Dear God

Dear God,

Last night I woke suddenly, startled awake by some small sound. I lay there, half asleep and frightened, thinking that perhaps it had been nothing at all, but a tiny crackling noise said otherwise. It was something else that made me pause: a human sound, a quick intake of breath. God, my doctors say I’m being anxious and that I’m stuck in Maladaptive Daydreaming again. It’s just another word for delusion. They say I’m sick. So then why, in the silences and muffled wind sounds, can I imagine each gesture that I know is taking place?

It’s difficult to admit that you’re sick. The eerie gaze and microaggressions aren’t the worst part; it’s the ongoing, extreme self-reflection of thinking about what you did wrong. Perhaps it was because I was too harsh on my academics in junior year, because I read too many intense thrillers about obsession in quarantine, even though everyone said not to, or because I told my grandparents that I would spend time with them in summer when I had no intention to do so. God, my mother insists on taking me to see a Chinese herbalist doctor next week. I don’t quite believe in traditional Chinese medicine because of its obscurity. Remembering the names of Eucommia ulmoides Oliver, Ginkgo biloba, and Saigae Tataricae Cornu Powder in my medicine already makes me nauseous.

My dear God, I don’t want to sound like an ungrateful kid. Believe me, I want to get better but I just can’t seem to figure out what went wrong. Late at night, I’ll take a shower, lie in bed, open FaceTime, scroll down, and spend minutes staring. I rub the first name repeatedly with my thumb, picturing how my mom’s phone rings, lights up with my name, and brings her car to a sudden stop. She genuinely cares about me; I know that. I want to make her proud; she knows that. But after 17 years, I still haven’t learned what to share and how to share it. I silently turn off the phone, trying to find some excuses for my reticence.

I think too damn much. Only the freshness of the outside world can dissolve my inner struggles, the screaming, the weeping—it all blends with the drops left on the leaves on rainy days, paces of running footsteps, shapes of rising smoke, the swirling afternoon laundry. I can be so passionate about the most mundane things, relishing the infinity of a silent pause. But I also want to be heard. I want to pick up every detail of those frightening dreams and perceptions at night, to decode them, and to express myself again. I want to express my tenderness towards my mother, my imagination, and the silence that made me and her, me and my past self, two parallel lines. All of us struggled to intercept, but were only left with the same old fatigue.

And perhaps, like how gravity pulls all things in the universe to their own trajectories, silence will be granted a new meaning. Perhaps I will feel a hand in the deep water or the abyss. Perhaps I will adjust my breathing, float up, and stretch out my body without rushing. I will, God, quietly observe this new world, uncertain but tranquil. I will kick my feet violently and accelerate to the speed of ascent. My head will emerge above the water. At that moment, a voice will loom up with the waves surging beyond shipwreck.

And I will not be paranoid. There will be no crackling noise, just a gulf of pure silence—the kind that I can finally feel comfortable in.

Rhyme Zhou is a 17-year-old from Hangzhou, China. She has been writing creative nonfiction and flash fiction in both Chinese and English since she was 12, and her favorite authors are Elif Shafak and Yashar Kemal. She’s an editor at Polyphony Lit and Cathartic Lit. When Rhyme isn’t at her desk writing or editing prose, she is out coaching badminton, perfecting her Turkish, tasting all kinds of coffee, revisiting Gabriel Iglesias’s iconic jokes, or experimenting with her own stand-up comedy.