For those whose secrets weigh heavy…

by joelmckerrow

It never begins with secrets. It begins with fear.

I remember Chinese whispers as a child. I am not sure why it was called this or whether such a name was one of those racist statements we all ignored back then. Like Indian Giver. Wherever it came from it was the whispering of a secret into the ear of another for that secret to then be passed around the circle until it returns again. Now changed. Now deformed. The loss of truth through the misheard and the misread. Everyone would laugh at the apparent miscommunication. I never did. It made me sad. Horrified. That we could misappropriate the message given us. I would always try to hear as clear as I could and pass on exactly what i was told. Feeling certain that we could do this without a mistake. It never worked. I didn’t realise then that this was simply the nature of secrets. They deform us and are deformed by us. They hide in the shadows of low speak. A hidden thing they change forms in the dark. The hushed places inside. Concealed. They are changed by us. They change us.

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It never begins with secrets. It begins with fear.

A hunched back. He held himself crooked. Not how I remembered him at all. His spine was stronger than my own. Once. Back then. Reinforced. The kind of stare-anything-in-the-face backbone that I wished for. I would falter at the first sign of conflict, let alone standing tall before giants with bad breath and body odour. He never cowered. Not once. This is how I remember him. This is how I remember me. Much afraid. Uncertain.Trying so hard to be something. He already was something. And now I hate how reality shatters pedestals. How humans can be so…darn…human.

I placed my hands on his hunched back just to check. It was all true. The once impenetrable was now bent and broken. Weighed down. I had to know. Asked him for his story.

It never begins with secrets. It begins with fear.

He told me that a few years ago, and for many seasons before this, the pack on his back had held every secret he’d ever owned. Written on paper. Each one as light as a feather. It was just one and one more and one more. He did not realise that the longer they sat upon his back the heavier they became, until that which was once feather and frivolous was now brick and too hard to let go of. A hidden thing they changed forms in the dark. Chinese whispers. Deformed. He could not show anybody. Would not admit the weight he carried to himself let alone the loved ones. The secrets were a shame and the shame was a secret. A hidden thing. Changing form in the dark. Heavy now became the hushed places. Concealed. Weighted.

He could not speak them out. So he walked as far as he could away from people until he found a boat on the water. He was going to drop them into the river. Out in the water. He would drop them deep. Down into the murky waters. Down into the forgotten place. He would drop them and they would sink like lead if lead were made of secrets and no one would then know them and he would not have to carry them.

He could feel the weight. On his shoulders, the bag was so much bigger on the inside. He took a step into the boat, but the boat was broken. He did not care. It was leaking. This did not stop him. When something is once decided nothing can turn him from it. And sometimes we just need to run. Hide. Take ourselves away from the world and all its problems. Take ourselves away from ourselves and all our problems. He took himself away. Sure that his problems would not follow. He told himself that an expanse lay somewhere out ahead. Beyond this step. Beyond the suffocation. Beyond the incessant. Beyond the secrets.

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He began to paddle. Away from the shore. Further away from the people and their prying eyes. But the secrets were heavier than he’d ever imagined and part way out they dragged the boat down. He was paddling but there was no use. Water washed over the top and began to fill the boat. It was cold. Like ice. He tried to lift the secrets, to get them out as quick as he may. He could no longer lift the bag. The water came quickly now. Too fast. It wrapped around him. Tightened his chest. Too cold. He could not breathe. He could not swim. He went down with the ship. With the secrets. Down into the dark. Down into the cold. This was not supposed to end like this. But it did.

The man stopped speaking. I asked him for more. He told me that there was no more. I could not believe this. I demanded that he tell me the ending. He told me that he did not know the ending. I looked at him shocked. His hair was wet. I had not noticed. So was his clothes. I had not noticed. His breath was spoken with mist on a morning not cold enough. He was shivering. I had not noticed. I was shivering. I had not noticed. I was finding it hard to breathe. I had not noticed. My hair was wet, I had not noticed. My clothes. I had not noticed. My back too heavy. I had not noticed. The mirror before me. I had not noticed. Didn’t recognise myself.

It never begins with secrets. It begins with fear.

They deform us.

They are deformed by us.

They hide in the shadows of low speak.

A hidden thing they change forms in the dark.

The hushed places inside. Concealed.

They are changed by us.

They change us.

He told me that he did not know the ending…

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