I hear when most people are kept up at night about stresses and worries it is about upcoming events. This is not so much the case for me, at least not typically. My chronic late nights come from the past; ghosts and demons.
Ghosts stand there lurking about, not doing much and never utter words, but always persisting with their expressions of despair and helplessness. The demons grapple and bite my mind, body and spirit. The tooth sharp and punctures deep, sometimes to the bone, especially when they grip onto my skull in attempt to pop my brain with unbearable stress and pressure.
The dreams, where the ghosts and demons portal, usually start off nice and peaceful-ish, as I presume most dreams do. You know, normal like. But always, and I do mean always, the disruptions come.
Usually it’s the demons. The loud thud of a child’s body banging up against the wall, being tossed down a stairwell and told “you are worthless,” followed by the open handed smacks to the face and ribs.
Then there are the demons I created. The ones that pounded skulls into pavements and brick walls. Gun shots in the quiet nights that disrupted the ambiance of Harry Connick Jr. The shrieks of men when stabbing my fingers into their eyes or the shattering glasses smashed straight away into faces. The loud hollow thunder of a steel toe boot to the head. Those demons come more often than not. Those I have accepted. I can usually get back to sleep after their rotted stank disappears.
The most difficult nights are those when the ghosts haunt me, fortnight. Those are the visits I can’t seem to shake. The expressions on the faces of these ghosts with their slumped shoulders, hung dead with helplessness. The scared drooped voided eyes. The drawled tone from lipless mouths of children, Like I, and the beaten mother who had her spirit raped out of her. The scars from men that linger in our family, which cannot be settled until death himself finally takes me in the night; often, a welcomed foresight when worn out from sleeplessness.
The slumped over moans and long drawn out chronic sleeplessness settles into my most vital organ: skin. The stress also wears out ambitions within hours. Life obligations cantilever over the cesspool I dive into when I leave my warm bed and out the front door into a society that walks a bleak path of unsustainability.
Crass as it is, I desire the awakening humankind needs. A catastrophe of nuclear war to ensure that we all disintegrate as we let mother earth heal well for the next billion years, until she is ready to try again; then back to my home and bed that I reluctantly attempt to retire to. Only to awaken in an hour or two, so I can hang out with ghosts some more.
Twelve years old, blackened eyed and sore bruised ribs. Eyes puff swollen and dry from the tears. It is hard to believe that salty tears can become an abrasion on a child’s eyelids. I was stressed from the destruction of my home life. So stressed I had a skin condition, psoriasis, that attacked my eyelids. When I cried the dry edges of my lids would flake and feel as if hot needles were forced into them. Each stream of tears would scorch my eyelids. Literally. The bled abrasion bumps would swell when dry, then inflame worse with each and every tear to follow.
I would stay up as late as I could, awaiting for the old-man to sleep. Then I would play my music on my headphones. The metal would enter my blood flow from the ears and pump through my body. Eventually the music that activated my adrenaline would wear me out and I would literally pass out as if I had been drinking. This repeated until the day I left home, not long after my first suicide attempt at twelve years. Leaving home, probably the worst ghost of all.
All the beatings my mother and I endured, all of the screamed words and wails, cannot amount to the haunting destruction of the nothingness that I was flung into at age twelve. That ghost has no face. His body small and elevated high from the floor. Head slumped as if no neck, or perhaps snapped from the noose. No wails, no moans, as if sound, expression and voice abandoned the child who walks cold winter highways thumbing it city to city just to stay warm.
I recall, my mother’s face literally peeled dry skin from guilt. It was her turn. Her skin bled and burned with child abuse. My eye blackened from the gifts of an angry and drunken step-dad, charged on attack ordered by my mother. I did not want to leave, as bad as it was. I cried and begged my mom to come with me. To bring our siblings: “we can all just go mom, please” I cried.
I hated life, this was true. But I knew nothing else, except my mother. My only rock. She was all I had, her and my annoying lil’ brother; and the other two babes I would not intimately know. I was the gone’d big brother. Mom was fucked, no doubt. But the day I had to leave…and the years of homelessness and sleeping in abandoned buildings, vehicles and jail cells that followed…those are the worst ghosts ever.
The silence between concrete walls. Ghosts drift and float in hordes. Demons grip onto my skull with their teeth as their claws dig into my shoulders. Those nights that took eons to end. The ringing in my ears caused by the silence on the outside and the chaos on the inside. Those nights come back.
The institutions where children, like myself, are housed and contained, so that we do not burden society with the sight of our own failings. Unwillingness of neighbours and family members to intervene, fraught with excuse and denial. The dismissiveness of police, teachers and those useless fucking social workers who believe they are helping the world as they get paid to pretend they help abused kids. Denial is the echo in cold caverns where ghosts dwell.
The years I spent just wanting to die because the moans of ghosts and bites of demons are just too damned much to take. My friends from up north, most from surrounding Indian reserves, knew exactly how I felt; albeit they faced a few more challenges than I. That is why so many of my friends killed themselves in quiet violence. A few said goodbye before they left as they knew I would understand.
Ghost expressions haunt and demons bite memory that inject infections of our pasts. Heart throbs rapid and limb veins pulsate, while ears ring loud. Ghosts and demons only visible inside.
Each morning people (colleagues, bosses, professors) ask, “how are you?”