I once read a memoir in which the author recalls her childhood habit of drawing corkscrew lines over her journal entries to indicate uncertainty. Each page was threaded over with lines, until they rendered her writing illegible. I garnished my own with qualifiers, never claiming exactness, ever conscious of some omniscient third party reading over my shoulder, asking “who owns this truth?”. Girlhood is dispossession. We are told we are unreliable narrators of our own lives, so we learn to live in liminal places, readying ourselves to leave with skirts in hand. We learn lithe fingers on the wheel so that we may spin sharp pain into dullness, we train tightened teeth to tongues so that we may sip blood from our own veins.
You’ll carry the sky on your shoulders, girl. You’ll feel your spine fold underneath. To the rest of the world, you’ll bend to the empty air.
I have seen God in bathroom tiles. I have heard the warm whispers of the universe at 4am on my front lawn. I have known all I needed to know at the bottom of the ocean—and forgotten it all again when I arose.
The great project of womanhood is isolation, but some will settle for certainty. I awake each morning with two billion eyes, none of them mine, and I am also uncertain. I wage a losing war on both fronts; no other outcome can be expected. Still, I fight dutifully for the fleeting moments—the unself-conscious lilt in the lungs, the effortless softness around the eyes when I meet my own gaze and the world unfurls in all directions. Sometimes I lie on my own sofa in my own home and I watch the TV screen as something both larger than myself and not at all of this earth, and nothing watches back.
Great horror films follow women’s fear and women’s faith. Fear is potential. Faith is certainty. The critical juncture in these films occurs when something slots and turns over, shifting cold sweat into hot rage. Note that a small miracle has taken place: a thing is known, and cannot be unknown. And in that, there is danger and obscene glee (which we’re told is a danger too).
In truth, the woman made certain is as dangerous as a blade. Watch her drive the fever-tired car as red light pours over yellow flesh. Watch her inch toward the corner of the attic. Watch her fling open the basement door. It is all she can do not to laugh.
You have lived in the liminal places, girl. Take comfort. You will recognize their crevices.