At least once a week, I like to cruise around and check out some Ameriblogs, find out what current teams are up to, find out what the corps members are doing and how they feel about it, and sort of relive some glory days.
Tonight was one of those days (because of my scintillating social life that allows me to be at home EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT), and some guy talked about trying to find a copy of "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran. (Yeah, I have no idea about that spelling right now, sorry.) I was catapulted into a memory of my corps year. Two of them, actually.
It was 2002, end of winter/early springtime, I think. We were on campus, so it was around the end of first round. It had been a tough round, emotionally, physically, etc. There were some interpersonal things that I was really battling with, inside. As in, figuring out how to deal with certain people on my team. Plus, everything was still a little bit new, still daunting, very intense.
A teammate had loaned me a copy of "The Prophet." I read it quickly, and I was blown away. Many things clicked for me. After all of that intense stress of living and working with strangers in a strange land, plus still being a pretend manic-depressive, it all came crashing down upon me. I seized upon a particular phrase, with surprise, relief, amazement, and sadness:
"And alone and without his nest shall the eagle fly across the sun."
This seemed to be the perfect statement of my state of loneliness, and the reason for my sorrow, and I wept many bitter and lonely tears. I too was on a journey, and I was on it utterly alone. I had left everything behind, and felt like I was flying solo into new, dangerous territory. I was not meant to be anything but alone.
I wanted to remember the phrase, to make it mine, to make it a talisman to remind me of my true place (alone), to make it a part of me, a lifeline to cling to in my time of need. So I took a black sharpie and wrote it repeatedly, on my person. I felt enlightened, like why hadn't I ever thought of this before? It's perfect. On my forearms, on my calves, even once across my belly, I wrote this phrase, over and over.
I ran down to the fork (the little twin spits of land that jut out into the Chesapeake from the great lawn), and sat on the outcropping, listening to the water lapping the boulders in the moonlight. I chanted my new mantra over and over like a mantra, mumbled desperately through my tears.
Eventually, I had to return to my empty house, still weeping and utterly fatigued. Not knowing what else to do, I cried myself to sleep.
A day or two later, a teammate noticed the inky remnants of this experiment, showing under an edge of clothes. They joked about Memento, which I've still never seen, and being all amnesiatic or whatever. I just smiled thinly and went, "oh, mm-hmm." Desperately wanting to share my loneliness, but trying to remember the moral about a journey being taken alone.
How foolish I was, wrapped up in my own drama to always appreciate those ten people that were in the process of becoming my family. Obviously I understand that there's no way I could have been happy-happy-smiley-smiley for ten months straight. We all had our issues and our moments of depression, insanity, irritation, anger, etc. I think I had too many.
Here's the real psychic break.
It was summer, though not the high, stifling summer that was June. It must have been the August transition week, because we were on campus, and it was warm.
I remember it was night. It was dark, and clear, and late enough to be pleasant, not sticky. I was in my house on Fourth Street, probably reading or writing in my journal, when suddenly I just had to be outside. I felt all cooped up, physically but also mentally. I suddenly had a bundle of nervous energy and I felt as if I coul d actually run a marathon. I was in my pajamas: a flimsy cotton cami and short cotton shorts.
I was so desperate to get moving that I dashed outside in that 'outfit' and without any shoes. I started by loping down the sidewalk. The sidewalk ended and I circled Third and Fourth Streets. After a few loops, I went down the main drag that leads to the VA buildings. Past the post office, past the little bank, just off the road, I found a little swampy area. There was a group of puddles, warm water sitting in the grass. I decided that I needed to run around in that water. So I did.
For perhaps twenty minutes, that's precisely what I did: I danced in a bizarre triple step in circles, around two puddles, each a few feet in diameter. I also hummed a three-note tune over and over.
Suddenly I left my little swamp dance place and took the triple-step/three-note hum
back to the street. I danced down Fourth Street, up Third Street, back down Fourth Street, through the winding lane along the water, not stopping once. I felt exerted but, surprisingly enough, not overly winded.
It was late, but not late enough. There were a few groups sitting on porches, and they called out to me like the freak I was. I think at one point I called back to one group, "Can't a girl lope down the street in peace anymore?" I passed people on the street, and they looked at me a little scared, not sure if it was okay to talk to me. I think someone even tried to ride alongside me, in the campus bicycle that changed hands three times a night. Tried to ask me if I was alright, and I kept going, lightly insisting that I was okay.
And I was. I felt free, and my mind was empty. Just those three notes and the desire to keep going.
I knew I looked odd. I knew that frankly, I looked at least a little bit insane. Like maybe a particularly young patient who had escaped the ward up the road. But the thing was, I couldn't stop. I had to keep moving, in that little triple-step, humming my little ditty. Honestly, it was probably the closest I'll ever get to feeling possessed. I couldn't even bring myself to slow to a walk.
I think I had been out at least an hour by the time my feet finally made me stop. They were cut and scratched from trodding on the rough pavement and whatever debris lay on it. They were, of course, covered in mud from my puddle-romping. I limped up my stairs, and found that my legs were covered in mudspots and that my feet were thickly coated in filth.
I was tired and bodily worn out, but I felt oddly satisfied. Elated and high, on something. If only there had been a substance to blame it on.
I did not feel regret or shame, though I figured I'd get some weird looks and/or questions about my mental health the next day. I think my team leader asked me about it, delicately, "I heard you had an interesting night last night?" I glossed over it, "Yeah, I was just kind of feeling out there, you know..."
I really don't know what these things were all about. To this day, I have no idea what spurred me into either of those very odd events. Never before and never after those nights have I ever had any kind of similar experience.
They're part of my personal life lexicon, though, making me who I am today. They feel kind of like dirty secrets that maybe I should try to forget about. But they also feel like small moments of true honesty, true desperation; times of absolute truth, bizarre though they were. I can take a wee bit of pride in the way that I embraced the feelings and urges of the moment. They were not destructive, and they were my truth right then.