By Carolynn Solorio
May 2, 2023

Fears you created, may you destroy.

If I were to look it in the eyes — directly, without fear or hesitation — I’m not sure if I would survive the confrontation. Its evil lives on the inside of my skin; it sounds like me, breathes as I do. The evil that paralyzes me is my child, is the devil living in the center of my eye.

And yet, I could never look into theirs.

Fear is my neighbor, my oldest friend — and it’s trying to kill me. Living inside me, it makes me heavy and dark. Masterfully slicing my flesh wide open and drawing blood, spelling out its message of hatred in the sticky fluid as it drips down my rotting skin. I know this beast. I am Her. And yet, I could never hope to conquer the poison it has unleashed upon my life, the venom that has seeped into my veins.

I tried talking to it, once.

The room always smelled of cinnamon. The lamp always had one bulb out. I don’t remember much else about my only therapist’s office, other than the fact that I became utterly attached to it. As I sat on the couch, letting the fibers prick my evil skin awake, I stuck the needle in my arm and let her words replenish my health, desperate to finally be made good again. I was an adolescent bacteria, desperate for a host — a mother who wasn’t my own. I longed for guidance from the mouth of anyone who wasn’t my parent.

It became a weekly revival — a rebirth. I refused to let my fears meet my gaze outside the sanctity of those four walls. Surely, if I ever did, they would split my body in half, and you’d find a message of warning spelled out in my entrails over a mosaic of blood. They never leave me without a scar, without a wound to remind me that I would never be strong enough to defeat their control.

I would never find the strength to overcome them on my own. So, I let a white woman in her 40s convince me that they didn’t exist. I fell into the trap — deep and headfirst, the way dumb naive girls do — and began to believe that I no longer needed to exhaust myself with these daily battles. I shoved the small, blue pills down my throat and slept a full eight hours each night. I began to believe that the only anecdote I needed was a positive attitude, an official diagnosis and a refillable prescription.

“You are your own worst enemy.” She wrote it on the board the first time we met, and turned to me in silence. I returned her awe, mouth agape and mind rewired. It was like seeing God. I am my own evil, I thought, and so I executed my internal demons and was determined to leave the fog of war behind. I was a warrior, a victor. I had destroyed the evil, and taken enough medicine to choke it out from the inside.

I should’ve known it lived in silence still.

If they were to have truly vanished, truly died, then I would’ve, too. For they’re an extension of me, my inner evils manifested. If I am alive, so are they. Not dead, only hidden. They waited in the deepest and most desolate ridges of my mind — feeding off the darkness of the horrors I refuse to confront. Eventually, it evolved beyond my recognition, and once it escaped from the shadows it began to unleash its revenge.

It had been almost two years. I never missed a session. I was always early, desperate for a fresh dose of her elixir. I was eagerly waiting for her to heal me, convinced that this woman had reinjected a sense of life into me that no other person alive was capable of replicating — even myself. She had done it, that witch! I’m cured! The weight of the world lifts off the aching back of a troubled teenage girl when she finally finds the brave soul who’s willing to rip it off of her.

But the sun set on that day. I never saw my therapist again. Calls were never returned. Emails were left unanswered. My savior left me in a void, turning me loose to the cruelty of the world. The worst powers were left undead within me. And so, as the needle was ripped out of my arm, so went the medicine streaming out of it.

And it — stronger than ever — came slithering out of the shadows.

No one ever thinks about taking their own life until they do, and then nothing looks the same. The only way to survive was to exchange my life for theirs, to become an empty carcass to be pumped full of its thick, crude oil. I had tried to kill them, thought I did, and was reminded of their immortality. I renounced salvation and devoted myself to the terror that took its place.

Now, I live alongside it, in a state of eternal submission. Waiting for a God — a woman with a listening ear — to remind me that it doesn’t truly exist.

Woman, if you hear me, and have any mercy left in your wings, please alleviate me from this eternal suffering. Make me a warrior worthy of sacrifice, and one strong enough to claim death instead of complete control. I live in destitute, deprived of the joy of someone unchained from these cruelties, and crave the freedom granted by your fibrous couch. By your cinnamon. By your faint, flickering bulb.

Silence. Always silence.

The ribbed skin on my knees is raw from prayer. You have left me. I must submit to survive. I am incapable of salvation, and their infection reminds me of my inferiority.

So I have no choice but to submit completely, and become the monster myself. I know this beast. I am Her. I drink the poison — and I don’t spit. Instead, I swirl it against the walls of my mouth and swallow. ■

Layout: Mateo Ontiveros 
Photographer: Mateo Ontiveros 
HMUA: Meryl Jiang 
Stylist: Elsa Zhang 
Model: Tyler Kubeka

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