Songs: “Just Saying” by Jamie xx and “Ribs” by Lorde

the walls are dripping in a saturated mid-afternoon sunset. it filters through the open balcony doors and bounces off the painting, creating a warm, orange glow that transcends the entire room and welcomes me into its embrace. my body feels like it’s melting into the floor and my thoughts and feelings start to come in waves again.

when i try to allow my thoughts to exist in my head, they begin to drift away from me quite quickly, much like a hot air balloon that unties itself from the ground, floats up into the sky, and starts to be pushed by strong winds at the crack of dawn, just as the world is waking up. the one thought that always permeates my mind is that i am not a kid anymore.

and with that thought, just like that, the hot air balloon runs out of steam and caves in from the pressures of the wind, crashing into the ground: back into reality.

i am a child who needs to be an adult, but i don’t know how to do that. i do know that we’re all drifting aimlessly through this world like that hot air balloon, trying to make sense of ourselves, trying to latch onto something and call it our own. i read in a book that instead of worrying about who you are, you should focus on who you want to be. i know who i want to be, at least i think i do; yet, when i imagine myself becoming that person, it feels empty. meaningless almost.

i walk everywhere and i look at people (and at objects and at things), and i just feel so alone. this life feels like an illusion i’m living in — a simulation if you will. i tell my therapist it feels like i’m disassociating but i don’t think that that is what is happening. reality feels like it’s disintegrating all around me, crumbling slowly ala the movie Inception, and each time it does, i feel more and more lost. i don’t know who or what i am. i know i exist, but even that sometimes feels questionable. i’m at the helm of it all. i’m a captain who’s trying to navigate through this storm of life, but it feels like 50-foot tidal waves that have no plans of stopping are coming my way, and this is the first time i’ve ever even stepped foot inside a ship.

this life feels like being at a party all alone. the music vibrates throughout the whole house. it jumps off the walls and pushes itself into my bones. i can feel my body wanting to move, wanting to dance, wanting to sing, but it doesn’t. instead, i stand and let the sunlight bathe me in its warmth, hoping that it will nudge me into existence again. i look over the banister behind me and watch as down below, on the first floor of this house, the shadows of all the partygoers dance across the wall. skinny black silhouettes move across empty white walls, illuminated by the golden sunlight that’s pouring in through every window.

they all move with freedom. with conviction. with absolute certainty that they are alive and healthy and happy and that they can do this anytime they want. their bodies move fluidly like they’ve done this before.

i want to be them because i do not feel that way. it feels scary getting old. when i was nineteen, twenty, even twenty-one, it all seemed fine. i think it was easy for me to put the future into a nice storage container in the back of my mind where i figured i could worry about it at some point that wasn’t that moment. the problem is that the future is here now and i can’t run away from it. it’s looming over me with absolute certainty. i’m scared. it feels like time is starting to run out even though i know that that isn’t true. i am young and i am alive, but that doesn’t seem true anymore either. nothing seems true.

one of my favorite lyrics is “this dream isn’t feeling sweet” — and this dream of mine doesn’t feel like anything at all. it tastes like nostalgia on acid. every happy memory of mine is bright in color, but bitter to remember because i am not there anymore. and where i am now is not necessarily where i want to be either.

the room glows all around me and i raise my hands above my head, stretching my arms far and high above me. i try to reach the ceiling, thinking maybe if i do and i gently push it, it’ll crumble all around me and i’ll see the sky open up and show me a beautiful galaxy of stars. i’m a few inches too short to reach the ceiling so i curl my fingers in the air, moving them to the beat of the song playing from the loudspeakers downstairs and watch as waves off flamingo pink, popsicle orange and sunshine yellow move around the spaces between them.

when i close my eyes and let the music fill my ears, i see colors. they are so vivid and so intense that i lean against the banister to keep myself from stumbling backward. with my eyes still closed, i see a kaleidoscope of colors that unravels itself in my head and then sucks me into it so it can wrap me up and intertwine me into its existence. i can’t allow that to happen. i fight against it and spit myself back out into what i call reality. the warm summer breeze wisps around the room and wraps itself around my bare shoulders. i instinctively cross my right arm against my chest and use my right hand to rub my left shoulder as if the breeze could’ve somehow erased its existence. sadly, i’m still here.

i take a deep breath in and i can feel the taste of saltwater on my tongue. it reminds me of the summers i spent with my brother on the beach near our tiny apartment. as the sun was rising over the horizon, and the sky looked like a watercolor painting of pinks and purples, we would drop our towels a few feet away from where the waves would crash against the shore and then make a beeline into the water. we would dive in without a care in the world. we were young and didn’t want to look at the harsh realities of life just yet. i remember the feeling of my body floating into the water and how it would wrap itself around my small body. i felt so at home, so at peace with my existence. i felt like i found a place where i belonged. when we would come up for air, sometimes we would have to snort the saltwater that we were choking on out of our nostrils and mouths. my brother would always have the goofiest grin when that would happen to me. i miss him. in this memory, i am young and naive and have a lifetime ahead of me; but in this reality, i’m not young anymore and i begin to panic.

it feels like i’m suffocating but there my father’s hands are not around my throat and i’m standing upright in the ocean, watching my brother curl a long strand of hair behind his ear as he looks back towards the shore. reality pulls me into its grasp again and i hold back the urge to cry. it feels like tears constantly want to pour out of my eyes, but they just aren’t able to. they’re there, on the verge of cascading like a waterfall but are hesitant to do so. it’s almost as if they’re ashamed they exist within me. shame. it’s all a bunch of shame.

my body vibrates. a warm buzz starts in my feet and makes its way up my legs. i’m overwhelmed by the self-awareness of it all. i think about all the bad habits i have and how much i want to stop them — but i still do them anyway. i am my father’s biggest disappointment.

the warmth in my legs reminds me of the time i ran down the shoreline when i was 17. i had just gone on my first date with a boy that had chestnut-colored eyes and a smile that made me feel like i mattered. he had kissed my cheek and told me he liked me. i felt on top of the world. i ran three miles home, high on adrenaline and validation. my legs felt like they were running on clouds. each step felt lighter than the last. i came home, smiling from ear to ear and my found my father waiting for me in the kitchen. the warmth and happiness vanished shortly thereafter.

maybe i’m having an episode. that’s possible. all i know is that i can finally say, out loud, in this room, i stand in all alone right now that i am petrified. i am petrified i am wasting my youth. i can’t get it back. i remember my teenage years as if i’m living them right now and even though they were not that long ago, they actually were. the distance between them frightens me. i remember when twenty-one seemed so old and now i’m a year older than that and it seems so young.

the warm buzz makes its way to my heart and surprisingly, i don’t induce a panic attack within myself from the sudden calm i’m experiencing. i usually do. when you’re used to your mind going at mach speed, the tiniest semblance of calm sends me into a full-blown panic. i’m not used to being still. i’m not used to being present. being present means existing as is and i don’t know how to do that. but i won’t fight myself anymore. at least not right now.

i sit down and lean my back against the banister, which feels slightly cool against my back. i resign to let the warmth do its magic in my body and i won’t interfere with it in any way. through half-shut eyes, i watch as the colors in the room intensify and seamlessly blend with one another. corners and sharp edges disappear. everything blends together into one; and for the first time in a long time, it all feels just right. and it’s almost as if i feel right too. again.
— n.d.