You Do Not Celebrate When the Judgement is Passed Down
You do not celebrate when the judgement is passed down. You do not clap your hands together or snap your fingers, you do not exclaim in enthusiasm or in relief but you do feel air rush quietly from your lungs and then, for the first time in six weeks, slowly, like you’re relearning, like you’ve forgotten, like you have never been human before, you begin to breathe again.
The tension of fear, when it's built over thousands of days and years of manipulations, is almost undetectable or indiscernible, after this amount of time, to oneself, to the naked eye.
It manifests like this: you pull into your parking spot downtown and before you leave the car, you look out both side mirrors, both side windows, the back window, the biggest front windshield known to man, (because you drive a big safe vehicle because you were in a big car accident in a small car) because when you’re hurt in small ways you armor for the big hurts.
It manifests like this: you break into a sprint as you leave the gym, the sight of him walking out of the same doors you just vacated raising your blood pressure. You’re counting the yards, 100 must be between you at all times, and counting the steps, 76, before you reach safety. It manifests like this: Was he here the whole time was he watching me was he behind me was he on the cardio machines is he getting faster was he lifting weights is he getting stronger am I safe am I safe am I safe?
There is no celebration in counting the ways you’ve fallen short as a sister, the ways you question your own version of the only truth that you have known when you lived it as you lived it and you remembered it as best you can. We are narrators of imperfect recollections - we tell the truths we are capable of remembering and we let lie those we let lie. We are comfortable liars but uncomfortable when found out. But I do allow him this grace - to shade the edges of his stories lightly - to cross borders and boundaries of safety because what if he doesn’t know how to be wrong when he is wrong that he is wrong.
I watched his body tense and rest, writhe and resemble calm, in those moments where he testified on the stand before god and country and judge but no jury and I watched him scramble stories and stutter through situations because the clearest path forward is always the truth but we don’t see that when it’s dark out.
The truth is supposed to light the way but we don’t see that when it also comes in the dark and takes our children, reminds us of our failures, undresses us and stands us spotlit and naked before god and country and judge and jury and says “this is it.”
I counted the lies as he told them against my leg with fingernail-chewed fingers. When I ran out of bloody fingers, spread against shaking knees, I wept, willing tear-filled eyes not to spill. I stared into his eyes, exactly, exactly, exactly mine, and hoped he’d find a path out of there. Wished I hadn’t invited him here. Wished I wasn’t on the line in all the ways he is on the line and wished that the truth was easier or better or more or less or.
It isn’t a celebration.
When we involuntarily become big sisters or little brothers we do not sign up for the pain that comes, breathtaking and heavy on our shoulders, or the trauma or the guilt of the ways we have or haven’t loved. We do not ask for our faces to replicate in opposing gendered lines on the neck of another - for our bloodlines to run thick or drip into wounds we all share.
In the best of cases, we are joined for life in joy and discovery. In the worst, the cuts run deep and “family” becomes a curse word. Our story lies in the middlelands of these descriptions. Addiction. Trauma. Discovery. Shame. Identity. Loss. Reflection. Threats. Safety.
Typically ends and beginnings are where we find reason to celebrate. Celebration comes at conception or culmination or completion. We finish a degree, earn a promotion, complete a task. We make it through another year and mark an anniversary. We begin a pregnancy, bury a loved one, celebrate existence. The drudging dreary middle-roads of everything-in-between, This Part and Parcel I’ve come to call “Living”, leaves little cause for celebration but many opportunities for learning and leaning into rapt attention.
I want to do this.
Stop. Unclench fingers and open fists. Hold my hands in front of my chest, wide open, both, wide open. I want to pause, listen for the silences when my heart is available to be shown love, to believe it exists. Hold my breath long enough to believe in evolution, to sprout gills or to employ wings, to take flight. Long enough to reincarnate as a better sister, better lover, better mother, better human. Long enough to resurrect and recreate and redefine the boundaries we’ve put around identity and space and family and grace. Hold memories and extend the magic of “what if” to the bounds of the Law of nature or the laws of men.
I want to believe again.
The middlegrounds are seldom celebrated. They’re dirty and gritty, long and unnerving. Middling is where tears meet the meat of your feet pounding precarious pavement running towards something you love or away from something it’s been time for a while for you to leave. It’s in this everleaving and alwayscoming that sparks fly from flipflops and flip flopping ideologies explode in fireworks. We become. The darkest/hardest/longest/ugliest/coldest burning is the only way we know we’re still alive.
We’re breathing and breaking down. We’re breathing and getting up. We’re breathing and believing. We’re getting faster. We’re getting stronger. I am safe I am safe I am safe I am safe I am safe He is safe We are safe We are safe We are safe.
Every breath a hopeful hallelujah. Every breath a living celebration.