If I should have a son
Instead of naming him after
A great-grandfather he will never meet
I’m going to name him after someone who
Reminds me of the way that
Even though the sun is nearly 93 million miles away
We still can’t look directly at it
Because my son is going to be
Nothing short of illuminating
And if I should have a son
I will paint kind sentiments over his knuckles
So he always knows to use his words
Before he uses his fists
And when my son doesn’t let me cut his hair
And instead chooses to let it droop into his eyes
I will let him
Because sometimes the world makes a little more sense
When you’re seeing it through strands, not magnifying glasses
And when the other parents gasp at me
For letting him ride his bike without a helmet
Or cheering him on while he tries to flip over the rusty top of the swing set
I will tune them out
Because I know that a bruised forehead
Hurts a hell of a lot less than a bruised ego
If I should have a son
I will wait until the blood and the marrow in his bones
Have been sucked out and replaced with sorrow
Before I tell him that heartbreak is supposed to feel like this
And even though she may have been his sea
He might just need to look inside a puddle
And every time my son inhales
I will teach him to smell for rain
Because that is the first sign of flowers
And anyone who says they don’t need more color in their life is lying
If I should have a son
I will put a baseball bat in his left hand
And ballet slippers in his right
And tell him he doesn’t have to decide between doors number one and two
That the only thing in front of him is a gate, and it’s wide open
If I should have a son
I will stand tall above him with a sword and a spear
One to slice through his troubles
And one to stab through his fears
And since I’m standing with two weapons
He will have to be the shield
And the blows that slip through my steel grip
Will push at him like a roaring tide
But if I should have a son
I will teach him to push back like he is the moon
And he is their master
And if I should have a son
And he decides to leave
I will bid him adieu
But I will always set an extra plate at the dinner table
And have a mug of hot cocoa – the kind with extra chocolate – waiting for him
Because no matter how many unmarked pathways he chooses to cross
He will always belong to his mother
It is no coincidence that a rattlesnake makes the same noise as a bottle of pills. I have seen my friends open their prescriptions as if it has just unhinged its jaw and is about to swallow them whole. When did growing up mean chasing drinks rather than chasing dreams because I can spend a whole day in bed and not once think about where I should be going and when I manage to drag myself out it is a question of how much therapy can you pay for sanity and is it worth it for my parents to empty their wallets so that I can spill my guts because at what point does a shell have to stop calling themselves human? I am so fucking tired of people telling me that there is room for improvement because I can scream into the hollowed out bits of myself and only hear echoes - when you tell me there is space to grow, I will show you that I am the grand canyon when you imagined me as a pothole and it would have been a lot easier to fill me with cement and walk all over me again. Somebody once told me that being bipolar was like trying to visit the opposite ends of the world at the exact same time - that the closer you got to where you want to go, the further you get from where you should have been in the first place and it is a matter of just standing still and letting the Earth do the spinning for you. But I have been trying to take steps and I swear to God if I hear that I am not moving fast enough that I can assure you my body is quicksand and it is enough that I have not completely sunk inside of myself. I do not have black eyes from the struggle, I do not have broken bones that let you know I have been fighting for my life, but I have my beating heart and the sunrise that tells me this is a new day and for now that is enough.
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.
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 want you to fall in love with me more than once. I want you to wake up next to me in twenty years and still be surprised by how pretty my eyes look when the sun comes up. I want you to see me walking across the street and have your heart skip a beat even though you know you’re coming home to me and we’ve been living together for the past thirty-five years. I want the excitement, the rush, the purity of falling in love and getting sweaty palms when you reach to touch my fingertips with yours. I want you to hear your heart beat a little bit louder for me every day that we’re together.