At 14, I headed straight into Goth Girl Land. My clothes were black, my thoughts were dark. I bought in to the romantic, tragic, modern vampire vibe. And I was not cool about any of it. I was awkward and experimental. I was unique in ways that mostly got me laughed at and pushed down stairs.
I pushed back through writing, through cutting, through honed and brash sarcasm. I pushed back hard and gave better insults than I received. I hated high school and all the polo-wearing honor tribes. There were only a handful of us in my school – the people who listened to The Smiths, The Cure, Joy Division and recognized the secret, sullen pathos under the veneer of shiny, happy peers. There was love and understanding among us. We all created something. This was my happy. Even the cuts on my arms were part of that daily process of creating – of literally opening up. And as a lifelong vampire fan, I felt emotionally at home.
Two things changed that.
First, my mother found out about my cutting and suddenly I was required to talk to a therapist at school every week from The Human Services Center. The whole cry-for-help bullshit bulldozed my creative process and my solitude. The door to my room was taken off. I suddenly had zero privacy. My mother didn’t even live with me. She was shocked that my grandparents were ignorant of my actions.
Next, a particularly evil girl in my PE class named Audra pushed me down the stairs. My books flew and I landed wrong. I hit the back of my head. I saw cartoon stars and heard laughter as students passed and no one stopped to help.
I did not get checked out. I was mortified that it had happened. But for the next week, I had a headache and eye floaters. I began to run a low-grade fever. I slept a lot. My fever spiked and I hallucinated.
A week later, the headache graduated into full blown migraine and I woke up without vision in my right eye. I vomited and laid on my bedroom floor. I kept thinking how everything tasted like dirty pennies, and how I would probably die in my grandparent’s house, and how they already had bought a plot for me at Swan Lake Cemetery.
My grandparents were terrified and hauled me out to Proctor Hospital. I threw up on myself twice during admitting. For the next four days, they would do sleep tests, and brain scans, and x-rays. They would have me speak with neurologists and psychologists.
They could not, at first, give me anything for pain.
I lay there, soaked in guilt and shame, electrodes glued to my head. Did I do this by pressing on my eyes? Did I do this because I was in an emotional pressure cooker? Did the fall cause this? Did my repeat vomiting damage me for good? How could I disappoint everyone like this? Even myself. I understood bleakness and mortality and the beauty of it all, and yet I was afraid to die.
Enter the vampire. I imagined him. Tall, dark eyes, brows knit in concern. Palest of the pale in vintage clothes that smelled of earth and legend. He was not handsome, but beautiful in his translucent transcendence. He would stand in the shadowed corner and watch the people come and go around me. His bottomless eyes, full of empathy for my pain, disgust for futility of hospitals and their denizens. He was there for me alone. The image of my savior, my rescuer, my escape.
I just wanted to leave this place of death and pain. And when they left me alone, he would hover and wrap his cloak around me. He would speak softly to me as his equal – not a child, but as one who understood already about immortality and the choice to walk away from it. I closed my eyes and found a way around the pain through his embrace, his cloak shielding me from the light. I showed him the healed cuts on my arm and tell him that I might as well be halfway there.
The depth of imagination – when we seek to heal or comfort ourselves from trauma – can be staggering. I imagined him with all five of my senses and my hurt brain and my whole heart. I created this monster as an act of self-love.
I was sent home eventually and prescribed Inderal. Because neither my head nor my heart worked right according to what is considered normal. Because maybe my errant act of cutting – believed to be self-destructive – was my way to intuitively regulate the faulty machine I was given. Because they had no other answer as to why I was sick and in pain.
Courting My Vampire
In deep hours when my body hangs in darkness,
when the connective tissue to my
Waking life is no more than a hairline
Crack of pain, you come to me on soft wings
And lift my sleeping soul from the monster
Of myself. Swallowed
By the fist and bone of you,, I melt and
Breathe until our synapse closes and we
Are one electric current. The silk of
Your smooth chest, errant curve of your mouth, sloe
Volatile gin of your eyes, disparate
Hunger of your voice:
I would know you anywhere.
Take me from
Myself, from this damaged lonely place. Steal
My breath with your kiss. Hold me up to darkling skies
and block out its wandering hope,
And meaningless empty stars with your precious nightmare body.
The only sound I
want to hear is the
pounding raging blood
of your heart and the
whisp’ring beat of dark