The Alpha and Omega of The Out of Body Girl

By: Joyce Hayden

I. Flying Away/Blueberry Lane

At the new babysitter’s house, up past Jane drive, past the hospital-green water tower, in the new section of houses, it will happen. Your two year old brother will tumble out of the car, while you brush your mother’s cigarette ash off your red church dress. A coldness will rush at you once the woman opens her front door. Stand on the stone doorway alone waving at your parents, until the silver Buick disappears. When the woman barks: GET IN HERE AND SHUT THAT DOOR, cross the threshold from light to dark, from known to unknown. Place your hand over the knot in your stomach. Calm your fears that something bad will happen. Remind yourself you’re seven years old. You can take care of yourself. Don’t blink if you can help it. Notice every detail from now until 10 tonight.

When the woman places Michael in a room down the hall and points her finger to the back yard swings, say No. OUT NOW, she will bellow. Tell her you’re staying inside with Michael. Walk backwards toward the room he’s in; don’t let her see you shaking. When you’re in the room, watch cartoons. Let your guard down when he falls asleep. Awaken to a door clicking into place.

Scan the room for your brother. When you try to stand, a heavy hand will push you back. When you open your mouth to speak, that hand will squeeze your jaw. Wonder why your skin is crawling like ants all over you when his other hand works its way under your red dress. “Where’s Michael Where’s Michael Where’s Michael” will reverberate in panicked waves through your brain. It will happen as the big boy’s hand moves up your thigh, then higher. Your throat knotted, the blur of no words will send you outside the body, the way fluffy seeds of milkweed burst their pods, and rise.

See a girl below you on a bed, her dress red just like yours, her yellow hair in a pixie cut, just like yours. You will notice ash on her sleeve. You will view all this from your balloon perch on the ceiling. Glance back at the girl, you’ll see a zombie: mouth agape, arms glued to her sides, body frozen in place, eyes focused on a distant world. The big boy with the dark hair is there, his hands ripping her zipper. Tell the girl to run. Shout for her to kick. Plead for her to jump off the bed. When she doesn’t blink an eye, shake your head in disgust. Turn away. Give up on her. Outside, the sun will shine on the new green grass. On all the silver willow leaves.

Your eyes will stare into black pools . Your heart will beat like a marathon runner’s. The room will spin in a dizzying display of carnival colors. Your legs will burn as if in a heretic’s fire. The day will recede in a parade of jagged shadows.

Fly back into your skin when the door rushes open and the woman shrieks, “What the hell is going on here?” The slam of the spirit back into the body is like a jolt of lightening to a sapling.

The boy’s black eyes bore into you and you hear the threat through no words shiver their way into your cells. See yourself in the mirror. Brush your hair with your fingers. Note how the shadows have crossed from the swings to the gate in the front yard.

The news comes on at six o’clock. Michael is by you, snoring. In an hour, The Wonderful World of Disney will begin. Two hours after that, Mom and Dad will arrive. When they ask how everything went, hear yourself say nothing. Hear Michael say it was fun. Look out the back window of the Buick. Locate the Big Dipper Dad showed you last summer. From there, find the North star. Try not to blink. Remember every detail from the sparkling night sky. That velvet canvas with its challenge to connect the dots is all you’ll remember of any of this for the next 20 years.

II. Reclaiming The Body/Santa Fe

When the day you’ve circled on the calendar arrives, awaken like a soldier in Boot Camp. When the enemy, that man you thought you’d love forever, is showering, steel through the house on impossibly quiet feet the way Army Rangers move through jungles: never disturbing a leaf. Throw skirts, cds, underwear, 6-7 books you can’t live without, your journals filled with cryptic text, and all your Neil Young albums into two green garbage bags. Fill another with towels, a blanket, and a pillow. Stuff them into the backseat of the Buick your uncle willed you. Praise him out loud in the early March sun, set against a backdrop of azure blue. That car will buy your freedom. That car will give you legs to move.

When you hear the water stop running, when the dog at your feet is pleading at you with those unblinking huge brown eyes, welcome the familiar freedom of floating in mid air: that home you created for yourself when the solid world burned. When your skin and your heart felt scorched as if baked in hot ashes, by the hands of angry men. Hover over the dog and breathe in her smell: a combination of baby powder and mild skunk. Whisper in her ear that you’ll love her forever. Whisper that she’ll be ok. That the world will be right again one day. Try not to hyperventilate when he opens the bathroom door in a fog of steam, emerging with that long vampire black hair you fell in love with. When he barks, “Where are you going,” quiver there like an arrow poised between a child’s fingers and croak,

“I’m leaving.”

“Can’t hear you,” he’ll grunt. Take a deep breath and say it louder. When the hand reaches out to grab your shoulder, when the words, “You’re not going anywhere,” fly like bats around the room, feel the helium in your body lift you even higher. Tell yourself you can’t cower this time. Know that you are not invisible. Know that to live, you need to re-enter your body, that beautiful structure. Look at it down below. The golden hair, the strong arms, the thin waist, the feet on solid ground, the girl there you abandoned, but who never deserted you. The girl who always took whatever was given and kept trudging on though images of ropes and razor blades plagued her days. It’s too late to feel sorry for the body. Nor will doing so help. Praise it instead. Fill it with love the way bees return repeatedly with pollen to the hive. Join with your body now, embrace her. Take her with you. You need her to get out of there. You need her to lift the finger on her right hand, do it now. Hear yourself say, “I’m leaving and you can’t stop me.” When his body moves like bricks toward you, shout, “My La. No More My La.” In his confusion, tell him that’s the Miwok word for beating one’s wife. Tell him never again. Point your finger directly at him and shout, “Stay.” The way he taught you that day in New Hampshire when two mean dogs charged you on a back road miles from home and it worked. It stopped them dead in their tracks. Watch as it works now, as his face turns ashen, as the grizzly he’s become falls to shadow. Feel lightening jolt through your body, as your spirit lands inside your bones with the force of a wild pitch. Keep your hand up. Back away. Notice how you’re looking straight into his eyes; you’re at ground level. No longer a ghost, no longer a wraith, no longer an orphan.

Say Goodbye loud and clear. Say Thank you for all you once loved. Turn your back on him as you open the door. Know that he cannot touch you. Know that your body, the beautiful pale flesh of it will always protect you. Fall in love with it the way angels fall to Earth on hot summer nights when we’re all searching for constellations. In the car, wrap your arms around your torso, hold yourself the way no one has ever done. Promise your body you’ll never leave her, promise her you’ll spend every day in the beating air of her paper thin gray alleyways, those honeycombs, in the thick nectar of all she offers, that cherished queen your body has always been.

July 2016:

I’ve learned from my life experience to trust my coping mechanisms. I wouldn’t be alive without them. I wouldn’t be alive had I not become The Out of Body Girl. Maybe people will point fingers, use labels, call me names. I can live with that. I know that I am strong. I know that I am creative. Whatever force within me made the decision to fly out of the body, I thank it. I am grateful. I still function in the world. I write. I paint I have art exhibitions. I house sit and care for people’s pets. I hike, I drive, I travel, I play cards and games with nieces. If I happen to pop out of my body now and then, so be it. That makes me slow down, look at what is happening and decide what my next step is. What do I need to get grounded? The girl at Blueberry Lane had no idea. She couldn’t fathom her circumstances. But when that girl, that me, became a woman, she finally knew what she had to do. She threw her belongings into green garbage bags and drove down the road.

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This incredible and empowering piece comes from Joyce Hayden, who is not only a writer, but also an artist. Find some of her work at her facebook page, Blue Angel Studio. Leave her a comment below and check out one of her pieces of art entitled: “Body as Landscape”.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.


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  1. Joyce, this is such a tough subject to tackle and you have shared your story in a very creative way. As a sexual abuse survivor, I also left my body. It has taken me a long time to learn that my body is a safe place. So I can relate to what you have shared. I have found the book, “waking the tiger” by Peter Levine incredibly helpful in understanding the effects of trauma. “Come as you are” by Emily Nagoski also has been helpful in gaining insights into how sexual trauma can affect intimacy, among other things.
    Thank you for sharing your journey. Your courage to speak out gives other their legs back. ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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