A pair of young women came to calligraphy class today. They stood up to introduce themselves: slender, rounded arms, soft sweaters, pleasant voices. We practiced writing earth: pronounced chi, thick lines and threads of black, flecks like kicks, dense and hard. One of the women stops behind me, steadies herself on my shoulder, leans in and takes hold of my writing hand, guiding my strokes.
Her touch is all over me, gentle, and suddenly I cannot breathe. I feel like I’ve been robbed blind, like my inner organs have been removed and replaced with seawater, dark matter, heavy liquor; I am light, I am lightless. My ribs open up and invite it in, and there are branches around my waist, and blood up to my neck, and I’m overwhelmed with it, staying power, saving grace, movements like the wind on rooftops, because she’s touching me, her slim, cold hands are on me, her liquid-smooth, heart-soft palm is on the crushed metal of my shoulder blade, her fingers are resting in the gaps between my knuckles, like warm air rushing to fill an empty space, and she’s telling me that the fourth stroke ends in a stop, not a curve.
It’s been six months since someone’s touched me.
I need to control myself; I can’t control myself. I assumed this unease was temporary, but now it’s getting too familiar with me, softening the vertebrae that care for the frame of my body, licking at the falling walls of my mouth. I can’t control myself. I can’t control myself.
Fire, honey; liars, money. Put me to sleep; set me on fire. I’m so stuck within this life that a woman’s hand is enough to rip me apart. These hours I live are not whole; these places I go are not homes. What am I living, where am I going? I CAN’T CONTROL MYSELF.
Me: earth when it is dying, bruises that are flowers, empires of leaves and dog days that shatter, dust and dust and want and want. I was going to be a hero, but why would that be, when I am made of the stuff the galaxy wouldn’t put in its stars? I sit on my bed, dark outside, back to the wall, and I look at my hands, where I saw worth, once. Now I only see weapons.
I go to sleep praying that, during the night, I’ll change into someone better than this. When I wake I take in a single breath, my eyes open like gunshots, and I know: nothing has changed. You can’t control yourself; who would ever touch you.