I have always thought maps to be strange. They have never made sense to me. A squiggle of lines, dots and dashes alike, are all that you have to know where you are headed. If you don’t know what each line means, you become lost, driving round in circles, swearing and crying. But every line has a story. Everyone seems to think that maps are there to tell you where you are headed. But I think they are there to remind us of where we have been.
This is my map. My journey. It was once beautiful, untouched and dangerously naive. There were signs, of course. The ache which wouldn’t leave. A cough blended between breaths. But they were just signs, mixed in amongst the scenery of homework, feeding the dog, friends, sleepovers and eating too many sour lollies. But there was no Exit. No Wrong Way Turn Back. Whether I like it or not, this was always supposed to be my journey. My map is just a little different to how I expected.
These are the white patches, where the blood vessels constrict. They weave their way from this little piggy toe, all the way to the shadows of my ankle. The sun dances at her highest point, and ice they remain. Remove the pointy heels, and you will find them swaddled in Daddy’s thickest socks.
Continue straight and you will find the polka dot scars, hundreds and thousands on the legs which reach into forever. They shave their legs, nick and giggle. The sharp scrapes mine, and the blood pools around my patchy feet.
Follow the little bloody footprints forwards, a skirts distance away. Here you find the hips, the beginning of all this mess. The decayed core, my ground zero. If you listen closely, you can still hear the screams from when I took fifteen year old first steps. Fairy kisses are too heavy for this rot.
Now you see the crevice, where my naval ring sinks between the bones. Feel the click of their tongues, when more of it slips between the edges. This is only the surface, the flower snaking from the dirt. Dig a little deeper, and under the tummy you will find the waves of nausea. Hold my hair, if you will, while I retch in the sink before school begins.
Creep your walking fingers, one padded step at a time, and feel the beat of my very existence. My water bottle clenched between my fingers as I walk to class, to slow its race. He lays me down on the all too familiar bed, his stethoscope lazily curled around his collar. Now I pray for it to stop resting. Let the monitors be a steady dance of zig zag today.
Wander through the garden to next-door, where they fill with air and mucus in equal breaths. Feel my retch and hack, the yellow staining my teeth, as the forest grows. My forest is a bouquet compared to some. I pray for those with the thickest backdrop of trees.
Turn the corner, careful not to press too hard, and you find my spine. Jellyfish scars, flickering over each vertebrae, the skin torn and plum. Other girls choose the bra with the right shade of lace, or perhaps the one which produces the largest rise and fall of her breath. I ask for the one without stinging tentacles.
Carefully wind around the hill, and find your way to my lips. Taste the metallic sheen of red, as it nestles in the eroded cracks. See the yellow coating peeking behind. Feel tablet number one, two, skip a few, eighteen glide past my tongue. See the shaking whimper when the tide is too strong.
One last turn, and you find your way to the office of this mess. I never knew how organised tragedy could be. The brain, in all its wonder. This is what happens when it all goes wrong. The signals shot at lightning pace. Another cell, another function ordered to fail. They never disappoint.
This is my map. This is my story. These are the lines, the markings and dashes scattered over my essence. They are ugly, twisted and all things evil. But the markings never mattered. A Sunday drive is always for the passing view. My patchy white ankles dancing in the rain, my spotted legs napping lazily in the sun, while I greedily devour another story. The curve of my rotted hips, while puppy and I cuddle in bed. The sickly midriff proudly decorated with silver and blue, shining as I walk along the coral in my itsy bitsy bikini. My running heart playing hop scotch when he calls. My ever green forest wholly strapped for air, her and I laughing too hard at the goofy tradies. My stung, spindly spine just the right shape for the prettiest of dresses, thrown loudly throughout the change rooms. My lips breaking into unadulterated grins, wearing frayed wigs and too many cruisers. My mind, knitted invisibly, peacefully, amongst the tangles.
This is my map, my journey, my landmarks and my story. It is ugly, beautiful and startling all at once. It is forever marked with tragedy. But can you love a place which has almost taken you?
Infinitely. This is my favourite journey in the whole world.