Tag Archives: personal

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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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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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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The Woods

the hands are mine – small and pale,
hungry. it is as if a seed has dropped into my
palms, stretching inward

seeking nutrients from a body I have never
understood. it is as if someone
has planted the last tree here,
inside me
and it’s urgent and important and
sometimes my anxiety peels back the
bark protecting my chest until
I can’t breathe
teetering against roots without
an anchor, always a jump away
from felling the forest —

then
he smiles at me

and I can feel the leaves press against my skin
from the inside, I open my mouth
and taste fresh air;
hand over hand, I climb out of myself.
I find the sun.

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Caricature

sometimes I dream of my baby teeth –
of rearranging the tiny white mounds into messages
outside his bedroom door

I can almost feel their smoothness against
my palm. it hurts but I
write on, spelling out secrets on the carpet
wiping the blood from my chin

the door, closed,
the lock pressed inward – he is afraid
of the bone. he doesn’t know
what it means

the man leaves me in silence

with my tongue,
probing the sore and weeping craters of
my jaw

with my tongue
held and tied and angry.

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Something Old

Here is where I was, two and three years ago. Simple pieces. Nothing too heavy or incriminating. But poetry always marks who I’ve been and where I’m going.

 

Bus #32 off Orchard

To the bulimic on the 9 AM bus –
I’m sorry heaven’s light burns the skin
around your chapped lips, I remember
how badly the sun can sting on mornings
like this
you slide into the hard plastic seat
as if slipping beneath a pinewood lid
your body sighs, collapsing inward,
and I wonder
how long you would be permitted
to sleep.

——————————————————-

we spill into the street
like milk flooding linoleum
and we know there’s no use crying

the sun has yet to claim its throne
seducing the last whispers of dawn
a frigid wind slips underneath our scarves
stroking the smooth napes of our necks

screaming metal materializes
girls clutching coffee struggle
to remember their own names
we file inside and no one says it
but we always crave the proximity.

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The Girl through the Wires

She found me in the strangest way.

I didn’t have many friends left by the end of that summer. I had been looking forward to the sun but even blue skies couldn’t pull me out of myself. Instead I stayed in my childhood bedroom, still processing bruises that had long since healed. I can’t remember exactly when Sydney appeared in my life – I only posting on my blog and saying I was unequivocably done with friendship. I was tired of being hurt, after all. Then this beautiful, vibrant Minnesotan crawled through the internet and offered me her hand.

“You can’t give up on friendship! I’ll be your friend.”

We’ve talked about our origin at length in the four years since. It wasn’t like her to write to people, she says, and it wasn’t in my nature to respond so readily. Somehow, we just knew to speak.

Sydney kept my heart open and hopeful, despite my best efforts to shut the world out. We messaged on Tumblr back and forth, back and forth, discussing everything from Harry Potter to human rights to teen suicide to our favorite bands. I’m still unsure how we fell together so beautifully. That fall, I met Sydney’s celebrity crush. I hugged Ed Sheeran and told him all about my best friend across the country.. the best friend I had never met.

When we finally stepped on the same soil, it was like coming home. I’d never felt instantaneously at peace with another person, but Sydney is special. She and I watched Ed Sheeran, our hands intertwined . I still remember her nails digging into my palm as Ed plucked on his guitar.

Sydney turned 23 recently. I am so pleased to say that our friendship is as strong as ever – and I can’t express how much I owe her. Sydney has let me lean on her on my worst days and she’s made my best days possible. sydney.png

I can’t wait for our future adventures, Squiddy. Happy belated birthday. xx

 

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The rules of hurting

We’re all going to hurt each other.

I’m not saying you should feel comfortable with that, nor should the notion grant you permission to hurt people left and right, but it’s true. You will hurt every single person you love – and every single person you love will hurt you.

The degrees will vary, of course. Not every pain is a death sentence. Sometimes it’s something simple, unintentional, like an ill-timed joke about your hair or forgetting someone’s anniversary when they were counting on you to make the cake. There are different levels of hurt.

Here are the rules of hurting:

  1. It is your job to tell people when something aches – even if you think they should know. Our thresholds for pain are so wildly unique that at times we must guide each other to the wounds that have been poked through our skin – even when you still see blood on their fingers.
    1. Rule one can be disregarded in two circumstances.
      1. If the person has committed bodily harm against you, there is no need to tell them about it. For example, if a man punches you in the face, do not return to him – even if he was drunk and claims he can’t remember his fist colliding with your jaw.
      2. If you have told the person before that their actions hurt you and they’ve made no move to fix it, you are under no obligation to tell them again. You can. It’s your life. But repeating oneself is tedious and hope can be most dangerous here.
  2. To paraphrase the brilliant Louis C.K., when someone tells you that you’ve hurt them, you don’t get to say you didn’t. If you have a strong bond, it hurts to find out you’ve hurt someone you love. But to trample over them and fill the air with excuses or reasons why their pain isn’t your fault is cowardly at best. We’re all going to hurt each other. That doesn’t mean we should allow our friends to hurt by our hand.
    1. Make amends, not excuses. If you can’t stop hurting someone you claim to love, please let them go.
  3. Just because you’re hurting doesn’t make you right. Those thresholds I talked about earlier? Those levels of sensitivity that guide us throughout life? They do not give you room to be cruel or vindictive. Your response to being hurt should not be to hurt someone else. And let’s be clear – having that drive doesn’t make you a monster, but acting on it does.

There are aspects of life in which you do not get a say. You don’t get to choose whether you’re chronically ill or disabled. You don’t get to choose where you come from. But it is my fondest hope that you get to choose who hurts you. It doesn’t have to be the family in which you grew up. It doesn’t have to be anyone who proved themselves unable to care for you in healthy, constructive ways.  I can’t wish you a pain-free life. But I hope you find yourself in the position to surround yourself people who will balk when they’ve hurt you, who will throw up their hands and hold you and make strides to never injure you the same way again.

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Adoration

I’m trying to put into words this magnificent, strange chunk of time in which I’ve found myself.

Did your parents ever ask for a list of what you wanted for a holiday? And you thought of everything, every toy and ad and commercial, slowly eliminating anything that was too much (rude to ask, sours the holiday) or illogical (impossible to find, can’t be wrapped)? But there are a few items lingering beneath your tongue even after you turn in your list.

Christmas morning breaks. There is snow outside and no one’s fighting, it’s warm inside, Dad fixed the fireplace before Santa got there last night and! There are reindeer prints outside that you barely notice because Mom’s guiding you to the tree. Red flannel pajamas brush against your skin and you can’t articulate the magic that’s happening here, in your sweet little living room, hardwood floors gleaming.

You watch your siblings open their gifts. The joy is almost palpable. Your child tongue is afraid to explain how good this is, so you try to take everything in: your father’s morning stubble scratches your cheek, wrapping paper covers the ground like a patchwork rug, your brother sneaks another cookie and icing coats his fingers. This is the closest you’ve ever come to having God in your house but you don’t even mind.

Finally! There’s one more present under the tree. Pastel lights wink between branches, against your parents’ teeth, in your brother’s eyes. You don’t even want to breathe too fast, you might suck it all in. So you bend, slowly, fingers pressed to cool cardboard as everyone watches. Your nickname is on the tag and you can’t help but grin. It’s really for you.

Hungry hands tear the wrapping paper into careful strips, gentle, a quiet anticipation building in the pit of your stomach. When the box is bare, you almost stop – unveiling this last present marks the end, doesn’t it, and it’s so beautiful to be here that you almost don’t care what’s inside, it doesn’t matter, your heart is so full that it’s heavy against your ribs. But your mother rests a tan hand on your shoulder and you know it’s time.

Fingernails dig into the lid, prying the box apart, and you don’t even realize you’re holding your breath until it’s open, whoosh, the air escapes you. Your eyes are squeezed shut but you see with your hands. You’re not sure when you started crying, but you open your eyes to relieve the pressure and! Inside the box! You cannot believe it, you practically refuse, you look up at your overjoyed parents and they laugh and laugh and laugh like a song, like a hymn.

You didn’t tell anyone you wanted this. You were too ashamed, too afraid to even hope. It didn’t make your list. But here it was, pristine and beautiful in a box with your name! You’re afraid to hold it, almost, because your hands are clumsy and chubby fingers could break it all apart. So instead you press the box against your chest, heart thumping against the cardboard, and you cry grateful tears.

It’s not even the present (yes, it is wonderful, how did you know?), it’s not the day, but it’s the moment. The magic of it will never happen the same way and you know that, somehow, it never could but you’re so grateful that it unfolded around you like this – fragile but whole, enough to remember it for the rest of your days, enough to replay it when you’re older and lost and in pieces.

that’s how I feel about him.

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