there was a time when stories would speak inside my mind as soon as i laid down to sleep and wouldn’t let me sleep until i got up and wrote them down. i fought them. i didn’t want to write them. i didn’t want to listen to the incessant narration in my tired and sleepless mind. after i wrote them, i’d burn them, just to shut them up. i didn’t want to read them again. i didn’t want to revise them. i didn’t want to encourage them. i wanted the stories, the voices, the characters, their chatter to leave me alone.
stories don’t speak to me like that anymore. the stories that come now are my own. they are real life. they actually happened. i don’t want to remember them. i don’t want to write them down. i don’t want to read them. i don’t want to relive them. but i can’t sleep if i don’t write them. and i can’t sleep if i burn them. but i can print one hard copy and then delete the file. as long as a record is kept, stuck into whatever book is next to my bed, and forgotten, then i can sleep.
i lose these stories for weeks or months or years. when i find them and re-read them, they don’t feel like mine. these stories feel like they belong to someone else, that they happened to someone else. i begin to wonder if i’ve lost my mind. dissociation. a clinical term. a psychological safety device (or, pessimistically, defense mechanism) to escape the intolerable. i loved a man who dissociated. i loved two. one was my father. the other was like my father. i try not to think of either if i can avoid their faces, their words, their touch in remembrances triggered by scent, sound, or vision. sometimes i can’t avoid the triggers. i imagine their stories as way of explanation (but not apology). i forgive them more than i understand them. i understand them more than i’d like.
i listen to my closest friends tell me the stories of their lives. i listen. i listen. i listen to what comes next, to the silence after the telling, to the imprints left inside my heart days and decades after the stories are told.
i listen to my retellings of old love stories, of lovers gone many years longer than they stayed. i listen for the truth, the illusions, and the lies. i listen for the disparity between what i said then and what i say now. i listen for the shift between what i believed about them then and what i believe about myself now. none of those lovers seem as sweet, as kind, as brilliant, as creative, as beautiful as i once saw, said, and believed. the stories are flat, even during the dramatic parts. i am unaffected. what once tore me apart now leaves me unaffected. i prefer to be unaffected. i prefer to tell the stories than to have lived them.
in the days and decades ahead, new loves await. i don’t want them. i want them to go away before they arrive. i want to be alone, finally alone, without stories to tell, with only silence to listen to. but i’ve never much gotten what i wanted. i learn how to want what i’ve got.