i. he says, “you’re perfect,
you’re perfect,” and i feel the word
crawl into my diaphragm and collapse
like a dying star against my rib bones. it
burns like cigarette smoke when i try
to inhale, crowding my lungs.
ii. my mother used to play a game with me:
if i was crying, she would give me a glass
of water and tell me to be fine at the bottom of
it. she said, “bet you can’t get rid of the sad
by the time you’re done with that.”
i have become a professional in putting
my emotions into clear boxes. my palms
blister from shoving them into the back corners
of my brain. they always find a way out again.
iii. i brushed my teeth sixteen times today and for
each one i told myself “this time it will wash the
taste of sorrow out” but my throat still sings
of coagulated blood and the nights when i wanted
to take my fingernails and drive them under
my flesh until i was nothing but a skeleton.
iv. when he is out of the room, i sit on my hands
and stare at his phone. i wait for the text messages
from some other girl. this whole thing has to be
some kind of sick joke. nobody wants to be
with a person like me.
v. i say i am like broken glass, i say that chewing
on me leaves nothing but aching teeth and
split tongues. i say that i am a crossroads and an
incoming vehicle, an accident waiting to happen,
a blizzard disguised as a rainstorm, i say “don’t let
me fool you into thinking i am beautiful.”
vi. when he sees the places i have ripped blood from
myself as if it was weeds, his hands shake as they
lay like bible pages on top of my skin. he says
“how did i let this happen.”
vii. it is not beautiful to be like this. it feels like
you have swallowed space and all of its mass
and now all you are is a great vast emptiness. you cannot
let people near you without worrying either that
you will scare them off or you will become their
viii. it took me nineteen years to shake off what my father
told me and learn that even if i love a man
it wasn’t going to make me whole or happy. i could
not find my own fire when i was looking into someone’s eyes.
when i fall for him, it is only because i am finally ready.
ix. he does not cure me because he is a person
and not chemicals but when he kisses me it
does make me happy. he holds out his hand every
time i fall to the ground. he knows i am a burning
ship and says “you still feel perfect.”
x. our bodies fit together like music stanzas or
how the sun holds hands with the horizon
and i might still wake up sad but his chest cavity
feels more like home than any building will ever be
and he holds me while i fall asleep and murmurs
into my hair “see, this is what i mean.”
your aunt, niece, or cousin,
I am my own person,
and I will not set fire to myself
to keep you warm.
1. A girl can lose feelings for you over night.
2. A kiss can be just that, a kiss. Completely meaningless.
3. Love can be one sided but I still wonder if that is love at all
4. Never beg for someone to stay or to love you. You shouldn’t have to beg for someone to be a part of your life or to love you. You deserve better than that.
5. Stop breaking your ribs to make space for those who do not belong there.
6. Learning to breathe again is harder than the doctors said it would be.
7. I don’t know what hurts more at night; being alone or being in love.
8. Laying with someone in bed at night is temporary. It won’t get rid of the lonely. You will still wake up and leave in the morning with a heavy heart and no hand to hold.
9. Sometimes the sky rains gasoline instead of water and you have to be strong enough and ignore the urge to set yourself on fire.
10. I will be okay someday. Bad things happen for no reason sometimes and things end but that shouldn’t mean you should come to an end too. The ocean will always have waves; I just have to learn to swim through them for a bit longer.
11. The stretch marks I left on my mother from birth will not be another suicide letter I never finished.