I have a past that I’m not very proud of: and in a cafe, I saw someone from my past for just a flash of a second.
It was all I needed to remember. In that tiny compact parcel of a second, I replayed every terrible, awful, humiliating moment of self-indulgent excess in a nauseating loop, both the ways I used people and was used, and then: shame. Drowning shame. That awful sick-stomach feeling of tendrils racing up my gut, a stench that begins at the back of the throat to the tip of my nostrils, like choking in reverse.
A Christian might call this “condemnation.” I also call it “standing naked in town hall with every hurtful thing you’ve ever done on the wall, and also it’s very cold in there.”
Slipping, I reached for something in my head, fingernails scratching through a narrowing stone tunnel, spinning, up now down, the verdict pressing in, chains tightening. I felt like that guy on the news who has microphones shoved in his face after a scandal; you know, the carnival games were rigged the whole time, how dare you, you monster. Voices crowded in, the chorus shouting, “You’re not any different, you haven’t changed, I know who you really are”—and somewhere in that mess of lies, I found it.