On the Verge

Like the air, dreams are thick. “Where do they come from?” 

Slowly moving through stories. Stories electrify my body and paralyze me, strung together much like an addict strings up a row of sober days and calls it enough. These are my sober days. I feel the buzz in my head grow louder, the words are mine, dreams mine, but the feelings tingle in my extremities. It’s time travel from present to distant dissociation. I feel a body–I am in it, but I am not in it. I don’t float, but a body floats–suspended between dreams and flames of candles.

I don’t want to face her—my therapist. She’s just as drawn to the water and fire as me. Inhale and exhale. “I’ll be okay” or “not okay.” Her hand presses against my back. I hear myself speaking from my dream, and I turn toward her.

“I can’t hear you. Are you speaking to me?” 

“What’s going on?” she wonders.

“I am in pain.” I say.

“Do you know where you are in pain?” she asks.

Words tumble from inside. I glance her direction. She listens, tears forming in the corner of her eyes. 

I say, “It’s real. That scares me.”

Anxiety spins, not in circles, but in motions that move me forward.

I am moving. The past decade is run, run, run. 

She’s deft. Her thin, bare legs run behind her village toward the tree where her twin brother is playing. Peeking her head inside of the hollow giant, she shows her wide-tooth grin, and he returns hers with the same smile. Inside of the tree they collect brightly colored pebbles, twine, and two banana leaves stuffed with hot, wild pig. 

“The Ocelotl (coyote) is asleep.” I say. “Nonantzin told me he sleeps when he is stuffed full and happy.”

The lightly seasoned meat smolders. He digs into the corn husk, sticking his tongue inside, cringing from the heat. I cannot hold back. He looks up and smiles. The Ocelotl is our favorite. He dashes about in the night, almost as fast as I am in the daytime. Xetl imagines himself a cousin of Ocelotl and brags to me that soon he will outrun me both in the daytime and nighttime. We don’t rehearse this story out loud but pass smiles about the contest between us of who will be fastest.

Between licks and giggles, I shoot him a “pay-attention-to-me” glare. 

“They are talking in front of our Chāntli home again, arguing about leaving or staying,” I say.

“Leave? We can’t leave. No one will leave,” he replies. “What Nonantzin says is true. The white ghosts are terrifying but have no reason to…”

I tug on his arm. “Shh….” 

He quiets, setting the food down on our tree floor. We turn slowly and look out of its opening. The jungle is too thick, but there’s a random rhythm coming under the ground—a beat pounds erratically, not for dancing, but more like many angry dancers who don’t have rhythm, beating the path toward our village…and our tree.

Danielle S. Castillejo grew up in the swirl of a mixed identity, with a German father and a Mexican mother. With her four children in school full time, she applied to graduate school at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. Before her second year of graduate school, she was invited to explore her story through a Story Workshop at The Allender Center. She went on to complete Levels 1 and 2 of the Certificate in Narrative Focused Trauma Care and the Externship. Since our culture has experienced such an intense ripping and cultural identity crisis, Danielle addresses internalized racism and its effects personally, in her family, and in her community. She encourages other healing practitioners to do the same. Danielle began this process with her MA in Counseling Psychology and studies at The Allender Center. Danielle loves the anticipation of spring and summer in the Pacific Northwest, with the return of long days and sunlight absent in the dark winters. You can easily find Danielle out on a trail or working in her yard. You can also find her online at www.daniellescastillejo.com.