By F. K. Preston
As I walked away, my hands began to shake. My fingers twitched like they wanted to choke the entire world in my pathetic grip, which couldn’t even hold a steady emotion together, let alone something as immense as everything. People moved around me. Lectures had ended and students were eager to finish the day, even though the day had just begun.
Someone told me once that I shouldn’t expect to be the most stable person in the room at all times because it’s not realistic. It seems like these small emotions that filter in and out of me, these emotions which make up my lackluster personality, are not very stable themselves. I felt like the only wavering personality walking through that pathway that day. Some people noticed my panic, but they only noticed in a curious way. I wouldn’t have even done that if the situation was reversed. I would have ignored the stranger in panic as best as I could.
As soon as I realized that ignoring was a way of responding I could use instead of starting an argument, I implemented that strategy at every chance I could whenever I felt unsure. I misplace things this way. You will lose things if you use this method of living, but in the moment, it gives you peace. I couldn’t ignore the looks of these students. Looks that are young, that peer at me so obviously. My hands shake, my eyes glare and my mouth remains downturned. I probably looked angry, ready to hurt someone. But this is me when I’m sad; my face contorts into fury because I just can’t emote that well. A friend of mine could cry easily. He would use those tears to make decisions: if he cried thinking about leaving the house, he wouldn’t leave the house. Because of this, he remained indoors for three years.
what would I be without everything I owned?
There are ways to get rid of sadness and panic, I think to myself as I barrel through the students and through their vicious curiosity… There are many ways, breathing is a good one. I breathe and realize how long it had been since I’d really inhaled or exhaled. I hadn’t been taking air into myself, only panic. Lungs don’t have a mind. They have a function, and they won’t let me deny that function any longer. Something else I learned: cupping my thumb inside my other fingers will halt my gag reflex. I spared an inch to wonder why I needed to subdue my gag reflex when I realized I was about to vomit. I covered my mouth with my trembling hands and pressed it against my face so hard I thought I would crack my teeth inwards. The need to throw up didn’t cease as I pushed my way inside a building and ran to the toilets.
A man was washing his hands and looking into the mirror as if he was seconds away from kissing his reflection goodbye. I imagined him falling through the mirror and drowning in his own stupidity. Thank everything for the narcissists, I thought. Then I realized that this story contains so many I, Me’s, Mine’s, and variations of the words, that I have no right to judge the narcissists for being who they are. I’m not even a narcissist, yet this is the way I am. There is no excuse for my terrible. But unfortunately, I judge as harshly as I can anyway.
I lock myself inside a stall and retch into my hands. I stop shaking as something small, round, and spit coated falls into my palms. I look down at the pale yellow creature with all my fear. I fear and fear until I understand that the thing I vomited into my waiting palms was my poor ego. This ego, which looks so slick and grotesque, is the color of sickness. Its acid stench forces its way into my senses. My poor ego, which had been spit out from my mind and into my hands. My poor hands, which no longer shake. My poor, tender ego. I stroke the rubbery flesh of it and hold it as carefully as I can. I wouldn’t imagine hurting it at all – what a horrible thought. But suddenly I dream of it falling and splattering to the ground, breaking and burning and ceasing its spoiled little existence. This dream makes me want to cry. It’s my common sense that’s pushing this fantasy into vision. I can’t see the awful, fleshy bit of self-importance any longer. All I can look at is these ideas of me destroying it entirely. I want to cry because this ugly creature is most of my identity. It’s my confidence, my understanding, my judgement, my happiness – everything I feel goes through this repulsive system. But it is ugly. I can’t look at the thing in my hands and call it any else but ugly. It is so ugly that it nauseates me to want to protect it. I push my forehead against the stall door and the compassion that still lived in my head whispers,
Live without it and see what happens.
I throw my ego on the ground and stamp on it. I begin to laugh because with every act of violence I bring onto the creature, the happier I feel. It was happiness without consequence or opinion. I simply felt content. I considered this happiness and finished murdering the ego in the stall. I was so exhausted when it ended that I threw the toilet lid closed and sat back onto it with clumsy feet. I was tired. The ego was no longer a bloody mess on the filthy floors. It was gone, no trace left behind at all. I closed my eyes and felt myself smile at the calm thoughts that lingered in my brain. I opened my gaze and a bit of writing caught my eyes. Someone had written on the toilet stall: what would I be without everything I owned? And a stranger had replied in cursive so elegant it seemed to dance: you would be free.