When my guilt paralyzes me, when my shame makes me cower under the piercing lights of discovery, my shoulders melt. Bone becomes fluid, leaks into cavities, pools around my organs in puddles: puddles that fill crevices, then freeze. Molecules grow closer, fit to form, cementing my fears together like negative space on a statue. My guilt and shame were read to me like bedtime stories every night at nine. My quilt was littered with secret hurts to cover with shrugs and a stoic face. I wasn't just taught to take the blame and accept responsibility for that which I can't control: I was taught how to bury it in the backyard, how to papier-mache a mask over my reddening cheeks, to soak up my salty woes and further solidify the facade. As the years passed and practice made perfect, my entire body became encapsulated in fear and pride. Independence burned bright in my self-descriptions, but all I truly had to offer was an island, desolation built upon an inevitability. I was taught to hold secrets like water, a never-ending flood of pieces of myself. My reflection once told me to stop: there was so much debris, I was manic static over a vital broadcast. That hunger took hold, ripped the pain right out of my lungs like warm breath on a chilly morning. But self-awareness dissipated just as quickly. Acclimation; Stockholm syndrome. I came to covet the shell, unbreakable like the vice over your heart. I was taught not to burden; I was taught not to trust.