CACTI | CP Hunter documents the first, prickly steps towards helping yourself.
by CP Hunter
Plant your feet within the cracks of the pavement. There are seedlings bursting through the seams of your blouse as your fingertips caress the frayed edges of your energy. Bones are cracking and fusing. But it’s the time taken that makes it hard to accept the forever-ending, cyclical, dead-heading, budding repetition.
Her hair has split-ends but that’s not why she shaves it all off. Her fingernails are cracking but that’s not why she bites them. Her leg hairs waver in the breeze, protruding and rejecting averted glances. But that’s not why she wears trousers. It’s been a tough year-long month. Her skin is bumpy and tactile, but that’s not why she rejects your touch. She has a love-affair with textured wallpaper so has carved out her own amongst the fabric of being. Community and family are between the lines on her sleeved heart. Each step away from her front door is movement in the right direction, but she won’t know if she has cleared the hurdle until her feet land at 41 Clunbury Street. Therapy has always been a scary word, but an institute of clean whiteness is worse. So talking is where she will let her energy come out, pollinating the starched air of a closed room.
Her shoes must have weights in them, her legs have never before moved this slowly. The demons she sleeps with have implanted lead into her heels, they have torn her thigh muscles beyond regular use. They are the ones who put the staring eyes at the bus stop outside. They built the construction site on her side of the road, and they jarred the traffic signals to permanent red. The voice in her head has been numbed by the fear in her belly but every time she comes to a standstill, the volume increases: “just go home just go home JUST GO HOME”.
“The key is not too much water and plenty of sunlight. The key is one tablespoon for the plant, one glass for her.”
Since her birthday she has been taking care of a succulent. The first time she has succumbed to a generational trend since she got her ears pierced aged 15. The cactus is thriving and has even flowered in the short weeks its terracotta home has carved a soiled circle on her white windowsill. The key is not too much water and plenty of sunlight. The key is one tablespoon for the plant, one glass for her. One sunrise for the plant, one minute outside for her. One kind word of admiration on growth for the plant, one kind word for herself.
Is that what her therapist will say? “Nurture yourself, praise your growth, live, laugh, love.” Or will they speak only in questions designed to push her down her barriers until they crumble and her emotions are on raw display. Or will they sit in silence? Letting the quiet taunt her until the end of their time together. Each deep sigh battles its way through her bare lips and out against clouds of exhaust fumes. Each step forward is a battle won.
Through her frustrations, her feet hit a paving stone an inch higher than expected. She stops abruptly in annoyance. She lingers in confusion; she’s here. Her feet have carried her through her doubts and through her frustrations and through her inward war, and they have brought her to the door. Number 41. The next hurdle is the threshold, then she mustn’t lose momentum addressing the receptionist, and continue running into her new therapist’s office. She gives herself a count of 10 before entering.
She uses that time to study a scrap of paper, crumpled and damp from spending the journey nestled in the wrinkles of her right palm. The ink is slightly smudged but she carefully studies each word as if that torn graph paper is the bible itself. Her own handwriting on it, it reads:
1. You have survived this far. You are strong.
2. They are here to help and support. You are deserve help and that is not a weakness.
3. You must share everything, there will be no judgement. You are valid and worthy.
4. Each step forward is positive growth. You are loved.
CP is a queer, roller-skating, bicycle-enthusiast who lives by the sea. You can find their writing on coffee-stained napkins, crumpled receipts, park benches, and in poetry journals internationally.