There is a little girl who lives inside my mind. A dark chocolate little thing with long plaits and a furrowed brow, squatting with one hand twisting a barrette as she chews the cuticle of her left middle finger. She sits there suspicious, her distrusting little eyes following everyone who has ever come into contact with me. She does not believe that any one of these people can be trusted with me–with us. With our fragile ego and battle scars, she thinks we are too broken to deal with the staggering possibility of another blow to the heart.
She watches me watch others, reacting strong enough to make words rise like so much bile to my lips when our boundaries are approached. I always manage to choke it all back down, having trained our body to do nothing more than lift an incredulous left eyebrow in response to perceived attack. We have many boundaries, this little girl and I, and I have had to convince her every day of my life that some of these can be discarded in favor of living and loving.
She does not really believe me. And I don’t really blame her. We have been through a lot, so much so that she stopped trusting me for a very long time. I made too many careless mistakes; I gave in too easily and gave up too much of the little bit that we had control over. She knew that I was weak. I thirsted for love and acceptance; I did not have her fortitude. If it were left entirely up to me, I would have given up all our power. We would both have died of exposure long ago.
For a while, she took over. I had allowed us to take a death blow, knocked off our feet for years. When I could not defend myself, she did. Her methods were cruel and contentious but kept us alive long enough to pull a semblance of life back together. I was weakened and miserable, so I gave way completely to her brand of self preservation: show no love, love will get you killed. She required me to build new fences, new guard towers to keep our imminent death at bay. She changed the game, set new rules, became relentless in salvaging me and saving us. There would be no more pain. What we had shut inside with us was enough.
And then one day, things changed.
In our quest for keeping the bad things out, she demanded that nothing at all be let in. I had recovered enough to want more than just the walls behind which we crouched, but she would have none of it. I sat helpless to defend against my most challenging opponent–this little girl who knew me, knew every mistake and every failure, knew every weakness and every stumbling block. In her unending need to control, she used it all against me. She hunkered down, merciless, chewing her left middle finger into bloody pieces and attacked me. The one she had sworn to protect. The one who loved her best. The one she now ruthlessly cut down low. For my own good.
She almost killed me just to protect us. I had no idea how to stop her–I did not even know how to reason with her. I did not think I would ever get out of what we had created together and that which she defended without regard for the outcome. I wept unnatural tears, hot and biting in my eyes as I grappled for a way to get out of the prison we had built for me.
Then one day, a wonderful old lady grabbed my wrist. As I sat in her office, she pressed her papery fingers into my skin and asked me what I saw. For the first time in my life, I told someone about that little girl squatting on my heart and her angry suspicious eyes. I opened my mouth and all the bile that I had swallowed pour out in endless wails and tears and confession. I had nearly died from the loneliness of carrying so much furious weight. And that little chocolate drop of a girl had nearly drowned in the rage that I had felt unworthy to speak.
But it was over now. For the first time ever, the left middle finger fell from between her teeth. Her forehead became as smooth as a river stone. She placed her hand in my mine. And we cried as I told her, “It’s okay. I will never leave you, and we will be okay.”
There is a little girl who lives inside my mind. A dark chocolate little thing with long plaits and a furrowed brow, squatting with one hand twisting a barrette as she chews the cuticle of her left middle finger. She does not trust anybody still, and that is okay. She trusts me. And when she is afraid, her hand drops from her mouth, and her forehead becomes smooth as river stone. She reaches out for my hand, and I take it in mine.