Writing has become my therapy, my medication. It’s dangerous, I know. Trust me, I do. But I could go weeks off of those pills, satiated only by research and outlining, character sketches and world mapping; people only I have ever met, places only I have ever been. It is a high and a confidence boost no drug handed to me by some white coat could ever mimic. I’ve come to live solely for the rush that comes with that “a-ha” moment, the one that seems to come only once I have dropped my guard: flipping through tv stations, grocery shopping, sitting in class, drawing whirligigs in the margins, mind drifting, facts slipping in and out of empty space. It takes only a word or a statement and the solution scribbles itself down the side of my notes like automatic writing. Like a piece of paper slipped into my pocket when that shady guy bumped into me down the hall. The thought that finally connects all the once random pieces my muse likes to send me through the post: crumpled pieces of paper with messages written out using letters clipped from magazine headings, cryptic puzzles that make hardly any sense. It fuels me, gives me a reason to keep going.

My life is filled with these messages, scribbled on to whatever paper happened to be at hand. Snippets of dialogue heard on the wind, spoken by no one. Descriptions of dangerous dames whose heels click-clacked behind me in the frozen food aisle, gone the instant I turn to look, leaving nothing but that click-clack, click-clack echoing off my bones. Scenes played out with haunting clarity, the rest of the movie hidden somewhere in this mess of clues: audio files of faceless voices, faded polaroids of light through a window, of girls stuck in eternal youth, girls without stories, postcards sent from nameless places, places with histories not yet recorded. My job is to find the right order. To sift through all of these pieces, these people, these places, make them all speak so I can match the voices with the faces, figure out who said what and when.

It’s a task that I love with every ounce of my introverted being. Real people bore me. No, that’s a lie. It’s the person displayed for the world to see that bores me. The one the owner painstakingly chose, the one made of feathers and furs. Beautifully colored plumages put together to distract passersby from the naked truth beneath. I’d rather have a conversation with the woman who keeps watching me in the mirror, just visible in my peripheral, there over my shoulder, gone when I look straight at her. She is naked to the world, tender bare flesh available for me to pick at. It’s that bare flesh that I wish to explore, not our plumages. Not your day or my day, not what’s on Netflix. I don’t care about Friends or Modern Family, how drunk you got at that concert last night. I want to talk about things that no one wants to talk about. Things that, were you to discover how deep my rabbit hole goes, would most likely get me committed. I want to talk about conspiracies and secret organizations. Parallel worlds, men in black, MK Ultra, and the Illuminati. I want to know who’s behind Cicada 3301, what Oscar Wilde knew about Jack the Ripper, who is this Billy Shears guy and what exactly happened to Paul? I want to know why death fascinates me and what it is that makes girls from the 20’s and gangsters from the 30’s so unfailingly interesting. I want to know what it is that beats at the core of the human experience beneath all those feathers and furs. Is it love? Is it longing? Is it something so fragile, so fleeting, there’s no real point in giving it a name? I just really hope it has nothing to do with Ross and Rachel.

These things I cannot discuss with people, because these things are easier to dismiss than they are to question. But these things I can discuss with the woman in the mirror. Her home was built from answers, but she is secretive and introverted, paranoid and untrusting. She keeps the location of her home hidden and she does not hand over her answers to just anyone. So I’ve spent a lifetime smoking her out. My eyes are always open and my ears are always alert. She is easiest to spot in the details, tucked beneath the collective feathers and furs of humanity. So I watch people for the holes in their plumages. Photograph them in my memory before they cover them back up. I listen to voices, the sounds people make. The way his voice cracks when he speaks of his mother. The way she laughs when he tells her a stupid joke. I try my best to commit them all to memory and borrow them to give the voiceless a voice. I record all her whisperings, all the clues she leaves me, no matter how small, no matter how insignificant. I connect the dots when time permits. I have found that the more I keep, the more the pieces will fit together.

But more than anything, I have found that questions hold her interest, catch her off guard, and keep her in one place the longest. So I ask her questions from the peripheral and she sends me scattered answers by post, written out in a language I never quite mastered. Key not included. That she keeps to herself. Waits until I have all the pieces laid out before me, colored strings connecting voices to faces, names to places. And when she decides I am ready, she takes my hand and scribbles the answer in the margins of my notes or pays some guy to pass me in the hall, slipping a piece of paper inside my pocket for me to find when time dictates. And though she may not be the most reliable of sorts, I have grown to trust her, because she knows what I need to stay sane. She knows better than any of those white coats ever could.

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