.  I don't know how to, maybe he knew.  There's something missing where dancing should be in me.  I love to watch other people doing it, though.  Not to learn -- I'll never be able to do that.  I especially love the ones who look completely absurd.  I love how they're willing to just move, never mind how it looks.  

For all I know, they look great by anything like normal standards.  I'm no judge.

We sat quietly, just taking it all in.  The music got a little better, a bit of an edge.  Someone Cam knew came over to where we were.

"Hey," he said.  

"Hey," Cam said, and looked at me.  "This is Dog," he said.

I nodded.  It was funny, because he looked like a dog. Not a mean dog, or a cute puppy. Just the way he held himself, the way he looked around.  He looked completely relaxed, but it was just because he was holding on to it, the way a dog on a loose leash looks when he's just walking along, indifferent until he smells something or hears another dog and goes from zero to crazy and the leash snaps taut.  He didn't have any hair, and that made him look more animal.  He was big, but not scary so.

"Dog," Cam said, "meet Echo."

I smiled.  I didn't know he was going to name me. That was nice.

I felt safer after that.  I was still lying low, but it was as if it didn't matter as much if anyone saw me.  I had someone else to be.  

Dog stayed with us most of the time.  I liked him, and I could tell he liked me.  He and Cam talked some, mostly about music.  Cam works at the radio station at the college.  Dog plays music.  He looks like he'd be good at it.  Serious about it.

He didn't talk to me much.  He seemed to know that wasn't something I could do.  Once when Cam had left for a minute, he sat listening for a minute and then looked at me.  "You guys aren't dating, right?"

I shook my head.

"But you're staying with him."

I nodded, wondering how he knew.  I didn't think Cam would have told him.  He said he wasn't going to tell anyone.  

"We'll be playing here next week," he said.  "You guys should come see us."

I nodded again. I wanted to say that I'd like that, but I didn't quite have the nerve.  I wasn't sure if he'd notice about my talking.  He seemed the kind of person who noticed things. Didn't mind or make a big deal, but noticed.  

He seemed to get that my not talking wasn't about him, and didn't say anything else until Cam came back.  They'd just been playing music up to that point, but there was going to be a band.  A pretty good one, Dog said.  Worth staying for.

We stayed.  I like it when the music is live, even if it isn't the greatest.  It's just different when it's right in front of you like that.  Really coming from somewhere.  Even when people aren't dancing or really listening to it, their energy kind of leans toward it, like a compass needle curving north.  

I let myself lean in, too.  Cam was right. No one was going to notice if I let go a little.  The music would just have a bit of extra spark to it.  

Once I looked up and saw Dog looking at me, looking kind of puzzled.  Not upset; just trying to figure something out.  Cam caught his eye and just smiled and shook his head at him.  

It was a pretty nice night.  Cam did a little I-told-you-soing about that when we left, but it wasn't unbearable.  

It was nice to get home, though.  Once we got there and I just wrapped the place around me like a blanket, I wondered how I'd ever been able to leave.  

"We should go see Dog when they play," Cam said before we fell asleep.  "His band is really good."