Between the pandemic and the political climate, I was at the end of my rope in January 2021. But, as usual, I kept going until my body stopped me. One minute I was fine and the next I couldn’t move. My back froze. Then I noticed my hips were dislocated. I have hypermobile joints, and I can usually pop my hips back in no problem, but things had never been this bad. It was the kind of pain you can’t imagine unless you’ve experienced it. I couldn’t straighten or bend my back. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t walk across the room. After two steps I succumbed to screaming and crying. The journey was only possible once I received a cane. With a cane it was excruciating and took much longer than I’d ever imagined it would take me at thirty years old. Age is irrelevant to pain, but we like to pretend it guards us. It’s a lie that protects us. We are all one second away from something destroying us, and we can’t always know what will do it.
A week later I still couldn’t sit upright, but I’d already signed up for a Bending Genres workshop with Dominique Christina. I could type while lying down, but my brain was foggy from the pain and only had a few good hours in it. I was determined to write something. The task was to use magical realism to talk about trauma.
Physical pain can dredge up emotional pain—eleven months of pandemic upheaval and frustration on top of the usual bullshit and trauma the more marginalized among us have been taught and trained to tolerate because the alternatives are punishing and/or seemingly futile. The world is a broken place. My bones were tired. All I had left was my voice. What I wanted to do was scream.
“I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream” was the first story that came from this place. Followed by several others, some of which have found homes in other lit mags. They feature women at the ends of their rope, screaming as relief, and the trauma we carry in our bodies. These are the Screaming Meemies stories. I hope they help.
CHELSEA STICKLE lives in Annapolis, MD, with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream” is part of her Screaming Meemies series. Her flash fiction appears in Gone Lawn, Tiny Molecules, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and others. Her story “Postcard Town” was selected for Best Microfiction 2021. Breaking Points, her debut chapbook, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (October 2021). Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.