Darkness Always Terrified Me...... Essay

Senior year, while everyone was getting their college acceptances, I went another way: I tried to kill myself. And that’s how it went for a while, from college to grad school to Brooklyn. I needed stronger hits to keep the wound inside from rising up and devouring me. She lived with my depression and my no-writing fury and with the rare moments of levity, of clarity. Y⁠— decided to go snooping through my e-mails, and since I wasn’t big on passwords or putting old e-mails in the trash it took her less than five minutes to find what she was looking for. She kept the apartment, the ring, her family, our friends. The mask had exploded into fragments, but I kept trying to wear the pieces as if nothing had happened. It took years—hard, backbreaking years—but she picked up what there was of me. After long struggle and many setbacks, my therapist slowly got me to put aside my mask. And yet—And yet despite all my healing I still feel that something important, something vital, has eluded me. I barely remember that boy anymore, but for a brief moment I am him again, and he is me.What happened was that in the middle of a deep depression I suddenly became infatuated with this cute-ass girl I knew at school. I would meet intimidatingly smart sisters, would date them in the hope that they could heal me, and then the fear would start to climb in me, the fear of discovery, and the mask would feel as if it were cracking and the impulse to escape, to hide, would grow until finally I’d hit a Rubicon—I’d either drive the novia away or I would run. The Negro who couldn’t sleep with anyone became the Negro who would sleep with everyone. The other women saw primarily my mask, right before I ghosted them. It would have been comedic if it hadn’t been so tragic. And then one day I woke up and literally couldn’t move from bed. I don’t think she’d ever met anyone more disinclined to therapy. Not forever, but long enough for me to breathe, to live. I’m neither the brother who can’t touch a girl nor the asshole who sleeps around. I don’t drink (except in Japan, where I let myself have a beer). The impulse to hide, to hold myself apart from my colleagues, from my fellow-writers, from my students, from the circle of life has remained uncannily strong. I think about silence; I think about shame, I think about loneliness. I think of all the years and all the life I lost to the hiding and to the fear and to the pain. But mostly I think about what it felt like to say the words—to my therapist, all those years ago; to tell my partner, my friends, that I’d been raped. Some think about it while lying in their beds at night staring out into the darkness, some share it with friends when drunk and some just try to suppress these thoughts as soon as they surface.

We were Entering dark houses, Always more dark houses, Hushed and abandoned.Everything I’d been before Rutgers I locked behind an adamantine mask of normalcy. I thought maybe with another girl it would be easier, but it wasn’t. Took me until I was a junior before I finally lost my virginity. She was an ex-hippie ex-hardcore sweetie who wrote beautifully and had a tattoo on her head and the first time we got in bed she didn’t even ask if I was a virgin; she just pulled off her dress and it happened. But I should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy. Someone who couldn’t stay in any relationship because he was too much of a player. And since us Afro-Latinx brothers are viewed by society as always already sexual perils, very few people ever noticed what was written between the lines in my fiction—that Afro-Latinx brothers are often sexually Right before I left graduate school and moved to Brooklyn I published my first story, about a Dominican boy who goes to see another boy, whose face has been eaten off, and on the way he gets sexually assaulted. It’s no coincidence that I recently began a tour for a children’s book I’ve published and suddenly I’m surrounded by kids all the time and I’ve had to discuss my childhood more than I ever have in my life. And, let me tell you, once that mask was on no power on earth could have torn it off me. But as any Freudian will tell you trauma is stronger than any mask; it can’t be buried and it can’t be killed. (Leaked into my writing, too, but you’d be amazed how easy it is to rewrite the truth away.)Didn’t matter how far I ran or what I achieved or who I was with—they followed. She didn’t believe my excuses, asked me what was wrong, but I never said anything. Me and J⁠— dated for two years, but I was always acting, always hiding. I’m sure she sensed I was all sorts of messed up, but I’m guessing she chalked it up to typical ghetto craziness. Brought me home to her family, and they loved me, too. (Seriously.) And then in one of those insane twists of fortune I hit the literary lottery. I’ve found myself telling lies, talking about a kid that never was. And then at one of my events, another signing line—this one at the Brattle Theatre, in Cambridge—a young woman walked up and started to thank me for my novel, for one of its protagonists, Beli. You thought I was going to say something, and when I didn’t you looked disappointed. I could have said anything but instead I turned to the next person in line and smiled. By the time I was eleven, I was suffering from both depression and uncontrollable rage. Only an abiding sense of wrongness and the unbearable recollection of being violently penetrated.That I will cease to exist, and that I will be just gone.I’ve heard that the older one gets, the more one comes to term with the fact that life isn’t endless.One day, for no reason at all, I found myself saying, We have to break up. They had a secret Which they were about to Make known to me— And then didn't. The simplest things, Difficult in their obviousness. It was the kind of day People described as "perfect." Gods disguising themselves As black hairpins, a hand-mirror, A comb with a tooth missing? One person might find cause through religion, while others find comfort in trying to understand as much as possible of the science we use to try to explain this phenomenon we refer to as life.But almost everyone seems to strive for an answer, a reason, a motivation to keep going. I can’t even begin to fathom that my life will end, that my body will stop functioning and that all the thoughts, love and sorrows I bear with me will vanish.

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  1. The spiritual world is usually described negatively as the non-physical, non-material reality underlying the non-empirical world, variously called the psychological, the mental, or the spiritual world.