Five Minutes with My Young Self

A reflection by Daniel Whitlow

The Elephants by Salvador Dali (1948)

Young Daniel: (enters smiling) Hi Dan! You wanted to talk to me?

Old Daniel: Yes, I did. Please have a seat.

YD: (plops down on chair) Is everything okay?

OD: (shakes head slightly) Not really. I need you listen to me. You support me in times of need and I need you to listen to my darkness. Hear the bitterness I have lived with for so many ears and feel how deep it ran within me. I must say things, confusing things, so I may move past them, so I can learn to live with them. I must be honest with you, with myself. Only truth is capable of unlocking the chains of suffering. I trust you, I love you. May I share my pain with you?

YD: (after a brief moment) Yes. It sounds scary but I’m not scared. I love you too. I’m ready.

OD: Are you sure? (YD nods.) Okay, thank you. Hold on tight, young one, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I represent a conflicting mosaic of bitter desperation and steadfast faith. With each fading moment, the reality I dream of decays and deteriorates around me; glaring, hopeless humiliation coiling around every breath like an afflicted serpent. I seek to find answers, unaware of the questions and lost in a maze of my creation. Although discordance threatens to imprison me inside its hymn of havoc, I am an isolated victim by choice. Accepting my lack of form, I exile myself into monochrome confinement, aware of the futility of my timid protests but too proud to ever retreat from the relics of my undying resolve.

OD: This will not be you, I swear to it. Though the sky may crack open, I will save you from this.

I use insolence and ignorance as tools to separate myself from the world. I claim that no one else is like me, and to strengthen the hollow bones of the surreality I shelter myself with, I seek superiority by seeing society as weaker, and more stupid, than I see myself. I am apathy. I become an adversary, fighting against myself with whispers of godless nothings. I am aimless, adrift in a labyrinth of diminishing expectations. My prideful head strains and tears itself from my neck to inhale a moment of exhaled breath, while my motionless bulk slowly sinks deeper into reality’s unkind embrace.

OD: I promised you I’d always be honest — let me hold you, comfort you. I will never lie to you.

My toxic cynicism taints each thought with a sickened perspective, separating my mind into broken splinters. My inadequacies dominate my speech — I am unable to escape my own vicious blade, welcoming its dull sting. I ask my muted, disinterested audience how my creation is justified in the face of the suffering I have caused, from which no answer returns. The silence of my absent arbiters echoes in the cavernous fragments of my diseased awareness. I disbelieve my substance. I accept my derelict flesh. With the burning ache of disgrace burrowing into each painful curse expelled from my traitorous mouth, I mean to exact revenge on my inability to be more than the nothingness I worship: a bowed head, empty of sense.

OD: I promise these words cannot touch you but you must listen. I am so sorry, Daniel. Please forgive me. Please.

My act of self-isolation is the willful pollution of my soul, not a cathartic refinement of my spirit. I do not want to improve myself, nor do I desire any form of purpose or motivation. The act of existing suffices because the disfigured, inert quality of my life distorts the living and relevant elements of me that remain. I attribute consciousness to boredom, my assertion that an intellectual existence is a tedious task. I do not allow for any hope because none exists. I am one of many despondent, delinquent casualties of my decisions. I persist to absorb blame and consume guilt for my defects.

OD: Do you hear them? Listen to my pain! Hear me complain, broken and angry! You must not become this. You must not ever learn these words. You must run — do you hear me? — run and don’t look back!

I define the vacant unending chasm within myself by illustrating the dejected traces of who I once was. As the gluttonous cavity grows within me, I know it is too late to mend the ravaged tatters of myself. I expel the fraying, burning remnants still clutching to my withered spine. I am cold. I am resolute. I resign myself to resentment and allow my contempt for living to swallow me whole. I wail about punishment, fueled and repulsed by it, begging for more like an insatiable addict, as I cower forlorn in a disoriented, detached corner. My search for meaning, my understanding of Truth is over, because in my grief, I surrender to the corruption siren song of loss; the infectious stone embrace of silence; the ultimate, shameful act of suicide.

OD: Hold on tight, dear boy. Don’t look. Don’t look. I’m so sorry. Oh my god, I am so sorry. Please forgive my ugliness.

I am an utter fool. I separate my reality until nothing remains connected to me, left to wander in immaterial space, without control or comfort. I never find my questions or answers or a conclusion to my confusion because when existence challenges me, I choose to concede. My weakness of spirit and will, neglected in the tumultuous ruin of mind and body deceives me. I never fight for my beliefs. My irreverence weakens me, and as the coward I am, I accept it. All the assertions I declare, all the notions I contemplate, all the fantasies I envision lay barren, sealed and finalized under the severed limbs of my deficient soul. Below the living, less than the world, I submit to revisiting my infinite litany of mournful memorials. All that remains of me is an entity devoid of substance, trapped beneath rotting floorboards, squinting up into leaden beams of forgotten light.

OD: (holding YD, who is sobbing) Shh, it’s over. It’s okay. The monsters won’t hurt you — the night is pure and safe. I watch you dance in my head sometimes. Did you know that? Your shadow spins in unison with your radiant light and it’s amazing to watch. I love your light. It’s the light I use to see through madness; the light I use to dispel sadness; the light that sustains my resolve in the face of so much pain. It keeps me alive and anchors me in times of worry.

YD: (sniffling, a small smile) You got it, Dan. I’m not scared of all that stuff, anyway, but why were you so sad?

OD: (rueful chuckle) I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about how to answer that question.

YD: Is it complicated?

OD: Yes, it is. Everything is complicated for me but then I see your face and all is well. You are my blood and I love you.

YD: (bashful smile) I know. I love you, too. (face brightens) Hey, let’s play Warcraft or something. We’ll feel better.

OD: (genuinely smiling) Okay, good idea. (Stands up and follow Happiness down the hall.

Author’s Note: A confession to my innocence.

About the Author

Daniel Whitlow received a life sentence at 17. He began writing and thought that no one would ever hear his words. He considers this opportunity — to share a part of himself he thought was lost to the indifferent, unhearing void of razor wire and concrete emptiness — to be life changing. His gratitude is beyond expression.