‘This Thought, This Circle’ by Emily Blatta


this thought this circle

Illustration by Andres Garzon


When does a thought become a curse? 

On the plane ride home after a long year, I am weary of the question, and profoundly scared.  Amidst the circle of thoughts that inhibit me, it’s hard to see this one clearly. There have been so many inquiries, trials, and attempts to break free—most of them now futile, or exhausted, or abandoned. It takes a spark of curiosity to lead me down the road of obsession and I feel as though I am already burning. 

However, I wonder if this is a necessary start in my attempt to build an observation deck first above a series of moments and then into the heart of what might be stored away, maybe even undone. Like a curse, such a question demands to hold something accountable, something outside of me. It also demands that I be held accountable, no matter my reservations, no matter the nausea I feel from looking down.

How does a thought move? 

Perhaps in downward strokes from where it originates, but I can’t know this for sure. What I do know is how it travels through my bones and fills the whole of my body. I know it moves in circles because that is the shape I am. It makes a two-dimensional cut-out of the shape, mocking the weight I carry. Where the potential to thrive exists between us, there is also the commitment to die. We are stuck together, alternating this way. 

In a lineup for the bathroom above the prairies, I have a thought that I am capable of doing something terrible. At any moment I will lose my grip on control, kill someone I love. It is startling how real these thoughts feel, and I am terrified that if I pursue them, they will actualize. Even their meaninglessness coerces me, and points to a chaos I don’t feel equipped to look at. 

Over the Rockies it happens again, then once more above the West Coast. Days later I am similarly blindsided, this time over dinner with my mom. She is sitting across from me in the nook by the window, sipping a glass of wine. It’s a comfortable scenario: we share Greek food at our favourite restaurant, pacing ourselves to a rhythm of honest talk and loving pause. Listening comes naturally to such dinners, and when we eat it is to the sound of two inextricable lives. I am grateful for the bond. 

Before the Baklava there is the same thought from the plane — the possibility that I am capable of doing something terrible. There is the reminder to push against where I am fragile, the vivid unrealities to which I am chained.

Blood in the wine, a broken arm, my knife in the side of the woman who birthed me  . . . I keep my knife under the napkin where I can’t see it. I have the thought that, from now on, each of us is kept alive this way. 

We make it home, where afterwards I tell her about the protection of the napkin. 

“So how did it feel to stab me?” she asks. We laugh. Later, I wince. 

Sometimes the suspension of oneself feels like an invitation to become vulnerable.  Above the prairies—that belt of land I’ve never seen up close I feel the weightlessness of a thought’s ability to unleash me. In the bathroom, where I have come undone before, I feel desperate not to go that way, to go back and reverse it. Not now, I think. I brace myself for the descent into something difficult, unforgiving. I know about the undertow of a brain’s mistake, how there is that pull of an unruly direction. 

When does a thought become a curse? 

I’m not sure it does. Nor am I convinced that we become our thoughts, although they convince us of something. Mostly, we shapeshift, humming across a spectrum of reactions to ourselves. Any therapist or poet will tell you so. They, or I, might also say that in the narrow mind of rumination, this separation is difficult to remember. To think is an impulse. Perhaps this is the curse.

Down here on the crust, nothing seems to change. There are no sudden answers. There are, however, the routines people create to cope —those of seeing, of believing, of lunch. I make my own individual routines too: I avoid certain places, I research compulsively, I spend too much time alone. Sometimes, they feel like answers. 

Laying in bed one night, I think to check how deep the ocean is, the Straight of Georgia by where I grew up. It has a mean depth of 157 metres and a maximum depth of 448. Less deep than I thought. In one way I rely on this information because it is a quick fix to the question of what I might know, a treat I have been brought up on. It hangs there in the search bar like bait. In another way I rely on the reminder of how much one thing can hold, evolve, vary. It is confirmation of that, if I am one thing, I am also many.

When does a thought become a curse?

Reads the sign in front of me, reads the sign in front of the circle of my body. I yell at it to shut up, that I don’t know. It spits at me. I stare it down. This time it leaves.

Most times when I’m out at a restaurant, I will excuse myself to the washroom more than once. I require such moments alone. The privacy is permission to be real, to walk myself through the fear of something imaginary. I am so often irrationally afraid, and this is frustrating. But it’s also simple and therefore I feel it justified. Fear is unborn, it is necessary, it is unnecessary. To exist at all, it must exist somewhere inside us. 

One night, returning to my seat from the washroom, I trip on another thought, or rather another question. 

Are you good, and strong, and worthy? 

This has been happening lately. As expected, I don’t know the answer. I only know what I can feel. Right now, just the floor, its point of contact with my heart. I can feel our togetherness. Perhaps this is the curse—to not know. Perhaps like this I am brave. 


EMILY BLATTA is an emerging journalist and creative writer based on the West Coast of Canada. She graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto and holds a BA in Creative Industries. Her work strives to sift through delusion, and creates a sense of empathy out of the abstract.

Copyright © 2018 by Emily Blatta. All rights reserved.

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