Editor’s note: Today’s column contains descriptions of trauma and suicidal ideation.
There’s a Latin myth that has been in many mouths for a long while. The figure of La Llorona is one of those legends that is hard to forget once it is heard, no matter which version reaches the listener first. As it tends to happen, her story changes over time, but the moral remains the same: holding on to the past is nothing but a death sentence.
I discovered this specter, this cursed woman, when I was a boy. I no longer remember if I read it or heard it, but the story has stayed unaltered in my memory since then, no matter how many versions I discover on the road. As could be expected, some new elements started to sprout as the days passed, filling in the holes that were there, but the end always endures.
Long ago, a woman whose name was lost with the wind became pregnant of a man whose identity was also erased. From them, two boys were born, little ones that lost their father when he decided to leave for no apparent reason. The mother, left to her own luck, loathed the chain imposed on her, so she forgot any responsibility toward the fruit of her womb.
At first, she forgot just once in a while, and then it was every night. The hours passed while she danced until the sun came back and her children were left alone in the darkness of their icy home. It seemed that everything would be alright, until an unattended candle provoked an infernal fire.
The mother was the last one to know, the last one to arrive at the flames. Her heart shattered, now aware of what she had done, she threw herself to the ground, consumed by her own flames and shrieks, as her home burned before her eyes. The neighbors that in vain tried to save the little creatures paid their fury against her. She offered no resistance, hoping to be reunited with her darlings.
The reunion, however, wasn’t meant to be. From her grave her spirit rose, damned by her mistakes, unable to find any rest. Blinded by pain, La Llorona haunts the roads, searching for her sons, finding them in every child that crosses her path, and taking them from the living.
The legend always resonated in my mind when I remembered it. Having suffered the effects of depression, a demon that I dealt with on my own, or so I thought for long time, made me sympathize with this singular figure. Like her, I saw my mistakes anywhere my eyes looked; unable to forget and forgive myself, I punished others and myself every time I could.
Just like Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, I felt trapped in an endless cycle where everything repeated itself. It could have been so easy to take that last step toward Neverland, with the other Lost Boys. It could have been so easy – and I was about to go, drunk by the desire to be free, by wanting to fly away, in a pirate ship away from my reality. Until I woke up.
Contrary to what they say, to go is not a choice taken easily or without thought. During those four seconds I was getting ready to set sail, ready to weigh anchor and fly, fly so far away nobody could see me. But I was a coward, and I’m happy for that.
Unlike La Llorona, my tears didn’t turn into poison, but became a balsam. I had been wishing to be someone else, lost in silence and shame, until the fifth second arrived. I was sitting outside, taking in a breath of fresh air, when I came back to my senses. Had I been born to leave that soon? No. Hell no. My fate wasn’t to become a specter, a lost boy.
I was terrified of what I had turned into, and swore I’d never would be back to that cliff. I wasn’t willing to lose that easily. I could still see my life burning in front of me; I felt the blows in the flesh, felt the freezing earth, but I decided to come back, in flesh, bone and soul. I was willing to start from scratch.
La Llorona taught me it’s easy to let oneself be defeated, that it’s a matter of closing one’s eyes and letting the stones rain down, but the price is too much. It would be too easy to be a lost boy, another one trapped in the isle, condemned to repeat all his life. That was what my mother told me when I asked her what Peter Pan was about. I didn’t want to be a boy forever. Not that way.
Both characters are prisoners one way or the other, and I didn’t want to share their fate. I was used to my self-imposed penance, but I was also done with it. So I decided to fight as I could: if the others wanted me to remain in silence, then I would speak. And boy, would I.
Even as I write these words, I can feel something inside of me breaking down, burning like hell. My comfort zone is that dark corner where I could cry and lament, and it scares me to see it crumbling down day after day, but I’m not letting even the ashes remain.
They say that going through a traumatic event makes you sensible, it makes your hidden gifts go up to the surface. After years of bullying, abuse, harm from my classmates, and even from people I thought would be there with me, after a relationship that made me look at the abyss once again, I realized it was true.
Traumas became my impulse, pain a language I became an expert in, and memories turned into an endless pool of ideas. My time in the shadows made me strong, and I was able to notice this in time. The secret was just breathing in and trust. Trust in time, my guides, my masters, my ancestors, my heroes, all my personal pantheon, and maybe something else I don’t know how to name.
I’m still a boy; I’m still crying. But now it’s harder to break me down. In the end, all that it took to get up from my grave was a little bit of faith, a little bit of trust, and a little bit of pixie dust. It may be that silence keeps holding me down because it’s not the right time to speak and I may not fly on a ship, but I’m not lacking wings to fly on my own – much less my own dust.