taking yourself seriously can be a problem, but pretending you're not the person you are can, too.

while suffering through crippling health problems in an apartment complex a few years ago, I developed a cringing response to knocks on my door. I was so miserable and so interested in not being seen that the idea of someone intruding on my tiny space got to me. I got away from that circumstance, but to this day I have a minor panic reaction to the sound of a knock at a door. any door. even in recordings. just the sound of a fist rapping on a surface stresses me out.

and I know, I KNOW that that's wrong, that that's pointless, that that's maladaptive behavior from a maladapted time. but I still feel it. it might be the purest feeling that I have, the least examine-it-awayable experience this particular meat tube is subject to.

a few months ago I saw a video shared on Facebook that was an interview with a miserable Dutch woman about her son going off to join ISIS. in the supercut that was the video, they cut to an execution. "oh," I thought. "I didn't--want to see this. I didn't watch it when they released it and I don't suddenly want to see it now. I don't need to see these guys beheading hostages." as it happened, the video cut away well before that, but just thinking something awful might've been thrust before my eyes made me think about content warnings. if I'm asking for Content Warning: Literal Murder, surely there are other content warnings that can matter, too.

so it's a balancing act, maybe, and the broader your audience, the harder it is to guess. I'd never ask people not to knock because it stresses me out; that's on me. I'd definitely ask people not to include beheadings in a video they link me. the gap between where my responsibility ends and someone else's responsibility begins is ambiguous. it's definitely between those two points.

I don’t have to pull the trigger.  As long as I can keep my eyes open and on him, this can be over.  He’s backing away, with his head lowered and cringing like a reprimanded dog, I can see it even through blurred vision.  I can feel the burning imprint of his hands on the sides of my neck, throbbing with my heartbeat.  Each throb and my index finger twitches a little.  I don’t have to pull the trigger.  My mind is a haze of fury, relief, and gratitude that I had put the little Ruger in my night stand drawer the night before.  I hate him; I’m beginning to realize it fully in my fevered, oxygen deprived brain.  But I don’t have to pull the trigger.  My heart is beating harder and I can feel the nerves tightening rhythmically in my forearm with each contraction.  I’m free now and this can end.  I don’t have to pull the trigger.

I close my eyes.



Brevity Quest 2020
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