I Did Not Know

“Unfriendly friendly universe…”

“Unfriendly friendly universe,

I pack your stars into my purse,

And bid you so farewell.

That I can leave you, quite go out,

Go out, go out beyond all doubt,

My father says, is the miracle.

 

You are so great, and I so small:

I am nothing, you are all:

Being nothing, I can take this way.

Oh I need neither rise nor fall,

For when I do not move at all

I shall be out of all your day.

 

It’s said some memory will remain

In the other place, grass in the rain,

Light on the land, sun on the sea,

A flitting grace, a phantom face,

But the world is out. There is not place

Where it and its ghost can ever be.

 

Father, father, I dread this air

Blown from the far side of despair

The cold cold corner. What house, what hold,

What hand is there? I look and see

Nothing-filled eternity,

And the great round world grows weak and old.

 

Hold my hand, oh hold it fast-

I am changing! – until at last

My hand in yours no more will change,

Though yours change on. You here, I there,

So hand in hand, twin-leafed despair –

I did not know death was so strange.”

— Edwin Muir

I have signals no one knows, a language of quotes that I sometimes speak, but no one tries to unriddle them. Most of them are meant humorously, lines taken from Mystery Science Theater 3000. “I made you some trail mix out of rat droppings and hair” means nothing in particular, except sometimes that I wish I could do something for the person I’m speaking to. “People say ‘rack’ to me a lot” gets said when I’m talking to someone about body shapes, or anyone mentions the word ‘rack.’ (I’m quite big-breasted.) “I’m tired of being a psychiatrist” simply means I’m tired of something, or tired in general. And I sometimes quote the poem given above, also when I’m tired, but a different kind.

To be honest, me writing, speaking, or posting lines from this favorite poem means I’m thinking about suicide. I know the poem is about a child, but I still see myself as a child in many ways, certainly in terms of what I’m capable of doing on my own, and I think the poem captures the strange, elegant beauty of dying, of the last few breaths, the body aging no more, the expectation of a perfect Other Side awaiting us. Of course, I think of suicide more than I say this poem, because I think about it every day. But it’s okay. As far as I know, no one has guessed what it means to me.

I am a ghost. I’ve been invisible in my pain for a long time, reappearing only when my parents surprise me by finally asking what’s wrong. As a child, I used to literally think I could turn invisible. Sometimes I’d go out to the street and wait for an opportunity to jump in front of a car, but we lived on a quiet street, where cars were slow and seldom. I used to go without notice into the woods across the street, trying to will up the courage to go far enough in them to get lost. I never could, but I’d stay in the trees a long time, thinking that I’d go home to a relieved family. But no. They never realized I was gone. Only my suicide attempts seemed to jar them into really seeing me, for a while. They never brought about the changes in personality and behavior I’d hoped for.

Sometimes I would stop eating, or eat very little, for months on end. It would take them a long time to notice. It upset them when they finally did realize, but as soon as they could coax me into forcing down a little food, they would walk away as if the problem was solved. It was like wiping blood off a deep wound. They never could see that I was and am bleeding to death in my soul, eroding down into a frail nothing. Sometimes I worry I’ll carry this pain into the Other Side, that I’ll finally see my true self again and find her unable to smile forever.

Unfriendly friendly universe, each day makes my heartsickness worse. I find nothing in death so strange…and something, somehow, has to change.

Author: athlynne

"From mirror after mirror, No vanity's displayed. I'm looking for the face I had Before the world was made." - W.B. Yeats