When kids bullied me at school as a child, (and then a teenager, and then an adult) I figured out that the best way to defend myself was to just be one hundred times more cruel to myself than they ever could be. After all, I knew my most horrid secrets. I had all the ammunition, didn’t I?
I became somewhat compulsively blatant about myself, taking honesty and self-effacement to a new level. If I had nothing to hide, they had nothing on me. The same could be said about my dealings with my mother when I was growing up — it was always the secrets I knew I was keeping from her that ate away at me worse than the ones she found out about. Mostly because the secrets I was keeping from her — were her own.
I suppose, perhaps, confessional prose was just in my nature. I’m sure it makes me appear terribly self-involved and arrogant, but it comes from a genuine place of wanting, desperately, to share. To say, “Here, take it, take all of it!” How odd to me that people often see me as somewhat unapproachable — when all I’ve done my whole life is give myself entirely away in an attempt to breed intimacy. Of course, the small bit that remained, what I began to cling to, was just the stuff that nobody wanted. I inadvertently left myself crumbs.
My ex-boyfriend was not the first person to tell me I talk too much, but he was the first person who made me feel insecure about it. In conversation, often times the only way to get my brain to slow down is to task it with creating speech — I could, of course, do this via writing, but it wouldn’t be socially acceptable to just start taking notes while someone is talking. So, I verbally organize — which sounds, of course, highly discordant. When I am quiet and listening, I’m taking in too much at once: the conversation, but also the sounds of my environment which I can not tune out entirely, my own internal monologue and this ever-present hum which I am to suppose is my soul at rest.
I don’t dominate conversation because I’m not listening, I do so because I’m desperately clinging to it, trying to stay present in it — trying to give myself to you. I’m realizing, though, that most people don’t want it. Or expect it.
So, I come off as abrasive, domineering, bombastic — odd, perhaps.
That’s why I like going places according to my own schedule, my own internal whim. If I can choose to be somewhere and not have a task, other than to sit and listen, I can be infinitely entertained. I wonder if, perhaps, I have retained that perception from infancy — maybe that’s what makes a writer or an artist: eyes that always seem to see everything for the very first time. When I wake up in the morning, everything is incredibly fresh — but then, also, so painfully stark if I’m not emotionally well-rested.
Some days even the most familiar of places is too raw for me and I find that the sights, the smells, the sounds — all of it whirring around me — are painful. The world that I live in hurts.
My younger brother has Autism, and I’ve often considered that perhaps trace elements of his affliction exist in my neurons. The galaxy inside my head, of course, is made of the same stardust as his — so, I’m sure we share a few latitudes. I wonder, though, if the black holes that suck him so far into himself, that keep him from connecting, are that dull hum that I seem to always be fighting against — the gravity that pulls me back, that pulls me deep, into myself.
Maybe I should start gossiping about myself.
I would start by making everyone believe that I had some kind of communicable disease so that I could be left alone, which is what I prefer.
I might add that I have a history of instability — the vagaries of which I’ll leave up to the girls I went to high school with.
I could say that my romantic history is fraught with dysfunction and that word on the street is, I have a pencil dick. For fun, I might start a rumor that I don’t speak English — and all this time everyone has just been projecting their Western cultural ideals upon me.
I remember the absolute finest slander that was ever committed upon me. It appeared scrawled on the wall of the girl’s bathroom when I was a sophomore in high school:
It was true, in the school chorus I sang with the altos — if not the tenors—and my low range was somewhat my prized possession: particularly during those years where I roused the spirits of the elderly with my Patsy Cline covers. Though, why someone chose to malign me for that quality, all the questionable things about me, I couldn’t reckon.
I would have said,
Abby Norman is a fat virgin.
Abby Norman got turned down by a Jehovah’s Witness.
Abby Norman is weird.
Because that last one was the first piece of gossip ever started about me. I remember it vividly. I was in the first grade and (yes, yes, I still remember which child said it to me, but why name names?) a girl in my class discovered that I was hiding 3rd grade books inside my 1st grade books so that no one would know. When she figured it out she sneered at me, You are so weird. By the next day, that was the playground chant.
Abby Norman is so weird.
Abby Normal, I was not.