It is my fault.
There is a room inside my head.
In that room, the walls are black. There are no doors or windows. Only I can enter. Only I can leave. In the middle of the room, there is a chair. The chair is black, wooden. It has no cushions. It is plain, just like the room. Which is the size of my closet. That isn’t a bad thing; it is perfect for me, and it is just what I need. It’s safe.
A long time ago, I was taught to go to the room when I was feeling overwhelmed. Go to the room, and count to some number in the future. Go to the room and breathe. Go to the room until I am ready to come out. For a long time, I didn’t need it. And then suddenly, I did. It was still there, inside my mind. So I hid. But I know it’s not okay to hide forever. I have to at least try.
I let myself out of the room, ready or not.
Someone is talking to me. There are two people sitting across from me in the real world, staring at me expectantly. One is the only person that I feel safe talking to here. The other a stranger that I don’t recall meeting before.
I am not sure how I got here, to this place. I was in my room, in my head, in my chair. And then, I was here. The stranger asks me what happened, what brings me there. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. I stare desperately at my advisor; she brought me here. I remember now, I remember riding with her in the car. But I’m not ready for this. I’m not ready to do this.
She nods, understanding what I’m asking without me having to say it. She opens her mouth and she tells the story for me. I nod in all of the right places. I make the strange observation that while I am struggling to not cry, so is she. I didn’t expect that. She is there; she is a way I can still make a connection, even when I can not speak. But then she has to go to class, while I remain in the office with this stranger. She tells me how she understands how it feels to not be able to speak, that she can see the fear in my eyes, that it will feel better once I get it out. She leaves.
I can’t. Not by myself. And yet, here I am.
What else do I want to talk about? How am I feeling about all of this? I meet the stranger’s eyes for the first time since we were left alone. I don’t know the answer to those questions. I can’t speak. The inside of my head is much too loud, but I am too agitated to return to the room. I stare out the window over the stranger’s head. I let myself cry. Just a little. But it’s there.
I can’t say it out loud. I can’t share. Everyone will hate me; I might break.
It’s killing me though. And not the melodramatic, end of the world, we are all going to die sort of killing me. I am falling apart. I am literally dying.
It’s my fault.
The stranger’s head snaps around so that our eyes meet. I must have spoken out loud; I didn’t mean to. I am crying freely. The stranger says some things, some ways that she might be able to help. The stranger tells me that I’m wrong. I say nothing. I grab my bag and leave as the stranger urges me to return.
I am walking, outside. Across the parking lot. Along the campus drive. I am crying; I pull the hood of my sweatshirt up so that none of the people driving by will see. No one can see me. No one can know.
I am not wrong. It is my fault. And to the core of my being, I believe I can justify that statement. I dropped the ball. I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t see; I didn’t act. I didn’t fight.
It is my fault. What happened is my fault.
Every touch, every move, every slip, every hurt. My fault. It is because I failed. It is because I let him down. Because I let everyone down.
Because I let me down.
I knew I was in trouble, and I didn’t save myself.
And no matter what I say, no matter what I do, no matter what I write—that will always remain a fact. It doesn’t change. It can’t. Ever. It will always be this way. There is no escape. There are no easy answers. It just is.
It happened, and I didn’t stop it. And no amount of wishing or hoping or positive thinking will change that. I can’t talk about it with anyone. Not with the stranger. Not with my friends. No one. I can’t. I can’t let them see.
If I let them see, they would know too.
It is my fault.