Why You Do What You Do

Will Turner Fort Vimieux

“Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.”
— Alejandro Jodorowsky

You do what you do because you love them, but you don’t really believe that, do you.

“No one can know about it,” they tell you, and you nod because you’ve already spent so many years looking over your shoulder, locked in a room.

Nails can break your skin but when it comes to them it’s a special kind of burning, urgent and removed with a blackberry bruise.

Lies drop from your mouth when people ask you about them.

“We’re doing good,” you say, the lies spilling down your front in a black mess now, your smile frozen in the shape of the fingernail marks down your arms.

You’re not supposed to talk about it, so you don’t, and as the years drag on, you realize you forgot what it even was.

So you start doing the things you do.

You burn bridges and cut ropes and make things harder for yourself.

You find time to find holes and jump into them without help.

You think there is a special kind of misery invented for the leftover kids, so you carve out a piece of it and spread it out and lie in it, sinking down until it morphed into the shape of your body, and then and only then do you close your eyes.

When you sleep you dream about things that dig ditches and pull out stitches.

You don’t wake up until your eyes are gold and your hair is white and then and only then do you realize why you did what you did.

Because you loved them, but you don’t really believe that, do you.

——–

Millie’s Note: Another attempt at writing more honestly. Many thanks to elmediat for reminding me to write more shorter pieces!

5 thoughts on “Why You Do What You Do

  1. aetherhouse says:

    It’s interesting, but this gave me a message that you probably did not intend. It hit some of the same chords with me as the anonymous Reddit threads I read sometimes, where parents talk about wishing they never had kids, or being tricked by their spouse into having them. Their misery is only amplified by the fact that they’re shamed into silence, because regretting your family is not you’re allowed to say. Honestly, as a childless by choice person, that sort of life is one of my greatest fears…so I think my own dread may have imprinted on the vagueness of this piece.

    Equally, I see how this could be about suppressing your Self – your Dreams – because they are not pragmatic or attractive to others. I see how this could be about hiding mental illness. And still, I feel that none of those answers are the actual one – they’re merely my own answers, based on my own collection of experience. Your intent as an author is still mysterious, as you have cleverly hidden the portrait behind a mirror. Fascinating, how you can do that to a reader. Well done.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Michelle. I can see how and why you would make those interpretations, and they’re not far off from what I had in mind when I wrote this. This piece could be about regretting your family, about mental illness, about choosing not to have kids, or even an abusive household—all things that are kept under the wraps because of the stigma and societal expectations. It’s darker than my typical subject matter, but more honest and closer to “my core”.

      I’m glad you saw the vagueness as a mirror. Sometimes I wonder if I should explain why I wrote something, because as soon as it’s in the hands of the reader, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. And sometimes I like the interpretations of the reader much better. 🙂

      • aetherhouse says:

        I am endlessly fascinated by how readers can interpret something in a completely different way than we intended. I know what you mean about wanting to explain our reasoning, but you’re right – as soon as we put something out there, it really doesn’t belong to us anymore. (if only George Lucas would have realized that! ha)

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