Laid Bare

Unfinished

Auben’s wedding shower ended at 2:45 PM with Auben, Mom and I lugging dozens of gifts out to the car. As we sat driving through the rain on North Avenue, I felt anxious and irritable. I managed to somehow not eat enough at the ritzy Range brunch, unable to down another bite of sickly sweet French toast and pancakes.

When we pulled into the driveway, I announced I was going to go on a walk. “Do you want company?” my mom asked. “I think I’m fine going by myself.” I pulled my dress over my head and pulled off my heels, threw on my cropped black sweater and black jeans.

After stopping at Trader Joes for radishes and bubbly water to soothe my stomach, I veered toward downtown Oak Park on some errands. Anything to walk off the sugar and clear my head.

I rang Alex when leaving Trader Joes, walking straight toward his teen-home-turned-apartment on Marion street. He texted me back later on to see what I was doing. As usual, not much back and forth needed to occur. I prefer going to his house over anywhere else anyhow.

I walked over and the door was open. Dropping my coat and kicking off my shoes, I ascended the stairs I’ve treaded for ten years now. I still get the same butterflies when I walk in that door that I did the first time. It seems impossible to me the comfort with which I can now take the steps up those stairs alone, knowing he’s waiting for me.

It’s strange. I know it is. That I go over there, that I climb the stairs, and enter his room where he waits for me. But I don’t care. It’s comforting. It’s easy. I enter that space that I know, with an intention that we both understand.

Simple? Probably not. But comfortable, familiar, sacred.

I open the door to his room this particular day and warm air exhales like it’s been held since last night. He’s sitting on the couch drinking a beer, watching a movie – Maze Runner. Notes that he read the book and thought he’d see the movie, that he’s gotten no studying done today, that I’ve walked in on his Lazy Sunday.

I toss my water bottle by the floor and lay across him, his knees tucked under my ribs. We could be seventeen.

I tell him about the wedding shower – about the sweets, the gifts, the “oohs” and “aahs.” That I’m exhausted. My wool sweater feels heavy and sticks to me in the hot room. I take it off, a torn lace bralette underneath. He puts his cold hand under my back as I flip over to rest my head on his lap, and I pull the other onto my belly. We talk about his MCAT – he may wait until June since his mom is coming in town in April. He asks how I’m doing, and I tell him about the two jobs, the possible third, the Cover Our Rust bridge, the music videos.

He’s been tracing his finger along the side of my face, straightening my hair between his fingers. I close my eyes and let him for awhile. I open my eyes and look at him. We can make eye contact now. I remember a time when we couldn’t.

The moment his fingertip touched my head, I think my heart broke and filled at the same time. The surprise of it, the sweetness of it, the fabric of time stretched behind us and ahead scrunching and snapping back. Or undulating like breath.

Oh, I’ve known I love him for ages. The way you love a bad TV show or a root beer float.

But what is he, his heart and feelings for me, and what is he in a partner?

I experience him only within the world confined by stale air and a four story apartment. Friends limited by who still drags him out of the house.

There are things I haven’t asked him for – dates with dates and times, commitments, to listen when it isn’t convenient or punctuated with sex. I don’t know any more if I fear his answer will be no, it’s more that I expect it will be, and don’t want to break an unbroken thing.

I hold his chin between my thumb and index finger and look upward into his eyes. I lift my head to kiss him and he says, “I wondered when you’d do that. You know it has to be you that does it.”

I know Alex, I know I do.

Inkblot

i.
I wish I could eat your heart like a beet
Bite let pink bleed fruit down my cheek

ii.
When I lay there
Fruitless breaths escaping me like flies
Your cheek was against my back.
You took everything and gave nothing
A wolf, you truly were.

That room had cracks in it
Sheets always twisted, bed bare
It collapsed in the middle
My hollow cave

When I awoke
Always cold with a memory of something like shattered glass
Something I would need to pick up
Loss prickling at my skin like wind

iii.
I looked in the mirror at my body
Shrinking
Ribs and palms of flesh recoiling from one another
Distressed
 
Bathtub filthy my body felt coated with something like denial
Slick with it I let my hair clump into braids
The black clung to my back like serpents
Your children
 
I walk softly on the floor so as to not wake anyone
(I’m not here, I’m not here)
Wipe away my presence, hide the items I continue to forget
The tethers that yank at my flesh like wet leather
And bring me back to you

Your teeth, white tops with yellow roots
Rotten
Hidden beneath your pretty lips you don’t grin you snarl
You growl you
Eat me
 
Your hair. Heavy in my hands as I grabbed it
Petted it
Pulled it
Mine for seconds
 
Your eyes scared me
Weak coffee, almond and nervous
Frantic
Nothing
 
You loved to put your hands on me
Over me, grip
You held my hand sometimes, or held my hand in your fist
Oh the feeling of your hand it felt like a lie
Or a slipknot
Or a noose
 
Some mornings I would pull mine back
Like a child playing games with traps
Crack down it would snap
 
iv.
I never bled for you
If I did I think you’d drink me dry and leave me
Cracked, rust colored and crumbling
 
You’d walk away wiping tears from your mouth
Sated
 
You hid from what was true in me
Wore your scars like emblems on a jacket
A narrative you felt no more than the stitches in your shirt
 
I shared mine, formed new ones.
Keloid tumors of
Bit lips and squinted eyes
Resisting resisting you

I could never stop saying sorry
 
v.
I saw the devil in you that night
When I lay back on cold granite
I knew God held anger in his mouth like foul breath
Lips twisted in disgust
 
Spilled butterflies on the kitchen floor to wake me
Shake you
Oh I knew she was angry
You were not allowed there
 
I knew
I violated
A trust that held the air like dust in a palm
Swirling above open fingers, visible only in the light
I knew
I chose you
 
I don’t want to say regret
Our threads were crossed before but I chose you
I knew
 
Forever
This, my ownership of you
I will wear it until I die
 
When my body rots
You’ll die with it
I won’t bleed
My insides will dry up like coal

vi.
Push me push me
 
I let you eat
I was hungry
Nauseous and bored
Damp with disappointment
 
Like a child
Fed only with skin
Velvet, lamb
 
You were everything I love
Dark, dead, lonely
 
Nothing feels fertile in me anymore
No cycle, only the moon
No menses
Ashes and dragging bone I see
 
Why couldn’t your head on my chest hear my heart
 
I never once listened to yours
 
Maybe I hated you
Maybe good is always drawn to evil
But am I good?
Was I on my knees holding you in my hands
Begging you with my mouth to cry for me
 
I kissed your ears and begged them to hear
The thoughts I was too afraid to even utter in synapse
 
Find another drug
 
I wish you would have ripped me open
Knife and teeth like a boar
Mount me
On your wall as a portrait
You never would
 
You didn’t cherish my face or any of me
I sat abandoned wrapped in cellophane on your dresser
Forgotten until the smell
Once pungent and glorious
Putrid dank and loss
 
Will you ever love
Have you ever?
Did you ever see light leave someone’s skin like its whole life it had wished to only to shine,
Were you ever the light for someone else?
Or just blackness
A well of ink
Eager to spill
Drip on floors and fingertips and in the corner of unsuspecting mouths
You stain
You filthy blot
You entitled shitty mess
 
Feathers need stay away from you
No
You need stay away from feathers
Or we’ll write your destiny with sharp tips
And use your power to share our words
 
If my lips bleed black let them kiss lined paper
And betray you

A Mother’s Resilience

Today, a woman with three small children walked past my mother’s house as I searched for the keys to unlock the door. She happened to be a patient at the midwifery office where I work. She found out this morning that she was having a miscarriage.

Her toddler clung to the stroller, his eyes focused on me like tiny espresso beans as they passed by. There were four little feet kicking in the stroller, their ages still numbered in months not years.

Her strides were long and deliberate, she didn’t look sad or distracted. It looked like just another day, taking the kids out for a walk in the summer humidity before the thunderstorm rolls in.

There is no one more deserving of the word resilient to me than a mother. I don’t mean to neglect fathers – it just seems that there is a special kind of silent struggle I see in mothers. To internalize. To push forward. To not fall apart.

It was by chance that I saw her unremarkable evening walk through the neighborhood, and it made me think of my mother.

Months into a series of operations to lengthen one of my legs, my mom had to go back to work. I was thirteen, bossy, and inconsolable. The preliminary operation was in November, and the expectation was that after a few months of adjusting, by February I would be back in school, and she could return to work.

That is not at all what happened. Every week with the fixator was a series of complications and disasters – insufficient pain management meant no putting weight on the leg, which meant no walking. Crutches made navigating middle-school hallways an anxious and exhausting nightmare. Switching medications led to drug withdrawal, mood swings, and reverting. I was no longer a thirteen year old. I don’t know what I was.

I required physical therapy several times a week, weekly parent teacher conferences, and unlimited attention. I sucked every bit of energy out of my mother that I could. I came to believe so desperately that we were in it together that I resented her for not being the one wearing the fixator. I accused her of being able to escape the nightmare, when I couldn’t.

There were so many nights that I was unable to sleep, that she programmed our phone to work as a walkie-talkie. I would call her, sometimes crying into the phone until she heard me, other times yelling into the phone like an angsty drill sergeant. She came into my room every time, eyes half shut. If I needed the rice sock for pain, she went downstairs and microwaved it. When it got cold, she reheated it. She rubbed my feet until I fell asleep. When I woke up, I nudged her and she did it again. Some nights I woke her up three times, like a newborn. She was back to that level of exhaustion, of constantly being needed. Only now, she had a strung-out thirteen year old capable of inducing guilt, using profanity, and pushing her away.

We went on like this for four months. Four months that she woke up to feed me, took me to physical therapy, left me as I wept and begged her not to go, worked until I paged her, came home to check on me, went back to work, came home to make dinner, finished the work she had left to do, and finally went to sleep. Then either I or a patient in labor would call her.

A mother’s resilience is unlike anything I am capable of understanding. Perhaps it is because I am not yet a mother. The fortitude to feel such desperate, raw exhaustion and pain and move through it gracefully seems to be innate in these women. They make it seem as if it isn’t a choice, but I know that it is. I know in my heart that when that cordless phone lit up lime green for the third time in a night, she must have considered smothering it or yelling into it, “I can’t do this anymore.”

But she didn’t. As cruel as I was at times, as unfair, as simultaneously needy and standoffish, she was my constant. She held me together when I couldn’t see the future anymore and every day passed by like the last.

It ended. We celebrated. I began to become a thirteen year old again, and a month later, a fourteen year old. I started talking about boys again, and wanting to be with my friends, and not wanting to be with her.

That may have been the hardest part. The joy of watching me get better and the pain of me not needing her anymore.

But I did. And I do.

Excerpts – 2013

9/25/13 – There’s so many blocks. This whole “love will conquer all” attitude toward sex is probably unrealistic. First lesson I learned about sex – having it with someone you care about doesn’t mean it will be good, and doesn’t mean you’ll feel something more or less. Sex is just sex, and love is just love.

9/25/13 continued – I had this thought today about where, if my soul was to meet my soulmate, it would be. I pictured an old jazz bar after midnight. Most of the tables empty, a few scattered men drinking scotch and listening to the piano. Women in furs smoking cigarettes. I would sit with my old fashioned, anonymous, alone. And then he would be.

Date unknown – I can’t believe I lost two grandmothers in two years. I hope they’re not lost wherever they are. I hope death is like going home.

11/10/13 – I wish the word Love only existed for two people. That anything else had a different name. Love should be something shared.

4/27/14 – Why do they call it being “beside yourself?”

 

Excerpts – 2014

Excerpts – Intimate archaeology into my previous diary entries as far back as age 13, for moments I find still resonate with me (and hopefully with you).

I’ll start here with a few from 2014.

1/5/14 – Life is impermanence, life is change. What if no one is watching? It’s nice to think about eternity, even if it just makes “now” feel better. It’s like trusting your parents as a kid. God offers the same comfort.

1/12/14 – I have to stop propagating negativity. I can taste it on my tongue.

1/17/14 – (Video Diary 1) I don’t look like myself. It’s odd – like I’m hidden in there under the cheeks.

1/23/14 – No med school for me this year. Holy shit. I have to convince people I’m worth something. That’s scary.

1/27/14 – (On my appearance) Everything seems to bust out of everywhere.

1/29/14 – I say to him, I’m scared this is a dream – I’m with you and there’s a puppy on my face. He said it can’t be a dream, I can smell the beer. Then I woke up.

2/14/14 – Let me make a mistake other than missing the opportunity to make a mistake.

3/18/14 – Sometimes being honest is selfish. I don’t know if this time was.

7/10/14 – Someone tell me what to do. I can’t choose – and if I don’t I may never grow.

9/2/14 – (On moving out of Mom’s house) I don’t want her to feel that she’s lost me forever, because part of me wants to be young forever too. Youth is a terrifying thing to give up. But there are parts of it oddly that I’m missing out on now.

9/10/14 – Don’t paint because you think you can do it better than someone else. It’s okay that sometimes you don’t feel like drawing, even if you want to. You’re not missing out on some finite potential or time that’s running out. Just make something when the time is right. But maybe buy a few canvases and some oil paints for when that time comes along.

11/12/14 – I have the sexual prowess of a starfish.

Black Wednesday

Good god I haven’t written in awhile.

My bourbon sipping mope-fest gave way to a scotch sipping boho-tryst when I moved in with some friends for a few months, out of ze home with ze mother and in with three amazimaniacs. So I remembered at one point that I have this lovely website that’s all mine, and I should write on it, even when I’m not semi-drunk and kind of crying.

I move into a new apartment this weekend, with some ladies who seem cool but could potentially have a sad0-masochistic knitting circle I don’t know about. Hopefully they’ll be wonderful, and won’t judge me for wearing a mouth guard to bed and/or sleeping with a pillow between my legs (my chiropractor recommended it, and since he’s the only man in my life that knows how to send shivers down my spine, I listen).

Thanksgiving is coming up this week. Oh god I get nervous thinking about all the pies. My family typically has a 1:1 pie to guest ratio, which means that even if you take the smallest slice you can, one step above scraping some goo off the side of the knife, you still end up horrendously full, burping key lime/pumpkin combinations that make you all at once sick and hungry again.

Then comes Christmas. Or for my Jew-ish family, a night of getting hammered and sort of doing Thanksgiving again. I always come out remembering very few things, one of which is that mixing scotch and eggnog is insanely dangerous. Like, man-baby spitting up all over yourself dangerous. A word of advice: unless you plan on wearing a diaper, skip the creme de Claus.

The best and worst thing about coming home for the holidays is the carnal shuffle of high school acquaintances. Everyone returns to the festering blister of local bars like a bad HSV outbreak, and for some unspeakable reason, everyone gets weirdly horny. Like, you’re drinking your 10th beer and surveying the crowd with utter hatred, but still undeniably and self-loathingly aware that leaving alone sounds more depressing then having arrived in the first place.

A sensual excerpt of Black Wednesday would sound something like, “The door opens, and another North Faced body crams into the sweltering bung hole, prepared to spend twenty minutes waiting for a Bud Light. After a particularly deep flask slug, you to scan the room like a Costco parking lot and wonder: will the pre-pubertaceous dime piece who wrote his number in my yearbook in 2006 finally be down to locker-slam me into sweet sweet huskie oblivion? Did I remember to shave my legs? Am I walking home?”

The sweet spot is the blessed 2-4 year age gap where someone may remember your sibling, but didn’t see you puke your blunt-guts out of a treehouse. The age gap is where the magic happens. Sweet sweet ignorance. I don’t know that you came in your pants at your first MORP and you don’t know that my nickname in elementary school was ‘potbelly socks.’ Call me.

To be honest, I’m still not sure I could ever date younger though. Something about a guy being my brother’s age or younger gives me the heebie jeebies. Particularly if they knew my brother. I don’t want my brother to ever wake up on Christmas morning with a text that says, “hey man let your sister know she needs an antibiotics dart.”

I’m getting carried away and mostly shooting the shit here, you know, me and my computer and my pint glass of foam (beer explosion, I don’t want to talk about it).

Happy Thanksgiving you filthy animals.

 

Inventory

Wrinkled sheets in an unkempt bed

Bras spilling out of half open drawers

A men’s golf sweater musty with cigarette smoke

Last nights scotch in flat water

Matchbook notebooks with 3 AM scribble

Dried flowers

Photos and post-its and buckeyes and letters

Twisted iron bed frames draped in gym clothes

A vanity covered in spilled bronzer and empty antique perfume bottles and

A card that says, “Fuck this shit, I’ll just become a stripper.”

Sea glass in a mug from a Temple garage sale

Framed watercolors and a decorative glitter purse

Bedside books and a ceramic bowl full of Arizona stones

Pumps and cowboy boots

Stacks of paystubs and concert tickets and to-be-filed

Postcards with kittens and old ladies floating on inner tubes

Half opened packages and pink tissue paper

Artwork on wooden squares leaning against the wall

Stacks of posters and textiles buried under clothes to give away

Cigar boxes and trinkets and costume jewelry

Condoms and lip balm and deodorant

Navel rings with missing beads

Belts with extra holes pushed in with a screwdriver

T-shirt sleeves and sewing scissors

Elastics with curly hairs still knotted to them

Retainer somewhere between decorative pillow and real pillow

Expensive camera with a dead battery

Hand-me-down bathrobe and a shirt to return