I used to love life until I didn't feel quite right in my body. Really, I did. I used to love it until I couldn't live my life properly.
I couldn't understand it like anyone else. The crawling feeling that wrapped around my fingers, the uneasy settling in my skin. I hated the touch of others. The desperation to hang my skin in the closet prodded my mind. No amount of talking about it ever seemed to make it go away, especially because none believed me when I said it. The forced hugs over the years never helped me at all.
At a young age, I created fantastical reasons as to why I felt it. Perhaps I'd been born in the wrong body. Maybe—even more logically, I thought—I had some mental affliction that pervaded my senses ravenously, a creature mauling my perception of things. If this were true, I'd never receive help for it. To my parents, they believed I exaggerated it; with my other friends, I had no courage in the chance they potentially abandon me. Any anomaly is to be treated as though it did not exist. That'd been my philosophy so far based on past failures.
I'd always be seen as heartless to those that desired physical affections from me. No amount of coaxing could bring it out. I squirmed under the brushing of fingers and unintended tappings. I desired love, I hated when I received it—a paradox of the human person laid out in my very being. Laughing at myself, crying because of myself.
Is there a reason I am this way?
When I thought about it more, maybe there existed a forgotten reason. What type of experiences made me loathe touch? What darkened my mind, weaving a web to trap me just as I tried to escape the loneliness I caused myself? What kind of person would love someone that despised their touch, even though it was not specifically their touch, but any? How could I be saved when I couldn't keep anyone around that would want to save me?
I developed hatred in the end. Not to anyone; I promise I didn't harbor that degree of coldness. Only to myself, the person that became nothing. These differences manifested a degree of seclusion I couldn't bear. Really, I couldn't.
The weight never felt heavier. Let me give you an example.
One evening, a few weeks ago, I met someone on campus. He was lovely in every way. I loved seeing his toothy smile especially; it added something to me. In a way, it felt like receiving water on an incredibly hot day, a refreshing wave that helped once your lips have become parched and you could make out more distinctly the dryness of your mouth. It added chilliness to overwhelming heat. Developing a first crush when you're the odd one is a fearful occasion; however, a human can't survive without water. I can't survive without love.
I took it upon myself to start conversations. It's hard to speak when you're faced with someone that's become special. I kicked myself internally for every stutter, every subtle mispronunciation. I'd wished more than anything that I'd spoken more to prepare myself. But he didn't care. He never mentioned it, never missed a beat, never acknowledged my faults in speech. I came to adore him more for it in a way I'd never adored anyone. Maybe he would be the exception. I realised quickly that he wasn't.
What he did notice is my reaction when he touched my arm. The wince, the pull-away. Each movement came faster than I could stop it. My shock almost mirrored his own. At first, he asked if I'd been injured and apologised, but my decline of injury seemed to have set something else in motion. I could only watch in horror as the gears turned, trying to rationalise what came across to him. More than anything, I hoped disgust and other negativities were wiped from the list. I tried to explain myself. He walked away more confused than before.
After that occasion, he came around me less. Barely a brief glance. I started conversations as I usually did but his distance became farther from me. A mile instead of a foot; oceans instead of an arm's reach away. The only answer I ever received had been a simple one. He didn't want to make me uncomfortable anymore. To him, I was nice and easy to talk to. Despite saying this, his actions conveyed more reasons than what he gave me. If talking to me was easy, why wasn't he participating? What about that event made it harder to interact with me?
I couldn't understand. I can't understand physical touch and the things it brings—I don't know its importance, its need, its conveyance. I gained nothing that others gained from it. Knowledge of this existed in an inaccessible room, locked away. I couldn't understand it just as they could not understand me.
Why can't anyone understand me? Or tolerate me without believing I'm a heartless presence among them? Why do you need it from me, forcing it on me, when I am too uncomfortable to give it to you naturally? Do you need artificial affections to feel good about yourself or your relationship with me? Am I too separated from you for you to show love in ways that didn't make me uncomfortable?
I hate that I feel this way. I don't want to hate you or anyone. I don't want to hate the touch you give me. I don't want to make you upset or cry because I can't give you the kind of affection you want. I want someone to love me, to touch me, I want them to one day express themselves in every way they could ever want with me. I don't want to be a burden on anyone that wants a relationship with me.
I'm not that person, though. I know this. I can't be that person. Not to my parents, not to you, not to someone that could have loved me. I can't be someone that opens so easily, touched so easily. No handshakes, no hugs, no hand holding, no shoulder rubs or high fives. Nothing. Why is that hard?
It became an unbearable weight in my life, setting the tone for a future that made it hard to breathe. Every vision of what could be cast anxiety so large it filled my lungs. I struggled some days with fear, my heart racing faster than it ever should. My only companion consisted of the creeping loneliness and the looming mystery of my future.
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