A Self Portrait
I Stayed Honest
“I am a creature of grief and dust and bitter longings.”
-George R.R. Martin
I’m the explosion and throwing things when I fight with my mom about money or what is or is not appropriate to bring up in front of her parents.
“You’re not the only who misses him!” Screaming was the only way to get through to my mother when my dad was deployed. It was like she entered this other world that was nearly impossible to pierce, even by the people who needed her most—her three children. She was a strong woman when she left the house, but being in her living room without her best friend, sleeping every night without her husband, it took a toll on her as a human. When my dad was gone there was no music allowed in the house, because it made her cry; same with movies and TV, even board games. Joy of that nature had to be hidden away in our bedrooms. Having friends over was almost always out of the question. That held true even when my dad was home, because he finally was, it was ridiculous to want to interrupt the little time we had with him. I remember distinctly a night toward the end of my freshman year of high school. My mother, two sisters and I were sitting in the living room talking. As it often did, the conversation turned to my dad. Mom’s eyes started getting watery; she talked about how difficult things were with him being gone, and with money being tight because of the move and the new house and school uniforms and supplies and Amber starting college. I’m still not sure why I was so upset by it, her concerns were legitimate. Maybe I was angry that she was telling us this in the first place. I was fifteen, I wanted to worry about military ball and boys and school, not having to eat stir fry and beans and rice for the next seven months because it was the only thing we could afford. I didn’t want to consider the hours Amber worked at Johnny’s or the pizzas she purposely messed up so she could take them home to feed us. I threw down the pillow I’d been clutching and yelled viciously through my sobs the only thing that made sense at the time, “Would you just shut up?! You’re not the only one that misses him you know!” I didn’t take the time to look at their faces, I just went to my room, locked the door, and laid face down in my bed to cry. She came by later, knocked, but let herself in with a barbecue skewer. I think she apologized the way a parent always does when a child lashes out wrongly, but with understandable or even pitiable emotion.
A few years ago I realized my sexuality was not what my parents considered normal. I never really told them, figured I’d just leave it be until I started a serious relationship with a girl. Then, a few weeks ago, I was telling my mom a story about how my (female) best friend and I pretend to be dating to ward off annoyingly persistent boys.
My mother warned me, “You should be careful Emily; people are going to think wrongly of you.”
I was taken aback, “Mom, you know I don’t care what people think about me right? And… what’s wrong with dating a girl?”
She sighed. She knows I’m a huge advocate for equal rights, “Not everyone is as liberal as you are Emily. People aren’t always kind and accepting. I’d hate for them to think you were something you’re not and do something.”
I wanted to lose my mind. “Mom… you know I’m not straight right?” The silence on the other end was deafening.
She said something about her phone beeping and not hearing what I had said. I repeated myself. “You know I’m not straight right?”
“What are you then?” She asked, confused. I’d been with guys all through high school.
“Well, I identify mostly with pansexuality. It means I’m gender blind, I experience attraction based on looks, intelligence, whether a person makes me laugh or not as opposed to being limited to one gender.”
“So you’re bi?” She asked.
I recited my well rehearsed explanation. “No. I’m pan. Bi means two, pan means all. There are more than two genders.”
My dad said something in the background and my mother responded, “Oh just the fact that your daughter likes boys and girls.”
I remember putting my head in my hands at this point, just silently waiting for her to say something to me so I could end the conversation.
“Emily, could you just not bring this up ever again, especially in front of my parents?”
I’m the falling for someone who seems to want me too, when I’m already committed to another.
The distance between the Francis townhouses and the rest of campus may not seem like much, but combined with the distance between a second year undergrad and a graduate student, a long distance relationship of sorts is created. Said grad student may be absolutely perfect in every way you’ve thought of, but if he cannot grant you the attention during the week that a new relationship requires, you start to feel like a booty call. Before you clarify your exclusivity, you flirt like mad with the people who can grant you the attention you seek, because what’s the harm? But, even after you clarify if, you flirt like mad with those around you because, how will he ever find out and it’s not like you’re actually doing anything? You’re just trying to get the attention you require as a needy human being, that’s not a sin. But… another person comes along and they’re wonderful. They’re just as fantastic and understanding as the grad student, except they’re a senior and their townhouse is open to you during the week and the attention they give you is innocent but overflowing. What more could you want? When you start falling for the senior… what can you say to the grad student? Then, when the attention from the senior grows less innocent and you think less and less of the grad student when the senior is looking at you from across the table or helping you with your poetry, you realize you and the grad student were doomed from the start. Are you a terrible person? You tell your roommate you are every single week night you come home from “harmless” cuddling with the senior and every single weekend morning you come home from snogging the grad student. She tells you you’re just human.
I’m the two ales, three shots and half a bottle of wine later, declaring my love and sobbing about my past into a shoulder.
This past midterm break was the most story-book-like episode I’ve ever lived. I had met someone almost exactly a month before. Everything about him was perfect. We got along so freakishly well and were compatible in every way we had had time to discover. He was fiercely passionate and book smart, he cared about what I had to say. He was everything I’d been looking for in a companion. All his housemates were leaving for break, but he and I were staying. We spent the weekend in a hundred cliché romantic ways. We walked the river trail holding hands and talking about our lives, sat on benches cuddling and listening to the wind and the ducks. We stayed up all night watching movies and kissing. We also did a lot of not so cliché, but romantic things like eating pizza and watching cartoons naked. We ordered AJ’s and ate while drinking ales then finished the last few shots of someone’s liquor and then, because I had mentioned never having it before, he let me drink nearly an entire bottle of wine. We ended up on his couch, cuddling, but then I started talking. The alcohol had stolen my ability to shut up. I kept going on about my freshman year here at Bonas, about how terrible it was, how depressed I was, how many times I tried to off myself, and how I have a history of self harm. I started sobbing, he cried too, shared his secrets. Then I told him not to worry because he was loved, he said, “I love you too.” I had only meant it in a way like, God loves you, your parents, your friends, but I went with it. Why not?
I’m the stillness of not knowing what to do next.
This past weekend was the strangest I’ve ever lived. A boy at school, in my year, went missing Saturday morning after midnight. Found dead Sunday evening. The explosions death drops in our world have never landed so close to me before. I feel shell shocked. I wrote about it. I want to keep writing about it, but I feel like I’m not allowed to, like it isn’t my place. I don’t know. I’m sick with what I can only guess is grief, but it feels more like a poisonous concoction of many painful things locked in my intestines. I’m heavy with the news of him. I feel like I’m going to sink away at any minute. Everything feels like needles in the wound. The snow and the cold (loved parts of this time of year) make me wonder why he didn’t wear more than a sweatshirt, but how do I know if it would have mattered? I was out that night, well morning, Saturday, before two a.m. I was on the exact opposite side of campus though. We were walking to Walmart; I was beyond drunk and so elated. We rolled down the hill with the ST. BONAVENTURE bushes, got ourselves covered in mud. We sat at the bottom and laughed and laughed. We walked and discussed sex and books and plans for when we got back to campus within the hour. …He never made it back. And I wonder if he had plans. I wonder if his girlfriend had stayed in that night, if she was waiting for his return so they could screw, or cuddle, I didn’t know him, at least not well enough to know that. I wonder if he liked the cold and that’s why he was in a place where people couldn’t see him. The snow didn’t start until much later so others returning from parties would have seen if he was closer. Or maybe they did, maybe they thought nothing of a passed out drunk guy, isn’t that a normal thing in college? Maybe their veins were tricked warm from their strong drinks and they couldn’t imagine he was cold, they didn’t feel it, and there wasn’t even snow on the ground. Not yet. Maybe they thought it would be funny if he woke up outside. Or maybe the rumors are true. Maybe there was a fight earlier that night. Maybe he wasn’t even that drunk. Maybe some boy-men, foolishly angry, were trying to prove their false superiority. Maybe they didn’t know they’d hurt him so bad and that someone else would come along to help him. How can we ever know? I see nothing when I close my eyes except his. Looking, but not alive, his lids frozen open, his lips slightly parted, the cold paling his skin, fashioning him to look more ghost than human. I suffer in the fear that he died knowing he was going to, knowing he was alone. How afraid he must have been. How could he have known what was coming next? How can we go on living knowing his life was meaninglessly extinguished? He was undeserving of an end so lonely. I’m haunted by the image of him being trapped in that loneliness forever. I’m haunted by his face, he always seemed so happy, but don’t the dead always seem more shiny in our memories? Will he be remembered fairly or only as a good who died young? And the guilt of feeling that hurts me, eats at me, but the doubts are trying to kill me. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to feel about this? I hardly knew him, am I allowed to feel so blindsided? Is this allowed to send me into the tailspin I feel I’m already lost in? If I fall back into the bad habits because of the weight of what’s in my head will anyone understand or will they shame me for “wanting attention?” If I cry often, because I will think of this often, will anyone be there to comfort me? Is it selfish to ask for these things? Is it wrong to have partied Friday and Saturday because I didn’t know Sunday would pack such a punch? Is it valid to be distraught by the death of someone less than even an acquaintance? It’s just that… he was nineteen.
Assignment: Six page self portrait.
"I don't act this way to change the world. I act this way so that the world won't change me."-- Patricia Charbonneau in 'Desert Hearts'
as The Act
is but an act.
Intangible at that.
She may be silent,
but She is strident
She is given a voice.
The Lady thespian,
as the objected
by the subjected
and the objected.
Greta Garbo dominates
Betty Davis hesitates
but follows the new ones.
the ideal hoe,
erases Her history,
creating a new toxic one:
"Look and touch
as you please,
"Blame the woman for everything"
say 'Ordinary People'
and the Academy
shoot to 'Kill Bill'
for a manly thrill
Still waiting for change...
a Blonde has brains, too.
But who knew
All from Her:
on the big screen.
My mother always called me the devil child
Because I was loud, destructive and wild
I found out years later I was born with ADHD
No one wanted ever to spend any time with me
Parents didn’t know of ADHD or why I was different
They didn’t understand and they were very intolerant
Parents told older sister I was bad and she didn’t have to be around or play with me
So much of the time alone was really no fun, however for some help I did make a plea
I heard my mother double dog dare my father to hit me
Mother would refer to me as a turd in front of the family
All my cousins were smart, while I was failing all my classes in school
Got in to many fights with bullies and teachers who were always cruel
My family would all make fun of me, call names bully and teased
I was the loser that anyone could do or say what they pleased
None of my cousins was I ever allowed with to play
Was always much of the time alone every and all day
I lived in a strange way my dad was very to the T religious
And my mother was always drunk and of course blameless
She’d drink when home from work, on the weekends or holidays
And could always hide it from all her friends and the relatives
No one believed me when I told them that she had been drinking
They acted like I was crazy by then I knew what they were thinking
Never knew of anyone I could be close to, for a hug or some kind words
Things were always bad I needed encouragement for me to be heard
My mother took me out on Friday nights to eat and buy whatever I wanted, after work
Her last stop was always the liquor store for drink and smoke, I was left in car like a jerk
Bought games that took two or more to play, but she nor did dad never have any intension
Of spending time with me, I was in there way. I was a bad child that needed intervention
Wasn’t the perfect child I admit; I ran off when I was 16 did things I regret parents put me
Away, they came for counseling I complained about moms drinking, and she felt angry
She said her drinking wasn’t my problem, she’d be back to see me when I could face the truth
Never could mother admit her or dad doing wrong, everything was because I was a youth
Came home from school one day mom was passed out on the living room floor dead drunk
Called ambulance for her Dr blamed me and said no visit, and he called me a worthless punk
My dad would come home and find she was throwing up while passed out always in her bed
I’d watch him take bowls put them near her mouth to catch it, was something I would dread
He’d walk to the bathroom, empty the bowl and go back to get the next one to do the very same
And replace the unfilled one repeat the process. I was told by her doctor that I was the blame
Sometimes mom would run down the hall to the toilet bowl throw up then my heart would race
Because I always knew mom would do this and then she’d come to room to scare rant and pace
Since I was a bad spoiled child who had parents with money, nice house cars and good jobs
And I was not willing to help out or be responsible, was told I made the family look like slobs
My sister let her boyfriend talk her into letting him take me to dentist, instead he molested me
No one believed me because in the past I had lied about things, and the truth no one would see
I was different all the cousins, my aunts and uncle could blame me when things went missing
Or went wrong I was then and still am now the perfect scapegoat yes about it I’m still babbling
My father ran out the back door, when he heard me wake up and come out of my room
So he didn't have to bother with me, and I wanted to spend time with him he’d assume
Somehow I managed to graduate from high school and I then would move
To a different city I felt I might have better luck and my life would improve
Married two very bad guys both who daily beat, threatened me and verbally abused
Divorced them both had one child and how I’d raise this child alone I was confused
Tried to work and go to school never was competent enough to follow through
Each time I would start either I did not have the ability of completing anything new
Am not proud of this but I had 30 jobs that I lost in 10 years and even tried going to college
Unable to remember how and when to do things, my head from years of abuse was in a fog
Filed for SSI and Social Security, got on section 8, food stamps WIC and other government aid
I needed a home for myself and my daughter so I had to depend on things like this to get paid
My daughter grew up, became ill with a repeating debilitating disease
I dedicated myself to getting her well, and nothing about it was a breeze
Had to take her in pain for Doctor visits many times she’d cry and wished she were dead
This broke my heart with no family help, just her and I to face things in the years ahead
Unable to attend school for years, the Doctor signed permission to stay home
School system assigned a teacher who was mean nothing about her was tome
School Social workers interfered
And my name they smeared
She finally one day went into remission
And now the nephrotic kidney condition
Seems for now to have forever gone for good away
For years it’s been don’t want others to downplay
For a while I homeschooled her and the first semester back in the public school
She was on the honor roll things seemed to be looking up and I felt exception to the rule
Then one day she lost interest in classes, homework and attending
And the principal of the high school was calling and threatening
Pulled her out of school and placed her in to get her GED
Soon she graduated quite quickly within month of three
A year before she was supposed to graduate
I knew by then that I was doing things right
Enrolled me and her in community college we made the Dean’s list and no student loan debt
Last May she and I graduated have a new life now I don’t feel things in my life are a threat
But alone I’ve raised a good child, self-published a book and kept things together
I’ve published some poetry and stories in magazines that will be on web pages forever
Even though my parents have helped me out once in a while financially
I feel lack of respect since they helped family who treated me crummy
I’m still feeling and have most of the hopeless thoughts when I was young
But I still try to steer my daughter to be different from me and hold my tongue
Those cousins with the high degree
Don’t seem to have too much on me
Both lost their jobs within a year out of college from being snobs and dishonest
But the parents just think that it was because others were being so glibbest
Both stuck alone in life working in their old age
That just mostly pays a low minimum wage
Sister divorced husband for molesting her children still won't speak told her kids I was bad
She lives in my town and over 20 years she’s never visited so by her I've been for life had
Most of all I think it's because my parents never would face reality or admit
To any wrong doing of years of abuse and neglect, something I couldn't forget
Why am I talking about this after all these years still?
Because I think that it may just possibly help me to heal
All Rights Reserved
love like just know time feel way pain world heart think eyes day oh night away things words say need left thoughts mind life sun want good inside body lost new true damn light make head beautiful stop free hands right small hard loves today little fuck morning thought sweet moment times bed tell dreams long white truth thing song really skin slowly start deep woods silence lies look better lay sleep realize fall sky memories far gone green breath held room dark doesn't hold dream run thank end past dead open begin knew tears yeah hear cause air blood earth self beauty real days finally care big cool north 10w turn walk lips kiss dawn remember sound making hair fingers felt door water woman black outside large she's let's tiny window face bit speak play slow god teeth smell wish heard rain tired silver great bring wants low there's won't soul got tongue live arms red house close girl years letting note music universe man soon clean trees wood thinks post stolen you've gray clouds home ones hot soft wet hate desire warm trying mom comes longer sea thinking darkness hand shore leaves broken glow fool second knows rock read cold stare feels took father sing bag release crazy stone mouth wake forever dust watch came wanted stand help use place needs brings suppose believe laugh shit seen having ways leave weight perfect stars drive miss higher high ocean feeling memory makes present view page bear wash loss snow hell aware constant magic
Then there's the the nurses in blue
who always knew that we knew
that the news wasn't good.
Then there's the patient, whom jaundice
is rolling the dice for them,
sat still, long and thin
in a bed pinned to the ward
like a to do list on a cork board,
but the only job for it to do
is wait to fill out the paper work.
Then there's the family in black
who always sat back when
the funeral guidance guy visited with his hardback leather-bound funeral pack.
Then there's the sight of my father's eyes so red,
my sister's cheeks swelling up like that and
witnessing my mother bind a broken book back together again.
this is not an easy thing to explain.
but since i was little i knew i wasnt straight
no i am not a lesbian
no i am bot bisexual
i am a thing most people dont know of
it is called pansexual
i do like boys
but i like girls too
and everybody in between
i date for personality
not for looks
but if your cute that is an added bonus
I feel like i trust u all
you don't know anyone that knows me
like seriously who are you going to tell
my friends already know
my parents had known
they just thought i was bi
but im not
The light from your cigarette
Illuminated the path
I knew it would burn out
But I wanted it to last
Walking with you made everything better
You made my feet feel like a bus
Each step was a stop; getting lighter
You made my body feel a rush
You told me that
The present is too dreamy
Unlike the past
Because it is linked with no memory
And I told you that
Although my shell is straight
My shadow is crumbling
And I am held down by its weight
And so we walked on
While you shared your wisdom
And I felt free
Unleashed from my prison
Your thoughts were surreal
I wanted to plant seeds in your skull
Because your mind was so bright
That the flowers would grow
Our steps became synchronized
Together as we walked
And our minds were open
Our secrets unlocked
Then the light from your cigarette
Burned out at last
But the luminosity of your mind
Illuminated the path
She was the girl everyone loved
She had a smile that went ear to ear all day
She knew her friends inside and out
And could tell with one flinch
If something was wrong
She was the girl they went to
If they needed a pep talk
Or a hug
Or the truth
She was always there
She was the girl who seemed perfect
She came to school
She was put together
She had a line of friends
And a couple of boys to choose from
She had a big family
They were happy
She was happy
She was a pretty soul
She was the girl who didn’t know she was loved
She didn’t smile at night
Her friends didn’t know her inside and out
They had no idea anything was wrong
She was the girl everyone went to
Yet she had no one to go to
She never got a pep talk
Or a hug
She got the truth
she got from herself
No one was there
She was the girl who just wanted to be perfect
She came to school
Mascara thick and black
Like her mind
To distract from the bruises on her knuckles
Like her emotions
And her lips glossed
The one thing she could maintain
She seemed put together
It looked like she had a line of friends
But she didn't have many close ones
And she didn’t know that those couple of boys liked her
She didn’t think anyone could possibly love her
She had a big family
They weren’t all that happy
She wasn't all that happy
She was a wrecked soul
Never knew where angels dwell
But know they are always disguised
You are always away from me
Like the moon hiding in the cloud
Tired of building this stairway of misery
Hoping to crawl up to you till you embrace me
Lingering in this abyss till you take me abode
To meet your eyes for my redemption
UHm, let's see
This one time in high school a girl liked me
Cute, small, played sports
(^ yeah ^)
Knew about this for four months
Flirted with her all along
Homecoming came around
didn't grab the bull by the horns
Asked pretty late
so she said no
My high school was loaded
had an all concrete and brick courtyard
I remember popped ketchup packets
and boys shooting bottle caps at each other
Now the graduating class is really uncool.
I don't say that to be ironic either.
they make really bad rap videos
literally a line:
"Polo's and Sperry's is all we wearies,"
Would have rather asked a girl out
late to homecoming.