i’ve been listening to a lot of best coast lately.
It’s cold tonight. I’m shivering in the December air that I swear I love, I just can’t remember why right now, your arm around me like a coat, like a single limb could make anything warmer. Then again, I guess it does. My teeth are chattering along with my heart that’s pounding after I realize that maybe I want to spend every Sunday with you. My thoughts wrapped up in this daydream, my arms wrapped around myself so tightly think if I squeeze any harder and get any smaller I may just disappear from these feelings, but I tell you through chapped lips that I feel fine.
We step inside and I start to escape the rain-soaked clothes and try to get out of the chill of feelings I’m know are not returned, but that is one layer I can do nothing about. You’re giving me tea and I’m trying to give you words, I swear they are all I have left, but remnants of wine in my throat and the way you caught me looking at you make it hard to speak. I’m trying to convince you that I’m not cold anymore while my knees are still shaking. The truth of the matter is that I cannot explain how my cheeks will be flushed long after I have sat in your warmth without letting you in to the only part of me I cannot bear to put on my sleeve.
We are sitting next to each other, barely side-by-side - I only know that our contours are touching because that is where I can feel my veins on fire. I’m listening to your words but am also listening to your actions. Like the way you look down and scrunch the corners of your eyes when you talk about your family, looking up at me and pretending your eyes aren’t tearing from the fear in your bones. I want to tell you to breathe, to let yourself feel, to quit hiding. Or the way you tense up and get louder when your words are just not fast enough for your head, the way you care so much that even your muscles have to scream, laughing nervously after like it isn’t that big a deal. But I know it is, and I wish you knew that was okay.
But the sky is getting orange, I know it is almost time to leave, and really I want nothing more than to pretend to accidentally fall asleep on your shoulder while I actually inch closer and count how many times you breathe, but I don’t. I say goodnight and instead pretend that I don’t want to kiss you even though I’m sure that the corners of my mouth are curling down in regret. I think you see it anyways, I think you know that the steps out your door are the heaviest steps I’ve taken in months, but you just smile and wave me off, whether for your sake or mine, and I go home with thoughts of you and the possibilities you had painted on your lips and how I could think of nothing else but kissing the tomorrows into action.
5:44 pm • 16 November 2013
i’ve written this a thousand times in a thousand ways.
I am broken. This is something I’ve known since the only night my father put his hands on my mother and I realized I had no one to call. I am scarred deep and bruised hard and I’m past the point of hiding it, past the point of being ashamed of the pain, past the point of loving with the lights off so you don’t have to see my scars. Another thing I know is that I am not easy to love. I do not know how to be quiet or subtle or anything less than a shaking heart on a sleeve and I know there are girls whose laughs don’t cackle, whose smiles aren’t crooked, who can love you with just a glance while I am piecing together words on a Tuesday night, praying you forget the way you caught me looking at you.
Because you can find that uncrooked girl. You will find a girl whose liver is not a red-wine stained mug carried around on too many wide-eyed Fridays. She won’t try and impress you - and herself - with one more, two more, three more drinks. You will find a girl whose skin isn’t cracked with attempts that her fourteen year old self made, trying to cut the sadness out of her veins. She won’t expect you to hold her at one am when the only thing faster than her tears are her thoughts that maybe she should try that again. You should love a girl who can let you in, whose arms are not locked shut, who can love you in a way that makes sense, in a way that is more than words on a paper. I do not know how to love cautiously, how to tip toe in carefully, taking steps and wading until, suddenly, without knowing, you are neck deep in love - I only know how to drown.
But still, I am trying. I am whispering my words I am mumbling my hopelessness I am hoping you notice but praying you don’t hear through silent stares and hidden smiles that I hope you don’t choose easy. I hope you choose the screaming secrets and the bloodshot eyes and the four am conversations when nothing else makes sense. I may not know what the hell I’m doing, but something tells me neither do you. I know that I am none of the things that are easy and I know that I cannot keep the sinking feeling away at night and God, I know I will try and make you fix it without ever saying the words “help me.”
But still, I can love. I can love with a fierceness that burns me from the inside out, eats away my skin, replacing what pumps through my veins with the feeling of your lips on my cheek. I have a can’t sleep can’t eat can’t do nothing but think of you kind of love, the kind of love that’s got stories to tell and new ones to write, the kind of love that we all pretend to hate when it isn’t ours, the kind of love we’re all writing shitty poetry about.
So I’m not one for promises or for hope or really for optimism, but I’m hoping you won’t choose easy because I may be drowning and I may like that but you are the only one who is making me want to come up from air, come out of the cold, and breathe.
5:43 pm • 16 November 2013
I’m sitting on a bus alone
and I can’t quite look people in the eye,
but at least my hands aren’t shaking.
And I’m barely learning that recovery is a verb,
but at least I’m remembering to breathe.
And I may still have to put “shower” on my to-do list,
but at least I no longer have to add “leave the house.”
And my stomach still twists from too many people,
but at least I’m sitting with them and not in a corner.
And my feet still tap and I still pull my hair
and my face still burns red and I’m still nervous
about everything I say but at least I went grocery
shopping by myself on a Sunday afternoon,
and at least my hands didn’t shake.
5:42 pm • 16 November 2013 • 18 notes
notes on a year of fucking.
I’ve written enough poems about your
not-so-drunken decision to even remember
how it actually happened. The only memory
I’ve kept in tact is your smile when we realized
we weren’t joking anymore.
None of my scars look like you.
Your panting half smile is etched into
my mind forever, carved into my heart
for eternity. I will write poems about you
on my death bed.
iii & iv.
The first time, I could taste the liquor
on your lips almost as much as the sadness.
I kissed you anyways.
The second time it was my own sadness I tasted.
Sometimes I don’t like the way you look at me
like I’m a book you’ve already read and torn apart.
Other times, I think you’re smarter than me.
v. Not much takes longer to fade than
1am rug burn, except for the sinking feeling
of ruining everything you love, and the
dull-cutting truth that you’ll be more upset
about the rug burn.
vi & vii. I was happy about you until a month later
when the alcohol that burned your throat
spoke words that burned my ears
and I realized that you thought I was an easy fuck.
I may not know how to be the girl someone
wants to just sleep next to, but I thought
I at least knew how to be a person.
I still let you become number seven.
iix. We were too drunk, that night was too long,
and you bruised my arm when you turned me
around to kiss you. I don’t like the way you
don’t take anything seriously, and I don’t like
how I let myself become just anything.
ix. You are the first one in months that didn’t
assume I was a safe bet. You let me be more
than a wide-eyed girl, drunk off wine and loneliness.
I don’t think I was more than her,
don’t think I am more than her, but, at least
for a split second, you made me believe it.
5:41 pm • 16 November 2013 • 9 notes
I am not one for promises
or for hope or, quite frankly,
for optimism, but when
you took my hand and helped
me speak, your eyes listened with you.
I do not think this means
more than listening ever should,
but you had painted possibility
with the curl of your lips and I
couldn’t think of anything but
kissing the tomorrows into action.
5:13 am • 1 November 2013
eighteen (again based on nineteen by elizabeth alexander).
That summer in New Jersey, I drove fifty miles a week
to spend any time I had with him. It was my first time
with stability, honest kisses, and hands that did not expect.
I fell in love the minute he kissed me goodnight but I did
not know it until he kissed me good morning two months later.
I spent my weekdays worrying he had found a better girl to love,
he spent his days off working to untangle my messy thoughts.
I was eighteen and in love without heartbreak
for the first time. He had a job, a plan, 21 years
of stories I was pretending not to be jealous of.
He let me take my time when we had no time to spare.
On the first night we spent together, I woke up an hour
before him and spent the whole time scaring myself
about life getting in the way, while he woke up to lazy
kisses and pancakes. We spent the afternoon making
love, promises, and laughter that I felt in my toes.
This was before I understood how 2000 miles can make
your memories hazy. I was blinking back fear for hours
on our last night, wondering how he could be smiling
at all. “3 months,” he said, his voice cracking with
tears, “I’ll see you soon.”
4:24 am • 30 September 2013 • 1 note
That summer in New Jersey, I kissed my best friend.
I held his hand in my car and he put his lips to mine
and I kept it a secret for a month, kept our 2am’s in
my car for only us to know. I was afraid of what it
meant, or what it didn’t mean, but I always drove
slower when he was laughing in my passenger seat.
He was seventeen and falling in love with me while
I pretended not to notice. He wasn’t any good with
words but I always found mixtapes in my glovebox.
He never called me his girlfriend because I asked
him not to; he could have loved someone else
so much better. But he didn’t.
I kissed him in corners when our friends weren’t
looking, he held me with hands that knew where
I had been. He didn’t kiss the scars because
he kissed every part of me. This was before I
understood that I loved him. “You’re incredible,”
he said, “I’m not giving up.”
3:55 am • 30 September 2013
2000 miles of memories (based on silverchest by carl phillips).
Unloved is what we were, I think, and then loved,
though it mostly seemed nervous. I crossed my fingers,
I didn’t sleep, I worried, I loved you.
My first time loving another
and you didn’t kiss my scars
because you kissed every part of me.
The first morning beside you
I didn’t want to wake up.
You: the first one that stayed.
You, who have been the only one that
gave the love back even when
I didn’t know how to give it
in the first place.
3:35 am • 30 September 2013
eighteen (based on nineteen by elizabeth alexander).
That winter in New Jersey was my first taste of alcohol, girls,
and real friendship. I was pretending I knew how to make
mojitos on a Friday night, impressing a pretty girl with
a boyfriend I thought I could be friends with. I made friends
with midnight and the chill of walking the mile to her house,
lying to my mother the whole way there. I was acting older
than I had to be, like I had done it all before; my shaking hands,
nervous lips, and words that stumbled out like my steps up her
stairs proved I was lying.
I was eighteen and scared, smoking a cigarette out her
window like it was how I ended each of my nights.
She was smart, studied in France, was offering me rum
and coke from a bottle stashed in her closet. I mumbled
words about her boyfriend, she kissed my worries away
with hands that didn’t seem concerned about their two
years in love. She was the sophisticated straight girl who
liked books, wine, and the small of my back.
My first time with a pretty girl was her seventeenth drunken
night, but I let myself believe my being the second girl meant
it meant something. This was before I understood that sloppy
kisses at one am were just and only that. She kissed me to sleep
and I stared at her ceiling, already stained with the memory
of my shaking voice asking her confident hands how much
she had to drink. “I’ve been sober for an hour,” she smirked,
“but we’ll blame the alcohol.”
3:34 am • 30 September 2013 • 1 note
I am ten years old and our house is filled with smoke.
It was my idea to go to the park, leave Dad with the turkey;
Dad fell asleep, but my mother’s eyes tell me it is my fault. She and my aunt are racing to open windows, turn on fans,
get rid of my mistake. I am stuck to my cousin like she is
the last ledge in the entire world left to hang onto - if only I
had known then how many times I would have to be her’s.
The turkey is burnt and my aunt is yelling as my mother
collapses in a kitchen chair. I cannot fathom how Thanksgiving
- how anything - will go on after I have ruined the whole thing.
And then my dad starts peeling potatoes.
He hands my cousin a cutting board, vegetables, a salad
bowl and a smile. He sits me on the counter and lets me
mash my guilt into starchy lumps of indifference. This is
always what my dad has taught me about my mother.
My mother, who is finally laughing, as Thanksgiving goes
on around her, in a tiny yellow kitchen with tiny yellow tiles
and tiny little me me, too young to be feeling this self-pity guilt trip.
My cousin nudges me and helps me sneak some of the candied
yams my mom yelled at us to stay away from. We giggle over the
tension and I realize that it is my cousin’s job to teach me this laughter.
We are a generation of stubborn women, with fire deep in their lungs.
Finally we are at the table, eating turkey sandwiches from deli meat
my uncle spent two hours trying to find. My mother hands me the
prayer we read each year, ironies of forgiveness in her
shaken-from-anger hands; I feel the bottom half of me becoming
shaken-from-nervousness legs. She holds my hand. She squeezes
it at the line about patience, again at the line about love.
I am now curled on the couch with relief, pumpkin pie, and my
family, looking around at my mother teasing Uncle Paul for his
accent while he tries to perfect his English, my Aunt Trisha teasing
my cousin about a boy while my cousin hides her wrists, and my dad,
teasing me about taking too much pie while I put my half-eaten plate down.
I am ten years old and I can see are full of clumsy tongues
and awkward hands that cannot always open a window to let out our smoke.
3:26 am • 30 September 2013 • 1 note