I’m 6 years old, and I’m sitting on our squashy couch pushed up against the wall in our cluttered living room. It’s sixone-thirty-threetwelvefour in the morningeveningafternoon and I’m watching Steve Irwin croon sweet nothings to some kind of decidedly non-cuddly reptile. There’s a ponderous breeze rolling in through the cracked open door, cutting through the oppressive desert heat that’s laid on my shoulders like a mantle.
I am content.
And then suddenly someone’s cracked open my skull and dropped this piece of incredible knowledge straight into my brain and it’s an atomic bomb fireworkingsparking blazing blazing blazing and I’m realizing that I’m MeCarla and that I ThinkFeelDoAm, that I am a personhumanbeing with choice and action and consequence when before this moment there was only i and this i did not think or feel or do and instead only was, was unconscious and was insubstantial and was free like the ponderous breeze rolling in on the dry desert sunshine of any regular day.
I’m 11 years old, and I’m trappedawkwardugly and small. Everything in life is heavy, too heavy, and I’m crushed. Maybe it’s just puberty, I think forlornly to myself, but I have a horrible premonition that these feelings will never leave me alone. I can never go back to the blissful feeling of freedom I can hazily remember from before, but even as I acknowledge this thought, I wonder when “before” is. It doesn’t matter anyway. There is only now, and the crushing anvil of lonelysademptyhurt that sits on my chest like an anchor.
It never occurs to me then that I have no reason to feel so self-conscious, that probably every other ungainly ill-proportioned seventh grader with unfashionable clothes and a bad haircut and oily, blemished skin feels the same. It never occurs to me that the bitter hate and cold apathy I feel by turns will only grow and grow the more I obsess over it and the less I do about it.
I keep my head down.
I’m 18 years old, and I’m lost. This campus sprawls across 5000 acres of cloying humid greenery, and I don’t have nearly enough time to get from one side to the other without taking a bus. But I don’t know the routes, and I have no one I can ask, so I start my journey from one horrible class to another. My legs burn from the exertion, and sweat drips down my spine, growing worse with every second I spend under the unforgiving sun of central Texas. I’m going to be late, and it’s infuriating.
Why am I here? I actively detest my classes. Whatever interest I had in this path disappeared somewhere along the way. Maybe even forever ago. I have no friends or family here, and the longer I waste my time day in and day out in the same empty routine of schoolhomeworkcryingsleep, the more I feel like I’m the one that’s wasting away. I feel worn down, burned out, like I’m hurtling down a path with a permanent end. And I’m so tired of it.
Why am I here? I don’t believe people die only in the literal sense.