double-edged swords

Everyone I love leaves!

Everyone I love leaves!

Everyone I love leaves!

It’s a song I can’t stop singing, a Bible verse of my own I can’t stop believing in. I am scared of love and all it entails, scared that, written in my marrow exists an ultimatum, Everyone you love will leave you! I am scared of the way you clutch me unconditionally because all I have grown to know is condition after condition after condition. How do you take a wrecking ball to these walls without striking yourself down in the process of doing so? How do you demolish the idea without leaving the idea of yourself in ruins? The art of mutual exclusivity. I can’t keep breathing this air but without it I would die. Unfair laws of the universe, you govern me and all of my weakness.

I am scared of how much I love you. I am scared of your feet. I don’t know how fast they are capable of running away from me, from us, from everything we are currently building. I am scared of your smile, crooked and genuine, because of how beautiful it is. I’ve never seen beauty of that calibre. I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know how to not stare, dumb and out of words. No language. No way to express how utterly bone-chilling you are, the audacity of your beauty—a fist formed to all the ugly in the world. You are remedy to the unbecoming. You are grace in a graceless world.

I am scared of how much I hunger for the end. Or not even the end, but a way to stop feeling the particular sensation of tragedy that consumes me upon rising each morning, a method of anesthetizing the perpetual throb of my body, a tangle of nerves and pressure points—how to numb the lack of control.

Sometimes I speak and am surprised at the sweetness of my own voice. I feel bitter, conniving, burning, and rotten. But when I catch myself talking I am stunned at how good I am a concealer of pain, how you can hear music resounding where my pain would otherwise echo. I mask the ache with honey, fresh petals, warm tea. You’d never guess that beneath the pleasant exterior I am an infernal scream. I am something begging to be torn, put down, ended. I am plaster and drywall covered in dainty pink wallpaper. Tear me down, break me, leave me in my own wreckage I am begging you. But then again, I don’t know if you could handle it—seeing me all mangled like that, too far gone to cry for help, nothing but a heap of broken promises, a deconstructed fortress.

I shuttle so quickly between too much and not enough. As if I am constantly suspended inside the webbing between both. The lacking side of me thirsts for adventure, for miles of European countryside and enough time to disappear in it. This side wants plane rides and exotic cuisine, poetry and color. But my other side, my incoherent, overwhelmed half, wants nothing more than to forget it all, to abandon all of this wanting more and never quite reaching the precipice of satisfaction. That side wants stillness, dreams of growing roots for stability, hungers for the pleasure of staying put.

I really did fall in love with a war. I guess I just underestimated how much I would want it to end.

FUNNY.

I never thought we’d get to this point, laughing on the call like we’re fifteen again—except this time even better. You’re telling me all about your new girl and for the first time since I’ve known you all I feel for you is joy. In past lives I would have had to bite my tongue to stop the inevitable flood from breaking through the rafters, leaving me standing in my own humiliation. I would have had to lie through clenched teeth, fighting the urge to grind them (and her, and you) nonexistent. I would have said “I’m so happy for you. Seriously,” feeling all of that hurt well up inside of my chest like something had died.

But last night was different. I could see the sparkle in your eyes and for once accepted that I was no longer the cause of it. I said “I’m happy for you. Seriously,” and meant it, because the sparkle looks good on you. Because love lights up your face like nothing else, painting the cheeks I used to kiss all flushed pink and alive—and really—what more could I ask? This is enough. Seeing you grow happier is the season I never knew I needed.

For once I do not know anything but relief. I love that she loves you. I just hope she does it right—patching up the holes where I did it wrong, filling the gaps with unbreakable cement. I hope she melts for you but does not linger too long as a puddle. That’s a weakness I had, not wanting to change back and claim form again. I hope she loves you firm enough to grow roots.

Look how far we have come, love. Can you see it as clearly as I do now? I feel as if I have never loved you more perfectly. I used to keep you on a short leash, restricting when necessary, pulling you back and reeling you in whenever you’d get too close to the road. Pull, pull, pull. Now I love you like setting you free, little dog, letting your curious legs walk unleashed, stopping to eat the yellow dandelions sprouting from patches of grass growing in places it shouldn’t. Now I love you like trusting you are smart enough to know when a truck is coming, to know when to come back to me—only when you need it. I will be right there. I will be your safety.

FRIDAY / SATURDAY

Friday is honey trickling from the spoon and into the batter of life. Friday is lavender freshly picked from the field. Friday is ice cream just because, two scoops with rainbow sprinkles like you’re 7 again. Friday is rush hour minus all the rush, even the fast lanes slowed to a sleepy march.

But even sweeter than Friday is Saturday. Saturday looks a lot like happiness. My happiness looks like unbrushed hair. Tastes like waffles drenched in syrup, paired with fresh fruit at noon. On Saturdays I wake up sparkling like a freshly-scrubbed dinner plate, gleaming as it’s put back into the cupboard. On Saturdays the only music I listen to is that of the neighbor’s sprinklers, the gentle thud of squishy cat paws on hardwood floors. Saturdays are when the mind halts, breathing in, letting poetry ferment in the lungs, blossoming there. It is a space to breathe deep, Saturday, pausing to remember everything righteous, recollecting the dignity misplaced during the chase of the week.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

I began playing a measuring game with him. Add up all the inches between us. What is the quality of his silence? Where does he go when I do not hear from him for hours? How many other women laugh at his childishness the way I do? How long has he been falling out of love with me? Please don’t make me divide us. Please stay. One more day. One more second. Don’t go. Don’t just be another one who had to. This is not a show you want to be part of anymore, I know. Just please don’t leave me onstage. Don’t let the crowd see. Do it when the curtains close, at the very least, if you have to.

I WRITE:

  • to pass time
  • because if I didn’t, I would cease to exist
  • for the people I have loved
  • for the people I have lost
  • ultimately for myself
  • because it’s as natural to me as breathing. as waking. rising. as inevitable and easy as falling asleep on the bus ride home
  • because a hidden hand compels me
  • because I am damn good at it
  • as catharsis
  • as painful healing

VISIONS OF PAST LIVES

Who am I now? Life has softened me, has nestled me into her clutches. I am no longer thigh-high boots and an expert at heartbreak but something (someone?) a little more subdued now, diluted into someone pure enough to meet your mother, to take home for an afternoon, staying for supper and after for a movie. But still, though I am now watered down, extinguished to a calm ember, I cannot rid myself of the memory. In springtime, my body in a floral dress, everything sprouting in the late May breeze, I still remember. I remember the season of barrenness, of having no water to quench my fever, merciless and brazen. I remember when I was the drought—not the garden—but the thing deserted, the paradise lost, the apocalypse of becoming.

It’s hard to hold you when I carry this around with me. I want so badly for you to think of me as blank slate, your tabula rasa untouched and holy. I want so badly to be more like the others, their “privilege of being” empty, dragging no complex history behind them as they walk. Those other girls do not need to conceal anything. They are as blank as newborn babies, fresh-faced and unashamed. I, on the other hand, keep my eyes cast to the sidewalk and laugh with hand over mouth. It’s as if I’m afraid of what they will find if I linger just a little too long, that they will be able to sense the fabrication I exude, that perhaps all of my plasticity will melt down to the real me- cowering in the corner, raw and infected.

LUCK VERSUS THE LACK OF IT

Some people are lucky. And not even in a prosperous way either, but the fact that, by nature, they are not predisposed to sadness. Some people do not have bombs perpetually lodged in the throat cavity, waiting for a swallow to detonate. I am not like them. Since birth I have been inclined towards melancholy, drawn to the deep and the dark and the blue. It enchants me—what can I say? Something about it invites me—this sadness, the tendency to want to mourn over everything and nothing. Sadness is a master of hospitality. She always has a bed ready for me, a meal prepared and adorned at the table. I’m her only guest, and I’ll eat up anything she serves.

You can’t fix me. I know that with all your heart you want to—more than anything—the exact same caliber at which you love me. But no matter what you do, you cannot alter my chemistry, the microscopic anomalies that make me who I am. You can’t cure a person of their tragedy if they are what makes it a tragedy to begin with.

You cannot cure me, beautiful boy. You could buy me all the time in the world but there still wouldn’t be enough for me to change. My state is permanent. Forever fixed in one strange position, statuesque and unmovable, like enforced law, like a god of my own right.

DEFINITIONS OF HOPE

Now all I know is hope.

Hope—that’s her name. To anyone but you, this is all an enigma, this section at least. I wonder what she’s like aside from the descriptions you provide—sure, you’ve noted “strawberry blonde” and “straight teeth” and “high nose”—but what more? Does she write like I do? Does she laugh through her teeth at your jokes or with her whole head thrown back, bearing all of them, pearly and perfect? There’s a difference.

I wonder about this a lot. It’s not because I even wish remotely to trade places with her—that’s not it. But I just wonder what colors she adds to your palette, whether she complements them—the forest green to your firetruck red, sounding, blaring into the night. Does she cover her ears? I know I did, sometimes.

I wonder how she takes her tea. Or maybe she’s not a tea person, which is very much a possibility. All of this imagining: mere possibilities. I do not know the girl you speak so highly of—I can only speculate as to what won her that sacred pedestal.

And I do not wonder out of jealousy, an envious, blinking eye. I wonder out of curiosity itself, the part of me that adores putting puzzles together, matching the jigsaw pieces into an image worth looking at. I wonder—how do her fragments mesh with yours? Because it’s an art, really, that order and arrangement, crafted precision, part to whole. I hope for your sake you aren’t missing any pieces. In fact, I pray for your full picture, a complete image, even if it is not one I am part of. I had my time. This portrait is yours.

I almost love how much I do not know her. She is your best kept secret and perhaps it is better this way, her whole life just a name to me—Hope, Hope, Hope—not a body you like to hold, nothing more than the ink my pen holds—Hope, Hope, Hope—just hope and hope alone.

I almost love how there is no physical body that comes to mind when I consider her, just a void where an image should be. I know nothing of her freckles except for the fact that you probably know them all, that you have labeled them individually the way God counted the hairs on our heads and numbered all of our bones before we even came into existence. I think about that a lot. Hope is your creation I still have not met. It’s better this way, not knowing Hope but knowing of her—more theory than marrow, more concept than skin, the same way I’d like to be, if I had my way.

Enough of Hope. I just hope that when she touches you she knows how to do it right.

SPACES OF LONGING

I want laughter that rises like hot air in a balloon, decorating the clouds with all of that color. I want fingertips running through the tangles of my hair, sorting through the strands, stopping at the temples to remind me I am still here. I want to wake up at two in the afternoon, as if secretly slipping into a world already in motion, revving up the engines while everyone else is already on the way home. I want to roll over and kiss the love of my life good morning instead of kissing the miles that separate us—the lonely interstates and cold valleys. All I want, really, is warmth, but not this kind—not this sweltering, sticky-in-my-skin feeling, not this raging inferno of too much body and not enough space to use it—but soft warm, safe warm, warm in the same way my mother’s cups of nightly green tea feel, like nothing bad could ever happen to me now. The worst case scenario is just a mildly burnt tongue.