I used to think my story was a chronology. A timeline I could mark off into sections and condense such that my whole life could be recanted in a single therapy session. But that taming of my story was just an illusion. These kinds of stories almost always and inevitably discover that they are not timid, that they are not made of sugar or snips and snails but of sinew and jagged teeth and talons.
So I woke up one day with my rib cage ripped wide open. That’s when my edges became blurred and beginnings melded into endings. That’s when middle things stretched themselves out so far, they engulfed everything, and then spit out only fragments and all in the wrong order. That’s how I ended up in sterile rooms with police officers guarding me.
That is how, when my mind finally broke my body, I ended up alone. No one knew what to do with you, they said.
My first mother didn’t know what to do with me. She was too poor to feed me, she couldn’t even use me to mark off time with milestones: first words, first steps. By the age of two, not a single word had fallen out of my mouth and my legs were dead twigs that could only be dragged around. She ended up carrying me into the city, sat me on the curbside and told me to stay, as if was an obedient dog. As if I had legs that could have taken me anywhere. Eighteen months later, my second mother grew legs for me, but then told me to go.
This was my first lesson on how bodies were things that could accommodate the wishes of others. No legs for the mother who wanted me to stay, legs for the mother who wanted me to go.
I also learned that sometimes the actions of our bodies are illusions. Legs can look like they’re walking even if you’re still crawling inside. Legs that are running don’t necessarily mean they are taking you anywhere.