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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Climbed a mountain and I turned around.

This week in a melancholic fit I taught myself the chords to Landslide. I laid my body out on my bed, held the guitar close to my chest and really belted out those lyrics. Let the reverb knock around in my chest. I ate a family-sized bag of Ruffles potato chips. I almost bought a pack of cigarettes. I was standing in Plaid Pantry and when she asked if I needed anything else the lighter was in my pocket and the “yes” was on my tongue, but then you texted me and I said Nope, all set and handed her my debit card. I’d left work early to cry in my car, and I’d left my car to cry in the forest, and I left the forest to drink beers in your sun-drenched backyard pretending nothing was wrong.

The forest took all the things I wanted to say. When I get to you I am out of words.

Have you ever seen a butterfly drag itself out of a chrysalis? There’s no sudden flurry of color as the former caterpillar bursts fabulously from its entrapment. First they use a gland in their proboscis to moisten the inside of the shell, softening it. Then they claw their way out. Tediously they emerge, sticky with their own fluids, wings soft and useless and crumpled. It takes hours for the circulatory system in their wings to become functional. The wings slowly expand and harden. They become useable.

You asked me once if I’ve ever been depressed. Not just sad but, I’d-kill-myself-if-I-had-the-energy, “Depressed with a capital D”. I don’t remember what I answered, but I know I didn’t tell you about stepping into a river at the tail end of Montana winter. I know I didn’t tell you about the night I invited cheap tequila and a bottle of dilaudid into bed with me. How we flirted all night, but the next morning those pills were still in that bottle. I didn’t tell you about the nights I self-soothed with visions of self-harm. I can’t explain how imagining the blade kept me from using it. I can’t explain how knowing I could leave kept me from going.

I honestly don’t know what I said. When face-to-face with such obvious pain my experiences felt invalid, like I’d been playing dress up; trying on different degrees of distress to see which one fit me best.

I tell the trees I am hurt, and I am angry, and I am confused. I tell the trees I am scared. I tell the trees I can’t do this anymore, I can’t do this, I can’t. The trees keep their own counsel, but they nod to indicate they’re listening. “What if we didn’t know about wind?” You said once, forever ago. “Would we assume the trees were dancing?” I don’t know how I answered that either.

My horoscope says see everything that hurts through the eyes of kindness.
My friend says you should just get more Xiao Yao Wan it'll help.
My therapist says so what if it’s an ultimatum?
My head says Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. My heart keeps its own counsel but nods to indicate listening.

The last time I see you I won’t know it’s the last time. In my yellow bedroom I write the words and they feel like only truth feels. I hold the landslide in my mouth, the taste like birth; like slow struggle. Outside no such thing as wind, the trees are dancing.

Friday, March 18, 2016

This is my body.

Lately I have felt like a stranger in this skin. I’m not saying that metaphorically. Literally, I feel as if I am just meeting this body; estranged by the shape and texture of the thing.

The mottled melanin of these forearms, the sudden spattering of red pinpricks across the backs of both hands. My fingernails growing thick and strong at an impossible rate, somehow always dirty. Somehow always carrying a bit of each day close, so close to my skin. There are scars, and scars, and scars. The purplewhite stretch marks across breasts and hips. I am amazed by all the woman of this body. All the soft.

All the pale.

Portland sunlight has leached my skin lighter than its ever been. Just beneath the surface, all those bluegreen highways so visible. A fine splay of veins rooting in the hollows of the pelvis. The hours, and hours, and hours spent beneath fluorescent lights. The late nights and little sleep. Brow struck somewhere between concern and amazement, like my forehead is constantly either crumpling or testing its uppermost boundaries.

So unfamiliar, this skin.

And yet this is the body that used to tear full-bore around the corners of our Montana backyard, hands and knees, caught up in a 6 year-old’s intricate world of fantasies. I was a dog. No a bear. No a lion. Something with claws and teeth, something fiercely independent.

This is the body that bled at 9.

This is the body that huddled in cheap plastic chairs, spending lunches in the high school library. Too afraid to brave the cafeteria. Devouring books and baggies of Goldfish snack crackers smuggled in in my pockets. This body, learning the backache of lonely.

This is the body that knelt on a friend’s bedroom floor, brought the lips to her lips for those inexplicable minutes. I’ve never kissed a girl before, have you? A memory of a boy, the dark parking lot where I kissed him. His mouth like a car crash, all twisted metal and confusion. His wet tongue groping and desperate. Her mouth so soft, no demands, just curiosity. Isn’t it strange to be kissing and feel absolutely nothing? My head nods agreement. My body thinks nothing feels an awful lot like something.

This is the body that lost the bet. This is the body that lost control. This is the body that woke bruised and naked in that basement on the edge of town. Clothes in the corner soaked in beer and piss. A barrage of angry text messages when I recovered my phone from the front lawn. I can’t believe you let him fuck you. His fingerprints bruised into my arms for a week. The ache of pinned wrist memories. This is the body that took a pill purchased by a friend’s mother and given as a birthday present. This is the body that bled at 17, purging a night of Stupid bitch, you had it coming from the hollow of me.

This body wouldn’t drink whiskey again for years. This body learning survival. Something with claws and teeth. Something fiercely independent.

But this is that body that has loved, and loved, and loved. Soft under so many hands. The memory of breath stirring between shoulder blades. Warmth. The weight of this body draped sleeping across or beside another human.

The skin so soft. The skin cold. The skin feverish, furnacing lovers into meltdown. The skin clammy, and most comfortable under a layer of cotton. The skin sweatslick and gliding easy.

Lately I have felt like a stranger in this skin because it as been so long since I sat down and examined it with anything but a fleetingly critical eye. I pause long enough to flash a smile in the mirror, then turn quickly away. Afraid of all the things I might find if I let my gaze linger. Afraid of the ways I have aged and changed. This body, this skin. So many stories held in the tension of my shoulders, in the softening of my belly. Waiting to be read. Waiting to be written. Look at the ways I’ve survived.

Look at the ways that I live.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Open Letter Series: #6


For Lucy, forever ago**:

Yesterday I found the ring.

The ring I lost three years ago. The one you gave me because February. The one you brought back from the desert to turn my finger green.

I remember the day it disappeared. I was changing and in a hurry when it flew off my thumb and was swallowed up by some rift in time and space. I scoured my bedroom for months afterwards. I rearranged the furniture; ran my fingers across every square inch of floorboard and molding. I never found it. I assumed it was some cosmic sign quietly telling me “Enough”. I was always losing totems back then. Gifts with emotional significance would go missing when my relationships had reached a state of such discord that there was no chance of recovery. Rings and necklaces, clothing. Even pets.

As somebody who has historically been terrible at letting go, these losses were bittersweet. An involuntary release is still a release. There was momentary panic then relief in the missing. Relief in the acceptance of the thing and its absence. The sweatshirt lost after a night downtown. The charm that slipped off my neck and down the bathroom drain. The string around my wrist that frayed and broke. These small goodbyes like mile markers; like debris torn from moving vehicles.  

It was a cheap mood ring from some tourist trap in Arizona, the colored band perpetually declaring I felt romantic or cold. I loved it. I wore it faithfully until the morning I woke up with a crippling hangover and no recollection of how I’d made it to my house, let alone my bed. My finger was battered and swollen, blood crusting around the ring’s sharp metal edge. I still have the shiny knot of scar tissue in my finger. It was the month after we broke up and we hadn’t spoken in a week, but you texted me that morning. Said “Hello b”. Said “I miss you”.  

After that I wore the ring on a chain around my neck. You made fun of me. Called me Frodo and asked me about Mordor. Called it My Precious, japed me about my “quest for love”.  Asked me why. Constantly why, and I didn’t have an answer but I liked the way that chain slipped through my fingers like a knockoff rosary. I liked to twist that ring around and around when I was thinking, or anxious, or bored; liked to trace it across my lower lip while I wrote 122 love poems. I had been living in Portland for 10 months when the chain broke. I was sad and small, and it fit loosely on my thumb so I bent the band to feel more secure. It was there one day and then it wasn’t.

And now it’s back.

It’s hardly recognizable anymore. From the mutable color constantly shifting to tell you how I felt, to glossy black, to mottled patches of sick greens and yellows. When the paint chipped clean it was a brassy polish which rubbed into brighter silver. Now that shine is wearing away, the color below something soft and golden. We are getting closer to the heart of the thing.

Yesterday you texted me to say you are happy. Sitting across from the girl at the bar she watches me twist the ring around my thumb. She asks me what it means to me and I laugh, overwhelmed by the answers I’ve always used before. I used to say “It is a constant reminder that somebody loves me, even at my least lovable.” but this is not that story anymore. So I tell her it’s a beautiful metaphor; the evolution of every me. It's becoming more true, layer by layer. The metamorphosis of everything precious.

I am getting closer to the heart of the thing.

-b

**This is a nod to Bon Iver, who is incredible and who you should definitely check out if you’re unfamiliar

Monday, January 18, 2016

Easy as falling off a bicycle.

Recently, in an effort to be kind to my body, I decided to try Restorative Yoga. From the description on the website it seemed like the perfect opportunity to focus my mind and open my chakras while strengthening and stretching the meatbag that holds my bones. I don’t know what part of “quiet your nerves and rest your body” made me envision a dreamy, androgynous yogi draped in loosely fitted white clothes. I pictured us standing on a sun-drenched, windswept bluff overlooking the ocean, the instructor’s dulcet tones encouraging us to deepen our pose and also our consciousness.

Yes I knew the class was in a studio. Yes I knew it was Portland and December and 7:30pm (AKA 3+ hours after sunset).

My notions of restorative yoga as exercise were crushed when I settled myself in the dark studio and the instructor encouraged us to build a cozy nest out of blankets and bolsters. At least three bolsters per person, and as many blankets as we could lug back to our mats. Duly equipped we proceeded to drape our limp bodies over padded bolsters in various positions for a full hour. During this hour, the instructor approached me no less than three times. Encouraging me to release the tension in my back. The tension in my shoulders. Reminding me to breathe. Letting me know it was ok to close my eyes; I didn’t need to ogle the other adults also draping their bodies over padded bolsters.

Anyways. Here’s a brief and incomplete list of thoughts that passed through my brain while I napped. I mean “meditated”:

Alright, yoga, here we go. I’ve never liked you before but maybe things are different now. I’m a grown ass lady. I feel so capable of existing mindfully for an hour. What is an hour anyways? Nothing. Practically nothing. One episode of Shameless… Ok, more than one episode of Shameless, especially since I skip through the opening credits and theme song. 1.37 episodes of Shameless. It’s a good song though. I wonder what my pals the Gallaghers are up to right now…

I wonder if my little toe is supposed to feel all cold and dead like that. Probably. That’s probably completely normal. Try not to think about it.

Alright, next pose! Things are getting real. I wonder if relaxing every muscle in my body counts as “exercise”. I’m not sure it does. I’ll probably still eat potato chips for dinner. Wellness is all about achieving balance. This is potentially the hardest easy thing I’ve ever done.

I am relaxed, goddammit! Oh. No, you’re right. I wasn’t. That feels better. Thank you.

Oh, there goes the right arm. Things are going to be so uncomfortable when blood starts pumping into my fingers again.

No, I cannot focus on my breathing without controlling it. You make it sound so easy, like people just casually observe their own basic functions all the time. Now I’m deep breathing and I don’t think I usually do that. Maybe I don’t breathe at all, actually. I don’t know how to stop controlling my breathing now. I’ll be hypervigilant forever. Literally everything I do will be multi-tasking. I’ll never get into grad school when over half of my brain power is wasted thinking about breathing and burritos.

Mmm, burritos… god bless burritos.

Joss Whedon, you asshat. Things didn’t have to end that way. Completely unnecessary. Maybe if the series had in fact ended at Normal Again, Anya would still be alive and nobody would wake up in the middle of the night sweating and cursing your name. It would have been a good series finale.

Am I asleep right now? Do I still have a body or have I actually become this bolster? When was the last time I opened my eyes? Oh, they do still open. Oh my god, there are still 45 minutes left.

Maybe I’ll eat chicken salad with my potato chips. A chicken salad-potato chip burrito. With a fried egg on top. And some bacon.

Maybe I’m living a real life version of Normal Again, and everything I assume to be real is just a projection of my psychosis. There is no Portland. There might not even be an Earth. Nothing matters. I wish my psychosis were a little more creative. It could have made me a vampire slayer, instead of a sleepy and very hungry adult in a restorative yoga class.

These shorts were a foolish choice. Sorry, everybody in this room. I hope you’ve all become bolsters also.

Alright, this isn’t so bad. I can no longer feel my limbs, and I don’t know if I’m awake or sleeping, and I’ve been consciously willing myself to breathe for at least 40 minutes, but things could be a lot worse.  I’m definitely probably asleep. Or meditating so hard. Except if you’re thinking about how well you’re meditating, maybe you’re not meditating very well at all.

I should do this every week. I’ve never felt so relaxed in my whole life.

Oh thank god, it’s over. Namaste, beezies. I’m out.

Summarily, it was an hour of intensive introspection and many important lessons were learned. 1) I still hate yoga, 2) nothing is real and 3) burritos. I hope you carry this newfound peace and clarity into your daily practices, sweet babies.

-b