WHERE I AM

Let me tell you about College Michelle.
She walks an average of 10 miles a day.
She wears glasses and no makeup and decides to love the skin she’s in. She’s leaving “trying too hard” in high school.
She blasts ABBA Gold on the way to class, catching herself singing along and air-drumming, too. Sometimes Lorde. Sometimes The Lumineers, depending on the weather.
She studies linguistics by the window in a library positioned inside of a bridge.
She finds herself surprisingly fascinated by her Computer Science class, endlessly intrigued by subjects she never expected to enjoy.
She sips coffee and people-watches from the top of the pylons, observing tiny figures make their way across the Drillfield in the middle of the afternoon.
She raises her hand in classes full of upperclassmen and intimidating professors. She laughs at herself. She is okay with this now.
She eats caprese sandwiches in the sun while sharing life stories and past traumas with new faces she now calls friends.
She has already consumed more smoothie bowls than she’d like to admit.
She goes on late night jasmine tea dates.
She decorates her side of the room with sunflowers and the color yellow.
She sleeps up high, lofted close to the ceiling, crawling into bed late and out of it early.
She checks the mailbox. She explores. She loves fiercely.
She misses the safety of being home. She misses her bed, her world, her language. But this is her home now, too—and she’s already terrified of the day she has to leave.
And College Michelle isn’t comfortable. She is pushed to her limits and overwhelmed by the freedom of having everything she could possibly need at her fingertips— but she’s the happiest, most authentic Michelle that has ever lived.

THIS IS NOT FORGIVENESS

With you, I walk on eggshells,
careful where to step, surveying
my footsteps as if the rotation
of the earth depends on it.

This is the ballad of the tiptoe—
the swan song of neurotic child
and beating heart, of a screaming siren
with no one to hear its wailing.

But if no one hears, does it still wail?
And what about that ancient tree,
in a forest with no ears
to document its collapse?
And if you call me
my beautiful little lover
and bring me wildflowers
to decorate the corners of my imagination,
does it make up for the bruises?

Tender lilac pools below the skin
and hides from the eye—
am I still allowed to feel pain
if it is written in invisible ink?
If the only weapons you have wielded
against me are words,
is any of this hurt still real,
or a daytime nightmare— something
of my mind’s own invention?

This is the lullaby for broken girls:
he says he loves me
he says he is sorry
he is the only home I have ever known
but why am I walking on eggshells?

No matter how careful I am,
he still hears my silence, my indecision,
my noiseless waltz between fleeting
flashes of sanity—
he always wakes up
no matter how secretly it hurts.

I am violent purple turning green
like rotting fruit, ripe with yellow trauma—
too far gone to save for later.
Only I can save myself from your
manipulating hands, from your pretty
lavender knives, from your twisted
choked-up love that will never be love
even if the world depended
on the meaning of that word—
you do not know the definition
if you believe I will not run.

RUN.

I beg of you, I beg of myself,
I beg of all hearts that were ever told to
shut up, please, be quiet.
Broken girls, do not look down.
Do not play your tightrope game.
Choose to fail your muscle memory
your learned precision,
your Stockholm syndrome—
step on the shells and the silence
and the creaking floorboards
of a house that will never be a home.

Make it your melody.

I am not his secret anymore
and I will step on eggshells
just to make that music,
to hear that broken hallelujah,
of freedom.