Sunday, March 7th, 2021

Written Sunday, March 7, 2021

One year and one day in quarantine.

I didn't ask for this pandemic. It's not like anyone did, really, but that's also not the point; it's just one more thing in a long line of shit I never asked for.

I didn't ask to grow up without money but with a father who relentlessly criticized every minute aspect of everything he encountered - the words, spat with such derision and such heartless frequency, are still deeply burned in my brain: "cheap, worthless piece of junk" - as if every imperfection of the world, however subjective or imaginary, was to be loathed and despised.

Nothing was ever good enough.

How could I have been?

I didn't ask for a first job that profited immensely off my irreplaceable work and refused to pay me fairly for it. Or the second job that ultimately did the same.

I didn't ask for a domestic partner who randomly, arbitrarily, inconsistently, and capriciously chose to outright tell me I wasn't good enough for him and demand I do various things on his every whim just to have the "privilege" of keeping him around.

I didn't ask to spend my life in the specter of constant risk of disapproval. I didn't ask to waste hours of every single day of my existence intricately planning the details of how I will justify every tiny aspect of every single thing within my reach, just in case someone decides I should be called on the carpet for them not being right or enough. I didn't ask for the constant anxiety of inventing hypothetical futures wherein some complete and total stranger finds a speck of dust on the baseboards in my personal bathroom and reaches the only logical conclusion, that I am a failure of a human being and worthless.

I don't care if my neighbors like the music I listen to. But I live in mortal terror of the possibility that they can hear it, and have secretly determined the inevitable truth that I'm an inconsiderate asshole who leaves the stereo on too loud.

It doesn't matter that I can't hear it in the next room of the house let alone from outside or across the street.

Are my curtains too blue? Are the lights inside too bright at night? Do they see the neglected yard, the worn-down exterior, the moss beginning to take over the driveway, and judge me as the utter failure I know they must think I am?

My biggest fear is meeting one of them, someday, and their first question being why the outside of my home looks like shit.

I don't care if they like me. But I can't risk finding out that they disapprove of me.

I can see my own value - sometimes.

I know other people see it far more clearly than I do, almost all the time - even people who barely know me.

None of this makes sense. I know in my brain that this is all broken illogic, all a deeply tangled cascade of layer upon layer of emotional scars. Neglect, vulnerability, trauma. Rinse, repeat. That's my life.

Or rather, it was.

For the past two years, the single most defining theme of my life has been shaking off the endless series of lies, abuse, coercion, deceit, ignorance, malice, and apathy that I was steeped in for so long.

I knew, twenty three months ago, that I had a name that no one had ever called me before. A girl's name.

I knew, twenty two months ago, that I'd trade anything for her to be alive and real.

I'm here, now. I have been, for a pretty significant chunk of time. Nineteen months.

I know I can't expect thirty two years of shit to dissolve so quickly. Rebuilding a life takes time.

But not just time - also effort. I know better than to believe that the mere passage of time can fix anything.

I've collected data. Lived my life a little bit - as best as I can, in this fucking pandemic. Cleaned up what I've been able to, and gotten things as comfortable as I can manage. Little wins here and there, adding up. Clear an obstacle. Rest. Remove some friction. Next time will be easier.

So I lay here and I write.

What if those neighbors do see me? What if they do see the strangely happy girl occasionally pop the curtains open and smile and laugh at the world outside? What if they do hear the faint rumble of bass while I dance around in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning with a soundtrack?

What if they don't see the run-down exterior, but just the steady stream of small deliveries being made as I rebuild every facet of the home inside? What if the people who walk their dogs by here every day quietly notice that things are slowly, gradually getting cleaned up?

What if they've been paying attention, and they see the single, autistic girl struggling to stay alive and above water in a brutal situation? What if they're all quietly rooting for the mysterious, enigmatic woman who lives on the corner lot, secretly hoping she continues to follow whatever path has so clearly helped her turn her life around over the past two years?

What if the random delivery people, the occasional pedestrian who catches a brief glimpse inside my front door or open garage, looks and sees an intricately planned, carefully decorated, meticulously organized interior and silently smiles and nods in almost envious approval?

What if my coworkers really do mean it when they talk about my nearly-magical capacity to know things long forgotten about immensely complicated technology? What if they really do find the advice and suggestions I give to be as helpful and impactful as they say?

What if the reason my dad never calls me has nothing to do with discomfort or disapproval, but because he's afraid I won't accept him after everything that happened?