Flashback

It is the flood of emotion that always makes me flee.  The triggers are unpredictable but the reaction is not.  It is like someone is ripping my chest open, using a rib spreader, exposing the fragile membranes around my heart to the glare of light.  I clutch my hand to my chest, as though I can hold the gaping edges of my body closed the way one would the sides of an unbuttoned shirt.

Gratefully, I make it to the sanctuary of the bedroom before the flood of tears.  I do not turn on the light.  The key is to make myself small.  I sit on the floor, back against the bed, feet under the dresser and pull my knees to chest, hugging them tight.  I envision the weight containing everything that is currently threatening to spill out.

For a while I simply sob, inconsolable, all of my emotions bleeding out onto the floor.  It is almost a howl of despair, at least to my ears.  In calmer moments I realize that I have mastered the art of crying almost silently.  But this audible expression of this grief, this rage, this tornado of emotion that can hijack me and destroy my careful control is almost unbearable to my ears.

I dig fingernails hard into the palms of my hands, hoping that the pain will be grounding, try to calm my breathing, quiet these tears, regain some sense of mastery, of ownership.  I don’t try to draw blood but sometimes it happens.  The pain does break through the chaotic emotion enough for the chest pain to start to ease, for breathing to become easier.

There is a tentative knock on the door.  I am not sure how or if to respond.  We are new together and he is not familiar with nights when the wolves howl at the door.  He does not understand that it is nothing that he said, nothing that he did, but simply the threat presented by our growing emotional intimacy that triggers the flashbacks, sends body and mind into this panicked state that it is so hard to come back from.

He slowly opens the door.  It takes a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim after the brightness of the hallway.  He is more shape than substance.  I think he might speak but instead he lowers himself to the floor.  When I remain still, silent, he crawls cautiously over.  Approaching as if I am a trapped, wild animal that might bite.  I am momentarily panicked but I calm when he does nothing but slide next to me, joining in leaning against the bed, our shoulders touching.  I allow him to put his arm around me and in a rush of released tension lean my head against his shoulder.

© 2016 Revised 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved

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