This Is Us
On Keeping a Comic Book
Reading these little-loved X-Men comics brings my pre-teen self back to life. I don’t always like him.
For a long time — say, from age twenty-two to thirty-six — I did not think about anything that happened when I was a teenager. I wasn’t repressing memories. I knew everything that had taken place, in a dry, bullet-point sort of way. I had just surgically excised that portion of my life and put it on ice. It wasn’t relevant. I didn’t feel anything about it. I didn’t speak about it. Or write about it. Ever.
I knew that I did, in fact, probably feel something. I knew that whatever I felt was bad. Once, I had to write down the name of my middle school. I found myself staring at the name for several minutes. It exuded the kind of otherworldly dread that you normally only see in horror movies about little girls who climb out of TV sets if you watch their video tapes. Darkness and malice were leaking out of the black ink into the room. I didn’t know why seeing the name of my middle school was terrifying, I just knew that something bad was in there. Writing its name down might wake it up.
You can probably guess what it was. I’ve written that I was sexually assaulted multiple times before age thirteen. I’ve written that I got bullied out of school for being gender non-conforming, and that I repressed the knowledge that I was trans for many years, probably for that reason. I’ve written that my father was a mean drunk. I’ve written that I’m neurodivergent, likely autistic, and had trouble fitting in or finding friends. These are ordinary traumas, small when taken individually. It’s not my fault that I experienced such an over-the-top, splattercore abundance of them.
I remember those years in scattered images, panels cut out of a larger page. Someone’s spit on my cheek. A dick I didn’t want to see poking through sweatpants. Running through the woods away from a boy. The strange sinking feeling as I realized the older boy who had “given me a ride” to youth group wasn’t going to youth group, wasn’t going anywhere I recognized, and in that case, where were we going? The sight — somehow this hurt more, in the moment, but — the sight of all my textbooks and school supplies sliding out of my locker, the books…