Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Rock and the Storm

There was a picture hanging in the main bathroom of my mother’s house – a dark stone, large and rough, surrounded by a roaring sea. Or at least that’s how I see it when I try to conjure it now. I haven’t looked at the photo in some time, preferring instead to imagine that the rock remains fearsome and giant, just as it was when I first heard of it.

The story is loose in my brain with pieces slipping in and out over the years, clicking into place at the strangest of times. I think the details rearrange themselves depending on who’s reconstructing that day on the beach, but key players stay the same: Hawaii, the rock, a sudden wave. My parents stood on the rock until they didn’t, until the ocean had pulled them so far out that my father didn’t think they could make it back. With a memory not quite my own, I can almost taste the sting of salt water against my tongue. The sea had looked calm before they swam out, hadn’t it – had seemed safe and welcoming until it wasn’t. It snatched them from the rock, as if trying to steal them away entirely.

And then there is a lapse in the story, a sudden void, and my parents are on the shore. Exhausted, scared, but alive.

I don’t know which of them decided that they should have a picture of the rock and sea, but it hung in the bathroom for longer than a decade. The picture is gone now. I don’t even know which island they visited or anything else that transpired on that trip. Only that my parents could’ve died, survived, and took a picture of the thing that could’ve killed them. As I prepare for my first trip to the island, I find myself lingering on the story more and more – wondering which details I have wrong and how the story will change after I’ve bathed in the same waters that nearly swallowed our family before it truly began.

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Meta

Hey, honey bees.

We have officially made it through the hellscape that was October and November – I’ve spent the first part of December recovering, passing out at odd hours with my tongue glued to the roof of my mouth. I wake up just as strangely, arms thrust upward, and I am consistently confused by my surroundings.

But now we’re here, you and me and a screen. That’s a lovely place to begin again.

A man once told me that I have a startling predisposition to share what’s bothering me, loudly, and I can’t argue with that. I can’t process pain unless I open the wounds, scoop out the infected tissue, and sew myself shut. That’s just biology. If I let it sit inside me, silent and raging, then I end up in the hospital. It’s the equivalent of emotional sepsis.

That doesn’t mean I’m good at processing emotions, nor does it entitle me to everyone’s time or attention or love or affection. It simply means that this blog is my surgery room. You are welcome to sit in the operating theater or leave the hospital. I can’t tell you which is best for you. I can only lay here, heart open, and make sense of my own mess. What you do with my findings has always been up to you.

When I sit down each week to write, I find myself circling two feelings: the feeling of trauma, which is heavy and dark, and the feeling of intense gratitude, which is heavy but bright. My life trickles out in these two extremes, or shades similar, until everything looks black and white. It is my sincere hope to be seen as more complex than that dichotomy, that slippery slope more divisive than healing. Most things are not solely Traumatic just as most stories of Gratitude have a bite of something more.

Writing my adventures lets me find gratitude in the aftermath of trauma, grief in the bodies of friends, and wholeness by way of misplaced hope. I write about my body, my illnesses, my friends, my successes, and my failures because I want to be seen and understood. I can’t do that without risk. I’ve had people hurl my words back at me, as if something carved from my own skin could be rendered into poison – but that is the price of discovery. I can’t understand or be understood if I am not willing to risk that pain, as unfortunate and jarring though it often is.

In short, I remember every single person who tells me they read this space. I also remember every single person who has abused my vulnerability for their own gain. And the former makes the latter seem so insignificant, so banal, that I can never believe their malice hurt me in the first place.

So, my friends, are we okay? Do let me know.

 

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The Ex

Here’s what I want to say:

The last time I was in Minnesota, I was shoulder deep in an abusive relationship. I remember sneaking off to take my ex’s phone calls, knowing how angry he’d be if I didn’t answer every one. When I made him angry, he’d either threaten to kill himself or tell me it was my fault, that I didn’t understand how much he loved me and blame me for hurting him. Looking back, it was terrifying. I remember being in the car with my best friend as lake after lake yawned, open and deep, alongside the highway. She told me I didn’t deserve to be treated so cruelly – told me she’d love me and support me, but I needed to leave him.

I knew she was right. My best friends are always right and each had their own reason to hate my ex. But his hold on me was so strong that I couldn’t see around it, couldn’t fathom how much water I was swallowing. All I could do was watch the lakes scream by, desperately wishing to sink beneath them. It was the only way I could see myself escaping. That September, the Ex came into town on his way to live with another woman. He dragged me to a tattoo shop where he wanted to get matching ink. When I refused, he got a tattoo for the woman with whom he was romantically entangled instead. That night, he took me back to his hotel room and demanded that I drink with him. I didn’t feel comfortable saying no, so I drank. Hours later, the word ‘no’ was still lodged in my windpipe. I laid down in the shower and cried, nauseous and confused, as he changed the sheets. I heard him call the other woman and tell her how much he loved her, how much he wished she was with him right then.

It’s been over six months since I last spoke to my ex. When I called him to tell him he was no longer welcome in my life, I wept but I did not apologize. I explained how abusive he had been, how crazy he made me feel, how cruelly he had treated me – and he agreed, before begging me to stay. He told me he would kill himself if I stopped talking to him. I told him I hoped he would reconsider that, but I needed to go.

And I left.

A few days ago, I boarded a flight to Minnesota. I’ve returned for a moment to the very lakes that I thought could free me from his clutches. I’ve returned to some of the women who held my hands and led me from the dark waters, who taught me to breathe on my own. I could not be more grateful. There are still days when I’m furious – at myself for staying and at him for hurting me – but there are more days when I’m happy, thankful, and whole.

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Gatsby Seeks Daisy

It is too cold to sleep. My toes shrivel inward beneath my comforter. I have been awake for hours. Every movement stings , as if the fibers of my muscles have frozen over. They catch on to one another, splintering in the lining of my skin.

I’ve often written about desperation and honesty, the lines of which blur in my brain. Is it honest to confess my confusion and hurt or does my need for concrete information render that act desperate?  I stuff my fists in my mouth to choke the words I’ve stored behind my tongue for you. Syllables slip through my fingers, landing softly on my keyboard like the first snowfall of the season: it is cold, and I miss you.

So instead of being desperate or honest, I’m going to give you some old lines of mine. My heart is too heavy to create something new.


the devil is hard of hearing – his lips
curl inward around our names,
like fruit flies encircling old apples

he writes letters to my father but misspells the street name. a few blocks over
he lingers, signing rapidly, his hands
too loud for the intersection

anyway
I don’t know how to tell him
it’s not the leaving that I love – it’s the victory
march, absolution in the form of ticker
tape coating the streets like a comforter

but the devil just bares his palms
with a shake
fingers wide as he trails behind me
the whole way home.


 

We are a gradual dissolution into blue – deep blue, like the depths of the universe, unfolding in a matter of syllables: everything ends.

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