did you see any ghosts today?
You crushed me.
I am a siren. Half-woman, half-bird. I would fly away if I could but instead I’m landlocked — destined for lethargy like the Greeks. I charm the winds and lure men to their death. I crash their ships along my rocky shores. The words on the screen stare back at me and watch as the pain blossoms in my chest. I have always crushed everything I’ve clutched. Where is my moral compass? Lost in the waves of the sea I drown others in, I suppose. I want to crawl into a hole underneath my floorboards. I have no ownership of this pain but it slices through me wholly. I am the villain in yet another story, the orchestrator of another heartbreak. I am always the hurricane, never the gentle breeze.
I flew down to Palm Springs to take a breath, to bake away my hurt in the desert sun. The anxiety has kept me up these last few months. I pace, toss and turn, pop pills. The nervous system is so fragile, I learn. Like a tiny pebble in my shoe, I’m crippled by what is barely there. I wanted to be skinny for my July wedding. The irony swallows me whole. I looked at myself bent over in front of the mirror yesterday as I made the bed. Wow — I look good. My thighs look taught, hamstrings visible, my ass is kind of flat these days but damnit, my calves are carved. No, bitch, you have an eating disorder. Right. I forgot I’m not eating and I work out for two hours of the day. I could throttle the girl in the mirror.
I visit the San Andreas fault line today with my parents. I want to lay down in the desert sun. I want to climb these cliffs just to throw myself down them. I am a tectonic plate, shrieking and grinding as I shift, uprooting homes and destroying lives.
It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and I’m sitting in a towel by the side of the pool with my mom. She is teaching me to french braid my hair. Her hands aren’t gentle over mine and she’s quick to shove my hands away as soon as I mistakenly try to pick up loose hair in the middle section. She doesn’t know I already know how to french braid. The late afternoon sun bathes us in a golden glow and my heart swells. Let this happiness haunt me. I look down at my tattoo to remind myself that I’m twenty years past the age I needed this at. God, if only. Some days I think she could be my daughter. I pay for her milkshakes, soothe her anxiety, tell her how she should wear her hair, how to drive and where to park. I told her about my sexual trauma last year over the phone. The boy freshman year of college who guilted me into saying yes the first week of rush. The boy I adored sophomore year who soberly took off the condom when I was on the verge of being blacked-out. My dear friend who choked me with all of his weight until my collarbones bruised and my lungs ached as I scratched at him to get off. It was the beginning of junior year. He ran into the commons room where he hid until morning. I got a parking ticket. All just preambles — a warm-up, if you will — for Nate. He was so beautiful, truly God-like in the frat house. I couldn’t think of anything but the sweat on my upper lip as he joked that the party wasn’t ready for us girls. Oh okay, so we’ll just head out and come back in an hour, I said sarcastically, motioning for the door. No, please, go, he said, laughing his at-the-time glorious laugh. If only I had known then the stucco ceilings of his Chicago apartment and how the dissociation would feel as I stared up at it, the weight of him and his resentment on my chest. I kept this part from my mom.
I’m weak. I know this. My foundation is sand and my currents are comprised of those who I love. I am small but sturdy, broad in the shoulders and thighs. I’ve hit many men close-fisted and I suppose I am lucky to never have received a blow in return. One for being rude to everyone at a party, another for trying to take home an unconscious girl. An ex-boyfriend who allowed me a free swing for trying to fuck another girl when I was still in love with him. Several in-between if memory serves. Noble reasoning in retrospect but in reality, I just wanted to hit someone. To hurt someone. Bacardi was a confounding variable, I think. I was like a junkyard doberman in those days — frothing at the mouth, ready to attack anyone who came near. The last few years have felt like being tranquilized after a frenzy. Shhhh, stay down, that’s it, just relax. My jaws are still snapping and my eyes are wild but I’m on the ground. Men will do that to you.
Tonight I’m hunched over my laptop in the double-sized bed at my parents’ rental. I drink wine from a chipped teacup. I pretend like my parents don’t notice that I’ve had three beers and a bottle of wine tonight but they do. It’s only been a few nights but so much has changed. It feels like being slashed — the impact is dull but forceful — once you sit with it, you’re already bleeding out. I feel like a middle-schooler who is learning what it means to be a loser. I ache for the little girl in me who needs to cry at this rejection. I will not cry and I know she will suffer for it. The humiliation is hot and sticky. It spreads quickly. The rage is quick to follow. I need something to dig my hands into, I need chains to rattle. I am awake. I am alive. I am breathing in and out. My blood is pulsing. I could walk up to a stranger on the sidewalk and ask them to punch me in the face. Maybe tomorrow I will. I sip my warm wine and wish I had a cigarette so I could feel more like Bukowski. I have two hands that tremble. I am a shell of who I used to be. If I am unloved, then let me be the most unloved creature he’s ever seen.
It’s 1am. I reread the texts and curl up into a ball, certain the tears will come. They don’t. I feel like alcohol has replaced my blood. I rub my tired eyes and think of my dead dog. I think of the way my sister jumps on me when she hugs me and drags me to the floor. The way I crack my knuckles to the right and then the left. The way I talk to my cats when I’m alone. My passion. My pain. I am a million pieces of a puzzle; anxious and sad and angry, but I am also beaming. I have value. I have worth. I think my cup is empty but those I love keep it half-full. I’ve never felt more alone but I also want to kiss all of my friends hard on the mouth and put flowers at their feet for always keeping a light on for me. I am my own problem that I will absolve. Years from now, I will look back on these days and only think of my mother’s hands in my hair and my father motioning for another beer in the late afternoon sun. I will rattle my own chains. I will let this happiness haunt me.