The Cat

My cat clings like worn out velcro. The fibers have been taxed from pulling her off so many times. Once she sticks, nowadays, she stays.

If there were ever a daddy’s girl in the family, it is my cat. This is the clockwork of their relationship, boiled down: once he arrives home, she runs to him and proclaims her love. I’ll take a second to admit that this is kind of cute, except when she’s being cute somewhere else (take, for example, when she finally stops kneading the blanket and sits on my lap, blessedly quiet for once in her life). He’ll say her name, she’ll yowl his (or something similar), and the whole house will be disrupted.

When he isn’t home, her time is evenly split between yelling at my mother or me, and sulking.

Right now, for instance, after letting me know how much she hates me for leaving her outside for two hours (as if she didn’t demand to go outside in the first place), she is laying against my legs and on my toes. My toes appreciate this, because they’re cold from walking barefooted through the damp grass to take the trash out, but the cat doesn’t have to know that. The cat won’t actually ever know that, because 1) I’m not going to admit that out loud, and 2) she’d probably leave just to spite me and my toes. And pee on the floor for good measure.

 

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Unfinished Posts from the Past Year

A timeline of inner feelings. Kind of.

September 5, 2016:

“I want to be inside you,” he texted me.

I had never even met this man, and he did not realize he already was inside me – just not the way he was hoping for. He had so much more.

His voice curled up in my ears at night, and I slept dreaming of him. He was inside my thoughts, under my eyelids, and had found a way to make my stomach squirm without ever touching me.

April 3, 2017:

I am angry. It almost hurts to admit this, because my red-swirled anger flares pink at the edges, like the halo of a lights in the darkness.

I am angry, but not just at you. I am hateful towards a small fragment of myself that thinks about you too much, because it is holding a knife to my lungs. Every inhale pricks. But I suppose it makes more sense now why it hurts to breathe when you’re around (and when you’re not) and when I only want quiet and so I resort to holding my breath.

That is a whole new ache that reminds me of times that you’ve left me–bored or driven away or maybe angry, yourself. And so we sink into ephemeral anger, and we let it simmer as we lick our wounds across the room, across the state, across the country.

We will never exist together. It has taken me too long to discover this, and for that I am ashamed.

April 29, 2017:

I will build my house atop a mountain that only the toughest can scale. That way, I will be safe.

May 3, 2017:

We trade stories like currency without understanding their value. Those words strung together carry pieces of our souls, cupped between the vowels and entwined in consonants. They are how you learn a person from top to bottom, inside and out.

I don’t think you understood the impact of my memories, coasting around the silence between us. In the echo of my voice, the rebound of eternal quiet, I wondered if you had ever paid attention to the little things.

May 20, 2017:

I drive by birds hunting for worms and it makes me think of the cruelty of nature.

Sometimes, I am the bird, fierce and hungry.

Sometimes, I am the earth, the living pieces of me pulled out violently: stretching, snapping, dying.

 

A Reflection: What I’ve Learned in 3 Years

I try to draw a connection between the feelings of love and drowning, and all I recall is a whisper of a memory. My body still remembers fragmented pieces of pain, echoes from a love that hurt for its entire duration. Three years later, I realize what I felt was not worthy to be called love. My emotions were one sided and poisonous, wasted on a boy who couldn’t bother to show me affection in return.

Three years ago my words were quick and desperate and reading them made you need to linger on the periods to come up for air. Sometimes I want that impact again, to move you the way a building shudders in a hurricane, but I’ll punch you twice for flinching before you’ve even seen the rain because a part of me wants you as far from those feelings as possible. Three years ago, I thought I could make someone love me out of sheer force of will, but I didn’t even understand the word until I met you.

Now, I know.

To love and be loved: an entirely different ballgame.

It is lighter than air, thinking of you. Loving you. It is staring into the flames, shoulder to shoulder, feeling luckier than hell to be exactly where we are. It is a cool and colorful fall day with just enough sunshine. And one day it hits me: we are the sunshine.

The sun is trapped in my heart and it makes me hot and cold and deliriously happy in a single breath. It feels sacred and fragile and unable to be confined within my ribcage, and I must try not to blind people when I smile. I wonder how I could’ve mistaken this feeling for drowning, how I could’ve misinterpreted the ugliness of before for the magic of now.

I had never been so wrong. And now has never felt so right.

 

The Fault Line

Don’t make mountains of molehills, they say, without helping you decipher between the two. Your sleep is chased away by the ghosts that haunt you in every disastrous lie every boy in your life has told you. The lies reverberate in the type of clarity only hindsight can afford –a record skipping with wild abandon. It is the feeling of falling that knocks you from a dead sleep. It is a history of building homes on fault lines, and late nights praying the roof isn’t going to fall on your head while the world trembles.

Inevitably, there will be a moment when you feel unwanted. The turned shoulder is the best you can hope to get that night. You can pray that the night doesn’t stretch into a week of loneliness, a month of holes in your chest that keep leaking sadness, a year of thunder clouds hanging over your head. But you just don’t know how long the damn night will last, and your best bet is to hope the walls don’t start shaking.

And throughout, a thought: Maybe this time, it really is just a molehill. Maybe you should stay. Face it and rage against the ghosts keeping you afraid of the night, of deafening silence, of sharing vulnerabilities with another human.

Fault lines aren’t reliable in their destruction, and they have trained you well in how to respond to the slightest shift under your feet. The smallest moment, then, will have you reeling backwards, out, away. The first sign may be the smallest, but it will not be the last– without action, you could be buried in the rubble.

I keep thinking of drowning and love and how they feel kind of similar. They suspend you, weightless, and everything about it is pain. But really, drowning. Is it the worst way to die? It’s suffocation, but more violent. The oxygen isn’t there. It isn’t being taken away. It’s replaced by something we can’t live with. It’s our own bodies giving up on us.

My stomach hurts whenever I talk to you. I wish I could pinpoint what brings out that feeling in me, but it isn’t good until we’re laying next to each other, naked, talking about nothing. And then I cry when I leave, headed home, knowing there isn’t a guarantee I’ll see you again. This time, I won’t.

This is it. We’re nothing like the dramatic ways of the movies, but my emotions have shifted into something smoother. Gentle waves. My bones ebbing away, the tears tracking down my cheeks and wearing pink skin raw. What is this? Why do I care?

We share similarities–we have both been adopted at birth. I don’t want to know. I feel a recklessness when I think of the birth parents, overpowered by guilt. So much guilt. That, worse than anything, hurts. It pulls at my blood like you do. You, though. You actively searched them out. You want to meet them. I wish I had that courage… that audacity. But my parents would be hurt. Aren’t we good enough? my mom might think. Their doubt would crack our relationship–their self-doubt, caused by me.

Bitterness. I feel weightless and bitter and my lungs sting as if the pacific ocean has taken up residency there, because we can’t talk about things like this without my blood running hot and cold and I can’t miss you without feeling guilty and I can’t love you because there’s no ‘us’ or ‘we’ and you don’t give a damn about me. You use me for my body. You use me for my warmth. I cannot sustain the both of us, and maybe you know I’d give it all to you. Take it, so I can feel nothing. Maybe then I’ll feel at peace.

Remember the Silence

When my aunt proclaimed that it was such a shame, my cheeks turned red–but maybe it was just the Southern heat. When my mom nodded in agreement, my stomach twisted.

Before I could open my mouth, they were onto the next picture. A picture of a house in San Francisco, where my mother had lived in luxury for ten days with my dad and another couple, drinking wine and chasing sunsets. And then a picture of the vineyards they had visited, of the barrels housing wine that stretched on for a mile in a warehouse too enormous to fathom. And then a picture of my mother and my dad. And my aunt cooed something about how nice they all looked.

And while they drifted on with the pictures, their conversation curbed by scenes on my mother’s phone, I was stuck on that one picture from two seconds ago, five minutes ago, ten hours ago, now three months ago.

“This one is gay,” my mother had said, pointing to my classically pretty roommate, as if her sexuality said anything about her personality.

“That’s a shame.”

I swear, those words are burned behind my eyelids and in my bloodstream, and my heart is allergic to those words because it stops beating when I think of them, and my throat closes up and I wish for all the world that I knew they were coming so I could prepare something to say, some defense that would stop them cold and make them realize.

But my cheeks turned red and my fingernails bit into my palm and I was in another room, in another universe, where it doesn’t really matter who someone loves or likes or dreams about or fucks in their spare time.

That’s a shame–

Was it because she expected lesbians only to be ugly? Or masculine? Buzzed heads and tattoos, nose and eyebrow piercings, a smug smile and unmanicured nails? That’s the stereotype, right? Because being a lesbian is a death sentence, right?

I want to go back in time and smack my aunt and my mother and let fire the words that I know could change their minds, change their culture, erase their upbringing, shine the light in their eyes and clear the cobwebs away from their ears so they could know what I know. I want to tell them that I’ve gotten better sex advise from her than I ever could’ve gotten from my mother, that when I say her girlfriend I mean lover not acquaintance, and that their hatred or fear is not getting them anywhere, love is love and it is not a shame if she find someone who appreciates her.

This is supposed to ease my guilt. This writing, this crucifixion of my aunt and mother, this lament. But it will not ease my guilt, it will not stave the hurt I feel when I realize, again, that I did not say anything. I remember my silence most of all. It was the heaviest thing in the room that night.

That’s what’s shameful.