The nerves from my toes talk to the nerves in my face. When I trip, a bolt of shock shoots upward, twisting my face as it scrunches in its own little dance of awkward. I used to believe this reaction was to blame for my acne. The more clumsy I became, the more I would break out.
But I was only ever clumsy with my feelings. I could never get good at the random and unpredictable, even as I attempted to squelch them with food, alcohol, or anger. My tripping triggered the echo of the pain that had come before and woke me up to the rhythm my body was unintentionally and methodically creating.
This echo informed me that I had become the nail, hammered too many times by too many painful interchanges. The damage inflicted by other hammers reverberated within my body any time any insignificant tap tap tap was taken. I was at the mercy of whoever might even look sideways at me because I had left so much of my emotional landscape unattended. Even an unhinged floorboard, a cracked sidewalk, or loose brick could cause problems if I wasn't watching my steps. These small incidents chimed in reminder of the horrors I was afraid to ask after.
The horrors of, "What is wrong with me?"
"What is wrong with me that I would be screamed at?"
"What is wrong with me that I would be lied to?"
"What is wrong with me that I would be forgotten?"
"What is wrong with me that I would be shamed?"
"What is wrong with me that I would be abused?"
The answers burrowed at the root of my deepest fears, bottomless and terrifying.
When I took a step outside of the echo, my ears stopped ringing, and I saw it. I was handy. I was safe to be screamed at, lied to, forgotten, shamed, and abused. I just happened to be there when the hammers started to fall. I realized that all I had to do was not be the nail. I realized that all I had to do, was leave.
So I left. I left all the time. I left places, people, and jobs as often as I could muster. I moved constantly. I broke up friendships. I stopped talking to relatives. It was the best way I knew to get them to stop, because I shouldn't have to ask to not be pummelled. I shouldn't have to ask to be loved. I would not contribute to the clammoring in the echo chamber by being still long enough to get battered.
But the world is not split up into two categories, hammers and nails, but one in which everyone is both, and sometimes, most times, with a staggering lack of awareness as to what they are doing outside of the pain echoing in their own broken hollows.
So I leave less now, and as much as I can, I stay sound in my body. It reminds me what it felt like to stay still long enough to be hammered, and the bones that have kept me, the blood that has nourished me, and the skin that has contained me remind me that I don't have to be either, hammer or nail, but something else entirely.
I am something else, entirely.