This year has been... So hard. It's been so ******* hard. There were times when I didn't know if I would make it. Times when I didn't think I had it in me to keep going and going after what I want and what I need, when they're always such long shots. Such dreams. Such ambitious dreams... I wanted to quit so many times. When **** left, I wanted to quit. I wanted to crawl under the blankets and stop being. I spent 3 days on Angela's couch after that night. I can never sleep in my own bed when I am truly broken down. I lose my home when I am raw inside. Couches, empty rooms, it doesn't matter where I hide but it can't be where I live. I wonder why that is. She couldn't have picked a worse time to tell me she loved me as much as I loved her and that it didn't matter. And then you... you were off in another world, off in another country finding yourself and your footing and everyone but me. You stopped answering my How Are You's. You didn't tell me happy birthday. Neither did ****. That was the first time I realized why holidays are the hardest for people who are sad. If you love someone and you are waiting for them to forgive you for being who you are, birthdays, Christmases, every holiday becomes a ticking clock: She has to say something. Will she say something? Will she really ignore me TODAY? Today, when the person who hated me most in high school said "Happy Birthday!! :D" on my wall on facebook? Today, when even my neighbor who grumbles about us being too loud grumbled a Merry Christmas? It becomes an agony when you realize that the answer is yes long before the day is over. Then you have to watch the hours tick by, trying not to hope, and by the end of it you just want it to be over, you don't even care anymore- you just want her not to have a reason to speak to you again, so that it won't mean QUITE so much that she is silent.
I had a lot of special days like that this year.
I wanted to quit when they told me I was small. When they told me I was quiet and bland, like vanilla icecream. The beast that lives behind my ribcage shook the bars that day and howled. (I spent a lot of time with it this year. We still hate each other, but we have uneasily realized that we are all we have.) That was the day I truly broke. **** was gone. You were gone. And the only thing I had to truly count on was suddenly in question. It was now or never, it was be better than your best, and I was barely hanging on. It was be a hundred and ten percent, when the past few months had whittled me down to a shadow of a person who barely remembered what it was to be fifty. It was push harder than you've ever pushed at the moment you are about to collapse and you thought you were going to be able to rest.
Those days made me. I hate that they made me. I hate that the biggest parts of me come from the days that eviscerated me, but they do.
I wanted to quit when **** came back and saw what I'd become. "You're wearing fake eyelashes?" she said, because she always did notice any weakness. She didn't say she saw my sunken cheeks, and the fire behind my eyes that meant I was afraid to die. "PROMISE ME you'll stay this time." I said, and I grabbed her shoulders. "But only if you mean it."
"I promise." she said.
She didn't mean it.
I knew, though. Somehow I knew that the girl I loved had left her behind, a changeling, a stranger. I tried to believe, but when she left the shock was only surface: I was too tired to be rocked to the core.
Then came the days when I truly didn't have a plan. I spent a few weeks on the couch. Anyone who reads this will not have seen me with ***** hair, in week old clothes, skinny and sleeping all the time. I make sure they never see. But for a few weeks, I had no one to pretend for and no reason to pretend and no reason to live. I only knew I WANTED to. Even then, from the couch, with my show babbling in the background, I thought, "There's gotta be something. A reason will come. I just have to wait." And a reason did come. It wasn't a very good reason, but it didn't have to be: Reasons to live are not really the reasons we live. The truth is that if you want to live, you will FIND a reason, every time. You will create one. My reason didn't mean a thing in the details. All it meant was that I was ready to rejoin the world, and live again.
I spent a lot of the in between months living on the surface of myself, just getting my feet wet. I went to work. They didn't know me there. Didn't ask. I liked that, it was simple. I waited tables, I cleaned up, and if I quietly did what I did, nobody bothered me. The biggest thing I could **** up was somebody's lunch. It was comforting. I chatted with customers as if I wasn't who I was. I was their smiling waitress with her hand on her hip, a hot *** of coffee, and a clever quip. That was a part of learning to live again, too. It was hard to stand there all day and listen to the radio. Memories would hit me and I would be unable to run away from them the way I could elsewhere. I learned to breathe through the pain, and discovered that it became muscle memory to endure it. It was almost easy by the end. The only deep thing I did with this time was to read Girl, Interrupted. As with most life changing books, I hadn't thought much of picking it up. I hadn't expected it to change me. But reading it, I could have wrote it myself. I knew how she felt, every moment, and the things she said stuck with me, stuck to me- the raw wounds that were still healing inside me scarred around her words.
Then came the reckless stage. I was waking up. I began to listen to music again. I began to drive without knowing where I was going. I began to make choices just to see if they'd jar me enough to snap me back to my old self. They didn't. I didn't find myself again until just before school started.
Poor Giles (my car, the car that saved my life) was the cost of it. A rainy night, a loud song, and too much grief. Things really do slow down when you crash, you know. I thought they just did that in movies to be dramatic, but they don't, it's real. When I went off the road I knew I'd lost control. My mind was way ahead of me. My body wasn't in the place I thought it should be, and I remember distinctly but calmly wondering why it wouldn't listen to me and do what I wanted (it was, in fact, being thrown around by the force of the crash, and the signals from my brain saying "Move your arm!" couldn't compete with whiplash.) I woke up with the car crunched against a tree, on the driver's side, and the frame 6 inches from my face.
I didn't feel anything.
My body cried and shook as they strapped me to a stretcher, but inside I wasn't in control. I was sitting back quizzically. The moment they got me out of the car I knew I was unhurt. They cut off my clothes. My favorite bra was another casualty of that day. Cut right in half- the leopard bra I wore in the first scene I ever did in front of the UConn faculty for midterms last year. While they were wheeling me from test to test, I wondered if that was somehow symbolic. Flash forward to being in bed in a tiny room, a doctor giving me back my bellybutton ring, me asking where the pentagram necklace that **** gave me the night we met was, getting it back, putting it on. The IV in my arm was cold. I hate IVs. My mom cried, and I cried, but I still wasn't scared or sad. I cried because tears came out. It was a surreal experience, crying like that.
I didn't wake up fully from my brokenness until the nurse came in and said, "I'm so sorry, but we need your room. I'm going to have to put you in the hall." I shrugged, and they stuck me in the hall just outside. I watched them wheel a bedraggled looking man in. He was muttering. He reminded me of my uncle, the alcoholic, the one who had died the previous fall. I had a hunch that they probably had a lot in common. Interest piqued, I eavesdropped as they bustled around and talked to him. He had tried to **** himself.
That was when I woke up. I didn't really know it, but that was the moment. It was the first moment in months that I remembered my real reason. I asked my mother for a piece of paper to draw on, and she dug in her purse to find it. Ten minutes later I faked having to go to the bathroom so they'd unhook me from my tubes. I had a feeling my mother would think it improper if I told the truth. Before she could object, I slipped into his room, and handed him the paper. I said, "I made this for you. I hope you feel better." I wish I remembered exactly what I'd written. It was a simple little note and a doodle of a rose, and it said that he mattered, and that I cared about him. I got back in bed, sheepish, and my mom was as nervous about my infringement on someone else's life as I'd guessed she'd be. Five minutes later, though, the nurse came over with a piece of torn paper. He had written back to me. His handwriting was shaky and simple, like a child. I have that note hung up in my bedroom at home. He said, "You have touched my heart. Thank you! I will keep your rose in my heart. This is a life changing moment for me... Thank you!" I wondered if there was a plan, then. I wondered if all of that, the sadness, the crash, everything, had led me to be in that hospital and say something to that man that changed his life. And maybe it didn't change at all, I don't know. But I know that that moment changed me.
Back at school, I had a few blissful moments with you. A few nights of hand holding, a few beautiful kisses. I slowly taught myself not to run from you when I felt the gravity of my love separate me by the molecule. I found that I did have the courage it took to be in your arms, and that is when you lost the courage to hold me. Still, I'd take all of my grief and more for one moment with you, and I'll keep you in my heart till the day I die, whether or not you stick around.
In class, I was the first to break. To cry. Over months, I cracked open and a lot of the tears that fell were very old, and scalding. I hadn't known I was suffering until the cracks in me were widened and focused on. One day after a particularly raw moment, I walked across the street to the tattoo parlor. I didn't stop, I didn't think, and I got a tattoo that very moment. My butterfly, on my shoulder, to remind me that changing hurts, growing hurts. I loved how much it hurt. (Nobody said I was recovered fully.)
Suddenly then there was a choice before me. An opportunity and a challenge. Do something to make them remember why they chose you. Fight. Win. I dug deep. I thought, what can I say that I mutter to myself in the shower when I am not thinking about anything? What words have stuck to me? I dug, and I found Susanna Kaysen again. At 3 in the morning I sat in a chair, in the dark, in the center of the bare rehearsal studio and tore myself open.
I found the girl who, this past summer, in the thick of everything, had called McClean and tried to get a bed. Who for a week had begged to be somebody else's problem. I called a hotline. I wasn't suicidal, but only because I don't have it in me, no matter how bad I feel. I called and got a voicemail. Desperate, I called UMASS Memorial. I remember they told me that if I wasn't a physical danger to myself or others they couldn't help me, and I remember this phrase tumbling out of my mouth before I could filter it, "Should I just go slit my wrists and call you right back, then?"
I had asked for help, and the answer, resoundingly, was no. And so I spent those weeks on the couch, and then I got up and dealt with the fallout. There was no other way.
I found her and I invited her to say something. And what came out was... The biggest ******* to the things that had beaten me down those past months. I kept the lights off. I put on Bleed Like Me and danced without looking where I was going. I held myself to the chair and tried to escape. I screamed into a pillow until no sound came out. And I found Susanna Kaysen. And I freed the part of me that wanted to talk with all those wiser than thou gods who toyed with the thread of my fate, teasing it with blades- I found **** this. **** being hurt. **** being broken. **** being judged. **** anyone who looked at me and thought they knew what was inside, because Susanna was inside, no, someone different, even, than her- someone, something, angry and wild and powerful and dangerous, and she laughed, and I laughed, and we began to plan just how to say "**** this."
I spent a night with you, during that time. You held my hands. You said they were beautiful. You told me about yourself. You kissed me. You wrote, "Galaxies" on my thumb. I didn't write it on my ribs until I was sure that I'd want it there whether or not I was mad at you. I didn't have long to wait- you ran away again, and I tried to love you anyway, and I succeeded. I still try. I still succeed. It's not getting much easier, but if I know one thing it's that if I
SOMETHING will happen. Something will come to me. If I know one thing it's that I can keep going even when I have no reason to, even when I have no fuel, even when I am utterly empty. If I just take the next step, and the next, one by one, I will end up SOMEWHERE new, and I will find SOMETHING to love. That is what I learned this year. By all accounts.... this year kind of ******. Although I had scattered moments of utter joy, I had long, smudged months of misery. But having gone through it, I am almost nostalgic. Because it proved to me, even more, that I am not fragile. I'm emotional, I'm intense, I'm unstable, but ******, I am NOT fragile. Like iron being smited, I went through the fire, I was hit over and over in my weakest places, but... in the end I have emerged, and I am not gone. And I am not fragile. Welcome, 2015.
This is technically more of a short story than a poem, but oh well.