Tense aggression in the heat of frustration. What to do? My body can’t take this explosion of anger, I’ve got to have a physical outlet. Stupid Barbie, why don’t you do what I want? I hate you. Bite, clench hard. Quickly take a look. It’s all bent. Why did I do that? Now she’s ruined.
She still lives in a large plastic bin of forgotten toys in a basement, frozen smile, frizzy hair, and deformed hand.
School bus. Meekness puts me on the radar, makes me a target.
Get out of my space, get away from me…
Through my geeky spectacles, I’m seeing red. I wish I wasn’t alone on this bus, I wish I had a forcefield of friends to protect me. Body recoils, hotly tense. I hate you. I want your ugly, mocking smile to go away. My fist jumps out like a snake from the bushes, and connects with a hollow thunk. The bully facade crumbles to give a glimpse of his true face: a confused pre-teen boy who desperately needs to be cool.
I escape from the school bus, and soon after I notice small rocks dancing at my feet. Turn around, and he and his friend are throwing their parents’ decorative landscaping pebbles at me. Very tough indeed. I speed-walk home, tail between my legs.
I’ve learned that “no” is a question of interpretation. “Leave me alone” communicates an invitation for more undesired attention. My pathetic defenses have been exhausted. There’s a key to surviving here that I just don’t have. Why don’t I have it; how do I get out of this?
In class. Day after day, explicit sinister whispers chip away at me. I wish I could take my skin off and disappear. One after another, ugly comments meant to do what? Wear me down, violate my comfort; I’m tired of it. What did I do to deserve it? Tension, heart is boiling again. Stop fucking with me. I didn’t ask for this.
Teacher leaves room, and I can liberate the Me that lives inside, vibrant and angry and electric. The current extends out from my hand, slices around to meet his face. Jaw wobble, sharp intake of air, now I’m tingling. I plaster on a smile, eyes forward, like a good little scholarly robot-mannequin.
A student is going on the offensive; they’ve taken constructive criticism personally, which has led to aggression; at least, that’s what it feels like.
Needles in my skin, chest is hot. Voice and hands want to tremble.
I’ve given my professional opinion, and this poor sap feels the need to retaliate, and turn to the typical cheap ploy of ping-ponging their insecurity back onto me. I’m not having it. This time, I’ve got a full arsenal of words at my disposal. With firm professional efficacy, I defend my position and steer this person out of my space.
Same internal response.
Different course of action.
About this time last year, I received a huge wake-up call.
Amid great joy at welcoming my mom to France, I got home, showed her around the house, and sighed when I saw the letter. The long-awaited letter from the French administration about my visa…
I had been denied. I was ordered to leave the country within 30 days.
In other words, I was being deported.
My chest and face felt hot, and my heart felt covered in sludge.
I felt humiliated at the rejection. I thought everything was fine, but the French administration deemed my ties to the country as insufficient. I thought I had finally found some stability in my life with my partner. But someone in an office took a cursory look at my life on paper, deemed it to be insufficient, and decided to turn me away. Whoever deemed my ties to France “insignificant” wasn’t there to see F and I, and the life we were building together. They couldn’t know that I had integrated into French life, and that I had a kick-ass community around me.
Needless to say, I was also scared shitless. This was one of my worst fears, and it had come to life.
The burning dread of deportation was softened by the steadfast support I got. I was touched and honored by the efforts of our friends, family, and community, who each contributed something to my appeal: messages, reassuring, contacting people who could help. French administration found out in short order exactly how much support I had.
In a whirlwind, the order of deportation arrived, I managed to enjoy my mother’s stay in France, we submitted my appeal, and I was finally granted my visa. In one month.
In the aftermath, I was walking on new legs. Post-rollercoaster jelly legs. I dodged a bullet and I knew it; I had begun phase two of my life in France: P.D.O. (Post-Deportation Order) And if I had learned anything, it was that my resolve to stay here was solid; I wasn’t about to go anywhere. I realized what I wanted because it had almost been taken away.
In a month, I will go back with F to submit my visa renewal application. Even if I’m confident in my case, there’s that sneaking twinge of doubt behind my ear. My chest burns again when I dare to think, “What if…?”
When dealing with someone who’s done you wrong before, you never see them the same way again. Once you get bitten by one dog, you eye all dogs with suspicion. It takes one letter to upend your life. But the road doesn’t end; you steel yourself and move forward, even if it’s one manageable baby step at a time.
Even if it’s not okay now, it will (one day) be okay again.
How much of what we do is dictated by this ugly feeling?
Shame on you, shame on me. Shame on others for making us feel weak, and shame on us for believing them. Shame on you for having needs and feeling vulnerable. Shame on you for vomiting your pain onto others and paying it forward. Shame on those who discourage you out of their own fear and intimidation. Shame on us for being blind to suffering, for choking down our words in favor of silence, for making mistakes. Shame on an education system that stripped you of the joy of learning and the faith in your own abilities, glossed over your needs, or never allowed you to nurture your talents.
Shame on us for dividing ourselves with invisible barbed wire.
Shame on us for being afraid of the Other, and clutching to Fear. For cannibalizing and self-dividing when, in fact, we yearn to find our place and some semblance of order in this hazy landscape.
When it’s now, more than ever, we need solidarity and love. Love for each other, and love for ourselves.