When I was in high school, I gave a presentation in my AP Lit class about suicide. I only remember the ending: “I would prefer if you didn’t tell your friends I wanted to die. But if you do, know that they will not believe it.”
And the class cheered, but they were torn about it. Some people just looked down at their desks, memorizing the lines in the wood to avoid wondering if anyone could guess that they were suicidal, too. Someone came up to me after the bell rang, when the water in my eyes had subsided, and thanked me for being brave.
I tried to explain that I wasn’t, but they refused to hear me.
We walked to lunch separately. My head buzzed as if the word ‘brave’ had split into bees within me, bumping and stinging my insides. I didn’t feel brave – I felt selfish. Telling stories is the only way I stay afloat and, yes, some people connect to them but ultimately I was just saving myself, right?
When I think of someone brave, I do not picture myself. I walk into conflict and discomfort with my shoulders sloped, head down but eyes up. Bravery doesn’t move in a broken body like mine, or at least that’s the narrative I’ve written for myself. Bravery is strong and bravery is able and anyone who’s seen me after a nine hour shift knows that my body can sustain neither of those attributes for long.
But maybe bravery looks different on different bodies, morphs to fit our skin even when we’re convinced we cannot wear it.
I don’t know if what I’m doing is brave. All I can say is that I’m exhausted by the alternative, the silence, the quiet in which predators do their best work. So this morning, just minutes ago, I called the police on an old acquaintance-turned-monster. Is this bravery? The refusal to allow his actions to go unnoticed? The limping into an arena that is primed for his benefit, his success, his freedom?
I don’t know.
I’m just so tired.