Tag: me


What kind of atom string, wrapped around what kind of carbon core, what kind of beating brain and nebulous heart, what kind of moral code, what kind of mantelpiece photograph, what kind of flower in the desert, what kind of desert in flower, what kind of person are you?

I’m the kind that can’t be taken anywhere, not with all the tankfuls of gas, not with all the love letters. I should have been a vegetable garden, this life, drinking in sugars from the soil; instead I am the kind that won’t call her mother back, the kind of Persephone that has to teach herself to love pomegranate. This life, I should have been a tankful, a letter, siphoned out and measured, sent somewhere; instead I am the kind that keeps her eyes open, and hides her burning hands.

You’re just a nasty person, he says, and I laugh and answer, easily, painlessly, did you just find that out now? What kind of promise, what kind of practice, what kind of purpose?

What kind of death, the kind that dries out, sweet-smelling, on the windowsill or the kind that is taken out back, and pressed into the surface of the river, what kind of morning in bed, what kind of alarm, those four bars of a love song, or your mother crying, what kind of kind, kindness, what kind of person are you?

I’m the kind that has been yelling come here. I’m the kind in warm clothes, at the side of the lake. I should have been the first, the second, the third; I should have been the third, the second, the first. This life, I should have been the kind of person that is a room: open the door, set down your bags, come here, come here. Instead I am the kind whose hands are still burning.

Laundry List

  1. This is my sense of self-worth: A dog in the wintertime, skinny, sitting squat on the side of a country road. A dog, alone, cold, still and wide-eyed as the snow comes down.
  2. This is my pride: An arrow, honed for hunting. An arrow, sharp, laying underneath the last layer of skin, straight, alert, at the juncture where shoulder meets heart. A hierarchy of needs, and desire is in a crown.
  3. This is my capacity for love: A stone, small, flat, entirely colorless but infinitely textured. Just touch alone, the weight and temperature of it in the valley of your hand, is enough. No eyes or mouth, no music; the line of your fingers against a stone in the dark of a windowless room.
  4. This is my self-awareness: A morning like a mirror, clear, over the fields of a careful farmer’s sunflowers. The view from the school bus, head heavy with the truth that is all pain.
  5. This is my weakness: A frame of wood made to look like gold, and a series of ill-fitting paintings of paradise.
  6. This is my courage: A wind, a coat, butter cake wrapped in tinfoil. A painting of paradise.
  7. This is my ability to adapt: An opening to the ocean, occasional rain stippling the surface, and underneath a dove-gray blue whale, mid-song.
  8. This is my ability to trust:
  9. This is my sense of self-hatred: Hitting the tar road at seventy miles per hour, hands on the wheel like guns pointed at dogs; hitting the water at eighty miles per hour. Crawling up the rocks, driving home. Getting up in the morning. Doing it again, again, again.

Fine & Crude

During the ceremony of Mahākāla, Lama spreads his fingers slowly and makes a circular motion with his hands, finishing the movement by resting the pads of his thumbs against his forefingers. I’m reminded the film I watched last year, alone in my college dorm room, about Japanese funeral rituals; I remember Daigo, the young protagonist, how he’d traced a dead man’s face, so slowly, with his palms, in a still room, before covering him with a sheet. Watching Daigo on the screen, his hands, I’d been filled with a strange, gentle sweetness in the pit of my chest. Now I feel that same sweetness in my heart, light, but physical, insistent but impersonal, and I recognize it as purest love, so small, quick, instantaneous, so close to unbearable, catching me off guard and then lingering for years after as rarefied memory in the depths of every bone. Lama’s hands, Daigo’s hands; the red, blue, green and yellow divine, the white body, under the sheet. Hands, hands; moving, circling, with that infinite and unconditional tenderness that men reserve only for their gods and their dead.

Billy puts his arm around me. It’s so dark I can’t see two feet in front of me. His car, the surrounding mountains, the sound of crickets, the stars: these things define the space around me now. I’m shaking, not so much that it’s immediately perceptible, but enough to know that I’m not prepared for this. I am neither the many-armed god nor the body with closed eyes, not angelic or animalistic, and Billy’s hand is at the base of my spine, moving up my back to the strap of my bra.

I don’t want to be touched, but I do. I don’t want to be touched, but I do. I want to be touched with reverence, with emotion. I want to be touched like I’m wound into your heart, like I’m a wound of your heart. I think about it all the time. Solid, and warm, chemical, touch like talc, touch like titanium. Hands, hands; moving, circling. A typical person goes through three-hundred-and-fifty thoughts a minute, and I’m thinking sudden rain, fingers, magic, name the closest stars, name the five kingdoms, name the boy I loved wholly once upon a time, crop rotation, touch, fluids in the brain, touch, blood, touch, touch, romantic by nature, skeptic by choice, touch. I want to be touched like none of it ever matters.

Hands, hands; moving, circling, with that infinite and unconditional tenderness that men reserve only for their gods and their dead. I am neither, and Billy’s swallowing hard, and his hand is squeezing my shoulder.

When I was a child, I went to an exhibition at a local museum that I’ve never really been able to forget. Picture this: A thick, black curtain, a dark corridor, a door that, when opened, leads to a wide, high room, so large that I cannot remember where it ended or began. The room has white walls, and it is filled with prisms, of every shape and size, hanging from the ceiling, reflecting light, producing color. I stretch out my small hands; I do not touch. I walk through it, slowly, but fast enough that the whole thing is over than less than fifteen minutes. I’m telling you this because I’m trying to distract from the truth of the matter, which is: I want to be touched, but I never wanted Billy to touch me.

Vivid, luminous, and clear

Cymbals and then a green gong, and Lama’s voice at the end of each verse is low and full; his is the sound a mountain would make, if mountains sang. The day after, at lunch, I tell him how nice it was and he smiles a little and says really? and I think of how secretive magic can be, even to its owner.

Some mornings I walk into sun, others into fog. Lama holds one of my hands between both of his own and I wonder if he sees the blessing that it lays in my heart, that umber organ growing clearer and clearer with each day. Such a simple gesture, but it’ll feed me for another year. Lama, alone in America after lifetimes in the white-crowned Himalayas with their familiar, flowering fields and faces — is he fed too?

Golden Buddha with his lapis lazuli curls, open palm turned out, facing me, facing a world. Anxiety’s ax has long been cleaved into my shoulder blade, but it has rained twice since I’ve come here and though I am no freer, I feel cleaner; underneath the ax, the silver of my blood shines, again.

Eulogy for this body

I’m in Romulus, Michigan’s cheapest hotel, sitting cross-legged on a queen-size bed in a too-small tank top and old underwear. It’s my last night in America.

The past eight months have been forming a callous of iron and red mercury around my shoulders, melting and dripping down my back, straight as an arrow, like a cat of liquid mineral with its diamond claws stuck into me, like a river of lava that erodes, digests the green mountain. I can feel it, with its hands and jaws around my inner organs; it’s pulverizing them, crushing my fleshy insides into a pulp that sloshes in me when I move, slowing me, dissolving me. I’ve been crippled, do you see? But my outward appearance is the same; the result is both a feeling of destruction and a feeling of falsity. My blood has been thinned by toxic and hard metal, monsters with solid gold eyes are running their teeth along the marrow of my bones; but what do I have to show for it? When I’m asked if I’m alright, I have to answer yes, yes, of course, because how could I ever prove otherwise? Where are my thickened scars, where is my silver gun, what is my war?

In the evening, I do up my laces and walk out the hotel’s sliding doors; my hands are in the pockets of my best jacket. I take small, measured steps, pouring my liquified heart out, millimeter by millimeter; it pools in my shoes, leaving red footprints along the sidewalk. I walk half a mile in one direction, and then I walk another half-mile in the other. Strips of tar flanked by concrete, a Hilton, a Holiday Inn, a gas station, the highway, airplane hangers beyond. All around me, people fixated on the road ahead, holding onto steering wheels, doing security checks on jets and puddle-jumpers. I think: You know. You know, Emma, you could keep going. You keep walking through the fields, past the highway and the hangers, cut through suburban backyards. They wouldn’t know you were gone, not for days. I pause, hovering, on the border between the end of the road and the undeveloped, blank land ahead.

Hey, God? This is your child speaking; my name is Emma, do you remember me? Do you ever think of me? I’m here now. Did you know the things I’m capable of are incredible? They are. God, did you know the things I’m capable of are terrifying? Oh God, they are, they are.

I want to open myself up, break open my ribcage like a nut, like an oyster’s shell, and scoop out my collapsed lungs onto the pavement. Pull out the threads of my arteries, uncoil the sausage-thick guts, pick at the phlegm and acid of my throat and stomach walls. Tip myself over until I am drained clean. It’ll feel good, so good, to be empty; it’s like when love is returned, becoming your shape and home, it’s like waking up with wings that open in the daylight like a flower. I’ll seal myself shut, my body wiped down and made anew, and keep going. And though I will be empty on the inside: everything else can grow.

It’s spring, today; so let the seeds of wildflowers take root in the warm coats of tissues leftover and occupy the space where my lungs were. Let the air lick down my throat, through my burned temple thorax and settle in my calves, like some small, soft-eyed animal. Sunlight and stars in the back of my neck and down my back: a new spine. Let me make a circlet of wet soil and stolen blood, like a quietly determined school-aged girl sowing daisies into a crown, and hang it close to my throat to quench the worst of my thirst. A layer of sweet-smelling yellow grass to replace muscle and fat, to keep me warm on the nights when I suck up campsite fire and store it where my heart was. Snake skin and bird feathers, river water and clay, a new shape, a new structure. I’ll lower my head, eyes ahead, and run, quick, slick, across the ocean, salt accumulating in the hollows left by my intestines, sea anemones and pink, porous, breathing coral giving me new bones; the reflections on the water traveling from the soles of my feet to the foot of my soul, patterns and color washing away the last of these months from me. I’ll be a self-made angel with a halo of rose thorns and lilies, a natural android with magnesium-rich metals, veined crystalline circuits.

I’d be better then. I promise. I’d be new, that heart of fire and those wildflower lungs don’t need anything but the air in my legs and the sun on my back. Gods and men, keep your hands and your miracles to yourselves. Write my old body a pretty eulogy. Say: She is made in her own image now. Then lift your eyes and watch me run; watch me rise.

Cut your hair

I examine my body in mirrors. In a year’s time, my hair has grown longer than it’s ever been; near the ends it feels like old hay, thick and unhealthy. I run my hands through it and think: this is Medusa’s hair, when she is cleaning herself in seawater at night, running across the white sand, her snakes with their eyes half-closed, dormant, shedding scales dried out by salt. Under the fluorescent light of a hotel bathroom, my hair resembles a horse’s mane, caught and collected against my neck, tangled, dirty; but during the evening, when I spot my silhouette on the wall, I see no hair, only fur down a wolf’s back. Prey or predator, girl or Gorgon; I still haven’t decided which I am. I am pulling at Penelope, undoing her work, ripping my hair from where it’s been threaded with silk and perfume, into her tapestry. I am running away, on the shore, hovering between water and land, my body flipping, switching: sweet, gristly, tender, crippling.

My mother is consoling me; she holds me, she lets me rest on my head on the hollows of her collarbones, my hair falling over her arms. “My God,” she says, “so much hair. It seems like a curtain, more than hair.” I think of actors in porcelain masks on a stage, appearing and disappearing as a velvet curtain rises and falls. For some characters, I bare my canines and carnivore’s nails;  electric and vicious, leaping up to kick flat in the chest, splitting the braid of blood that knots hearts. For others, I slip into yellow moon eyes and milky mouth; demure and gentle, so loving it’s as painful as any wound. Kindness like my monster Medusa bathing in the dark, to save the fishermen; cruelty like a hero, under the sun, with a shield of mirrors, putting a sword to her neck and swinging. They both have their own evils.

I’ve learned that a necessary consequence of living is the disloyalty of the heart; but my spine will always be mine. My feet and teeth, those too. And my hair, of course: short, long, unwashed, clean, wrapped around my body, pulled across my face. It springs from me like Aphrodite from the sea. Whatever I am, carnivore or carnation, moon or monster: I cut my own hair.


There’s honey in her hair, and, on the corner 0f her mouth, sea salt. She stretches like a tiger, when she wakes in the mornings. Her smile is a knife, bitter and tragic; her smile is a slab of butter, warm and fragrant, dissolving. Her hands are villains on the run; her hands are suns from the spring months. Her skin is softest at the crook of her elbow, where her blood hums, pomegranate red, and on the drum of her belly, where her stretchmarks glow, milky silver. Her heart is a cliff, iron ribbons and deposits of metals along the edges; rocks between her ribs, for each time she’s cried without comfort, flowers in her lungs, for each time she’s danced to no music. Love is the hardest work, but she does it gladly. Eyes like trees in childhood, bites of sugar; voice like song in the tundra. Sea salt along her spine and dotting her temples; a gun at her back, underneath her shirt, loaded with bullets made of honey.


A week ago I went to talk to my school counselor. Getting help, any kind of help, is something I’d been considering for years. Often I would fantasize about confiding in a woman sitting next to me on the high-speed train to Madrid, the gentleman in the supermarket check-out line, a little-known writer of Sunday columns, or, in a fit of absurdity, Plato (this lead to a series of letters addressed to the most kind Mr Plato, which I keep behind my bookshelf, as furtively and as shamefully as a degenerate child would hide the instruments of deflowering).

Earlier this year I somehow managed to tell the story to two of my classmates, while seated in a swinging lawn chair. I had my eyes on the checkered retractable awning the entire time, not because I would not look at them, but because looking straight in front of me meant coming face to face with my reflection in the glass-paneled doors. The confession was a failure; it left me feeling squalid and ruined, for reasons I will not go into here. I’d like to make clear that it wasn’t their fault, however. She was a darling slip of a girl, all flashing skirts and floral smile, a milder, kinder Lady Green Sleeves. He was a debonair Holmesian character, with an ancient, Romulus air and Roman profile to match. They were gentle with guilty, doleful me, but they were also unprepared.

Afterwards, I lost all sense of the story itself. Where had it began, where was the development, the character designs, the pacing? All the narrative elements that I’d so carefully picked up along the years felt artificial to the point of obscenity when placed against the backdrop of my mother’s relapse and my parent’s divorce. I found that the anger and weeping of those summer days had wiped out the details, leaving a muddled strip of brightly colored, bursting memories. There was that far-away sun, the ice cubes in my mother’s tropical drink, that pair of well-meaning but terrifying policemen (“don’t cry, you’ll get double the gifts on Christmas”). Humiliated, I found that I could no longer distinguish right and wrong in that mess. Where had my sense of justice gone? Where was I, all that time?

Often I was (and I still am) filled with sudden and powerful remorse. I couldn’t believe what a big deal I was making out of this, when in dim and dusty Africa children live and die in white refugee tents. I choked it down, and I tried my best to be good. That period taught me that I’d never possessed humility, and that even if I was not a true egotist, I had cut corners. I learned the pleasure of existing, and that home, and all the extensions of it (everywhere I stepped became home – school classrooms and warm bookstores, marble plazas and tree shadows) deserved genuine respect and admiration. I lost, for sure this time, my fear of associating with other teenagers, and I found that the grinning flashes and little peaks in their intonation, those indications of their goings-about, their evenings at the squash court, their exchanges of loving-constructed in-jokes, brought me joy.

I know I have not been an excellent daughter, sister, or friend. I have been distraught and sordid, but through all the ugly times and door slams I have stayed, if not strong, than at least firm. My one good quality, perseverance, has stuck by me, through, if you’ll permit me the small cliche, thick and thin. Though I am often unsure and confused, I don’t mind being proven wrong, I don’t mind a chiding “No, Emma, look here, it’s like this.”

But still I couldn’t find the sufficient courage to confide in someone. I wanted so badly just to have it be out there, not in written form but in spoken word, syllables leading to the sentences of my shame. I tried to imagine the prototype of the conversation, and each model I trashed as being too casual, too flighty, too stiff, too horrific. I have been accustomed, for as long as I have lived, to think through absolutely everything, which I now realize has caused me to miss out on the spontaneous memory-making of childhood. So when I spotted my school counselor at the reception area, speaking to the secretary, it was in the spirit of impulse and necessity (and a third thing, which started in the pit of my abdomen and exploded out my mouth) that I called out his name. It was with shock that I discovered that he recognized me, despite the fact that we’d spoken only twice, and with even greater shock I found myself asking for an appointment with him.

This leads me to the events of the past Friday. I sat in a straight-backed chair and talked, for almost two hours. He put in a word here and there, but mostly he smiled, hands cupping his face. My breaths were quick and raspy, and my fingers, curled in my lap, twitched and fussed. When I remember it now, I have to laugh at the pretty picture we made: a schoolgirl in sneakers pulling out her whole life story like colored scarves from a magician’s mouth, eyes running and darting, and a middle-aged man with a beatific expression and nodding head. The words, miraculously, did not fall apart under the pressure. I found the bravery of a literary ancestor; I spoke as though I were reading poetry.

At the end of it, my school counselor looked at me, not with pity, as I’d expected, but with something akin to wonder. He said to me, “Emma, you’ve been through a lot.” I’d never been told that before, and with a rush I realized that it was all I’d ever wanted. All I had ever wanted was that acknowledgement, that I had suffered, and that I had worked hard, to defeat something greater than myself. I was a child, looking for an approving tap on the head, any indication that I was doing okay. I came to terms, in an instant, with it all, and my life up until that moment unfolded before me, palpitating and beautiful, in the true sense of that word. He said it again: “You have been through a lot.” I told him, smiling: “No. I have been very happy.”


I am slitting city guides with a kitchen knife. I am cutting out pictures of my hometown, Valencia (Latin valentia, meaning strength, courage). The photographs of my selection depict a reality of beauty: beach side restaurants, the inside of a gentleman’s hat store, town square in the summer. They lie in piles on the counter top, bizarrely lifeless beside the rectangular boxes of children’s cereal and bowls of plums. The margins and letterheads of the guide entries (“quaint hole-in-the-wall bookstore”, “Baroque style tapestry”, “portrait of Charles IV of Spain in hotel lobby”) fall away with the flick of the blade, the peelings and pith of a life so beautifully constructed thousands of tourists arrive yearly just to admire it.

Later on, I will fix these photographs to my bedroom wall with adhesive tape. They are not the first to colonize that surface: they will join cut-outs of physics articles (“The Geometric Theory of Everything”), pencil drawings gifted to me by my classmates,  a two-page spread of a cheetah mid-run, the surface of Mars, a sketch of a cell from a mammal’s stomach wall, maps of every continent in the world, the molecular model of a protein, two poems by Pablo Neruda and one by Amichai, snapshots of an ultrasound, the aurora, storybook art from a retelling of “David and Goliath”, the broken stem of a glass flower.

To be honest, there is not much space left. I compulsively cover up all the wall that remains with no real objective in mind – my mother hates it (“this is like the room of a serial killer”), so it is not in the subconscious name of maternal approbation that I do this. If I do this, I do it for myself, for my well-being. It feels nice to enter a room and see all these things, all these things that I love, up on a wall, only for my careful examination. I feel as though I am a naturalist cataloging poisonous insect species in the heart of the jungle. I feel like I have left the fearful explorer’s silver plane behind.

In the middle of the collage is a photograph I adore above all other things. I can describe it perfectly from memory. It was taken before my birth, in Kent in the springtime. In the foreground my parents are sitting in lawn chairs, heads together. They are young and dressed in thick linen, arms pressed to their chests. My mother’s expression is vague but happy, and my father is smiling. Behind them wet green grass extends for miles.

This photograph is the only possession on my wall that serves to remind me. It has never caused me pain, as I imagine it might have caused other children in my same situation. Even before my mother’s relapse in 2009, I had lived with the knowledge that our family had, if not an expiration date, a sort of fade-out quietly date. I hear that divorce sometimes warps offspring, leaving them dazed and psychotic. I too feel as they do. I am no hero. I bitterly survive, but always accompanied with the knowledge that I couldn’t run as fast as our house could fall.

I may seem a little morose but I’m not sad, honest. My beautiful mother’s manic depressive episodes and my father’s miserable degeneration – I’m not a stranger to that feeling of hopelessness that now has become characteristic of their lives. I want to free them from the horror of these days, as quickly and cleanly as I can. I don’t feel the need to be cruel, though I know I could be. Am I growing stronger, more courageous? No, it’s not that. It’s enough: this, what I have had. Even in the dead of night, when I am awake and lost, I can honestly say: I will give it up. I fully accept that I will cry, this day and during the many days that come. But despite what has happened, or perhaps because of it, I have found joy. In philosophy classes, in the northern lights, in novels and poems of great bravery and kindness and in the pit of my own gut (finally, oh finally) I have discovered it – joy.

I own dozens of family albums. A hand in my heart is cutting through the plastic binding now, slicing the protective coverings on the negatives, around pictures of childhood birthday parties, movie outings, afternoons on the lawn. But I will keep these photographs, proof of a life I knew and had, for however short a while, and I will carry them with me forever. When you ask me where I have been, I will take one out and show you, pressing it flat against a table, and, pointing at first the morning greenery, then the faces of these people, these people that I cherish deeply, I will say: I am so proud to have been here.


Parties are always a strange experience for me.

A few Sundays ago I attended the going-away party of a lovely girl. For six hours, approximately thirty youngsters aged sixteen to seventeen congregated and diverted themselves inside a suburban home some ten miles away from the city. We wiped down chairs wet from the previous night’s rain and spread pattered tablecloths on plastic patio furniture, where we, a collection of elaborately coiffed adolescents in glittering jean jackets and floral skirts would eat room temperature cheese pizza and microwave lasagna. Underneath the roar of today’s pop music, the boys and girls pile onto suede sofas, sucking on freeze pops and making faces at the camera. Later on I marvel at photographs of myself seated on the curb in the darkness, or next to a few classmates, unable to recall when they’d been taken. The whole time I am there, in fact, I feel as though I am the patient in an operating theater, aware despite the anesthesia, looking up into a world of masked physicians and bright scalpels that I am undoubtedly a part of but somehow very far away from. Only by virtue of my age do I belong here, among brethren born the same year as I, and raised in similar conditions. With the exception of this, they and I could not possibly be more different.

Throughout most of my childhood the only parties I attended were my own birthday celebrations, and so I am delighted to receive invitations for these gatherings. Like many females in identical positions, I enjoy cleaning and fixing myself up, like a young cat preparing for a nighttime excursion into the underbrush. For a few hundred minutes worth of my fellow’s little games and conspiratorial smiles I will take great pains to make myself presentable. I have a desire perhaps greater than that of most to give an impression of general likeability. I have never had great friends; in fact, I think of them as I do mythological creatures. I’ve never been to one of those sleepovers where giant tubs of ice cream melt on counter tops while little girls in polka-dot dressing gowns share confidences like tiger-eye marbles. The few attempts at good, solid friendship I have ever made have ended in failure or separation. It’s not only my bad luck, no –

Dear readers, you who see me only through what I tell you, know this: for my all of my life I have suffered from chronic social anxiety, and it has crippled me.


A striking young lady in a kimono-style iceberg blue dress. Well-meaning but much too needy. Absolutely impossible to get along with, but count on her to crawl into your bed in a thunderstorm. Stuck with what appears to be super-super-super adhesive glue to Emma’s back.

How to explain, how to explain! Riddle me this, dear readers: girls skin knees on trees, lose themselves over gutsy boys and shopping sprees, dream of afternoon tea with the marquis (petite bourgeoisie!), glamorous anchorwoman jobs at the BBC (hello dearies, here to discuss the Nepalese rupee), girls are devotees of rouge and a number 53 lipstick called red sea, girls work late nights for doctor’s degrees and pretend they are Nancy Drew holding the skeleton key, they are named Bree, Rosalie, Marie, Amy, Katie, they plea and disagree, they call each other sweet pea, they leave when they so will it and (JeSUS is that Tommy Lee macking on Deirdre?) feel free every day of their lives.

Riddle me this: how is it that I fulfill the biological characteristics of What A Girl Is, but I’ve never felt like a proper one? What-what-what do I lack?

A girl riddled with canker sores and beta burns all along her brain-blood barrier, destroying her ability to speak. A girl lacking a Dark Ages backstory to complete her babydoll image, opening her mouth and big surprise, nothing comes out! I was a nice enough girlie, but so stricken by social fear that I could not dial a number or visit a classmate’s house without the mass and temperature of my insides going up by 500%. I accepted without complaint that I’d never be accepted by my compatriots and that the best I could do was appeal to their sense of morbid fascination. I wanted to be the endearingly strange gal, but all I ended up doing was convert myself into a zoo attraction.


Grade school circa 1999, twenty or so children seated around a whiteboard, the teacher seated on a stool and crying out: Be yourself!


Human beings are not the stony stuff of legend. They are not as imperturbable as sentences on the page or rocks in the kidneys. Their characters, with enough determination, can be melted down and remade. Yourself is not permanent.

How to explain, how to explain! Allow me to confide in you, dear readers: I wanted so badly to be THAT PERSON! That person who won’t leave troubled people alone, who’d loan time and heart, homegrown lass in Mama’s cologne, a pure tone like whale song, a little lady who’d drag strangers out of combat zones and across stepping stones, not a bee drone humming along in dumb solitude, no groans, no moans, just an eager, lovable child who knows how to love and how to apologize, girl chock-full of sweet bones. And if I am honest –




“To seek, to strive, to find and never to yield.” I smiled as hard as schoolchildren on bicycles pedal up slopes. I took a real interest in other people’s lives, picking out the bits they loved from the rolling jumps of their jargon. I was as wholesome as Thomas Aquinas, asking for forgiveness without shame. There was no gentleman’s commodity I did not bargain with Mephistopheles for, no code of conduct I did not kill myself to emulate. I spent bus rides with Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and How to Make Friends and Influence People, I slept with them in my arms. I fought tooth and nail to speak cleanly and honestly, at all times, in all situations. The beauty of genuine human interaction: it is something of which I loved to think.

Oh yes, I pinned her down, my horrific elephant girl. We stared at each other, her body buckling under the pressure, but who had fear in her eyes? My twin in everything, insufferable and petty, she was that part of me I sought to disguise, but in a room empty but for me and her, she was the stronger of the two. In my attempt to be extraordinary I had forgotten her, the great eye of all my hurricanes, that secret frontier! In a moment of clarity, I spared her. In all honesty, how could I have laid my hand on her? She pardoned me, and I her. Despite all her faults, that little lady, living three inches inside my forehead, is the best pal I’ll ever have. She was often nervous, at times destructive, but always persistent. That perseverance took physical form in the deepest parts of my gut. It said: WHO YOU ARE NEVER HAS TO BE INCOMPATIBLE WITH WHO YOU WANT TO BE.

Parties are always a strange experience for me. I do my best to be good, but of course I am afraid, I, the simpleton in shiny shoes. I laugh at the roughhousing and the poolside bickering, one madcap lad grabbing another by his shirt collar and delicately dropping him into the clear water. I listen attentively to reenactments of daring escapades, recipes to all possible combinations derived from alcohol and soda fountain alchemy (let me tell you about this rum and cherry coke I had at a bar in Benicassim back in ’09). The core of me has not changed. My responses and little smiles are as giddy and foolish as ever. And yet I have managed to put myself at ease. There is a eager quality to my speech, now that the fright is gone. I am no spitfire, but I am comfortable among them, these dragons and amazons, perched upon blue leather loveseats and fishing in the fridge for Nutella and celery sticks. Above all else, I have come to know that these are children (red-blooded courtesans and courtiers, winking from unlit streets!) I can easily adore. In all probability they will never come to adore me, and for this I do not blame them. I am certain, however, that some other people, some other day, maybe will –

When I walk home, I look back, watching them leave like birds, and I think, arms crossed behind my back, eyes turned towards the road: Oh. How far it is that I still have to go. My elephant friend squeezes at me and, in one of her rare communicative moods, responds: How far it is, that you have come.