Pushed Under

October 04, 2013

You wake up like a bather, fresh, quiet, soothed. Your pink toes land on the carpet like parachutists, your arms stretch up into the air, fleshy canopies. Everything has been smoothed out like you are an ironed shirt and a yard of silk and a freshly paved sidewalk. New and beautiful and exciting. You push yourself gently to your knees, head dipping, eyes shutting, lips moving around a prayer. You say that you will be better today, that you will overcome your weaknesses. You say what you worry about and hope for. With an amen and the grumbling of waking bones, you stand and perch on your mattress and flip through eggshell-thin paper that comforts you with familiar names. Alma, Mosiah, Nephi, Moroni. You read until the flickering alarm clock drags you limb by limb into production and movement and machination. And like that, it ends where it begins. 

Sputtering engine, yelping windshield wipers, the sound of silence interrupted by the chaos of someone who doesn’t want to follow the law, someone who rips into the left lane and smashes through the air buffering your car until they interrupt your empty road to cut in front. Horns blare, construction machinery shrieks, rain smacks and beneath your breath, you mumble. Wait in line for the bus, get jostled aside, sit down and gaze through the windows, trying to call back first light. Bus lurches to a stop, people surge, you step down, protect your empty head from the rain until the English Department building looms in front of you. Clatter up stairs, through doors, across floors, into rooms where the pipes bang and howl like May Swenson is haunting them. Your bookmark is half a mile behind the bookmarks of your classmates and you feel stupid. They know the ending, they know the twists, they know who did what and when. All you know is that you’ve somehow let life outrun you again. There’s a sharp bite of coffee, a wisp of toast, another gushing contribution from the girl who bats her eyes at the professor like a teen in love and talks like she was raised by the Renaissance and the Dewey Decimal System. You scratch at your eyes, pick at your pages, write illegible notes and pass a silent gulp down your throat as the professor turns his narrow Sauron’s gaze in your direction. Clocks tick on, classes are excused, you’ve got one more day to catch up so you won’t feel inadequate, but you probably won’t use it. Padding through the rain, pulling your collar, slipping through the doors of the Institute Building and feeling a wave of warmth trickle down your spine. For a moment you recapture morning. For a moment, you’re sitting in class and you aren’t shifting restlessly and you aren’t imagining being cursed with a Dunce hat for your lack of prior reading. For a moment, you are fine again. But afterward, on your own, you are taught how hard the world is. Shootings in malls that leave children orphaned. Leaders who would destroy their own citizens before stepping down. Babies and children whose futures are destroyed in abusive houses, abusive bodies. Voices of news reporters saying a shooting at DC may be motivated by government shutdown. The faces of politicians who your neighbors voted for and who don’t care who you are at all. Adults who bicker like animals about gun control laws and parties. Local newspapers running headlines that, like people, cast blame on one side. People who have to leave national parks after saving for years to visit them, people who share the dreams you have and can only half-live them. Women who can’t afford to feed their children, government workers out of jobs. Celebrities who condone the destruction and prostitution of their own bodies. Kids you know who emulate them. Neighbors who lie to take advantage of you. Noise and noise and noise. Noise coming from the White House, from the house next door, from your own house. Misunderstandings and debates. Contention over things that shouldn’t have it. Fighting over modesty, fighting over gender, fighting over evolution, fighting over bodies, fighting over Priesthood. Cries of apostasy, defensive hisses back. Prophets ignored, prophets condemned, individual knowledge trumped, no tolerance for difference, no discussion, no acceptance. Hate and insult and ostracism under the guise of, “We’re doing you all a favor.” Treating revelation like democracy. Divine plans like customized advice. Simple classes turned into vitriolic fuel. Places where you go to feel the spirit being interrupted by those who feel the need to disprove something or someone. Judgement, hate, anger, sadness, bitterness, offensiveness, defensiveness. Sacred things made common and coarse. A world full of people who would give their souls to prove that they are right. Everything that distracts from peace and unification, everything that distracts from Jesus Christ.  

These things are in your skin, in your heart, and in your mind, now. Pollution, disturbance. You can’t eat, sickened. You can’t think, distracted. You walk through a snowy rain and feel abandoned. You sit at the bus stop and feel like you’re a thousand miles away. You punch in at work and swipe your card so hard it scrapes your hand. You try hard to focus, to restock, to clean. Interrupted by kind customers and a few who are demanding, callous. You punch out, and when you walk out that door, you have no idea where you’re going. The weight of a day feels like the weight of an entire world. Your skin is furrowed, knotted, lived in. You’re deciding at every trickling second that if this is what it means to be an adult, if you have to become angry and defensive and always right and always bitter to grow up, you don’t ever want to. These are the neighbors and friends who were supposed to prepare the world for you, and instead, they’ve made it more chaotic, more disheartening, more lonely. The thought of turning around and doing the same thing to someone else itches beneath your skin. 

You lie in bed at night and the ceiling feels like it’s clinging to you, devouring you. All because you forget feeling new and everything in the world is reminding you about what it feels like to drown.

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