I spent much of this past week on temporary leave from my mind, or at least consigned to some small corner of it I’d meticulously constructed as an eleven-year-old.
The first thing I did, when I was eleven and after I’d either made a spectacle of myself or been made a spectacle of (I don’t suppose it matters at this point)…I went to the library and I looked up the word for it. When it comes to phobias, they have a word for everything–fear of yellow, fear of bathing. There is a word for the fear of unusually large leaves.
It was comforting, the word. I was eleven and dumb with fear and embarrassment. There wasn’t any hope of explaining it, especially considering I didn’t understand it myself. I was proud to have in my possession a distinguished-sounding Greek word to plaster over the shame.
I myself found reassurance in the definition of phobia (“a persistent and irrational fear of a specific object, activity or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it”). I looked up pervasive, looked up irrational, and forbade myself from thinking about the encounter.
Despite all appearances, I must have undergone a little growth in these intervening years, because when i was recently demanded an explanation I managed to suppress the urge to spout Greek at them. What few words I did muster, however, fell short of my usual standard of eloquence. But what is there to be said? I’m not–I’m not terribly good at explaining myself. There weren’t any words. What do you say? I gave noone the history, to be sure, but as for underlying meaning…
Perhaps there isn’t an applicable vocabulary. Perhaps, try as I might, as anyone might, words encapsulating Rahul Raman will never be found because they truly don’t exist.
They do, though. People are capable of making themselves understood. Not everyone resorts to
lip gnawings and averted eyes and a series of elaborate sub-vocal cues when asked a personal question.
I was scared. It was a harrowing experience. Ordinary functioning was despaired of. Breathing became an ordeal.
But all that aside, I should have been able to tender some sort of explanation. I should have been able to account for myself. Isn’t that fundamental, instinctive? The ability to account for oneself?
Persistent and irrational. Loss of control is knowing that twelve years later you’d still be looking up words if only they had a dictionary that came in your size.