I have started writing about trust more times than I can count. I never get very far. I don't expect to get very far this time, either. I think the issue is that I can feel it—the lack of trust—the trustlessness if I must make up a word for it. It goes hand in hand with betrayal. I can't write about that, either. The feeling, the sense, the felt-sense of it all sits in my body and congeals at various places like too much food and gross slimy stuff built up in the kitchen sink. At first, the water drains slower and slower and, eventually, the water doesn't drain at all. It just sits there, growing stuff, overflowing when the faucet is turned on or when it leaks, sending its sliminess all over the floor.
At this point, the water is just dripping through and the rational part of my brain is saying, "just sit and write it out already! Reach down there and open the drain. You know what to do. Butt in chair. Fingers moving. Go now."
"No no," I fight back. "It's draining, see? It will open soon enough. It will open on its own. I don't need to reach down into all that slimy stuff. And besides, I have a sink in the bathroom. Or I can use the hose outside. I don't really need to use my kitchen sink." But I do need it. I keep using it, thinking it will drain; thinking the slimy gross stuff can't really be all that bad. I give it a little push every now and then. Stir it up a bit and encourage a little water to go down, but mostly I let it sit, and let it built up, and it's become apparent that it's not going anywhere. Plus, I have a leak in the faucet, so the steady drip…drip…drip…is filling the sink by the day. The water is murky, and it's not draining anywhere near fast enough to stop the overflow from coming, but I keep using the damn sink.
The more crap that gets built up in the drain, though, the harder it is to find the drain. The longer it sits, the slimier and messier and grosser it gets, the less I want to stick my hand in there. But I know: that drain is going to be blocked for good pretty soon, and I don't want slimy water all over my floor.
This metaphor is tired and gross. I told you I couldn't write this.
"The problem is," I told her, hands shaking, my heart beating in my ears, "I don't feel like I can trust people."
"Yes, you do," she said. She rolled her eyes. Looked away. Dismissed me and everything I was saying.
"I do what?" I asked, confused.
"You do trust people," she said. She looked at me with something that tried to be compassion. "Sure you do." She lowered her chin and looked in my eyes, but I had no idea what her eyes were saying.
"I do?" I asked, purely because I didn't know what else to say.
"Sure you do," she said again.
"Okay." I shrugged. If she says I do…I guess I do?I didn't even know what to say; didn't know where to take that, so I let it hang there between us. She said nothing. "Maybe you're right," I said, trying to clear the air. She still said nothing. "It's just…it's whatever. It's fine," I said.
"Yes," she said. "You're right."
"I'm right?" I was definitely losing where we were going.
"Yes," she said, in a voice I think she believed was gentle. "You're right. You are fine."
"Okay," I said, shrugging it off. Apparently there was nothing else to say. I was wrong.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I don't tell you because I'm afraid you'll also tell me I'm wrong. I'm afraid I am wrong. Or that it's something I can't admit to, because it makes me weak, or bad, or weird or sick or messed up. So I don't clear the drain, because delving into that mess would take time, and it's not something I can do alone. So I let that drain fill and fill and fill. But as the sink is filling, it's getting harder and harder to exhale.
Only good things can come from cleaning out that drain. It would mean I can fill it with good, clean, safe water. It would mean I could leave it empty and scrub it till it shines. It would mean I can wash my dishes in my sink again, and I won't have that constant worry that, one day, the damn sink is just going to spill everywhere. That would be a relief.
But right now, that dirty dishwater is standing between me and others like a moat, and even though I don't like it, it's necessary. It feels necessary. It just feels better that way. This way, I don't have to touch the slimy stuff at the bottom, and I don't have to worry about people getting too close. I feel not ready for that good, clean water. Not deserving of that safe, nice water. If I don't let the slimy water out of the sink, then maybe no one can hurt me. Then I don't need to worry about good things I don't deserve coming my way. If they insist on coming, I'll spray them with dirty dishwater, and that will scare them away for sure.
So how do I tell you? How do I find the words? How can I tell you what this thing living in my body looks like? Smells like? Sounds like? How can I tell you the things it whispers in my ear? The things it sneaks into my brain when I least expect it? It's not something concrete. I can't say, "I don't trust X group of people," because it isn't that. I can't say, "when I'm in X situation, I find that I don't trust the people around me," because it isn't that either. It's not one thing. It's not ever just one thing. I can't just say, "I don't trust men," because it wasn't just a man that hurt me, and it isn't all men. I can't say, "I don't trust women," because it wasn't all women, and it isn't just women. I can't say I don't trust strangers, because it was a group of strangers and friends. I can't even say it's limited to just people-people, because it was professionals, too. And family. Also family.
And me, too. Perhaps the hardest thing of all is not trusting me.
Now this is written, and there isn't even a hint of movement in the water. I've written all about sinks and drains and gross slimy stuff and nothing about what I should have said. Perhaps it's just not time to find the drain. Perhaps I can hold on and keep it in the sink for just a little longer…after all, I have a sink in the bathroom…or I can use the hose outside.