The scent of the sewage works is sliding around the window. Not exactly offensive, just faintly organic. A nasal weathercock that signifies an easterly breeze.
It’s raining on the shed below (and, unsurprisingly, elsewhere), and each drop has its knees bent up, arms wrapped around for maximum velocity, and is making a satisfying thwack-splat on the plastic-wrapped roof.
Through the collisions of kamikaze rain come the sounds of planes, every takeoff and landing a slow, deep rumbling sigh in the contented chest of the heavens.
I can feel all those sounds in my bones, the smells trickle along vertebrae, and that grey light – so often loathed – offers a soft cloud buffer between the world and me.
I’m a little raw today.
Last night, I unlocked one of those boxes I keep in my head and spilled its contents out, despite my brain’s best efforts to squirm and wriggle out from under your mercilessly gentle spotlight.
And under that light, the shadows of the Dread Shame might have faded a bit.
So I’m wrapping myself in greys and rumbles, bathing in the faint scent of sewage, and hoping I’ll have a while before doubt wheedles its way back in.
I used to form relationships with a locked chest, living in fear that the lid might open or a rib might crack to reveal an uncurated and unsanitised heart.
That heart still had expectations and needs, but they were tattoos etched invisible under my skin. Those who failed to read these imperceptible instructions were subject to imperceptible resentment and anger – thick jagged lines that boiled beneath my skin’s surface.
It took pain to unlock the chest and strip away the opaque and callused layer that covered my feelings. I emerged raw and vulnerable from my shed skin, tattoos meeting the eyes of others for the first time.
I began to form relationships with my ribs spread wide open, the catch broken and hanging by a single rusted screw. My inner self was finally congruent with my outer self and my relationships were no longer rent by disparity.
One sharp tug by a pair of knowing eyes and my heart spills onto the table with a wet thwack, pulling itself toward those eyes with a hundred bloody arms.
The extremes of life scrape and soothe more loudly than they did before, and sometimes these tattoos cause burning shame or fear of rebuff.
But that old skin with its suffocating shielding would never fit me anymore.
There’s a constant skittering, hollow clatters, the gentle knock of a skull against the door.
They’re pretty well behaved really. There was this one guy in the building next door who had a mammoth skeleton that he couldn’t close the door on, so it used to just follow around behind him. Man, you’d know he was walking down the street by this constant knocking sound, loud enough to shake your knees. He went crazy, that guy. Always screaming for the hulking thing to leave him alone. That’s what happens when you don’t deal with your skeletons.
I took time to get to know mine after I saw what happened to him. That one, the one that’s scraping on the closet hinges, it hatched that time I turned someone down while in queen bitch mode. That one, with those elongated digits, it showed up when I didn’t send a message to someone I once loved.
Skeletons hate being shut away, they want to lick up every drip of negative emotion you leak. That’s how they grow, tastes of guilt and shame and fear and regret. Sometimes mine escape the closet and run cool and smooth over my skin, chittering with delight when guilt blooms over me. They’re a bloody nightmare to get back in until they’re fed. Once they’re high on emotion, they slump into snoring piles on the mattress. I can scoop up a softened handful of bones and dump them back in and close the door.
Sometimes I pull open the closet door to take them out. It’s kinda perverse, I know, but there’s something about staring right at the scabs of your past mistakes and wanting to peel them off till they bleed. Probably not so smart anymore, some of those old bones are getting hefty.
Some folks say they don’t have anything in their closets, that you can beam pure positivity and starve those skeletons till they shrink up and die. Seems pretty unlikely to me, seeing as they’re dead to start with.
But I do know that one of mine once disappeared.
It had been made up of all these articulated segments of regret, they’d click one after the other against the door when it slithered free in the night. I’d first heard it after I’d lost someone I love in a messy puddle of pride, confusion and misery. It was years before luck struck and healed the heart wound that had brought that skeleton into being. And then the next night there was no click of coils in the closet.
I don’t know if I could heal those other wounds. Don’t know if I’d want to try either. That might just land me with something bigger clawing its way out.
And there’s something to be said for my skeletons.