What does loving someone feel like?

What does loving someone feel like?

I asked myself this. Again and again. I was younger, not much younger, and I hadn’t yet felt what my heart was capable of. I have learned something since then. It was accidental learning; it was unlessoned learning, it seems like it is a knowledge which landed on me suddenly and from somewhere else.

I’m glad it did. I’m better for it. I never wanted to spend the rest of my life wrapped in the skills I had acquired hiding from pain and abuse. They came in handy as I sat cross-legged in the backyard with my brother listening to police sirens blare by our front door. I became skilled at receding, at ignoring, at crying without caring I was crying, at feeling merciless, a merciless daughter refusing to blame a father, refusing to hate a mother, refusing to feel for fear of feeling the wrong things. I was skilled at saving my pain up until the right moment, so I was never crippled, so I could always succeed, or appear to succeed. I was skilled at surviving. Watching my brother just barely survive. I could turn my love for my father off as if it were tied to a switch because doing so helped me turn off the self-doubt and the self-hatred which he insisted I keep. And I am skilled today, at rerouting my own emotions, as if my neural pathways are railway tracks. It is so simple for me to pull a lever and welcome anger instead of sadness. Apathy instead of heartbreak. I am still skilled at that. There is a process for it. I wonder if the process is unique to me, or how many others can understand it. It is like a wave; it starts in the back of my head, and then moves forward to where my forehead is. This stops the crying. The wave moves down my neck, easing the tightness, and into my chest, easing my lungs. This stops the feeling. The process only takes two to three seconds. And then I talk and my voice is normal and clear; and then I walk and my hands are not shaking; and then I can choose exactly when to reverse the process and pay the price for doing it.

I believe that during the worst of it all I went months at a time washed out like this. I thought it was funny how easy it was to exist in this state, and I congratulated myself on it. I thought my face looked funny in the mirror, a hard line at my lips and even, unblinking eyes.

I had a recurring desire to scream my lungs out. But I could never find the right place. If I screamed in the streets the lights in the houses would turn on and someone would call the police. If I screamed in a field a jogger would try to save me and stop me. If I screamed in my house, in my school, in a restaurant, I would never get away with it. Sometimes I tried- they were silent screams filled with air. My fists would ball and my mouth would widen until my jaw popped and wouldn’t un-pop, and the veins in my neck would bulge over the sound of a whisper. Other times I indulged in half-formed, nervous screams which could be muffled by my pillow. I didn’t want to be found out. I only allowed myself one or two good shrieks, grinded out between my teeth; toes curling. And there was the one time I guess I left my body. The screams left my mouth without my permission, without my command. My aunt was in the car with me. She must have been afraid. But I only felt regret, afterwards, that my consciousness had returned and stopped me from continuing.

But I’ll tell you something. I found victory, years after that. I used my body to carry me across a spit of land onto the point of an island; step after step along the caldera, until I reached a small white church on the top of a hill. And in front of this church was a ledge and I climbed that ledge. And there was no one around; no one around for a mile, and more perfectly there was a strong wind which battered my body and made me fear for my life on the ledge above the water. And I stood there- I stood my ground against that wind while the sun was setting and turning my vision orange, wind, hair covering my eyes, turning my vision black, and I finally did scream my lungs out.

I screamed and whooped and shrieked and was not afraid that someone would hear me. I heard me. And it was a sound I had been wanting to release for almost my whole life. No one could take it away from me. Only the wind; which did, it swept the sound far out over the sea seconds after it passed through my ears. And I thank the wind for letting me hear every decibel, and for being wise enough to know they shouldn’t be allowed to linger. Below me I could see a town called Oia, and I screamed and screamed and wanted them to be afraid, wanted them to believe there was a banshee in their hills by their church far above their houses, wanted someone to turn from their work to listen for a still second, wondering if they had heard something in the air. I wanted the cars winding by the coast on the other side of the point to hear me and know they could do nothing to reach me.

And I’ll tell you something else. I found victory, a year before that, over my heartlessness. I fell in love for the first time. And that love was a physical feeling too, but unlike a wave. Like a dust, a light, a shimmering cloud of spores or particles. It is a different process. It starts somewhere near my ribcage and proceeds to fill my whole chest like a vessel. And then it collects, until it forms its own vortex, as in a wind tunnel, which grips my heart and pulls it towards my lover. And that’s what loving someone feels like, physically feels like, which I regard when I look in the mirror, and see my rounded lips and kind eyes smiling back at me.

My old skills are vestiges of a life before love; and I use them without meaning to in the same way that people check their doorsteps for dead people. And I hate the wave and how easy it is to feel everything being washed away. It is so much easier to live with resentment than disappointment. But now every time I turn my feelings off I am more and more afraid I will get stuck that way, or perhaps, the worst fear of all, that this is my natural state and that love is the learned behavior. But I know which one I pored over and cultivated. I know which one I practiced over and over it again. It makes it harder to get rid of. But now I know what the alternative is- now I’ve finally felt it. Unlearning this will be difficult. But I’m in luck. Unfeeling my love can only ever be impossible. /


(Sweet) Dependency

Like a smoker who fingers their pack through the pocket of their jeans, I fixate on my stolen Staples pen, and the notebook that I payed for, fair and square.

I’ll use that old crutch writing to help me make sense again.

Everything I see is through a type of haze that makes real life become a dream sequence. The world echoes like a movie set. Last night as I was walking home, I saw a video playing inside of a storefront that showed a young model clawing her way out of layers and layers of plastic wrap. On the other side of the street was a real-life girl laughing with her posse, wearing a top with a scooped back so low that it touched her waistband. Even here, where the air seems so much more clear but my head still definitely isn’t, that dog has a pant that seems louder than its lungs should allow, and the woman walking it seems suited to be an extra. There are two girls in matching leopard print leggings who stop to watch it. I’m sitting next to a white haired lady, and when a plane passes overhead, we both look up- the same instant and angle. It’s comical.

What’s comical is that all of a sudden I feel completely transported. I have slipped and slid backwards in time and although I feel slightly like Sisyphus, this is exactly where I wanted to land and I’d been aching to lose my footing. Because here- here- I am in my room, that room that retained all its vestiges of childhood femininity. Tucked away in corners and drawers and jewelry chests are all the cheap beads and plastic hair clips, the sparkly Hannah Montana scarves that gleam with sewed-on sequins. This room is easy and familiar and if I could safely drown in the knick knacks and ballet clothing I would. I don’t have to let anything go, if I don’t want to.

It’s the endurance of these things that built friendships like mine. The years collected over top of one another, settling gently on talk of playground crushes and letting pink glitter leotards peek through. And when I made new friends, went to new sleepovers, those memories simply became a new layer, and they’d be stronger for the weight of time and tradition that they would have to bear.

That was the unique beauty of growing up in suburbia: you never had to move. In fact it was encouraged to sit still, and I wanted to, because it gave me time to set up intricate dioramas with Playmobil figures. I made a home at the houses of my best friends and sifted through their piles too, and we could pick out what we wanted to play with with no concern for chronology. We learned a sense of object permanence: our past and present would always, always exist.

We learned to take our town for granted, to stay safe, and happy, and still.

We learned how to cling onto each other. Like ice cream, it was unhealthy. But what’s so wrong with being sweet? /


Nope. Me neither.

I won’t make up any New Year’s resolutions.

I don’t want to boil down my future to a checklist. I want to spend this year and the next and every indeterminable length of time after those to continue to move forward, to always feel better and happier and stronger, to accomplish things I didn’t know I wanted to do. I will be better for the good things that happen without my expecting them; much less my planning for them. I will be better for the curve balls and the epiphanies and every single thrilling discovery I make.

After all, falling in love was a curve ball.

Essay writing was an epiphany.

Happiness is a resolution which can neither be written down nor ever checked off.

I wouldn’t want it to be.

But for my immediate future? Yes, I have some thoughts. Some guidelines.

I want to stop being ashamed of putting the highest emphasis on connections with people I love. I want to start being better at allowing those connections to exist; to reach out to the friends who were kind to me, who I miss, to stop ruling myself an outsider and cordoning myself off.

I have a feeling that 2017 will be a year that needs a lot of postage.

I have a feeling you’ll be hearing from me soon. /


[[This post is part of a collaboration with my best friend Bri, from the blog Tales of A Human Snail. Read her piece here.]]

‘Home’ is in a state of flux.

Home used to be Centennial, Colorado, where I spent my childhood and adolescent years within the same general radius, moving from house to house in a city that remained the same. When I think of Centennial, oddly, I always think of Southlands Mall. Southlands had that frozen yogurt place where I showed my best friend my brand new iPhone 4S in a rush of elation at being on the cutting edge of technology. It had the Victoria’s Secret where I bought my first pieces of lingerie because Jazlynne said that was the adult thing to do. It had the movie theater I visited countless times, the Noodles & Company which I seemed to only rarely be able to afford, the fast food restaurants on the far side where my dad would take me through the drive-through as a step up from our usual dinners.

Centennial is familiar to me, like a winter mitten, something I can remember and trace the shape of with my eyes closed. There was something immensely satisfying about living in a state for so long that you started to understand the geography of it: the disjointed neighborhoods starting to make sense in context to each other. Cherry Creek had the Italian restaurant I went to with Danielle in elementary school, Denver had East High School and that record store and Spirit Ways where I made fairy houses in third grade. Golden is a college town with an amazing pizza place Bri and Jaz and Hannah and I went to; and we were drunk on giddiness and freedom even though our parents wanted us home. Greeley is where Jeremy and Alex live, it’s a spread out rural suburbia where the kids drink late into the night and the houses are towering things. Everywhere had its significance, everywhere was somewhere I’d seen, nothing was scary anymore.

The mountains were another thing. I took them for granted but they never got old. They were a permanent fixture on the skyline of my youth, like the wallpaper your mother put up in your nursery which still appears in your dreams.

When I left Colorado, that home, I felt like I was being ripped away. I left in a flurry of nervous glances and fast-clipped steps immediately after my High School Graduation. I was ushered out of the gym with a security guard herding my clustered family, until they stowed me in a car, and we pulled out of the parking lot with a collective exhale. We had breakfast at The Perfect Landing, another place with memories (parties, anniversaries, when my grandparents waltzed during dinner). And when the plates were scraped clean and the photos were taken, and everyone left, I waited for a taxi to take me to the airport. I caught a plane to the east coast and hid for a while.

Every now and then when I get sad I think about that exit: it felt like the lack of a goodbye. It felt like my ending was stolen from me. I missed every graduation party, every parting get-together that my classmates and friends slowly and tearfully prolonged, unsticking their home from themselves with laborious and nervous fingers, shaking it loose to find a static cling remaining, relishing in it, and then brushing it off for good. My goodbye was a ripped bandaid. It was over so soon that I didn’t even feel the pain.

Maine, by all rights, was supposed to be the new solution. It became Home. I moved into my mother’s small apartment with the things I had managed to smuggle out of my dad’s house and claimed my space in the makeshift bedroom there, separated from the living room by a curtain. When I got my own space in Boston, it was bigger and better and had a locking door and its own kitchen and shower and the windows opened onto the city like the promise of a brave new world, and it was, it was brave and new and beautiful. It feels the most like home to me now. It feels like the first place that was mine.

But Centennial wasn’t magical because it was mine. It was magical because it was where I grew up. It had my family and my friends and the very roads that served as getaways for Bri and I in her car; it was deeply and all-encompassingly familiar.

I feel like a visitor when I’m in Maine. I feel like the Summer Tourist I always was. My mother might move away this year and shutter even the apartment with the curtained-off bedroom. And in Boston, I am the college student, who is exploring a new place with the joy of someone falling in love for the first time. But when the year ends I’ll pack up my things and move them to a different building and a different room, and when three more years end I’ll leave the city altogether. I can’t go back to Colorado. Bri told me returning was like stepping into a time capsule, and even if I had a reason to go back, I know that my capsule has been dug up and shattered, and the memories were irrevocably released, pouring like silent gasses from the canister into the open air. I expect I’ll be afraid to visit Southlands, which is five minutes away from where my dad still lives. I expect I’ll be followed by nervous texts wherever I go from family members who see Colorado only as an open jaw, with jagged, dripping teeth.

So the question presents itself, obviously. Where is my home?

As I write the question fills me with less and less anxiety. As I remind myself of the doors that have closed behind me I can’t help but feel relieved. So what if I’ll never relive my childhood? So what if I’ll never see the Jericho house again, that house in Colorado where for the first and last time I knew what a normal, whole family was like? So what if Maine is not my own place, and just a waystation, and a shrinking waystation at that? So what?

I have where I am now. I have everywhere I go. I have the bus that carried me here and will carry me back, the phone in my hand full of messages from Bri and Parker as I rode. I have those people. I have who I keep with me.

It’s sad to know that I’ll never get the goodbye I always wanted after High School. It’s sad in an inevitable way. But when I think of that blonde haired girl with the small-toothed smile who cried with me over the phone, because I thought I’d be moving away, when I think of Bri, I know that I’m stronger for leaving old places behind me. I know that anywhere a car exists and anywhere there’s a road I will have Centennial again. Centennial was just singing with Bri to loud lyrics from her stereo. Centennial was my best friend and the ways we killed time together, in the way that every teenager finds a way to kill time while waiting to finally grow up.

And god, I think I’m finally growing up. We both are. And things aren’t the same and home is just a memory.

So what?

I’m happy. /

Identity crisis

It all comes down to two.

Two branches of a fork in the road. Two extremes of anything. Two people, anywhere, in any time of their lives, wanting to somehow merge.

If I’m being honest, it all comes down to us.

It will always come down to my need for companionship, a need which is neither transient nor unique, but something that will always be there, beneath and surrounding and driving every other creative pursuit. It might not be that glamorous, in the way that a director is glamorous, who has spent his life collecting film and studying it and is married to his work, who dreams only of what he can create, not who he can meet. He is therefor the definition of focused and independent- nay, transcendent- above us mortals who stumble around hoping for copulation and maybe a bit of affection too.

But if I am anything I am mortal. I am fatally dependent on feeling, on feeding off of the world around me- absorbing every breath and hint of other people or the weather or the glint of sun on metal, and internalizing all of it, interpreting it, making it take shape in words or colors so that I can make sense of it. I am much too connected to the world to care too much about the afterlife- and if I were in space I’d still be most excited by the human in the spacesuit next to me, or the million thudding hearts I’d left behind. What do these glistening universes mean to us? What does the promise of a new frontier- the expanse and the exploration- mean as an ideology for people?

So, yes, a simpler way to put it is ‘I am a romantic’ or ‘I am a humanist’ or ‘I am a vessel for channeling everything else. Everyone else.’ Well, when I put it that way it makes me sad. It makes me wonder, in a purely Freudian train of thought, if I don’t love love so much because I’m hoping someone else will be able to tell me who I am. I’m wondering if my void of an identity is because throughout childhood it was easier to become a vacuous mass, a shimmer of smoke, who neither stirred nor thought nor rebelled nor spoke. Yes, Sir Sigmund, it was easier that way. Yes, there was trauma.

And here, at 18, am I only now starting to notice the absence? Starting to feel the smart of something missing, starting to long for that thing which is mine and mine alone, which will be now and at the end of time, like a fingerprint or an iris or the helix of your ear, but, like an unshakeable habit more inveterate, like perhaps, I suppose, a soul? /

Time of the season

The opening of a new chapter in our history will always be conducive to writing, but it is, I suppose, the just-almost-opening of one which possesses me to write now. I feel a Sisyphean urge to add my voice to the flurry of words and noise which we outpour into the “net” (although, for its name, very little seems to catch) in a plea to be heard or maybe to be felt or perhaps just to be a part of something. This will become a single blog post, which will register a micro-fraction of a decibel loud on some inconsequential scale. But I need to convey to myself the loudness of the moment, of the movement, of the silence when the chants died out and the hollowness was revealed underneath.

I walked against that movement- a stuttered but thick stream of chanting young people- with a myriad of homemade slogans shouted in small moving chunks, like my High School Homecoming parades. I have no way to know if the chants were actually thought up by the marchers of Boston, but they weren’t hashtags I had seen before, they were a part of an oral history: “HEY HEY, HO HO, DONALD TRUMP HAS GOT TO GO.” “WE DON’T NEED NO GODDAMN WALL, USA HAS ROOM FOR ALL.” “SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE: THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.” “NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO FASCIST USA.”

I imagined myself veering off from my projected course, which was against the flow, walking bleary eyed on the sidewalk occupied by photographers perched like vultures but wearing my clothing and my slow sense of awe, and jumping into the marching crowd as a slogan I liked passed by. Maybe, “THEIR BODY THEIR CHOICE,” and the girls marching behind with, “MY BODY MY CHOICE.” Just like any river, this one possessed its own current; it called to me with a promise of civil disobedience, of looking like those pretty women in Good Girls Revolt (the TV show I was watching earlier in the night) who wore long beads and did LSD in the sixties and fucked the patriarchy hard. I could understand, for the first time, the reason why counterculture existed: because there is nothing more thrilling than being one of a swarm of people, standing firmly on the moral high ground, and ignoring social convention with impunity.

The crowd gathered around The Gazebo, which was already occupied by a dangling row of white 18-21 year olds, one who had a megaphone, someone else with a noisemaker that sounded like police sirens. A girl in black leggings scrambled up the cement siding with the help of some guy in a hoodie, and, when she had accomplished her goal, stood up on her pedestal like a man with a foam finger who had made it onto the Fenway Jumbotron. I watched as the crowd pressed inward with searching eyes, concertgoers jostling for recognition from their favorite celebrity, except on the stage there were just more college students, and no news trucks to make them famous, and they knew it, too. They guzzled up obscenities like gasoline to keep the noise going. When “TRANS LIVES MATTER” started to fizzle out, there again would be “FUCK DONALD TRUMP” or fuck this or whoever or fuck everything, and even now, as “adults,” the joy of saying these words is the same joy as stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.

So I left.

I walked back toward my home past the smattered rows of Boston Police in iridescent vests who seemed more like loiterers than anyone, and met eyes with a few of the scattered people walking to and from and around the T stations, carrying out normal lives or leaving the protest like I was. It occurred to me when I met eyes with an Asian woman that everyone on this mostly-empty street with the piles of leaves must also be sure that they are the center of the universe, must also be experiencing my feeling, that the universe is large and incredible, that I am a tiny pinprick of light, and that the vast observable galaxies are mainly there to circulate around me.

I passed a girl from my floor, the girl with the baby face who apparently knows where there are parties. She was smoking a cigarette and leaning against the cold gray side of the T stop looking like she felt lonely and afraid. As I crossed the street, blue light flashed across my face from the police car parked parallel to the crosswalk. There was that girl Amy Houghman by the doors of the lobby, catching my eye for a split second. We’re Facebook friends. She was huddled with a group of five other girls, all dressed in white dresses and heels under pea coats and the flashes of their front-facing cameras. I think I heard something about white being a symbol for the Suffragettes. I’m sure I’ll find out later on Amy’s instagram.

As I climbed the stairs towards my dorm I heard someone ask the time, and then “You’re gonna miss American Horror Story?” and then the first girl, the one holding a protest sign like a textbook under her arm, “I don’t get why they couldn’t come, I’m really annoyed actually.”

I knew as I climbed those stairs that I was being pretentious. Everywhere I looked I saw through a lens of disdain, and, of course, just because I didn’t walk outside with the express intent to march in the protest didn’t mean that I hadn’t been there, or that I wasn’t white and young and privileged, or that I didn’t have an Instagram.

I wonder how exactly it helps to look down upon people just because I think their hearts aren’t behind their actions. I wonder what it would matter even if their motives were completely and objectively “genuine,” if we could even collectively decide on what “genuine” is. I wonder how it was in the sixties, which stands in our public lexicon as the real era of protest: if white college students looked at other white college students playacting at anger and felt a little far away from it all. If only I could tap into the Woodstock generation and feel what they felt. I wonder how I can get a slice of that magic, a hit of that bong, draw a needle of that urge in my stomach to light my bras on fire in the middle of the Common because FUCK SYSTEMIC SEXISM, FUCK FEELING AFRAID FOR MY LIFE, FUCK ‘LOCKER ROOM TALK’ AND FUCK THE MAN WHO STANDS FOR IT AND FUCK ALL THE PEOPLE WHO JUST MADE IT ALL ADMISSIBLE.

But the sixties are over, aren’t they? The protests fizzled out. As anyone who’s had sex, marched in a protest, or eaten a stolen cookie knows, you can only screw or screw the man for so long before you get tired and sick. Counterculture is simply a social Viagra; the best way for people who feel isolated and unheard and like they need to get away with something to actually get it up.

I don’t know. Maybe it was easier five decades ago. People were having orgies and their drugs did their thinking for them. Maybe my young, liberal professor is right, and things were better back then. /