Hole No. 2 by Emily Eveleth
how does the question go when you ask it of yourself? what if i am not who i think i am? what if, without my knowing it, i am another? somebody dark? and bad? followed by the crushing understanding that, because you were creepy enough to even think these thoughts, you are already dark. and bad. i didn’t want to ask. i didn’t want to think about it. but you can’t undo a thought that happened inside your head. it already happened. and you are already damned. completely. utterly. in your head. in your gut. in your heart.
a moment: i am standing in front of a sheet of glass with a sheet of silver paper on its back. and i am afraid. of who? of the person that is not a person. of the human that is not human. such malheur… that i do not recognize myself. you do not recognize me, either. you can see the obliviousness in my face that is not a face that is looking at you from across the sheet of glass with a sheet of silver paper on its back so for me there is no plunging inside and trying to find an alternate reality because even if i crash the glass once i hit that silver paper i am stuck. and i. am. damned.
we become friends. through this glass window with a sheet of silver paper on its back. for days, we look at each other. size one another up. from different angles. perspectives. with the usual trepidation. and venom. and angst. you invite me over. i invite you over. a simple hand gesture. no words necessary. we know each other too well.
a memory: there was a day. i was walking around. looked to the side. over my shoulder. and someone looked back. but i didn’t stop. i kept walking, and – oh! – who was that? who was that looking at me with as much curiosity as only i have for myself? and that was when i realized it was me. it lasted a split moment… this obliviousness to myself… this lack of recognition. i had to think before i understood. before i realized. and i said to myself, i shouldn’t be looking at myself. and you said, because that is how you become dark.
you try to disengage yourself. from the image. from the darkness that lies inside it… behind it… beyond it. the silver paper is only silver on the side facing you. but it is black on the other side… where you don’t look. it’s like a scary dream where the walls are fluid and the floors are hilly and there are no holes or vents anywhere and you want to breathe but can’t and you want to scream but your lips are sewn together and you try to decipher but there is a coating of glue over your eyes and there is a shadow that you cannot see and a voice that you cannot hear and both of them are in your gut and are screaming run! and you know that that would be futile because there. are. no. outs.
you see yourself. and you don’t know. that you know. it’s you.
i make a game of it. i stand to the side of the glass window. you stand to the side. i stretch out my hand. you stretch out your hand. i steal a glance from the front… then check the back. you ditto. what am i looking for? stop fucking with me. but i must look. there is nothing there. only the black back of the silver paper. i pull myself away. i forget this thing. or try to forget it. dismiss it as folly. and imagination. but it is quite the game, isn’t it? a very clever game… like a twisted arithmetic… and it is not to be dismissed. why don’t you play it, then? i say. you have a glass window, too. meet with your glass window. but these meetings are sudden encounters… where something happens… something you had not counted on. you see something. something you know you can’t unsee. you can’t undo a thought that happened inside your head, remember? no. you can’t. it is there. and if you tell yourself it isn’t, you have already started to lie.
i lie. and i am good at it. you don’t catch on. and you won’t. because just as realization is beginning to paint your eyes, my eyes trick with a look that will make you change your mind… SNAP! just like that. i play the innocent so well. don’t you know me, by now?
i remember everything. that is why i am bad. no. not because i remember. but because i pretend to forget. i tell myself i don’t believe what my eyes are telling me. but i live with the memory of what my eyes saw on the other side. what i saw when i said that there was nothing there. the memory: it crashes into me like a train… and smears bits of me everywhere… like stains.
but i forget one thing: that i lied. if you tell the same lie enough times, even you start to believe it.
i keep forgetting to shut the fuck up. i keep forgetting to swallow my words. but even when i think silently, i think with my lips open. and the words slip out… from inside my gut… and disappear in the air… but not before they have tainted me… stained me… and you… forever.
i don’t dare move. i don’t dare. if i move… i will thrash and kick and scream… like a crazed animal… like an infant who has been wronged but can’t express that anguish. if i thrash… i might come closer. and, then… you will come closer, too. we will be together in a unique way… a way that only you and i can be together. but. you know. there is no coming back from that intimacy.