Photographs by Ashli Moore; Writing by Alyssa Wisener
Much of my fascination with finding points of intersection and interaction between "mutually exclusive" concepts and state of mind stems from my own experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder and Type II Bipolar Disorder. Years of psychotherapy from a very young age have given me a lens through which to view and analyze my own cognitive dissonance in real time. This is helpful in that it contributed to an ability to manipulate my own mood states and thus gain knowledge of my various inner selves; destructive in that having an acute awareness of my own attempts to gaslight myself does nothing to ease my mind and everything to cause me to distrust my perception of the world. Aside from catharsis, the main reason I write is to keep a record of all my disparate thoughts / feelings, with the hope that one day I might arrange the shards into a rainbow mosaic opaque enough to view a sun through without sacrificing my eyes.
Memoir is a bitter genre, a nether-realm of writers with business unfinished and words unsaid. Between the spoken, the written, the thought-out-then-willfully-forgotten, lies a liminality. This is where I/we dwell. It is said that a ghost cannot cross over until the conflict that keeps them here is resolved. But what if the ghost cannot find the conflict? What if the conflict doesn't want to be found, and will stop at nothing to escape? Shades forever dwell in houses, unseen yet viscerally felt by its occupants; spirits shove me under the bathwater and stuff my throat with bubbles. How can I speak without first spitting out the soap? How can I imagine the story of another while drowning in my own salty terror?
When desire is involved, anything is possible. It's possible that she was and is nothing at all like I describe. It's possible I have never seen her as an individual with her own thoughts and purposes, instead framing her as a character in the plot of my own living novel. It's possible that I ascribed to her the exact qualities I was in need of at the time. Qualities I still yearn for. It's possible that this story is more about the nature of desire than the objective desirability of anything or anybody. That this I write is about how I and the collective We project our desires onto other people. How that says more about us and our affectations than anything about the supposed objects of our affections. Is that why I desire the one thing I can never possess? A month into my third grade year, I stand atop a tall slide and stare fish-eyed at the woodchips below. It's high enough to cripple me: not enough. I climb down and walk to the library to ask Miss Sharon where the biggest slide in the world is and if it sits on concrete. She calls my mom; Mom tells me that suicides reincarnate as snakes, and that I'm too pretty to become an icky snake. A new doctor gives me a rainbow of highly regulated medications, and I learn to swallow my age in pills. A gulp a day keeps the feelings away. Once a week, I tell Dr. Smythe about how I never sleep because if I do, Bloody Mary will behead me. How the faceless girl sitting near my mother's pillow will try to steal my eyes. How I sometimes want to stomp on my younger brother's head and have my mom to myself again. I don't tell her about Sean throwing my library books in the mud in front of Alison, nor how I saved up my allowance for months to compensate the library for their loss. I don't tell her about how Mrs. White dumped out my desk in front of the whole class because it was too messy, and how my drawings shot out the side, and how the other kids saw what they were of, and then came up with new names to yell at me after Mrs. White "posted" me against a red brick wall at recess and forbade me from talking or defending myself (not that I would've). I don't tell her about how I read that the mere act of smiling can trick the smiler's brain into feeling happiness, and how I had grinned whenever I wanted to cry, and how all the smiles stopped after Mrs. White had said to me, "You think you are so cute?!" Though my selfishness on the slide was kept secret from the world at large, it caused my mom to "lose face" and give up on the house. I eventually improved somewhat; she stayed stuck. I -- a nine-year- old seeking death -- had damaged her and destroyed her house. Not her mother's beatings nor my father's mindgames. ME. Mom hasn't been back to Thailand since -- 20 years -- too afraid that her family might see the stain on her character reflected in the sheen of my scars. Of course, she never speaks of this. Her eyes harden at the sight of my arms, my face that looks like that of the sister her mother favored. Though I cannot speak Thai, my mom's gestures when on the phone with her family tell me everything: she is coloring our family with flag colors and brightening the shadows with gold leaf.
Which cracked first? The chicken or her egg? Should we ask the farmer? Did the chip on the egg start small and spread on its own? Did the chicken's foot help it along and the farmer finish it? Did the egg's insides splash out to rot whatever touched it? Could the hen smell the decay? Could the farmer? Is that why the egg was left all alone? Is that why the crack in her lip sings when the wind hisses past?
Thank you so much, Alyssa, for letting me share your work! Here's an "oldy but goody" picture of us hanging out! <3