In its longest silence, trauma is even more present. Trauma is the unsaid, the uncertain, that prolongs feelings of loss. How do we define this notion of presence and absence? What is the paradigm? Poet Li-Young Lee offers an analogy regarding presence and absence: He equates them to inhaling and exhaling breath. Our presence is marked by the inhalation. Oxygen spreads into our lungs and bloodstream, nourishing our bones, our cells, and our skin. Breath is life. The exhalation manifests an absence or a silence, but still there is life. When we inhale, speech terminates; communication is stunted. As we exhale speech is regained, but nutrients exit the body; the organs weaken; the lungs lessen in size. Lee describes this as "dying breath." ** When we speak we use dying breath. Meaning grows in "opposite ratio to presence and vitality." ** He suggests a kind of paradigm for life, especially in the case of trauma in that as we die meaning is declared. The "less vitality we have the more the meaning of our lives gets disclosed" (Lee qtd in Chang 19). That absence in our bodies translates as presence. Trauma narrative is born out of this relationship.
I am waking up alone in the bathroom stall of the nightclub, and all I can see underneath the space between the stall door and the floor are my rapist's bare feet. He doesn't move, just waits for me to come out. My mother is at home, I call to her. My father is at home, and I call to him. My sister ...
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