Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lyssa

A story

“Leave me alone!”

How could I have been so foolish; how could I have been so blind? I smoothed my hands on the pockets of my jeans, hooked one thumb on the fabric of a fold. I twisted it forcefully, then stretched out all my fingers, flexing them, drumming a staccato beat onto one leg as I spoke, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Leave me alone.”

“Lyssa,” he pleaded, and his voice danced in my ears. It hummed like a breeze, begging me to turn and listen. But I would not do it. I stared down at the grass, moving my hand so that I was playing with the green fibers, tearing them fiercely out of the ground, then scattering them as they lay. A golden beam of sunlight ran diagonally across me; it lit my hair so it flamed gold in the light, and conscious of the effect, I shook out my long locks and tousled them with one hand. I seemed nonchalant, unaffected. “Leave,” I ordered, and my voice was cold.

I stretched myself out on the grass and closed my eyes, as though completely content. I played my fingers across the green tufts, stroking them, uprooting them, dusting them across my palms. I dug my nails deep enough into the dirt to leave marks in the ground. I yawned softly, then placed my hands underneath my head. And then, carefully, deliberately, I pretended to fall asleep.

I felt his shadow over me; he stood and blocked the ray of sunlight that warmed me. I did not move. It was clear that he knew I was not sleeping; I was just as clear that I would not be woken, no matter his efforts. I gave an involuntary shiver as he bent down; I felt that he had outstretched one hand as though to touch me. I did not want him to touch me; I could not bear it, not ever, never again. He had lied to me and I did not trust him; I could not want him or his touch. I tensed, ready to spring if he so much as brushed away the hair from my forehead. But he did not. He simply crouched there a while indecisively, as though he were wondering what to do, and then, in a sudden fluid motion, he stood upright and walked jauntily away. I could even hear him humming, as though there were nothing wrong in the world, and today was any other spring day.

I waited until I could not hear him humming anymore, and then I opened my eyes. They were dry; I had not permitted myself to cry. It was only after I had stood up and twirled around defiantly, as though to demonstrate that nothing could harm me and nothing hurt me, that I collapsed and sank down against the ground, burying my face between the knees. I cried then, as I had never cried before, because there was nothing that could be done for me. I had grown tired of this, this inability to control my feelings or emotions. If only I had been able to sense the truth behind his actions; if only I had known enough not to care for him, and not to expect more than he could give! But I have a way of judging poorly, and seeing the potential in people rather than their true selves. I believe, you see, in who people can be, and not in what they are. When I see people, they are lit by a sort of golden glow; there is something there that cannot be taken, the way in which they can become different, and improve, but what is strongest in me is hope- I harbor hope for all people, and believe that they can change. It is an integral part of me; I believe it with all my heart and soul. And so when I see glimmers of kindness in people, it moves me and allows me to persist in my fantasy- that they too can be the people I envision; that there is goodness in them, and truth, and that I can find it if only I search hard enough. But I am a fool, a fool, and I inevitably fail! But I cannot learn. There is nothing that can make me learn. It seems that I am always to be thus- to love people without imposing limits, and to recognize how vulnerable I am, and how open then to being hurt! But what can I do? The only other choice is not to love at all, to restrain all emotions so that I cannot interact with this glorious world that God has given us. And how could I do that to myself?

Even now, as I lift my head and angrily wipe my tears away, I am startled by the beauty of the hillside right outside the park. Lit by sunlight, everything is golden, and the trees are heavy with fruit. It is true that these are only crabapples, but even they have a beauty all their own, a red sort of sheen that intrigues me, and that indeed would make it worthwhile to attempt to scale these trees, if only for the sake of picking them and laughing as I throw them against the ground. The bark is rough beneath my fingers, but I come close to one of the trees and run my fingers against it, wishing there were some way to transfer all that I feel so that it would strengthen and enliven this growing creature, give it the life and vitality it needs. I turn my head against the bark for a moment and the wind whips at my hair, so that it flares out behind me, and I am wholly lit by sunlight and cannot believe that despite all this I can feel so miserable, and that all that consumes me is despair.

I laugh at myself, a trembling sort of laugh that is given in sorrow, and raise my hands to the corners of my eyes to wipe away the tears that are yet unshed. I blink my eyes several times, pretending to myself that I do so because of the sunlight, but I am suddenly filled with a kind of energy, a desire to do something, but I do not know what. I want to run, I suddenly know- and I run, I run about the hills and everywhere and my hair is all golden waves in the sunlight- I run and throw out my hands and spin and spin until finally I am laughing, truly laughing, and the tears cannot hurt me anymore. I spin and smell the good, heady, fresh smell of the grass, and I feel my Keds against the dirt and that is all that matters. I am laughing now, and singing, and my song is not even appropriate; it is the last part of “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down…”If I go crazy, then will you still call me Superman?” The song strikes me as being wildly apropos; there is no question that I have been lost and forgotten and I must wonder whether I am Superman, or can be Superman, and if I am, who is there to save me? All that I have ever wanted is to be saved, though I have always known that I must save myself, eventually, at the end, because there is no one who will come for me, as no one ever has.

I continue spinning and start singing the song of my childhood, from my youth, in the high strains of a dreamer, “I want much more than this provincial life” and then, half-mocking myself, I add in Gaston’s part- “I swear that I will make Belle my wife!” I think about the story, then, as I have so many times before- about Gaston and the Beast, and the true measure of kindness and what it means to be handsome. I have always prided myself upon my ability to recognize good in the Beast, but sometimes I see too much, and I blind myself to the flaws and character traits that riddle my hero of the moment. I wish so much that they are not there that I do not permit myself to see them, and that is dangerous, for it means that I idealize the person, and do not recognize them for who they are until it is too late.

David…how he has hurt me! And he does not know, and cannot see how he has done it. He has been a thousand things to me, and most of them have been kind or good, but how did I not see that I changed for him, and changed again, until he took away all that was me- the very essence of me? How did I not see as I granted him each concession, and he tore away all that I was until there was nothing else? I was a fire, once, and yet I have whittled myself away so that nothing but the tiniest spark remains, a remnant upon which the ashes of Lyssa yet burn. I was free, and I knew everything for all that was beautiful within it, and yet he tried to entrap and control me, and I assented, consented, believing I was wrong.

I had read a story once, of a princess who desired to please her lord prince. He had been worried by the fact that she was too tall, and hence she had faked an ailment so that she would be short again. He had been concerned by her quick and clever tongue, and so she had pretended to be mute. He had been frustrated by her beautiful looks, which earned her more glances than his own, and so she had cut her hair and dulled her wondrous eyes. And one day, upon realizing that she was only a shadow of herself, she arose and took herself away so that she might live again. I had scoffed at this story, for I had never thought it would come to this. I was strong, was I not! I was Lyssa Black, and there were none who could rule over me. But I had not seen how this could happen stealthily, slowly, softly, with movements that came in the form of caring but that in truth stole me from myself.

I had loved David, and he had hurt me, because he had not loved me for myself but for who I could be, for everything that I was not. It was my mind that fascinated him, and my mind that he took for his own; he taught me that everything that I was was unruly and undignified and so I changed, and became the woman he wanted, and hated myself all the while. But I did not know then that I hated myself; I thought that I was glad of who I had become, for did he not smile at me whenever he saw me? And was he not pleased with my actions? And surely there could be no greater joy than to please him, and no greater sadness than to cause a frown to cross his face. This is what I thought, when I was young, but I was wrong, and today I had learned it, at great cost.

*

We were in line at the Starbucks Café at Barnes and Noble, and I was short on change. As I rifled through my pockets, looking rather desperately at the barista, I heard a deep male voice from behind me say simply, “Here.”

I turned. He had black hair and green eyes; he was wearing jeans and an Abercrombie sweatshirt. He was offering me $5. “Thanks!” I said simply, even happily, as I took the bill from him and passed it on to the barista. “I’m Lyssa Black and I promise this doesn’t usually happen to me.”

He laughed and I was so grateful; it was one of those moments that could have gone terribly wrong otherwise. “David Lerman, and I expect that it doesn’t. You looked so flustered; your eyes got all wide.”

I colored prettily. “Now how could you have seen my eyes if I was facing the man at the counter?” I teased. “Clearly you’re imagining things.”

“Clearly I am not,” he countered, and motioned in the direction where I had been facing. I laughed in surprise; there was a large framed portrait that read ‘Of Mice and Men’ in large letters. It was the kind of piece that caught reflections and held them, so that I and my distress had been reflected in it, and easily visible to any outsider.

“Oh,” I said, and felt rather stupid. “Well then, thanks for the coffee. Any chance I could pay you back later?”

“That depends,” he said easily, and grinned. “Which school are you at?”

“I go to Lincoln Prep,” I said quickly, and smiled.

“Ha! So do I,” he said, and I looked at him, confused. I considered myself pretty well-informed, and I had never seen this guy before. Granted, Lincoln Prep is a rather large school, but he looked like he ought to be in my grade, in which case I would definitely have seen him at the caf, if not homeroom. “Well, not yet,” he qualified, after I had given him my perplexed look. “Grande vanilla latte,” he crisply ordered, then smiled at me again. “Shall we?” He motioned me onward, and we stood waiting for our drinks.

“Godiva Hot Chocolate!” the lady announced, and I gratefully took my cup after complimenting her on the pretty brooch she wore. It was pink, and she quickly explained to me that she had bought it in order to support breast cancer awareness, because her aunt had died of that, and she was glad I liked it. I smiled as I sipped at my hot chocolate. “Well, this is a wonderful place to wear it!” I told her happily. “That way, whenever anyone asks about it, you can explain about breast cancer awareness and spread the word. It’s a great strategy!”

“Oh,” she said, and laughed a little, “most of the customers just take their orders and go. It’s nice when someone notices.”

I turned as David stepped up to the counter and received his vanilla latte. He curtly nodded, but with a smile that suggested some semblance of thanks, and then we moved on to one of the tables at the café. We sat down and then he looked at me in unabashed admiration.

“Do people always do that to you?” he asked.

“Do what?” I asked, caught up in the world of delicious chocolate that was Godiva.

“Tell you things, right off the bat. Just tell you all about their dead relatives or the causes they support. Hell, she would have gone on talking if you let her.”

“Oh. That.” I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess they do.”

He looked at me in wonder. “That’s a little strange,” he said.

I was offended. “Why’s it strange? People work long hours, doing the same thing all day. All they do is make different sorts of coffee drinks for different sorts of customers. Some people appreciate them; some people don’t. Some people get angry about the slightest thing and start shouting and yelling about how their order wasn’t filled correctly. They’re human beings after all, aren’t they? They’re just like you and me,” I concluded. “What does it hurt to try to make their day a little better?”

“Touching,” he said, and his sarcasm bothered me. “Why go out of your way to make them feel needed? They’re getting paid for this job after all, aren’t they?”

“Sure they are,” I said, frustrated by his inability to see something so obvious to me. “But what does it matter what they’re being paid for? They still deserve common human decency, to be treated in a manner that suggests that somebody notices them and cares that they exist.”

“That’s quite sweet of you,” he said again, putting his cup down on the table and giving me an odd, appraising look. He smirked, then, and I caught the twinkle in his eye. “So aren’t you curious as to why you haven’t seen me around Lincoln Prep?” he asked boyishly.

“Of course I’m curious,” I answered immediately, “but I figure you’re going to tell me.”

He looked slightly wounded. “Well, I am at that,” he admitted, fingering a ring he wore on one finger. There was a black stone in it and what seemed to be a silver snake; I wondered who had given it to him, and the reason behind his wearing it. “I’ve just moved here. I’m new, in other words. So I don’t really know anybody yet. Kind of nice to bump into someone before I actually get to school.”

I smiled a little. “Well then, welcome to Wilmette,” I stated grandly. “I can give you a tour of the public library, the fire department, the mall and the ice cream place when you want it.”

“What, that’s all that’s here?” he asked and he wrinkled up his nose a little. It seemed clear he had come from someplace wealthy and important, and wasn’t so pleased to find himself in some Chicago suburb.

“Of course not!” I said, laughing, “but even if it were, why should it matter? Whatever it would be, it would be a party.”

“Oh?” he questioned, and quirked one eyebrow expressively. “That’s an interesting choice of expression.”

“Yes, well,” I laughed, “you don’t know me for long enough, but everything is a party by me. Drying dishes is a party, doing laundry is a party, flying airplanes is a party, dancing around the house is a party- everything’s a party, as long as you have fun with it. Since I have fun with pretty much everything, everything is a party for me!”

“You are a very odd person,” he informed me, and I laughed, assuming he was joking.

“No, I’m not really,” I said, “but why are you at Barnes and Noble? Do you like to read?”

I asked this with a quaver of excitement in my voice; I desperately wanted the answer to be yes. I had so longed for someone with whom I could discuss literature and who would be interested in all the ideas which I found so compelling, so I was slightly disappointed when he said “Nah. Just getting textbooks for school.”

But I saw the twinkle in his eye and could tell that he was joking. “You’re lying!” I accused, slightly shocked.

“Very good,” he answered, his lips curving into a smile of their own accord. “Would that have been difficult to guess?”

“I do not like being lied to,” I said honestly, and he laughed aloud.

“Then I shall have fun teasing you!” he said, and I could not help but laugh myself. He stood up from the table and gave a mocking nod of his head, as though to indicate obeisance, and laughing, I gaily skipped up, danced over to the garbage can, threw out my cup, and then, turning my head over my shoulder, called after him to follow me to the escalator. We rode it down and I showed him around the Barnes and Noble, pointing out my favorite squashy armchairs and all the places I loved best. I introduced him to the clerks at the Information Desks, most of whom instantly recognized me. The whole time he wore an expression of amused indulgence, as though he were allowing a child to entertain him, but was slightly confused by an enjoyment in such unimportant pleasures.

I resolved to teach him, then, having determined that all could take joy in such things, and that he would in time learn to love them as I did. “They are wonderful people!” I said, my eyes shining. “They are always so kind to me- they help me look up anything I need, and help me to find the exact books that I am looking for.”

“Well, that is their job,” he said indulgently, and when I tried to explain that despite its being their job, they were still awfully nice, he waved me away. “It’s all right; let it be as you like.” We continued our path across the Barnes and Noble, and discussed books in whispers, while I flitted about after exclaiming, “Oh! I know you’ll love this one!” and “Have you read that one?” We left the store having purchased two books each- I could not bear to buy more of them, you see, for where would lie the pleasure in purchasing more the next time I came? – and thus began my friendship with David Lerman.

*

In time he became all things to me. He was my confidante, my hero, the star of the basketball court, and rather incredible at swimming. Many people adored and worshipped him but he shunned them all, preferring instead to spend time with me. I felt chosen, special. I should not have, perhaps, but I felt that way all the same, though I continued to hang out with all the others with whom I had always associated.

Then came a day when David’s condemnation whipped against me, sharp against my face as though he had slapped me. “What do you see in her?” he questioned, and I was at a loss as to how to answer.

“She is my friend,” was all that came to me, “and she is kind, and good, and I enjoy her company.”

“She may be your friend, but how does she help you grow?” he questioned, and I did not know how to answer.

“Must all things be measured in quantities?” I prevaricated, trying to ascertain what he meant. He wore a soft blue shirt and cut-offs; he was wearing sandals in the fall weather. “What does it matter whether she helps me grow, or I help her grow, or whether I simply enjoy spending time with her? She is a good person, and that is all that matters.”

He shook his head as though he could not believe my naivete. “But surely you must know what you do for whom; surely you must know who helps you grow and who you help grow.”

“And if I did?” I questioned, growingly uncomfortable under this intensive interview. “If I did know, why would I repeat this information over to anyone else? How would it help them, and why would it help me?”

“It is just important,” David answered, and I could tell that he was being very serious. “You need to know what each person is to you so that you can measure the time that you spend with them accordingly. Time is very precious, and it is very valuable to you. It is essential that you spend your time wisely.”

I could not help but laugh at his serious demeanor. “Is it?” I said irreverently, and tweaked his collar. “Heaven forbid that you waste a moment of that precious time on buying a slurpee, or talking to me!”

“I am not joking,” he said, as we walked down the stairs, me with my handing skimming the balustrade, he very purposefully, and without any affect or attempt at being royal. “I am very serious. I use my time carefully.”
“One wonders that you have any left of it to spend with me!” I was hurt and I showed it, dancing ahead of him a couple steps, wishing to disappear ahead of him into the hallway. He easily caught up with me and said, “It is hardly a waste of time to spend moments with you.”

“And why is that?” I asked him, caught for a moment in the wish that he would give me the answer I craved, tell me something beautiful and kind.

“Why, because you are intelligent, and learned, and I can actually have a coherent discussion with you. We can discuss literature, and books, and things that actually matter- ideas, you know. Ideas are important. It is an excellent use of my time.”

I was disappointed but dared not show it; was that all I was to him? A person with whom to discuss ideas and to have discussions about literature? It seemed that this was to be the case, and it was I who was foolish for wanting pretty words or kindness. Only he confused me so- he had been kind, had he not, when he handed me $5 to pay for my drink? But now he was all work and business; for all that he was worshipped and adored by so many in the school, he would point out all their flaws to me when he spoke to me, and laugh about them. This always made me feel uncomfortable, for how could he not respect their admiration and the way in which they respected him? How could he determine that their statements and ideas were worthless, that they did not matter at all to him? I wanted to broach the issue with him but a certain sort of fear held me back, an idea that I could not dare to cross him, and that if I did, the consequences would be severe.

I was reading a book one day, one of my favorites- Perfect by Judith McNaught. McNaught is a romance writer but she writes absolutely beautifully, and I have always adored this book of hers- it is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but in another form. David saw the book, took it from my hands and flipped through it, then threw it aside dismissively. “Tell me, Lyssa,” he said very sweetly, and took one of my hands in his, “why would you spend your time reading something like this when you have not even finished reading all the good literature in the world?”

I was at a loss as to how to answer. I thought for a little while and then came up with an idea. “Why, because I enjoy it,” I said readily. “I love her writing and I love the book. Besides, I do quite enough intellectually, and I need to take breaks sometimes, don’t I? Every so often I must engage in something silly or trashy, to take my mind off of things.” He looked at me disapprovingly. “Come now, Lyssa,” he said gently, “I expected better from you.”

The words burned themselves into my mind. “I expected better from you,” he had said, and now the words would not leave me be. What precisely did he expect from me? Did he desire that I spend every moment purposefully, usefully, ensuring that all I did depended upon my engaging in a productive use of time? And yet, if this were so, how was it that he could enjoy the pleasures of basketball and swimming- how was that productive, when reading romance books was not? Just as he enjoyed those things, could I not enjoy my mind candy? How had I disappointed him, and why did it cause me to feel such pain? I could not sleep; I felt so guilty- as though I had done something morally wrong, and yet I was unsure as to why or how I had done so. It came clear to me in the morning- obviously I had to grow, change, become different and improve my ways. And David was kind enough to show me how! I was elated, ecstatic. It would begin with this- I would throw away my books, dedicate my time to all things that could and ought to be valued, that I could find worthwhile. And so the transformation began.

I did not realize, then, what I was doing or who I was giving up. I did not realize anything, except that I wanted David’s friendship, and that in order to keep it, I must give up parts of me. I realized that I called this process “growth” in my mind to keep from noticing the sacrifices that I was making. To throw away my romance novels was easy enough. But then it seemed that only certain clothes were appropriate, while others were too suggestive, only certain uses of my time productive, while others were a waste. With my mind and my talents, it was clear that I ought to particularly associate with those for whom I had been made, those to whom I alone could speak. Goodbye to the plebeians; I was a member of the aristocracy! I laughed at these terms at the time, for I did not believe that either he or I really meant them. I was fulfilling my purpose, doing what I did best. I was writing for a refined audience, doing my damndest to become the ideal.

Gone was my free spirit; this was too unruly- it was unbound and unconstricted; it was me at my simplest level. To be free was to dance about, to laugh unconstrictedly, to cry without fearing for a response, to do things without a second thought. To live responsibly was to be quieter, to be less loud or happy in my gait, to be more refined. I changed my clothing in order to conform to this new personality. I wore tailored, fitted shirts and short business skirts- gone were my gem and rhinestone-studded clothes. That was of the past! I was a new Lyssa, one who had been molded and formed by David, shaped to fulfill his every whim. He meant truly to help me, and I believed that I was being helped. That was why I did not rebel and did not question- I accepted these new ideas, fought against them at first but then determined they were right, simply because his intellect was more forceful. They felt wrong, but the arguments seemed to hold up, and obviously reason mattered over emotion. And so I betrayed myself over and over, but I believed that I was doing right, and the little deaths I died were simply desires of mine that ought not to be fulfilled.

I was Lyssa, but I was not happy- yet I convinced myself I was, how could I not be? David was glowing. He and I were the best of friends; I hung on his arm and listened attentively to his every word. We discussed books and literature and occasionally even feelings, something which obviously did not matter as much as ideas, but sometimes had to be touched upon. I felt like I was loved, and yet what I refused to recognize, could not bear to realize, was that it was all conditional. So long as I dressed a certain way, and followed certain rules, so long as the joy and happiness were taken from me and I learned to live responsibly, that is, in shadows and gloom, so long as I was no longer the Lyssa I had been but the new, grown-up, approved and adultlike version of Lyssa- this is what earned me his friendship, good opinion and positive regard, and this is what I craved more than anything. I was blind to how I had changed or the rules which he enforced upon me; as soon as he said “I do not like it,” I would change so that he would never hear whatever had precipitated his dislike from me again. I did it so fluidly and smoothly that I impressed him; he believed that I was willing to accept new ideas, to learn and to grow but in truth I was dying, and that is all that was happening.

I was killing myself, but I did not know it. I died a little every day- every time I saw a grassy hill, or a patch of forest, I desired to run about and twirl, but I knew I would earn his laughter and his censure- there were certain books I wished to read but I dared not- there were clothes I wished to wear but knew I could not, or else I would risk losing his good opinion- and soon everything was measured, not by me, but by David Lerman. David Lerman was my leader, and I his follower; I became in all ways a copy of him, and he was pleased with me, who was so obedient. I was no longer free-spirited; I was refined and dignified and elegant, everything that I ought to be- and yet I was not happy. I was not happy, but happiness did not matter really, did it? Value mattered. Value and worth were what must be prized and treasured above all other things- I could not fight these words, so strong and imposing were they.

And so I shattered. I broke apart, because I was not myself and yet I had what was most important to me, which was David’s friendship- and I did not realize that it was killing me. How could I have known? I would not see what lay just in front of me; I refused to see what was right before me. I believed, you see, that everything he did was meant for the good and for the best- and it was; he truly desired good for me, and not evil- only he did not realize that not everyone is meant to be him, and that there are people who cannot live without sunshine and light and everything that is simple and uncomplicated.

*

At the last he reminded me of the man in Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark.” That man obsesses over the single imperfection in his lady wife, the birthmark upon her cheek. He desires to remove it and he does, but then she is no longer anchored to this world; she cannot exist anymore. He has taken it away from her and so she is destined to die; there is nothing that remains to her, nothing that allows her to stay. If he had allowed it to remain, permitted her this flaw and imperfection, perhaps he could have been happy with her, but he could suffer no such thing- she must be perfect, for that is what he desired- and so she died.

That was how I felt, at the last- it became too much for me to maintain. Wherever I walked, David controlled me- not clearly, not obviously, not in any way that he could notice- but in subtle references and in his tone of voice. He would mock me or say something snide if he did not approve of my behavior; he would laugh at ideas and beliefs that I treasured, dismissing them as naïve or foolish. He argued with me and tore away my statements like the gossamer webs woven by spiders, and so there was nothing left to me- and I became like the wind, with the thread of my spirit left within me. Until at last he demanded that I engage in a particular sort of profession, so as to live up to my full potential, and would not permit me to entertain the idea of entering into any lower sort of occupation, one that would not have me serve my given audience.

It was at that moment that it all fell away; it was like a mask had been ripped from my eyes and my heart broke with the pain of it, because I had loved him so and yet he had never loved me- he had only loved what I could be, the molded and changed and false person that I was. “Leave me alone!” I cried, and I was angry, but I was not angry with him so much as I was angry with myself, for my foolishness and stupidity in having offered him so precious a sacrifice. I wondered even if he would have wanted this, if he had known- had he known how hard it was for me; how unfair his demands? Had he knowingly watched me tear out my soul to replace it with one akin to his own- had he seen me do this and exulted? I could not bear the thought.

It was not enough for me, suddenly; it was not enough for me to know that he had meant well or had spoken because he cared for me, and only wanted the best for me. It was not enough to know that he had sincerely desired for me to grow, because I had wasted away and that was all that remained- a broken girl who was not as she had been, and who could not regain her former glory without a struggle. It was not so simple as it had been before- I had transformed myself into an adult, into a fool more like- throwing away the simple values that had been mine and transposing new ones upon them, affixing ideas that were not mine and wearing them as though I desired them- I had done all this, and it could not easily be undone. I was ridden with guilt, and despite realizing how unhealthy it was for me, it hurt me to lose David’s friendship- to see how conditional it had been, and see it taken from me. It hurt me but I had no choice, because I had lost myself, and had to find myself again.

“Leave me alone,” I said, and threw myself across the grass, where I breathed in its green scent and reveled in the idea of growing, pure things. I waited until he had left and then I started singing, and twirling- foolish, silly things that he could not value, that would have embarrassed him had he been there, but they were of me, the very essence of me, and with them I regained a little of who I was.

It will take a long time until I find Lyssa again- I have lost her, and she will not come back to me so easily- but I hope that if I am careful, and work off of my heart, I will recover her again- I am Lyssa, you see, and she is me, and somewhere deep within I shall find her- that laughing girl who saw the world with so much joy, and who hurt herself to earn the love of another. Love cannot be taken in that way, I see now. I only wish I had seen it before.

If I am lucky, one day I will be me again. But I do not know when that day will be. I have hurt myself so much, you see, far more than if I had taken a razor to myself and simply cut a line across a wrist. I have hurt my soul, my very spirit, and that is a hurt from which one does not heal easily.

If I am lucky, God will grant me peace, and give me back to myself. And perhaps I will learn to trust myself and love myself enough so that I will not sacrifice my very essence upon the altar of the ideal- I will not give myself up for the sake of an illusory love. I will know enough to know what I am worth, and that my spirit belongs to no one but me.

These words are proud as I think them, but I tremble to voice them. For they do not come across as true; they do not ring with that power. I do not believe them myself.

I wish I could.

9 comments:

Moshe said...

Sooooo gooooood...seriously...wow...hmm....

Anonymous said...

This story has such an emotional appeal. It makes your audience sort through your feelings and is so engaging!
Nicely done!

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

like, whoah man...

Anonymous said...

Wow!
This story is breathtaking.
You express yourself in such a captivating way and your characters are so real.

I can see why you love English/literature so much. You'll be great doing what you love the most-writing!

rebecca said...

Great job, Chana. I like how your stories aren't only stories...how you make the reader think and question himself/herself. Well done.

Scraps said...

You were right. I do like this.

And I wonder--how many of us are Lyssa, having cut off integral parts of ourselves in the name of Love or Ideal?

Anonymous said...

Interesting tone to use for this kind of story. You write very science fiction-y in all your stories, whether they are science fiction or not.

I think a more modern tone would have been helpful here.

corner point said...

You were right again! I really like it, Chana.

It's fascinating how I've been able to identify with almost every one of your characters in the stories I've read of yours so far...
Maybe that's cuz you write a bit of yourself into each of them...I see and feel that piece of you and it reminds me of...me...
:)
Great job.

Shira Salamone said...

A cautionary tale, beautifully told.