We curled up in the cheap glow of cheaper Christmas lights and swallowed romance down like English breakfast tea (your favorite), taking in gulps of candy colored warmth
That’s how we kept this thing alive, if you’re wondering
We wrapped ourselves in winter scarves on winter nights so that we could see the snow swirling, the Earth breathing, and not each other
You looked at the outline of my shoulders while I looked at the sky, and I wondered whether snowflakes jump from a home they don’t feel like they belong in anymore
I’m floating through this dark expanse at the mercy of gravity, I’m pale, I’m different, I’m a lot of things
And when the holiday displays are tucked away and you’re finally looking at me
Shedding my layers and naked without the blues and greens of tiny plastic lights
I’ll hit the pavement and disappear
They’ll be looking at the outline of you and you’ll be looking at me
As pale and pretty as I ever was in the flurry of my melting winter melancholy
And in the blizzard of the way you can’t quite explain to people what was beautiful about me
You’ll think back to Christmas lights and tea
And you’ll wonder why it couldn’t keep me alive
Breathe in, don’t forget to breathe out
Even the streetlights are tired tonight
We’re wrapped up and naked in your sheets
And I can’t untangle my legs from the soft cocoon of your ivory melancholy
Your breaths are cold, and I wonder how that’s possible
Maybe it’s cold inside your ventricles tonight
Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling so numb
Neither of us are speaking, only you’re breathing
And I wonder where the thud of my heartbeat ran away to
I think you wonder too, but neither of us want to break the silence
So much is already broken
Breathe in, and we’re both picking up on subtle notes of apathy and dissonance
It’s a floral blend of apologies that neither of us owe each other
Breathe out and this whole room’s on fire again
I’m too tired for this, and I’m too fragile for you
The moonlight is all caught up in your hair
There’s a world out there dancing across your answering machine
I wonder who thinks of you when I can’t anymore
I wonder who thinks of me
Breathe out and this will all be gone
Pale blue eyes and to do lists on my arms
I guess I’m not everyone’s type
Crossing off miseries like milk and eggs
I’m wrapped in another stranger’s sheets (again)
I take it back
I’m everyone’s type but yours
Poems on crumpled napkins
Red lipstick and tipsy confessions
I guess I could if I wanted
If it would make you love me
I forgot to lock the door tonight
Just bad music that everyone else grows out of
And cold hands from only being held in cold hearts
Why does loving myself feel like an affair?
Cinnamon tea and Splenda
I’m a certain flavor of je ne sais quoi
Good for winter nights, but not my favorite
Apparently not yours either
October 23, 2013 — Hands
There are hands all over me, searching for something I’m not sure I have to give, something that’s no longer mine to give if it’s even there at all
There are these scathing, tracing, imploring hands all the god damn time, and their grasp tightens when I pull away, whispering “what’s the rush, sweetheart”
And then kissing my shoulders, my neck, my hands.
God, these hands. This burning.
There are hands that are constantly touching me where I can’t even touch myself, where I can’t even stand to look.
Don’t touch my stomach. Don’t touch my thighs. Don’t touch my scars.
Just don’t. fucking. touch. me.
They’re in my hair now, on my waist then
around my neck
And still they’re always wanting more. What part wasn’t enough, I wonder.
Or maybe it was just all of me. But I’m so soft.
I’m so beautiful.
I’m so sexy.
So I go back then, shameful, shameless, so damn ashamed, back into the dark, caressing cold
To spend another night shaking in another pair of hands to hold me
Please, just…. please
Why can’t anyone please just hold me?
October 2, 2013 — At eighteen
At eighteen I’m the scent of second-day hair with perfume in it
It smells like your bed, and my sweat, and your exhales, and my Juicy Couture Viva la Juicy . How middle school of me.
I’m the cool touch of unwashed sheets on bare skin because the thermostat is fussy, and I like sleeping naked
Just me, you, and this body that I don’t like so much right now, but I’m eighteen, and I’m working on that.
I’m leggings while they still pass for pants, and the chewed up ends of pens in twenty different colors
Chinese homework has really turned me into such a biter, and I claim to love all those darling pens equally, but I’m a discriminatory bitch, and I show my blue pens the most love
I’ve teethed them half to death
I’m not even close to halfway to death assuming things go well for me. Oh, please let things go well for me.
At eighteen I’m the taste of chai and menthol because that’s what’s sexy these days
I’m all about what’s sexy these days. Apathy, really bad electronic music, bare midriffs.
Funny since at eighteen I don’t want anyone to touch me
This body is my project, please don’t even look at me like this, all insecure and exposed. Please just let me curl up, and please let me be by myself.
I wish my mother were here to bring me a popsicle. My throat hurts from all the screaming I do these days.
At eighteen I guess I’m still a little angsty, but I just want you to love me
God, do I want you to love me.
I want you to patronize me with the warmth of your arms and undress me with strong, resolved hands
Don’t touch me, just look at me and tell me that I’m perfect and naive because at eighteen I’m still milky white, soft, and broken
I’m a sight for sore eyes, a new sight, your sight
For god’s sake
Just love me.
I sat on the patio and looked around, somehow retrospectively, at this new home of mine. The sun had just moments ago tucked itself away below the green canopy of Georgia trees, casting everything around me in an easy, lethargic yellow that made it feel like a previous decade. The soft, gentle whirling of coffee-house music coming from the patio speakers also made it feel like a previous decade, though I suppose if it were a previous decade there wouldn’t have been speakers on the patio.
This was not how I imagined my life at eighteen. Maybe someday, at a time I knew only as a comfortably distant and promising “eventually,” but certainly not eighteen. It was warm and muggy, but in a way that felt nurturing instead of uncomfortable, and as soft breezes erratically broke through the distinct Southern heat to surround me in a graceful flurry of forgotten biodegradable napkins and not-so-biodegradable wrappers and discarded sugar packets, I felt an unnamable something that that I hadn’t in a very long time. It made me uncomfortable: the idyllic Southern afternoon that was now my life. Everything about it was just so. The way brilliantly orange and magenta flowers lined the patio, the way my splenda-sweetened sweet tea lingered with a chemical aftertaste on my tongue, and the way my arms seemed more delicately freckled than they had been the last time I took note of my freckles, which admittedly I’m not sure I’d ever done before.
I wiggled my feet, perched out in front of me on a black woven patio chair, and looked over both shoulders anxiously. There was just something troubling about so much simplicity, and I couldn’t for the life of me shake the feeling that any second the light would stop filtering itself through the trees so beautifully and some sort of horrible, violent crime against my romantic Sunday afternoon would take hold of me, drowning me in the inevitable reality that moments like this don’t come often. Not for people like me. I reluctantly blinked, but when I opened my eyes again nothing had changed. An old woman got out of her car, a napkin shyly crawled a few feet across the patio, and the greedy sound of my straw sucking up my last few drops of tea momentarily pierced the sad melody of a song I didn’t know.
This was my life now.
I think the thing about being sad for so damn long is that you forget everything else. You forget what if feels like to unwrap your arms from around your torso, and to stretch them forward and in any direction you please without risking your sadness exploding out of your body in the absence of physical restraints to prevent such a thing. You forget that “eventually” was never marked down on your calendar, and that just like adulthood, it can creep up on you long before you expected, leaving you bitterly heartbroken and anxious over how eighteen years can pass so quickly, and so shamelessly without your consent. You forget that sometimes there’s nothing to hate, and nothing to hide from.
But in that surreal, pastoral, somehow simple moment, as everything made a slow and gradual transition from yellow to a grateful tint of indigo, there was nothing to hide from. I was just a simple and unaffected eighteen, and this was Sunday afternoon the way I always imagined it happened for other people, but never could conjure the optimism to believe it would so readily happen for me. I pulled my pale legs in under me, taking brief but unconcerned notice of the lightly pink pattern of a machine-manufactured woven patio chair that stretched across my calves, and I took a long breath in. This was my life.
August 14, 2013 — Growing up
When I was a little girl I used to get sick a lot. I’d curl up in my bed with my faithful plush friends in my faded Christmas pajamas and we would wait together until my mom came into my room with a popsicle for my swollen throat. She knew grape was my favorite. Recently I’ve been sick a lot too, except grape popsicles don’t really do so much anymore. It wouldn’t matter if they did, though. My mom doesn’t come in anymore because we can’t risk opening my bedroom door. Six years of self-destructive secrets might get out.
I also didn’t like vegetables as a child. I like them now. I still think they’re better when smothered with cheese. I haven’t had cheese in quite some time, but I bet it still tastes good on everything. Damn calories.
And I bet swings are still fun. I have no verifiable data on this question and too much motion makes me light-headed now a days. I would probably fall off a swing if I got up too high. Starvation is really tough on your sense of stability.
I sleep with my arms wrapped around my knees. Always have and always will. When I was a little girl I hoped that if I made myself small enough, the bad things would never find me at night. I guess that didn’t work out so well though, because one night they must have seeped into my veins, and now I have to hold on tight to try and keep them in.
I was always a good jumper but never a good turner, which says a lot about my time as a dancer, I suppose. I could jump higher than all the other girls, even from the beginning, and my legs kicked further, higher, and stronger. I was strong, and maybe even athletic, but I could never turn, not like I would have needed to. Turning took control. Absolute control. To find the perfect square inch, just for your big toe, and say “I will not leave this spot” while the force of your own strength flung you around… it was a control I never had. And without absolute control, well, nobody cares if you’re strong.
I used to practice my pirouettes when the whole house had gone to sleep. I would shut my bedroom door so quietly that my parents couldn’t know, center myself at the convergence of two lines on the polished marble line, and commit myself to 1080 degrees of absolute centrifugal perfection, and until I landed in fourth without so much as a hair out of place, I would turn and turn and turn until I found control.
Then one day the truth came out: I was too fat to dance.
The truth came out when I was five.
The first time I ever saw someone force themselves to throw up, I was five years old. It was my very first time dancing with the Oakland ballet, a company I performed with for years, and loved dearly. I was a gingersnap in the Nutcracker, and she was the snow queen, a role I dreamt of one day dancing. She was only sixteen.
At my very first nutcracker in my very first professional show, as the youngest member of the cast by three years, I also lost my very first tooth. I ran to the bathroom to examine the new hole in my mouth, hoping nobody in the audience would notice it, and there in the single bathroom, in a sky-blue tutu and a tiara fit for a princess, the snow queen was hunched over the toilet with the end of a pen in her mouth. I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t know what to do, but the Arabian princess with beautiful hair cascading down to her waist told me I shouldn’t be in there before shouting that it was “her turn” as I ran away.
They both turned with absolute control.
I found out several months later that I was too fat, I would always be too fat, and I had always been too fat to have ever thought that I could be the snow queen. Some people aren’t built for ballet. I was not built for ballet. It wasn’t because my parents fed me too much or because I needed to add conditioning classes… it was just out of my control.
So I quit ballet at the age of twelve, the day after my very last Nutcracker in that very same theater. I was never going to be the snow queen, and ballet is an expensive passion so I tied together all of my pointe shoes (all nine pairs) and hid them in a drawer nobody else has ever seen the inside of. I didn’t have control. So I couldn’t have ballet.
Six months after that last Nutcracker, I made myself throw up for the first time. At twelve years old, already too old to ever consider being a ballerina again, I finally found control. I found control over my body like the kind the principals had: not an inch of their body did something they didn’t want, and I found control over my life. I took all that strength, and instead of jumping, I channeled it all into absolute control just like the perfect ballerina.
For the first time in my life, I felt like the snow queen I was told I never could be. I felt beautiful, perfect, and in absolute control.
I really miss ballet.