My Madness Has Yet To Be Represented
by Belle Gearhart
Did you stop taking the pills? he asks me. When was the last time you took them? And I think of them, those small oval tablets, chalky and blue, melting against the wet ceramic of the bathroom sink, meant to be a stopper for the depressive pitfalls. I think of my hands and the way they had fought against the childproof mechanism of the pill bottle lid, and the way the lid had gone flying across the room, and the way the pills had spilled out of the translucent orange bottle, and how some had slid underneath the unlevel plug and down the drain to cure the sewage and tampons and dead goldfish of their disorders.
When he leaves to go to his mother’s for the night, I lock myself in our room, and take hold of the clippers in his bathroom drawer. They are alive in my hands, and I guide them across my scalp, watching my hair drop like the skin of a snake from its chilled body. Tufts of bleached and pale pink hair pile up, and I am watching myself become undone in the mirror; I am pulling the ugly out of my guts, wearing it on my head, saying: see, I am mad.
* * * *
When we reconcile with each other and he reconciles with the fact that he is in love with a mad person, we return to each other in the huddle of our bed. That night, he rolls on top of me, and his weight grounds me, his knees pinning me down, his chest angled above mine, and I can look into the wilderness of his face from a position of containment.
I feel deeply unsexy, I tell him, and run my fingers through the inch of hair that remains on my scalp. I can’t possibly have sex with you until it grows back. But tonight, like most nights, his fingers are the glue that pulls me together, and they work their way across my skin, my muscles unknotting themselves. I feel the small of my head shoved into the pillow, and all I want is to desperately ask him to fuck me like I am a boy, to let me be his boyfriend, to let me be the beautiful boy I feel I am underneath the man that he is.
But I don’t. I stay the mad woman he knows me to be; I remain the icy bald woman he wakes up to in the morning. I hold those parts of me within myself.
* * * *
I know a lesbian couple who live in Wisconsin, and I watch their relationship bloom through my phone screen. The femme calls her butch “Papa.” Her butch has strong arms, and wears sleeveless vests so we can all see them. Her butch has a face like the sun, round and glowing and hot.
I change my profile on the dating app I use: I shaved my head. Let me be your favorite ex boyfriend. I scroll through the app, and try to find women who will call me Daddy in bed. I can hear them purr through the texts they send, but I turn off my phone before I can find my place in their beds.
The part of me that I think I know and the part of me I think I could be coexist in the lowest part of my stomach, pulsing and sweating out their complexities, and I feel their marriage when I try to sleep at night, my hair beginning its new slow growth in the white of the moon. My hair, once long and a source of my self-definement, now gone in an act of mania, feels like a thin tether to the identity I thought I once aligned myself with. I wanted to make myself ugly, but instead I had forced a reckoning with the body I have always known. When I look into the mirror, I do not see my body as female; I can only see the hair I no longer have. I have broken the tether, and within the ugliness I had hoped to submerge myself in, I found a sea of potentiality, of redefinition. And there I found the smell of new life being pulled from a body, the air thick with the copper of blood and wet screams and coiled cords of sustenance.
I see now: this is what my madness gave birth to, and it is glory.
Belle Gearhart is an emerging writer with forthcoming work in Bullshit Lit, Longleaf Review, and Flash Frog Lit Mag. A displaced New Yorker, they live in Southern California with their partner, child, and many, many cats.