If you’re wondering what that thing is you’ve been running from in your nightmares, it’s me.
In your darkest moments, you know I’m there, but can’t bear to look me in the eye.
I’m the snake that coils around your heart when you think of what that kid said to you back in fourth grade.
I was with you then and I’m with you now. You might think of me as your oldest friend.
I live in your clenched fists when someone cuts in front of you and takes the spot that was rightfully yours in the crowded subway car, just before the doors snap shut in your face. While you stand defeated on the platform, resigning yourself to having to wait for the next train, I’m imagining the possibilities.
I’m the electric thrill that runs up your arm when your gloved fist meets the punching bag at the gym. I’m the beautiful ache in your biceps as you lift those weights every morning. I’m the rush of adrenaline when you hear footsteps behind you as you walk down the street at night, and the disappointment you barely let yourself feel when the person walks on past you.
I am not, I repeat, not the whining voice that asks, “Why are they laughing? Are they talking about me?” That’s my younger cousin, the weak, ineffectual one whose only goal since birth has been to get back into the womb.
You can see me in the mark on your old bedroom wall where you threw the paperweight against it when your first choice of colleges didn’t accept you. In the scar on your right arm where it went through the glass after your girlfriend slept with the lacrosse captain. Women see me in the twitching of your right eyelid when they ask how you got it.
I’m the leaky faucet in your brain, dripping each separate anguish on just the right spot to make you a slave. Drip (Unable to read your card)…drip (Your call is important to us)…drip (If you hadn’t been born, I could have finished college)…
I’m the best you’ve ever felt, the ugliest you’ve ever been. I’m at once tall, proud, and golden, and small, gray, and withered.
I will save you some dark night, then I will feed you that power in small doses until you’re on your knees, begging for just a taste.
You should keep an eye on me. You may be sure I’m always watching you.