Claudia Vera

READING 1 ︎︎︎ 300 Seconds

Claudia Vera is a writer, graphic designer, and content strategist living in Brooklyn, New York.

Growing up, my mother and I used to play a game we called “5 Minutes.” The premise was simple – in the face of conflict, when I’d retreat to my room and try my best to swallow all my emotions, five minutes would pass until one of us would sheepishly approach the other. Are we done fighting? The question would hang between us, an olive branch that soon became heavy with unresolved frustration. Yes.

And that was that. All the unresolved frustrations, the big, scary, unacceptable emotions quietly swept under my skin to collect dust. In those 300 seconds of sitting in my room, crying to my ceiling fan, I mastered the art of turning inward.

Now, at 24, I still don’t know how to be angry. I’ve spent my whole life living a paradox – to make myself as small as possible in order to hold all the enormous pain inside. At 17, when an ex boyfriend told me my emotions made me unlovable, I took the molten heat of his words, the stinging in my eyes, as proof that I needed to bury deeper, hide better, practice those five minutes of solitary pain in order to not burden the world around me. At 18, in the weeks following my assault, I survived off of repression to get out of bed, to show up to class, shower, look at myself in the mirror, to put on pants, politely smile at my assailant in the dining hall, because the alternative was unthinkable. And so those five minutes turned into days, weeks, and now years of a quiet, white hot ache.  
Being a woman who thinks she is a problem is not groundbreaking, but it is heartbreaking. Sometimes, in the moments when I look at my mother and see her eyes begging me to forgive and forget, I want to take all of the moments that made her scared to be angry and set them ablaze. I want to scream at the top of a mountain until my throat bleeds and my ribs crack, I want to pull out my hair and be called crazy, I want to foam at the mouth and flash the whites of my eyes and rip flesh with my teeth when I think of all the women in my life who have compressed themselves into conduits for other people’s miseries. But for now, I’ll just politely excuse myself to stand in the bathroom and let the fury sink into the well of my body, its pockets filled with the rocks of countless five minutes.