SELF-PORTRAIT, 20

These days I don’t hate myself like I used to or even at all. I am all chapped lips and split ends and unpainted fingernails because by now I’ve learned I always chip them within hours anyway. A few weeks ago I got my mom to box-dye my hair Intense Black like it used to look before one too many crisis experiments with scissors and bleach. I’ve been trying to get back to my roots, so to speak. By roots I mean I’m just trying to find the same shade of happy that used to color my world as a girl. I’ve had no luck trying to find it in Home Depot paint samples or lipstick hues or other eyes so maybe I’ll stumble upon it somewhere inside my own. I’ve even let myself believe in God again. That’s been going well. There is poetry in the Bible and past midnight when I teach my lips to muscle-memory the prayers. Usually, though, I just end up rambling to Him about wintertime in the mountains or my best friend’s smile when he meets me in the morning or how sometimes my separation anxiety is so bad I feel like I’m still the same kindergartner who cried for hours in the guidance counselor’s cluttered office. It’s as if I never outgrew that wide-eyed state of needing to feel tended to. I’ve been trying to drill the world enough into my head. I have enough beauty and enough time and enough love in my heart to keep the world from dying. And strangely enough, it’s working.

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