Yesterday, you had a bird open up his ass on your head. Rude! And disgusting. This has never happened to you before, ever, and you hope it never again does, until the end of time. Like a normal human being, after this happened, and after you went running back to work to wash up before making the half-hour walk home, you immediately thought to yourself, "What could be more embarrassing than this?"
1. Your mom comes running down into the grade-eight band room in the middle of rehearsal and yells, "NATTY WATTYYY! I'll be outside in the parking lot."
You forever hate when people call you that.
2. The first time you take the city bus, you don’t know that you have to step down the steps to get the back door to open. You just stand there, looking perplexed and terrified while people yell at you. You think they are yelling "SIT DOWN!!!" So you do, dejectedly, not knowing how to get off the goddamn bus and go home. Turns out they are saying "STEP DOWN."
Your hearing has only gotten worse since.
3. The time you get your period while driving to a yoga class. You are wearing light gray tights, and it is maybe the only time there is a disproportionately larger amount of men to women there. Also, you are supposed to be the teacher for that class.
4. The time you are makin’ time with a gentledude in the shower, but then, again! Your period shows up to crash the party. Not to be outdone, you also later get dizzy, almost pass out, and have to sit down in the shower. But because he is a gentleman, he sits down with you.
That last part is actually very sweet and endearing, even if it does kind of remind you of the scene from Bond where the chick sits down and cries in the shower while Daniel Craig holds her, except you're neither fully clothed nor crying.
You like him a lot for doing that, the gentledude that is, but also Daniel Craig.
5. The first time you get really, stupidly drunk, and remember absolutely nothing. Your roommates on the other hand, remember everything. You wake up to find a garbage pail beside your bed, and you wonder how and why it got there. Everyone living in the barracks with you is surprised to see you alive and chipper the next morning. They say with bewilderment, “You mean you DON’T remember???” You don’t. Not any of it. And you feel fine. Apparently, you had gotten wobbly, so they put you to bed. But then you kept getting out of bed and threw up all over the hallway, the bathroom, other people’s rooms, etc. They said this happened half a dozen times. You sort of think they're making this up, but then all 34 people confirm the same story.
6. You're on a first date with a guy, and it's going really well. You had been walking around outside for a while, though, and it is a cold night. You have really, really, probably-shouldn't-be-human poor circulation, and when your hands get cold enough, you sometimes lose the use of them. As in, they kind of stop functioning in a normal way. You go to use a washroom, but because your hands are so cold, you are then not able to do your pants back up. You spend probably upward of 20 minutes in the washroom, desperately trying to grasp the top button on your jeans. As this is happening, you are fully aware that you have been in there for a suspiciously long time, and are mortified that your date probably thinks you:
a) ran away
b) are completely evacuating your bowels
c) were kidnapped by washroom ninjas
None of these are good options. So you casually stroll back out once your pants are safely back on, and just say, "Sorry, that took a lot longer than it should have. I feel it's important to tell you that I wasn't taking a massive dump."
You explain the hands-of-death situation, and he still goes on more dates with you.
7. You are maybe eight years old. You go to a slumber party at a popular girl's house. Your parents are maybe closet hippies and teach you things like “your body needs to breathe at night,” so you don't wear underwear or pants with your oversized t-shirt pajamas. They neglect to mention this is something you should only do in the privacy of your own home. The other girls notice this and spend all night and the next morning teasing you and running over to pull your t-shirt up. The girl’s mom eventually gives you pajama bottoms so that they will stop.
As an adult, you feel most comfortable sleeping au naturelle. Fuck pajama bottoms.
8. You're out with girl friends, and you get pretty drunk (surprise!?). You spend some time talking with a generically attractive guy who is a friend of a friend of a somethingface or whatever. Feeling brave and not at all like your decisions are influenced, you ask the guy to dance. His friends who are standing beside him let you know that there is no dance floor. You look around, and turns out they are right.
Undeterred, you are also feeling lonely and like you want some kind of intimacy, like you just want someone to touch you in a caring way. So when one of your girl friends, who is also drunk, suggests you ask generically attractive guy to go home with you, you think “Great idea!” It was not. He shoots you down, thankfully. You go home, become ill, and throw up for a few hours.
9. You are getting busy with a man friend for the first time since it happened, and you suddenly you have to tell him to stop, because you are scared, because you remember. He does, but you’ve already been pulled into the memory of the time when a guy didn’t stop. When you prayed it would be over quickly, and you hated yourself for it. You know that you’re not still in that moment, but you feel it all over again, and you start to cry hysterically. He holds you, lets you cry, and he is the first person you tell everything to.
10. Every time you are intimate with a guy, and again you remember, and they leave you there in the bed, crying. They not kindly tell you to get it sorted out, and to go to therapy. You feel like a leper. No one wants to touch someone like you.
11. Every time you cry in the years you spend in therapy.
12. Every time you sleep on your bathroom floor because you feel worthless, shattered, disposable, and like a piece of rubbish.
13. Every time you tell your mom that you're okay, but you're not. You sleep, at most, four hours, but sometimes not at all. You have become someone you don't recognize. You isolate yourself from your friends, because you don’t want them to know, and you don’t want to have to lie. You lose a noticeable amount of weight, but most people compliment you for looking so skinny. You become unreliable, often having to cancel work. You are overly emotional, and start becoming weirdly paranoid about things. You are prone to violent outbursts in the privacy of your own home. One day you destroy your bathroom, ripping shelves off walls, smashing bottles, breaking everything within reach. You feel like a monster. You want him to see what he’s done. You want him to finish it.
14. The night you spend in the hospital, after swallowing a fistful of anti-anxiety meds that are not yours.
15. The time you are at a yoga workshop, and the teacher, who may just be an angel, or in the least, a completely wonderful human being, holds you in a yoga pose that makes you want to run and hide and move away as fast as possible from all the uncomfortable feelings and memories and things you wish weren't a part of you. She tells you not to run, she tells you to stay with it, to sit with it, and that on the other side of fear is everything that you want. She tells you to let go, so you do.
There, in a room of 60+ people, in a yoga class being recorded for an audio CD, you full-on openly weep.
But suddenly you don't feel embarrassed. You realize that all these things, all these moments that make you want to hide, or turn off, or appear cold and unmoved and unphased, all these memories that you wouldn't wish on anyone else — they have taught you things you never would have realized without them. They have made you stronger, even if the process of getting to that end result was completely and inappropriately fucked up. You grew and changed and evolved and became a better, kinder, and more compassionate person because of it. And no one can ever take that from you. No one can ever hurt you with it, because it is yours to wear like armor. You know that even sometimes when you feel alone, lost, disposable, worthless — you are not. And you know that sometimes, shit happens. But hopefully, it doesn't ever again happen on your head.
Natalie Bell went home and washed her hair three times, but was still paranoid that she could smell bird shit. She also took to heart the advice a dear friend gave her about writing when he said, "The only stories worth reading are the ones that are honest. Honest stories are sometimes stories that shouldn't be written. The fact that they are is what makes them special." But more on him later.
You are cordially invited to read more stories at nataliesianbell.blogspot.