I got home that day and I cried. Cold water ran down my back out of a shower head that probably should’ve been replaced years ago. I couldn’t find the energy to take my clothes off. Polyester and denim stuck to my skin and all I could think was that I wished I could be empty again. Maybe if I let myself cry a little longer, I’d end up with nothing left to cry out. Nothing to be down about, nothing to get angry over, nothing to care about. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I didn’t want to feel anything.
I am always terrified that nobody is feeling the way I am at any specific moment. There are weeks I am so exhausted to my core no matter how long I spend hiding inside of my bedroom; the weeks where I feel my body telling me to do something, anything, to stop feeling like this and I answer myself, “maybe tomorrow it will be better” and I can’t help but feel like I am pushing the truth. The problem with having an illness that nobody can see is that when somebody asked what hurts, you want to ask if they know how to bandage a beating heart. I used to be in love with somebody who would brush my hair for me when things got really bad, and he would come sit with me on the bathroom floor while “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are” by Keaton Henson would be playing and for a few minutes I would be safe and there would be nothing in the world except the feeling that maybe this is what making progress feels like; that each knot pulled from my head means that finally I won’t be coming undone. But this isn’t the movies, this isn’t a book; you don’t magically get fixed because somebody is holding you together. Their arms will get tired. They won’t understand why it seems like nothing they do makes any difference. It is not their fault, and it is not your own either, but what is messy once will be messy again. I think about love so much I’m worried that one day it will consume me entirely, and that there is something so inherently unloveable about me that I can’t seem to scrub off no matter how many times I shower in a day. There are days where the dirt seems to live under your skin and you can stand under the hot water for hours but pieces of people that used to be a part of your life get stuck under your fingernails and you carry them with you wherever you go. Each time somebody gets close to me, I wonder what the tipping point for them will be. If they will be frustrated with me when I need the directions explained over and over again, because the thought of being lost is so much more than just not knowing with way to turn. If they will get angry when I can’t find it in me to take the few steps forward; because I have tried crossing oceans that look like puddles for some people and it seems that all they see is that both of our feet get wet. I wonder why people fall out of love, and if it’s always because there is that breaking point, that one extra knot you needed pulled from your hair that they just could not reach anymore. I see people kissing on the street corner and I wonder if she remembers what his favourite movie is, or who she aspired to be when she was young, or if he listens to each song that he gets sent, from beginning right until the very end. In the end, I think everything comes down to love. Because I see it in each businessman that empties his wallet into a barista’s tip jar, in each mother that’s ever sat through their daughters excruciatingly long ballet recitals, in each father that’s ever edited his sons essays and wrapped an arm around their shoulders as they sit beside each other, in each child that kisses each other messily on their cheeks, in the newly weds that just married their best friends and can’t stop feeling the weight on their ring finger, in the 90 year olds that still hold hands while they walk through the grocery stores, in the college girls who apply each other’s lipsticks in the bars and tell everybody in the washroom that they look beautiful, and in myself, when I brushed my own hair this morning, and told myself that maybe tomorrow will be easier than this.
I have heard you cry until your lungs rattle like the snake announcing itself in the desert, I have listened to the sound your heart makes when it shatters at sunset and takes all night to stitch itself back together again with fraying string. No more.
I have sat where you now sit at the kitchen table, staring at the plate in front of you and wondering if this is how each man has seen you. Your mouth doesn’t water but your eyes begin to. I have crossed my legs tighter, as you do. You ask yourself what defines an animal - if meat is only meat when we say so. No more.
I have been with you as you walk down the street, the night announcing itself in the laughs and yells from the bars and the keys between your fingers. You tell yourself you would feel better with more protection, even though by now you have built up so many walls you can call yourself a mansion. No more.
I have waited for a call by my phone for hours, as you have. I have stared at the ceiling for one hour too long, paced the length of my house for two hours, wondering for three hours straight why I am not worth the ten seconds that it takes to send a message. No more.
You are not the dry-heaves from your stomach that beg you to pull yourself together. You are more. You are not the dessert or the dinner, you are not served on a silver platter, ordered from a menu. You are more. You are not street-candy, you are not “hey baby”. You are more. You are not an empty building, or darkened alley. You are more. You are not counted in the minutes he has chosen to care for you. You are more.
To the girl who swears she has never been enough,
You are more.
“You seem like you’re the kind of person that picks off their scabs. You know you’re going to make it worse but you can’t seem to let yourself heal. You love in the same way you bleed, I think, in that life-threatening way of yours. Quickly, urgently, terrifyingly. You do it all at once or not at all.”
Not everybody is beautiful. I’m tired of hearing that. But everybody has the ability to be. You are as beautiful as the things you do, the words you say, and the intentions of your heart. You are as beautiful as you let yourself become.
On our first date, I told you I was flighty. Impatient. Easily bored.
I don’t paint my nails because I can never sit still long enough
for even one coat to dry. I don’t fold my laundry because I hate the routine. I would rather buy new cutlery than wash my old ones.
Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I have no motivation. Maybe I’m just looking for somebody to grab my shoulders and give me a shake and explain what normal is and why I should do it. But sometimes I brush my teeth for seven minutes straight because it just feels right. Some nights
I put my pillow on the opposite end of the bed because I’m still hopeful that I’ll wake up differently if I sleep differently. I never do.
Sometimes I forget that I’m reading in the middle of flipping a page,
instead struck by the thought we would rather make paper than oxygen, would rather have one less life-source than one less novel. I wonder about priorities. I wonder about people who think it’s necessary to match their socks when they leave the house every morning as if that’s what determines their character. I wonder about people who carry around purses that contain nothing but gum. I wonder about people who spend all their hours at a desk and then return to their house to pass the night alone in a cold bed with a frozen dinner. I wonder if they think that money will make them happier than other humans. I don’t like kissing when I have lipstick on, because I’m afraid of leaving a stain on a cheek, as if I’m marking my territory somewhere I don’t belong, as if I’m trespassing on camera. I stay up for twenty hours a day and spend the other fours hours knowing that the longest a person can stay alive without sleep is ten days. I wonder if my nervous system has begun to break down, leaving me nervous and broken along with it. I don’t understand the pills the doctors prescribed me even though they told me I was just upset over being broken up with. I told them I wasn’t upset, I was morose. I was downtrodden. I was a leaky ship; still afloat but getting lower under the weight of the water every second. I didn’t want to sink. I wanted to sail. But they didn’t tell me that the happy little green and white pills would make me plateau. On our first date, I said I felt flat. Not the kind of flat of calm water on a windless day, but the kind of flat that you associate with deflated balloons. All out of air or out of breath or struggling to find any words left. I felt like the kind of flat that musicians hate. That I hate and I can’t play a single instrument. On our first date, I think I told you I would understand if you didn’t stay. Nobody did and I never blamed them. I was too busy wondering about people who believed in numbers and the healing power of yoga on 3 a.m mornings and tying their shoes without kneeling down to notice when they left. I am stuck inside of a world that I don’t quite understand, with people I never seem to connect with.
I am staring into the setting sun as if it may swallow me whole. You have one hand on the steering wheel and the other clenched tightly around my soul. I am trying not to look at you but I can feel your eyes burning into the back of my skull. I can see each one of your cracking ribs but you kiss me until you feel full. The red lights we are speeding through become the most beautiful blurs. I wonder if each fingerprint denting my thigh imagines that I am her. I don’t think the bride in your daydreams ever wears my face. I am each lipstick smudge you left on her teeth and every hair you fucked out of place. It is easy to blow through the stop lights and signs as if it is nothing in this world to die. You lie to yourself and lie to yourself until you believe this is what makes you feel alive.
hello, i love you deeply and i am no good and you probably shouldn’t have met me.
i am a nosebleed that runs down your throat, i am your stained pillowcase from your open-mouthed crying that puts you to sleep. i am that third grade love note you keep in your pocket and i am every other word spelled wrong and i am asymmetrical hearts drawn out of the lines and i am that ringing housephone that you never pick up because you know that it’s never going to be for you. i am never going to be for you.
hello, i love you madly and i am bad news and you probably should try to avoid me. i think i saw you in my deck of cards when i was playing solitaire; a queen of hearts that fit nowhere. i shuffled you back in and put you in the game drawer and i’m sorry if you felt forgotten. i am that shirt at the back of your closet, misshapen and worn from years on the hanger. i am that giftcard you got from your estranged aunt to the store you never go to. i have value but god knows you don’t appreciate it.
hello, i love you terribly and i am going to explode if you so much as acknowledge my existence. you can tell yourself that i’m not what you want but that i will put out like two wet fingers on a lit match. you can lay in bed and close your eyes and pretend that you wouldn’t mind brushing my hair while i cry about the life i have chosen to live. i may not be the love you never knew but i am the mistake on the test you were too lazy to correct, thinking hell it’s not perfect but at least it’s got to be worth something.
The things going on in my head are worse than the downtown traffic; it’s so loud and there is nowhere to go. I just want a hand to help me cross the street or a shining exit sign to guide me home. The things going on in my heart remind me of stones in my pockets and feet edging against the shore; weighing me down but screaming that I won’t sink if I can just lighten up.
when i tell you i am not okay, i don’t mean bad day, low marks, small fight, some tears. i am not okay in the way that my fingernails are more torn up than that love letter you wrote me last summer. i hum along to the song i know all of the words to because i am too afraid to open my mouth. the people i love have teeth as sharp as razors and i wonder if it is sad that the kind words that slip off their tongues and down to my calves began by piercing me in the neck to draw blood. the people who know too much of me often wash their hands. the people who wish to discover me hold their shovels so tightly they get blisters on their ring fingers. i don’t remember what day of the week it is or if i am supposed to be at church. i think i am a ball of flame before i even cross the threshold. when i am held i can’t tell the difference between a dream and reality and if i close my eyes it is both. i feed off other people’s warmth because i am that statistic online that says this generation has grown cold. i once read that laying flat on your back while you sleep stretches you out and you will stand up a whole two inches taller the next morning but i have found that i am always pushing my luck. since i have not left my bed in days i must have added at least a foot to my height. i could probably dust the top of my shelves. i am not okay in the way that holding hands never feels right, i am digging through my pockets looking for that feeling i have lost. i am not okay in the way that whenever i can feel my heart reaching towards somebody i snap its fingers between my teeth. i am not okay in the way that cement floors look comfortable. i am not okay in the way that my eyes swelling shut from crying is the same thing as closing them, telling me it is time to sleep. i am not okay in the way that i think i have always been and maybe for some of us that’s just going to have to be okay.