15 years of solitude

Dear Gut. I think it’s time we talked. I know, it’s been awhile. You think I don’t give you enough attention. You want me to listen to you as closely as I do to Rationale. You’re always slamming doors, pounding on walls and stomping your feet. How did you grow up with such ill manners? Rationale sits there, quiet and composed, ever-confident – the polite child – presentable, with impeccable etiquette. Rationale thumbs the facts while you wring your hands and act out of sorts. You’re always interrupting our discussions to say things without any basis. You claim to know better than everyone else. How can I take you seriously? I’ve failed you as a mother, rendered you crippled by letting you have your way, and now I have to take responsibility for raising you wrong.

I heard you 15 years ago when you whined and cried for days, wailing until you lost your voice. You wanted to sing and I wanted you to stay quiet because the neighbours could hear you. They weren’t complaining but really, I couldn’t let you make such a scene. It was so peaceful in our home during those days when you had no voice and Rationale and I could go about our day in a respectable way.

Then there was that time you ran around naked in the front yard as the sprinklers went off in the summer heat. You were perspiring, you said, and I let you go because you were a child. Nobody would notice your infant parts, I thought. This is something all children do, I was sure. Oh, but the neighbours noticed this time. And I shriveled under their looks of disapproval. I pulled you back inside and Rationale drew the curtains.

I felt you reverberate in me months ago, when my whole body filled up something grim and I locked myself away in silence while ignoring your screams. Your fear shot up my veins and you followed me everywhere, your two cents eroding my every action. You disapproved of my capers in Carthage and rubbed my face in its salty soil. How badly you wanted to claim victory over me then.

Sometimes I regret locking you away in the attic. I hoped no one would notice my crazy redheaded stepchild with the unruly hair. What would’ve happened if I let you spend your days roaming the meadows, scraping your knees, getting dirt under your fingernails? What kind of mother would I be? What would people say? It was tiring, the constant nursing of your concerns as I aged. You’ve been so troublesome and I blame myself for letting you get out of control. So many times, your brother tried to tame you. I could always depend on Rationale to say what’s best for you and me.

I was never able to disown you, though. There was simply nowhere else for you to go. No one else would take you in. I’d fall asleep and wake up to hear you scratching the floor, the ceiling above my bed. You wanted me to let you out and spend the night in collusion. You were so loud sometimes that you’d drown out my thoughts.

How dare you get inside of me like that? What if I didn’t want to talk? How dare you try to dictate my life? As if you have some insider information on every force I encounter, as if you know how every single thing I do will affect me. You never let me think things through, trying to make decisions for me. As if you understand what I really want. You’re still a child, innocent, naive and always begging me to go against my better judgment.

I have to admit I feel guilty. I feel guilty for ignoring you. Lobotomizing you. Deflowering you. Punishing you. Disempowering you. Defaming you. Hiding you. Belittling you. Quietening you. Muzzling you. Castrating you.

That’s why I can’t fall asleep these days. That’s why I can’t get out of bed these days.

I’ve been thinking of you as a child. The way you used to dance with your eyes closed and everyone used to watch. How you used to curl up in bed with me. The way you used to stay awake till dawn and get into trouble for the dark shadows under your eyes; your smug smile as I’d chastise you. How you used to sit alone in the corner observing everyone, and I’d tell you to go play with the others. How you never laughed out loud, even when things were funny. You never felt the need. The way you spoke like you knew more than the others. That was you, older than your age, wearing clothes that never quite fit. You always did prefer being naked.

I wonder what you would’ve been like if I had let you be. Just be. I wonder if you can trust me now, after all these years. If I just let you be.

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