In the mirror is my former self. Different; altered. Sallow and sour. Purple and pallid. But my former self.
My self when I walked and ran. When I thought and wrote and questions were posed, and my answers were given. My desk was used and my shoes were worn. Holes rid my uniform and sleep exhumed my nights, whole-heartedly. When the words were whole and the images were full and the sound was perfect; not shrilling, not booming. I was the “same.” I was the “normal.” Bored with the rest, excited with the rest and legging home in the afternoon with the rest, my arms thrown into the air in pure, innocent, unbroken delight.
Sprinkles and heat and leaves and snow fell. The sun rose with me and the rain fell into me, blinking on the strands of my fine, uncombed hair. My hair, before the bald patches, before the grease, the uncontrollable lice.
I swung from trees and monkey bars and climbing gyms, legs dangling behind me. Threw the ball, caught the ball, was hit by the ball. Read when I wanted to, ate what I wanted to, cried with freedom and petty reasoning. I hugged and kissed, thinking none of catching or spreading. Thinking none of a different life.
And my mother, tucked me in tightly, brushing away the nightmares and crossing my forehead, became secure in the ideal of childhood ease, convincing me of the same.
Suddenly, whisperings and utterings and nattering lived in my mind’s crevices at night. At day, gummy teeth and pounding head and throbbing, sore, untouchable skin. Knotted stomach and knotted muscles, tying me down from limb to limb onto the surface of my bed, a paralysis of pain.
Memories of a life lived only yesterday began to fade, slip from my clogged, clouded mind. My hand pressed against the window of my bedroom to watch it back; the spotted and discoloured pane as unclear as my own head.
The noise of my thoughts, voices, breathing heightened, reverberating against the stained walls of my confinement. But the noise of others quietened to a dull, muted colour, a grey mist accumulating in the whites of my eyes as I felt my lids slowly close. I whispered, “I will let you consume me.”
But at my side it laid. Silent; inoffensive. Ready and all-knowing. Patient and prepared. It called in a tone only I could hear. And it waited. And I listened. And my arm twitched and reached. And I took it up. My fingers walked as my imagination ran. I asked the questions; I answered. Words became whole again, images pieced together and danced to the perfection of the music played around me. Memories regained consciousness and new ones were born from the height of redemption and awakening.
Up, up and down, up and down, down, watching the ink running inside as I shook every last drop from the small, cylindrical case within. Just as it shakes every last drop of fatigue from me. Eudaimonia at last. And I thought none of a different life.
In the mirror is my former self.
By L.A. Cooper
Image: Ola Dyktyńska
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