Something Like Drowning – Vincenza Standridge

Have you ever felt something too big for words?  Too strong to be distilled into ink and tattooed on your lips.  I don’t think I know how to describe this.  This fog infecting me and surrounding me and making my body feel as if it is not my own. 

If I had to try, I’d say it feels like floating on your back in the ocean.  But not quite.  It is like floating on one of those days that the sun seems to be taking up the whole sky.  Its heat going past just burning your skin, its fervor reaching into the core of you.  And noticing the pull of cool water below you, offering you escape. 

But that’s not quite it either.  It feels closer to pushing the breath from your lungs and sinking into that water.  Feeling the sting and the calm as the salt kisses your burns.  Relief flooding your every pore. 

Then it’s the slow realization youre falling too fast, too far, that the current has wrapped itself around you like the hands of someone you once loved.  Pulling you farther and farther down.  The surface becoming no more than a glimmer in the distance. 

It’s that relief and that destruction all at the same time.  It is the hopelessness and the hope.  It’s knowing that as soon as you start fighting it’s going to hurt.  Your lungs will burn, your ears will ring, panic will steal every bit of peace you have.   

Really, the feeling is in that moment of clarity when you realize the current is stronger than you.  The relief that comes from feeling the enormity of what’s on top of you and deciding fighting is not worth it.  It’s letting yourself drown because you know you’re in too deep to do anything else. 

It’s that, for days.  Constantly wondering why people were talking to you when it is obvious you are underwater.  Asking yourself how you are still walking around when your breath left days ago.  It’s doubting you will survive this, but not really caring either way. 

It’s all of that, just because I can’t forget his hands.  The feel of him on me, inside me, making me feel like I am the dirty one.  I can still feel him there.  I can still see the ceiling above his head that I tried to lose myself in.  That ceiling, like so many before, that I was sure I could disappear into; fit myself inside those cracks, place my eyes behind the peeling paint.  Become any of the things that couldn’t feel what he was doing to me. 

I can remember everything I saw behind my closed eyes.  Desperately trying to imagine something that would make this feel okay.  Sometimes I succeeded, and that makes me feel dirtier than his hands ever did. 

He taught me that my words were useless.  That it was my fault if he didn’t listen.  That I shouldn’t have sat like that, I shouldn’t have flirted, I shouldn’t have kissed if I didn’t want more.  He taught me that feelings, that tears, that panic, were like oxygen.  Easy to forget in the smoke of the next joint. 

And still I stayed, and stayed, and stayed.  Until I no longer had enough wine to drown my disgust.  But it was when I left, when I was finally safe, that I started drowning.  Is this what freedom is supposed to feel like?