Your hair’s longer now, you’ve stopped calling yourself ‘he’. You're not sure why you still call fifteen-year old you ‘he’. Probably just a habit. You are your mother’s child, after all.
You’ve always empathised with caterpillars.
Fighting their way out of cocoons, not knowing what’s outside, not even being aware what they’re trapped in, just that they need to get out to survive.
You’ve always thought it is far more difficult a process than people make it out to be.
Ants have community, and purpose. Worms, writhing in darkness, have a simple need to eat. Cicadas, escaping their decrepit prisons after seventeen years.
(That one might have more relevance than you knew)
It must be a religious experience for them. The realisation of their truest selves, the act of becoming, the ritualised process of it all.
(Do caterpillars feel devotion? Do butterflies feel guilt?)
You’ve never been one for religion in the traditional sense. It feels more sensible to worship the self. To place yourself, physical and emotional, at the apex of veneration.
(To take, forcefully, the love that you aren’t given, and give it back to yourself.)
It wasn’t always a sense of emptiness. It wasn’t some constantly present feeling of not belonging, or anything you knew how to identify as disconnection. It just felt like a vague, dull confusion that came with not being in the right place.
You remember the spaces meant for you that didn’t feel right. You felt like an intruder. All the things you needed, the places you would feel comfortable in, didn’t exist.
Calling yourself things that didn’t feel accurate. Knowing that when you chose left, you wanted to go right. Knowing that going right wouldn’t want you, and left wouldn’t fit.
You took a chisel to the walls, chipping and carving and breaking and shouting until you liked what you saw.
You sit on your floor, watching through the dull phone screen as he walks in the rain. The carpet’s not particularly comfortable, but it does the trick.
He’s drenched, his dark red bomber jacket covered in droplets of rain, as felt clothes often are. You remember, even now, that he was listening to Melodrama. A fitting soundtrack, really.
We’ve all been there, you think. Laughing briefly, you send a silent prayer to something you don’t believe in that your experiences won’t echo.
He’s a lot more drawn in than you thought. You don’t even remember why he was filming this, but you’re glad you’ve got the footage. It’s easier to distance yourself, far easier, but it’s nice at times to be able to watch.
He had horrible test results that year. The curly hair sticks to his cheeks like something far more poetic than you can be bothered to think of, as you see a soggy missing poster clinging desperately to a telephone pole that he walks past.
(Missing: time) (Missing: community) (Missing: electricity)
(He needs them.)
(You suppose that’s the point of missing posters.)
He stumbles, his foot catching on a loose bit of pavement. He doesn’t fall, he’s got better balance than that, but you can see the embarrassment and slight amusement in his face. (You remember feeling it, too.)
The video cuts off. You swipe on the screen, quickly moving past the memory to not live in it too long. You tap play on the next.
It’s filming you this time. Or someone that you recognise as being you, anyway. Your hair’s longer now, you’ve stopped calling yourself ‘he’. You’re not sure why you still call fifteen-year old you ‘he’. Probably just a habit. You are your mother’s child, after all.
The video is silent. She’s staring at the screen. You can see the red patches on her face where she’s desperately shaved off what little hair is growing there. She’s eighteen now, you remember this one vividly as well.
She screams. It’s a scream of guilt, of grief. The thought shoots through your mind like a sob, a derisive laugh at your own stupidity – what do you have to be grieving for?
For the time she lost. The health, and the life you could have had if a coin landed tails instead of heads.
For the pain that comes with growing up without the certainty that others had. For the community, now found, that she should have had years ago.
There’s no real meaning to the scream. No catharsis, no reason to even push her over the edge. You remember, you didn’t film the video to scream. You had something to say, although you can’t remember it now.
A plane flies overhead, now. And she screams.
The sound of yourself in violent mourning makes you panic. It feels like a wild, panicked lash out in a war. Like the last desperate effort to be heard, wailing for help.
It feels like she’s struggling to keep her head above water.
She stops screaming. She’s not out of breath, she said what she had to.
(You’re not sure if the silence means staying afloat, or the opposite.)
She talks to the camera, but no words enter your mind. You can’t listen now. You turn off the phone, cutting her soliloquy short, and stand. You take a shaky, uncertain breath, and – back straight, chin up – the scream, the panic, is forgotten.
You are your mother’s child, after all.
You’ve always felt grief in your throat. Anger in your shoulders, and fear just above your hips (no idea why), but the familiar ache of loss is in the base of your throat, burning like hot tar.
You’ve always been panicked, and screeching, and desperately reaching for a hand to lend stability to the heat.
You stand in the freezing surf, digging your feet in the sand, letting the cold and the constantly moving water keep your mind occupied. It makes you feel like an active participant in your life.
The cold is sure to counteract the grief.
It’s a deserted beach, besides a couple hurriedly walking along the road, huddled under an umbrella. They don’t look happy with each other.
(Who the fuck are you to judge?)
Every time you watched a nature documentary, you’ve always latched onto the forest floor. Billions of microorganisms all involved in an endless, eternal dance.
Decaying, being eaten and transformed into energy, and becoming recreated in a new form, to live another life, before rotting again.
Change is central to nature. You’ve been consumed and reborn countless times. Stagnancy is far worse than death.
You feel the countless others who have devoted themselves to change, to the ever-transient nature of understanding who and what you are. It forms far more visceral a connection than any genealogical basis – it is one formed with chisels, doubt, teeth, and worship.
You’ve thought a lot about the time you could’ve had. There might be some perfect, poignant reflection on the shifting ocean. For now, the cold stays.
The husk of your chrysalis is withered. It no longer takes form. But the energy has been absorbed, and consumed, and reformed, and recycled. It changes. It exists, and through the act of defiant resilience it worships its former lives, all occupying a resonant space of joyful, ecstatic survival.
You are your own.