Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to Fix Your Face

I was eight when I first discover how to close the gap between my private and public face.

It started with cold, damp paper towels pressed against my eyes in the school bathroom. I sat on the toilet, face to the sky, letting the water pool along the swollen skin. It stung. By the time I can leave the stall, most signs of my panic attack had slipped into my normal features – save the swollen, cherry-colored downward crescent of my mouth. I quickly learned how to escape from rooms while drawing the least attention possible as I ran away – to bathrooms, to empty classrooms, to my mother who had to rearrange her life and work in the school office for my health.

From there, it became an art. I prided myself in putting everything back together – in rearranging my face to hide the roaring distress – in settling the surface of the water and allowing the piranhas, with their snapping jaws and glassy eyes, their freedom beneath the stillness.

But fuck if it doesn’t get harder. Maybe it’s that the wounds got worse, the damage more visible.

A bad hookup led to covering bruises, hiding burst blood vessels along and inside my eyes. It looked like someone had thrown paint in my corneas. When I caught others looking, despite the hours I had spent with ice packs over my eyes, I tried to smile. I can’t remember if my lip was split or if something else made my mouth ache. No one asked about the red-tinged bruises lining my throat. But I remembered them every time I swallowed.

I covered the raised, patchy mess of my face with plain Greek yogurt. I left metal spoons in my freezer, then pressed them against my eyelids. I wish I could say I had seen stars – instead I saw nothing.

When I opened my eyes, the room struggled to take shape before me.


I’m older now.

My private face has shifted almost entirely inward – the river has frozen over just enough to allow safe passage. I swallow panic and it is sharp against my tongue. But sometimes I find myself locked in a bathroom stall, chin tilted skyward, cleaning the saltwater from my cheeks – reducing the swelling with paper towels as cold as I can handle. I feel so small in these moments… as if I’ve stepped out of time and I’m eight again, somehow equally privy to the horrors to come and surprised when they arise.

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Seasons

Today I am picturing the year like a long table and each month is a different body, a different person who sits beside me.

January slipped her hand in mine. February brought me flowers, the snow from the petals melting into a puddle. I can still trace my name through the moisture left behind. March was loud, booming, his hands punctuating every breath and I found myself biting my tongue when he asked how I felt. April was softer – April brought me soup in a bright red bowl but no spoon. May watched me drink straight from the bowl and only laughed when some dribbled on my chin. June sunk into my arms – June asked for coffee, for time, for the sweet light of morning to shine forever. July kissed my cheeks and braided my hair and invited me home. July asked me what I was missing.

The days are peeling slowly, with anticipation, as I wait to uncover August. She is beautiful and still, not unkind but precise – every movement building.

I don’t know what’s coming next. I sit at the table with my palms up, open, waiting for the harvest of fall.

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Look ma, no hands.

don’t touch me. please.

stop.

but you won’t stop. I know that about people like you. Rarely do I even get a chance to say anything before your hand is grating against my body – unwanted, unwelcome.

I don’t know why it keeps happening. I don’t know what about my body makes it seem like communal property. I just don’t understand. But it always hurts, it aches, I feel every single goddamn hand from every motherfucker who violated me before you. I don’t sleep for awhile. I leave a little too often to get sick in the bathroom. I cry in my boyfriend’s arms and try to piece the night together.

Maybe it’s time for a change.

Maybe this time, when you touch me and my skin burns and my mind goes blank, maybe this time I’ll repay violence with violence. I’m granting myself permission.

If your hands are on my body without consent, I will take them. I will unhinge my jaw and swallow you whole, I will yank you into the nightmares that keep me up at night – of hands and loss and fear.  I will take no prisoners. And then, when I have made myself unforgettable, I will fucking leave. Let me crawl the road to your childhood home with your hands in tow. I will bring them home to your mother, all skin and tendons and blood, and I will tell her about the monster she has raised – that she will bury. And I will go home and I’ll sleep soundly at night.

let this be your only warning.

don’t

fucking 

touch me.

 

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It’s Not Blood

bloodinthewater.jpg

My hands are clean. Open.

And I want to write something but it’s still stuck in my jaw, a burden too heavy to carry and too personal to abandon. What else can you do in the renovation process? Either I’ll get stronger or it’ll get easier. That’s survival.

Two summers ago, I was crashing and burning in an abusive relationship. One summer ago, I tasted happiness and didn’t know if I could bear to see it change.

And now?

I smile more than I thought possible. I’m planting roots in a city I had never before loved. I finally have room to breathe and I relearned how to laugh and I cut out as much poison as I could without erasing everywhere I’ve been. I never knew healing could be so…consuming. So freeing. So completely and overwhelmingly terrifying, at points.

thank you for your patience with me. Sometimes, just having a little space for words and thoughts makes all the difference, and I am so grateful.

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Club Scum

It’s a punk show in someone’s garage – no one I know. No one anyone knows, from what I can tell. We shimmy under the broken door, our backs almost scrapping the splintered wood.

There are two couches and fake flowers hanging from the ceiling. There’s a glitter skeleton grinning from the rafters, all shimmer and plastic. The walls are different colors, covered in posters or paint or an odd mix of the two. It is the kind of house that fascinates – that traps, that keeps. Not harmful, but purposeful. Almost like an old-world mother, whispering secrets in a dusty language no one else quite remembers. I catch pieces through the heat.

Have you ever been so in love that it hurt to breathe? Like your heart had started overwhelming your lungs because it beats so fast and so hard when you see him.

So I crawl into the house because my heart is in there, square in the palm of his hands, and he’s holding a bass guitar.

The house doesn’t creak. I think it moans, low and slow, underneath the booming music. I can feel it, the moaning and the music, but I can’t hear anything. Or I can hear everything and it’s a wall of noise, full-blown. No one’s lips are moving slow enough for me to read.

It’s nothing and it’s everything. I can’t explain it. Music is often just outside of my grasp – my ears don’t work well enough.

Sweaty kids line the garage in a C shape, sometimes crossing in front of me to dance. They pump their fists and scream words to songs that I don’t know, that I can’t hear. But I can watch and I can feel my boyfriend’s beat vibrating in my joints and I can write poetry in the space where music lives for everyone else.

The night ends. The house lets me go, gently, and I almost don’t believe it will be there if I try to find it again. It’s impermanent but eternal – more of an idea than a physical location. Dirt collects under my toes as we wander out.

I carry his bass. He carries everything else – the summer heat, the amp, my heart. The night is electric and I’ve never felt more alive.

clubscum

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Empty Girls Walking

I could never write again.

I could go the rest of my life without putting pen to paper. No one can force me to pour myself over essays or arrange stanzas for another sad poem or pick apart the meanings of words that I have yet to unpack.

I don’t feel like a writer. I haven’t sat down to work for ages – I write blog posts, sure, and some poems here and there. Words still tumble around my brain until they ache, until I have to do something or I’ll explode.

But there’s an essay that won’t let me go. I haven’t written it and I don’t want to do so. I don’t want to write down the thoughts – I want to pour them down the drain, light the sink on fire, and run away.

I don’t want to face this memory.

And it’s holding me hostage in the worst way. It has me by the brain and every time I get close to something else, it throbs in my skull. The words have come to me, angry and insistent, time and time again. It’s too much.

I wish there was a tidy ending.. a promise I could give that I’ll write everything down, that I’ll explain myself, that I’ll empty the vault and release the pressure building up behind my eyes.

I don’t know, man. I’m scared of everything I have to say. I’m afraid of how true it is, it was, it continues to be.

All I can do is look down at my hands and think, maybe someday.

maybe soon.

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Relational Definition

The idea of relational definitions has comforted me for years, ever since I came across it in my literary structures class in college.

There’s something beautiful in being able to define something by everything it isn’t – dark would be less meaningful without light. Comparison as a tool for understanding, for communicating, for building! That is when language is most open to me. It allows me to restructure the world, organizing it in my head by the comparable textures of each moment.

I’ve never appreciated that as much as I do now.

I can only explain how happy I am by comparing myself to the girl I used to be. Then and only then do I see my development, the remarkable little miracles that led me exactly where I am and who I love. It’s so odd to me, the thought that I used to be insurmountably lonely – that I thought there was an incurable darkness inside me that made me unworthy of care and affection.

After I met my boyfriend, I wrote a few pieces about him (and about me, about the type of woman I saw myself becoming with him). I gave him two of those poems for his birthday yesterday. The third poem is a little more selfish. When we started talking, I was terrified of the idea that he could make me happy. I was scared I couldn’t sustain happiness, that my hands would break every beautiful thing that passed between them. Here’s that piece.

Disordered

What if my heart is like
my stomach?

don’t laugh

what if both shrink when I
starve for affection? What if the walls
have caved in, what if acid has swallowed the floor
and settled in every chamber, what if
the valves roar in protest when I pass
couples on the street,
what if I can’t remember the last time
I was full?

It took three months
to train my body to receive anything stronger
than eye contact – to relearn how it feels
to taste something so vulnerable and soft
without vomiting.

 

So I wrote the above about being afraid and ill-equipped and only now, with comparison and reflection, can I understand just how lucky I am to have Joey.

Happy birthday, bee. ❤

joey and mee

 

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Let the Monsters Die

I think we’re allowed to let the monsters die
and yeah, I know, it stung when you pried your limbs
from between its teeth – there are
bruises on your joints that still ache years later

might never stop
and you’ll carry that pain
wearing it like a name tag,
like a reason.

remember
you climbed out of the beast on your own
it might remember your taste but it can’t
bite down and
feel your skin against its tongue anymore

it is too old to chase after you
its teeth are rotting, sliding between chapped
lips onto the ground – unruly headstones – still peppered with
memories of you,

and you lived.

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The Parting of Clouds

I’m not one to complain about happiness, but I am bewildered by it.

I’m more afraid of the dust settling than I am of the storm, you know? There’s something comforting in the struggle – something familiar. Even the loudest crashes of thunder become white noise if you hear it long enough.

But now… life is quiet. Life is peaceful. I have a job that I enjoy, I’m in a healthy relationship, I finally found a space of my own, and no one who wants to hurt me has access to me anymore. And that should feel freeing. I’ve successfully run from every abusive situation. I got away. Not everyone does – and I’m so grateful. I never imagined I would get this far.

So why can’t I relax?

I’m still  scared. I wait by windows, watching the clouds, almost desperate to prove my happiness can’t last… almost wishing to dive back into the eye of the storm. It hurts, but it’s supposed to hurt.

I’m afraid of how badly it will ache when this happiness ends. It’s almost paralyzing. I look at the happy little details, the beautiful moments, and I don’t know what to do with my hands. They’re hungry – they want to seize every second, to feel the texture of my life scratch against my palms. But I worry that my grip is too tight, my hands too greedy.. I worry that I will ruin everything I touch, if only given time.

I have to keep going, right? That’s the only way forward, the only way to build the life I didn’t know I could ever have. I’m going to let myself be afraid until I stop flinching. It hurts, but it can’t hurt forever.

I’ll be okay.

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Home

The bruises in the palms of my hands have just healed.

The skin had speckled and only recently has the purple hue faded from my skin. There is pain in growth, always always always, but this time it was my own stubbornness that hurt.

I’ve spent a solid 12 hours building fairly unimpressive furniture for my new apartment. I live here, by myself, with the cat I grew up beside. My boyfriend is often here too. It’s beautiful, a slice of a dream that I never imagined fulfilling.

Anyway.

Happiness has an edge of vulnerability and discomfort. I’m never quite sure how to hold it. This time, I’m trying to let it wash over my hands – never grabbing, never demanding more, simply enjoying the sensation as it flows.

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