Slowly I have unzipped myself to you
And, again and again, stitched myself back up.
I am covered in bruises you do not see.
I wait for you to unzip yourself to me.
I wait, I wait, I try, and I wait.
My trying is like an elastic band stretched long and thin
To the point where my fingers
are red and white and painful.
I wait, I wait, I try, and I work
I work for work not worth the work
I work for work I make up myself
I wish you would, could, may try to help.
At least see the winces in my movements
At least notice the faces I put on in order to feel stronger
At least realize that every time I close my eyes
I feel the burn of salt.
I am too young to feel this old.
More and more I realize what an idealist I am and how hard I am trying not to be. How hard I try not living in my own head all the time. It feels dangerous to let most thoughts escape. After that they’re not all mine anymore. After that they are vulnerable and out of my control. After that I can’t take the stupid thoughts back which in turn flips my stupidity inside out.
I constantly question if I have too many expectations, or if it’s right that I try to ignore them and snatch blindly at happiness through thin air.
Conversation wasn’t much in the car. He sat up front and kind of chatted with the driver. I looked out the back window as the streets of downtown Chicago pass me by. I felt like a child. Remember when you were a kid and you’d go on these car trips with your parents and you’re sitting in the backseat all squished up with your siblings. Then your siblings start to fight, and your parents threaten to not let you watch television in the hotel room, and you’re left with not much to do but stare out the window and wonder about things. It made me sad, so I stopped looking out the window.
When we arrived we headed over to the back of the pier where all the rides were, and he got us both hotdogs. We didn’t talk about anything really. I mean, we did talk, but not about anything important. He asked if I wanted to go on any of the rides, and I said okay, mostly because I was seriously running out of things to talk about with him, my various siblings’ summer plans and the weather wasn’t going to last me the entire day. Later, we got ice cream. His fell on the ground. I asked him if he wanted mine but he said it was okay.
Anyway, things were going well I guess until about late afternoon when we were leaning on a railing facing the lake. He was telling me something about his work. I was listening to him, but not really hearing much. Up until that point I was just nodding and smiling and hearing the faint screams of the children on those rides. And I was thinking how this day was almost over and I have to go home and pack, and I should come down here with Bliss and Reid sometime.
“Emalee.” He suddenly broke off from what he was saying and sighed, rubbing his eyes. He did this when he was frustrated. I panicked a little bit.
“Look, I’m sorry.” He shook his head, “This day, it’s been, I don’t know. I’m just sorry okay.”
“It’s okay, don’t be sorry.” I heard my voice say. But what I was actually saying was please stop, please.
“I guess, what I’m trying to say is, everything’s changing. These past few weeks, it’s been strange and I a lot of things are hitting me in the face for the first time. I don’t really know how to talk to you. I mean, I-I guess I never really knew how to talk to you. And…and…uh…I just didn’t spend enough time with you before. And I really regret that, I really do. Do you understand?” he looked a bit desperate.
I found myself nodding but I wasn’t looking at him. I was looking at the horizon and listening to the woosh woosh of the water hitting shore and thinking about one time when I was little, he took me here. I think I was eight maybe. Anyway, we went on the big Ferris wheel and it broke down while we were at the top. I was pretty scared. When we were finally coming down, he told me he will take me here every month and treat me to a Ferris wheel ride and ice cream until I wasn’t so scared anymore. I doubted his promise of my fear disappearing, but I did love ice cream. Ironically that was the last time he took me.
“…and maybe it’s not too late to create a bond between us.” He was still talking but with more confidence, “I know it can’t be easy to start now, but we can try. I just don’t want this divorce to separate us. I don’t want to become a stranger to you. I should’ve realized it sooner. You looked like such an adult this morning, and it’s like I don’t even remember how you became this person…Emalee?”
I then realized that tears were pooling up in my eyes. I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I just got so terribly upset right then. I wished all the words would go back into his mouth. He paused for a second as I blinked rapidly to try to force the tears back in, and I kept nodding, and I kept not looking at him.
“Maybe next time we’ll get your mother too and do something.” He continued instead of asking any questions, “I just want to make sure you feel like you still have a family that’s all, even though it might have not felt like that before.”
Now I was really trying not to let the tears fall. I nodded. He stopped talking. I think he realized I was upset, but I secretly thanked him for pretending not to notice. After a bit of silence, I stopped wanting to cry. Whatever I was feeling or thinking I didn’t want to deal with it in the moment. I just felt stupid, and confused, and a bad daughter because I didn’t want to hear what he was telling me.
“Anything in mind for dinner?” he asked casually.
“Actually, I think I should go.” I managed to reply, “Louisa’s probably expecting me home.”
“Okay.” He said simply.
We took a taxi back to his apartment and I said my goodbye much like how I said hello that morning, then I drove home with talk radio on full blast.
I feel so goddamn pretentious writing in second person. Steering clear of the “you” til I am good enough to use it well.
At some point or another you start to realize you don’t have many friends. And you sit wallowing about how fucking depressing that is. But shortly after you also realize that good, genuine friends are hard to come by. Connection with others is not as easy or abundant as it used to be. As much as you tell yourself otherwise, you know how ignorant you were then. So in a strange way, it’s okay. You’re okay.
My breath is short
my voice perpetually one bar below clear
my heart muscles are weak despite
the low viscosity of my blood
But though an ordered mind is rare
and my barely there
bones are ever compelled
to get carried off by the wind
My arms are strong
my fingers are worn
And I can hold on tightly
I can hold on.
Most of the time, things just need to be slept on. Even if it pokes and prods at your back, even when it becomes painful. In the morning, everything grows dull and it is like the first page of a familiar book.
All words ever do is betray me.
There is still a difference between understanding and feeling. There are many things I know, many things I understand, yet I can’t change what I feel. The phrase “Things will get better” can be understood, and is, without doubt, true. But when I am here, with this minute-by-minute, second-by-second struggle, this longing, this loneliness, this continually perturbed open wound, “things will get better” doesn’t offer much comfort. NOW, I miss you, I miss a time and place that’s already water under the bridge, I miss things I know very well will only hurt me. But the fact is I do. Perhaps they deserve the attention, perhaps they were important enough to bruise me for a while. I don’t see another way.
Aside from pessimism, I also understand that happiness needs to be given a chance no matter how skeptical I’ve become. Even in the worst times, there are good moments. And for now, I hold them close.