Do you ever imagine what it would be like to live in a world without pain? I bet you have. In fact, at times when you aren’t in pain, I bet you have trouble even imagining it, just like how when you’re sick, it’s hard to remember or imagine a time when you didn’t feel heavy and drowsy, when your nose wasn’t stuffed up. You try to imagine future conversations with the guy (or girl, I guess) that you like and you can’t imagine actually feeling well.
Have you ever tried to imagine what it would be like to lose a limb? A pane of glass crashing through bone, shredding through flesh right there on your arm—do you imagine pain? I don’t. I can picture the sensation maybe like a papercut and I know, intellectually, damn that’s gotta hurt, and it creeps me out even to the point of wincing, but can I really conjure up the pain? It isn’t there. Not for me.
“Stop it,” Declan instructs his band-mate, the one he’s in love witht, the one with the girlfriend who’s bad for her, the one who’s sitting across from him picking at the flesh of her cuticles with a needle. “Hey,” he says.
She looks away, puts the needle carefully in the pen-case she brought to this session.
“Why do you do that?” Declan asks sincerely.
“I don’t know,” she answers honestly. Because she doesn’t. She doesn’t know. She had some idea, but ideas count for shit. You can’t even copyright them.
Some day, they’ll talk about this. Some day, she’ll tell him about her past and her relationship to pain and how, in the fucked-up way of abused minds, piercing her own skin makes her feel safe, like nailbiters taking control or anorexics taking ownership of their own bodies.
“It’s my pain,” she’ll tell him, “my choice.” But she’s not there yet.
Then there’s Lucy McDermott.
I haven’t talked a lot about Lucy. Trust me, I’ll get there. She gets lost in the shuffle a bit when it comes to middle school—the early years, at least. Between Kayle and Trevor and Isabella, Lucy wasn’t exactly at the top of my friends list, but I actually probably enjoyed her the most. Trevor was a boy and Isabella was a bitch and Kayla—I mean, I liked her, but she could be a bit of a downer. Lucy seemed fun, first and foremost.
Kinda makes you wonder.
One day, I had her over—I think Kayla was there, too, but not really there, at least not when I walked in on Lucy in our bathroom with a razorblade. Her cuts were shallow and entirely the wrong place to be killing herself, or even pretending to, so that’s a plus, but it still freaked me the fuck out. How had I not seen it coming?
“I’m sorry,” she said, dropping the razor-blade, mortified. “I thought I—“
What? That she’d locked the door? Because obviously that was a huge priority for me, right?
“Why do you do it?” It wasn’t until way later that I worked up the courage to ask her, and when I did, I can’t tell you how disappointed I was.
“I’m in love with your brother,” she confessed to me, and then spent the better part of five minutes expanding on that certain je ne sais quoi of Jasper Llywelyn. “But does he even see me?” she concluded with a mope. “I mean, does he even know who I am?”
There was nothing original about Lucy’s pain. It wasn’t fundamental or the stuff of great drama or tragedy. It was her pain, but it wasn’t unique.
Does that make it less painful? Does knowing other people have more pain make the pain go away?
“You’re all so…” She can’t even express it. Not in words. Not out loud. She’s jealous of our pain. She feels left out. She’s sensed all of our secrets for a while now and desperately wanted a secret of her own. Something that could bind her to us.
That is the true meaning of Angst. A sense that there isn’t enough pain in the world. You have to make some extra for yourself. It’s a phantom pain in limbs that are still there but feel like they shouldn’t be. Why can’t we get over it? Because there is nothing to get over.