Still Life of a Dance

My life is a dance of suppression. Every morning when I leave the house I must perform my lie. I’ve grown very good at it. Often, even when I think I am completely naked, I am unaware that I am performing my lie. “A rant I wrote was published in the Socialist Worker,” I tell my mother half ironically. “Mein son!” She jokes and she understands the inaccuracy but only of her German and not of her English. I smile partially, that sad smile. I am a son again when I give this smile. She has turned me back into a boy. I am quivering and shameful. If she were to touch me I would crumble into bits of stale foliage left to lay till trampled in the dark of winter on a cold walk home. A walk I took often as a boy in jeans and sneakers and a baseball cap. Pulling my collar around my mouth, thinking of other worlds. 
The dance came naturally when I was little, people didn’t stare as much. Life wasn’t so impeding, time wasn’t so scary. Quiet freezing dance through forgotten leaves, to the home that I left just months ago for the second time in a year. I miss the creaks and the smells and the television on for countless hours. Chatting away to sleepers sleeping the sleep of the sorry, and of the worn, and of the broken. My father sitting on the couch, the couch he sleeps on. He prefers it, so he says. But does he? With the television chatting away? He is staring at the television now, muted. Both he and the television silent as I am, he is thinking of something to say. I am thinking of what not to say. Don’t let them know. Not yet. Not now. It will crush them, I tell myself. It will crumble them.
But have I any proof or reason to believe this? They will think I am making it up. They will think I am being selfish, foolish, crazy. Why would you want to do that? They will ask. What good will it do you? And that’s very pragmatic of them for I have no sound answer to give them, nothing tangible and concrete that I can show them. Look, here! I wish I could say pointing to a piece of paper. Here is the reason! 
But there is a chasm between us. Opened by my mother’s drinking and my father’s anger, at least I like to say. I was prescribed pills, I yelled at them both. I was in the right, even they conceded this to some degree but being right isn’t worth as much as I thought. Nothing accomplished. I had a breakdown. We’ve all had breakdowns. She has been having a breakdown since 1983, maybe 82, maybe earlier. I’ve been in one since November, maybe since August. Do they know the pain I’ve put myself through? My body has put my mind through? My mind has put my body through? 

There are two of me.
The other never listens.
Neither understands.

I wrote November sixteenth, two thousand thirteen in some miserable meadow of cum and flowers and petty sadness. I am a joke to feel such pain. I am a joke to feel such pain? Illuminated by the electric indigo of a computer screen at midnight or something close, half-naked and hiding. Half-naked and fully covered from head to toe with a blanket my angry mother bought me in charity. Have they heard me through the walls? They must have heard me through the walls. I hate this parasite. Tumorous mind-fuck I wish I had the courage to erase you, here, now, in this room. Here in dark, white, quiet, moon on filthy windowpane. Here in shadow dance of branch and leaf to the sound of passing cars. Make you simple and inhuman. Make you mechanical and beautiful. To climb these imaginary towers of steel and blooms that I or some dream of mine has constructed and turn on every light transforming them into beacons. Making the pointless structures useful and full of magical meaning. 
Till a new November came. I lied naked and beautiful. I saw past the blemish on my torso and peered into a place I kept secret from myself. I am small and soft and precious. I am strong and tall and beautiful. I am the woman I long ago thought I was in cosmic search of, like some broken automaton let loose from the spires of cruel inventors who banish souls and claim them set free. Tundra of pain and guilt. Tempestuous gust of confusion after every gesture. Somehow this body has weathered it and lies here now before me. Beautiful body. My body. There is a skirt around my waist. A blouse around my breast. I cried for twenty minutes. My lips soft and painted. My eyes deep as winter. I cried for twenty more. My movements graceful and quiet. How the bones inside me have always fallen. How the mind inside me has always spoken. I grew very good at fighting them. I grew very good at performing my lie. To finally embrace these parts of me, to meet them in those now ruinous towers, those ancient edifices of shame, and to wrap warm scarves around each is a reunion and rebirth of some cosmic beauty I’ve never believed in. Wrapped warm in agate ancient glow. Safe and quiet, soft as sand. These parts of me. I can hear them now, understand them now. These parts of me are no longer separate. No longer parts. This is me. Beautiful and faint like a smudge of watercolor. I am nothing but I know what I am. I am a brick in someone else’s temple, a fly on a wall in an empty room, a bird singing to a deaf man. But I know what I am. I am worthy.  

About the contributor

Ada Wofford is currently avoiding her inevitable 9-5 enslavement by studying library science at UW-Madison. She holds a BA in English literature and has been published in a handful of journals.

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