Trigger warning: this discusses physical abuse and knives.
I suppose the downside of writing any story is that some English instructor somewhere will ask the class how believable your story is.
Not everyone reacts as I did, though. We read “Confessions,” by Amy Tang. In “Confessions,” Amy recounts the time that her mother held a cleaver to her throat. We were studying creative nonfiction, so I suppose I should have realized that the believability of the thing would’ve been questioned, but when it was, I immediately began to panic. My heart seemed to swell and thunder within the claustrophobic cavity of my chest. I felt as though every inch of my body was readying itself to perspire. Most embarrassingly, tears welled in my eyes. I stared upwards, begging them to return to the ducts from which they’d sprung.
But I lied. The most embarrassing part was that I chose to speak, voice thick and sticking within my throat because of the lack of saliva—probably a symptom of the small heart attack I was having. I can’t even fully remember what I said. I know that my voice was biting and passionate, which may have concealed the fact that I was a physical entity of internal turmoil.
Because there’s a cleaver to the narrator’s neck, but I don’t imagine that—I feel a blade pressed against my own throat, remember what it was like to come to my own realization that I wanted to live. I couldn’t imagine the mother. All I saw was the crazed eyes of a boy who I felt dearly for as he threatened and screamed.
Survival is not pretty, and the very idea that one’s story may not be believed is what has stopped many from sharing. I’ll have baby heart attacks no matter how many people believe and support me. No matter how many hugs and empathetic conversations there are, I will always feel the blade at my neck, warm because the hand it was attached to had been dreaming of that very scenario.