Why?

Why do you do what you do?

I don’t know how to answer the question myself.

Perhaps it is the shame that has inhabited my limbs for over a decade

A tight chested, sharp tasting, mind numbing shame that pushes me to

Meet deadlines, lock the door behind me, be the best friend, lover, girlfriend, daughter, niece, student, employee, stranger that I can possibly muster.

Listen when I need to talk. Sit down when I need to leave. Bite my lip when I need to cry. Work harder when I need to stop. Say yes when I need to say no.

Because… I should be:

Balancing my time between university, work, nurturing friendships, supporting my relationship, maintaining contact with my mother, exercising, taking time to be alone, pursuing my passions, mediating, eating healthy, journaling…

I should work as long and as hard as I can so that I get near perfect grades. I should show my professors that I am a good student, that I work hard and don’t procrastinate and care about their class. I should do more than expected, meet standards they have not set, prioritize deadlines over everything else.

If I’m not doing this, I am a bad person. I am letting down family members who are financially supporting me. I am not doing my best and therefore I am doing my worst. I am lazy. I am incompetent. I will leave bad impressions and never get a good job. I will be looked upon with disgust and talked about when I am not around. I will fail.

I should spend time with my boyfriend. If I am being a good girlfriend I should be happy with him 99 percent of the time. I should cook him delicious food, surprise him with things he enjoys, and give him plenty of space to spend time with his friends. I should understand that I am not always going to be the priority. I should make his day better after a bad shift. I should make him feel attractive, wanted, interesting, funny, talented, loved. I should spend money on him. I should respect his boundaries, wants and needs.

If I am not doing these things, I am a bad girlfriend. I am selfish. I am petty. I am resentful. I am needy. I am unattractive and uncomfortable to be around. I am bothersome. I want too much and give too little. I don’t understand how a relationship should work. I expect to much of him. I give to much and get too little. I set too high standards for him to meet. I want too much. I want too much. I want, too much.

I should make time to be present with friends. I should surprise them with gifts and texts and phone calls. I should do them favors and always be reliably there. I should answer texts quickly and put my own difficulties aside in order to better understand what they are going through. I should listen and not give too much advice. I should not judge. I should give as much time as I can and not talk about myself too much. I should not act strangely. I should not be self conscious.

If I do not do these things, I am a bad friend. I am selfish. I spend too much time taking care of my romantic relationship. I am unreliable and not worth spending time with. I talk too much about my own problems and don’t listen. I make someone I love feel as if they don’t matter. I don’t create enough time for platonic love in my life. I am letting people down. I am flakey and unkind.

I should call my mom more. I should thank her for all that she does, daily. I should update her on my life. I should as her how she is doing. I should know about her week, about her feelings, about her health. I should describe how I use the money she gives me. I should make her proud. I should work hard to make all of her hard work worth it. I should visit her more often. I should let her know she isn’t alone. I should always be there for her.

If I don’t do these things, I am a disappointment. I am ungrateful. I am unloveable. I am snotty and rude and spoiled. I do not work hard enough for all of the love that she gave me. I am failing her. I am hurting her. I am using her for her love and leaving her with nothing. I ask for too much and give little in return. I am disappointing her. I, am disappointing her.

I should take care of myself. I should eat healthy and exercise every day. I shouldn’t eat things that are bad for me. I should take more time for myself. I shouldn’t be dependent on other people, especially romantic partners. I should be able to meet my own needs. I should be able to be alone easily. I should love my body. I should mediate on my thoughts more. I should be in control of my emotions. I should know when to say no.

If I don’t do these things I am a burden on other people. I am unhealthy and causing harm to my future partner, my future self. I am shortening my life. I am lazy. I am lazy. I am lazy. I am lonely and scared and insecure. I am stupid. I am forgetful. I am uninteresting. I am a chaotic mess and am not worth spending time with. I am a buzzkill. I am awkward. I am fat. I am unattractive. I am out of control.

 

How do I want to do what I do?

Out of curiosity, love, kindness, want and need.

What must I do to get there?

Who knows?

 

 

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So it goes.

I’ll be sitting at the train, looking at my reflection in the glass divider

breathing in the already forgotten exhale of my neighbor

and then I’m with you.

Or rather, walking down the sidewalk, focussing on missing the cracks

trying to distract myself from the nervous anticipation of the whole evening.

What I’m wearing is somehow relevant in my mind (unusual if you know me well).

Sandals, brown, unethical, leather… My beat up toes already dusty from Missoula’s summer streets.

A  dress  so thin that I wear it simply  in agreeance with the social construct that one must wear a  little bit of clothing to cover all the delicate parts of a lady, even on such hot summer day.

My hand tests the door handle, partly to discover what kind of burning heat the sun has gifted it, partly to see if I’m actually here, ready, here, ready, breathe in, breathe out.

The distillery is darkly lit, my eyes adjust slowly, only allowing me your silhouette at the bar. But I hear your voice, the laugh you use with strangers.

The body I inhabit moves me towards you, purposefully stepping softly, giving me a few more seconds to not be seen, to not have those eyes on me, to not know what will happen next.

I slip onto the barstool next to you, feeling the cool vinyl on my thighs, letting our arms touch on the counter, both of us looking ahead at the bartender.

We both pause.

Inhale. Exhale. Beat.

We turn our heads, both with expressions- an unreadable novel that will be translated as the night goes on.

“Long time no see.”

beat

“Hi.”

beat

“What can I get you to drink? We have a few specials today! I’d suggest……”

The bartender’s voice pushes us out of that suspended reality that accompanies reunions. We both laugh. I notice you let your arm rest next to mine as you pick up the menu and order our drinks.

We find a booth and….

And I’m looking at myself in the glass divider on the train.

The night, our first night, our 3rd first night disintegrates into hopes after sitting finding a booth.

I hope we begin by sitting across from each other and by the end you’re beside me, noses almost touching as we laugh and breathe and exist in one another’s presence once again.

I hope we leave the cool bar for the warmth of the Missoula evening. I hope we walk by the river, holding  hands, taking a moment to pause to kiss to breath to laugh to marvel in how simple it is: There is still love. There was never a lack of love. Forgiveness is loves fertilizer and distance its spring rain. The hollowness replaced by warmth. The confusion replaced by clarity. The loss replaced by yet another beginning with. You.

I have fears, of course. Fears that swim in my eyes as I look at my reflection in the glass divider, exhaling an already forgotten breath for my neighbor to use as his next.

I fear that you will move your arm away from mine. I fear you will remain on the other side of the booth. I fear we will walk separate ways home to separate beds to separate worlds in a city that feels like yours and mine but not ours.

I fear you’ll tell me about her. Some her. Her who did not cure your confusion or loneliness but rather replaced it with smoking on the back porch followed by collapsing into bed to discuss something I could never connect with you on. Replaced it with her… who

And then I’m shaken out of my state as the subway car jolts to a stop, my stop and I take one last glance in the glass divider and leave you and her and me there for now. Until the next ride through Stuttgart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

River: Day 1

He carried me to the bank of the river,

covered in a sea of salt water.

Early morning tears and

afternoon summer sweat.

We slid out of our clothes,

separately finding a path to the cool remove

the water bestowed upon two

restless, tired, perplexed lovers.

 

He held his arms wide,

a storybook image.

Naked, waist deep,

eyes wide.

I found my way to him carefully,

my feet searching for a stable rock to

balance upon.

We counted, ducked beneath the water,

allowed a few moments of shock and silence

under the current.

 

Our second farewell. An “Until Then, Love”

 

 

 

Unattached 

“I’m going to be really bad about keeping in touch” 

It was an admission. Not of guilt or scorn, just a simple sentiment admonishing the truth of our situation. 

This position, it seems, is continuously bestowed upon me. The one who waits. The one who wonders. The one who keeps memories on hand to create the illusion of uninterrupted intimacy. 

Today I am alone; meaning he delayed our evening for rational reasons, and I am left to rehearse apathy, a feigned sense of self, and to practice living a reality unattached. 

At first

Love connected the miles and minutes 

Between us. 

Hours of our worlds being forgotten to video calls, texts, voice messages… Trying to create a third reality in which our lives fit together.  

Then it was longing. 

Pictures of empty pillows, emails describing where we wanted to be kissed, Skype calls with bedroom doors locked, hoping our roommates couldn’t hear the moans. 

Next came nostalgia. 

Old pictures of summer adventures in Europe that we forgot existed, memories recalled in hopes something, maybe that original love, could be brought to the surface. 

Finally, habit joined you and I. 

Me, pining after the boy who played long French love poems on the piano while I sat on the windowsill in my underwear. 

You, forgetting the reason you kept my old watch by your bed, or the scarf I used to keep my hair from getting drenched from early winter rain wrapped around your lamp post. 

Me, chased by new lovers to explore a world in which you did not exist. Surprised to find that the evenings, which once held so much pain, now held moments of utter surrender to a man’s touch. 

You, drinking with friends by the canal where we once sat, smiling dumbly at one another in a love drunk stupor. The memory forgotten to a new girls touch. 

Me, crying in my roommates bed when I discovered I couldn’t imagine a future without you. When the numbness of time had worn away to reveal only loving caresses, and hide away the times I was ignored by:

You, who can’t imagine being together once again. In the city where we tripped over cobblestone streets, speaking a language that comes to you like a poor radio connection. 

Me, left in love with you. In love with him. In love with the sentiment that I’ll have you forever and always. Like we once said. 

Like I truly believed. 

To love someone:

To love someone so much you can’t imagine the world in their absence: yet to live day by day in a world in which they are asleep when you are awake. To love someone completely, wholly, and to know they love you just the same. To love someone who loves differently than yourself. Who can only express their love when your hearts are beating in the same time zone. To be the half that holds on to memories and hope. To be the half that is out of sight, and out of mind.

To know parts of you go missing when they board their plane back home. Lovely, delicious morsels of yourself that their loving light illuminates.

To know how to compartmentalize all of these feelings. To put them in a box with the rest of the past two years of memories. The plane tickets, movie stubs, doodles, subway cards, and love letters nestled in with those overwhelming feelings of longing. Love tucked into the pockets of the sweaters they forgot to pack. Pushing them away in order to keep living in your own world, a world tainted with the taste of utter love.

To know a love so strong, so bright, so blinding, it casts shadows on any other relationship you attempt to carry out. When lovers are just that: a moment of love shared, a movement to gasp at the feeling of complete presence their hands bring, running gently along your spine. A moment to forget, until both of you are breathless, holding each other in your arms, holding each other to the promise that -in that moment- you are the only two existing in the world. A promise kept until the sun rises, and you stumble to your car, drive home, and shower off the bliss from the night before. Your day begins with a slight feeling of accomplishment for having had a few moment in which you didn’t carry the ache of loving someone to the edge of the earth… followed by pangs of guilt for another encounter they will never know of, for the moments of lost connection created by meaningless nights with someone else.

And then things begin to fade. A month or two has passed since you kissed goodbye, and you begin asking yourself if it was the last time. You text out of care, and habit.

You savor moments in places you once sat together. A place their presence still exists. Park benches and beat up couches in cafés where you sit and take a warm comfort in the fire that has turned to glowing embers.

The day you leave comes nearer and nearer. You pack, plan, confirm, numb to excitement. They pick you up. You hug, knowing each inch of them, but not knowing how to touch their skin anymore.

You worry you made a mistake, that the feelings really have faded this time. And then you fall into bed. You breathe together. You kiss every part of them you remember, and taste every part you forgot. You fall asleep entwined, jet-lagged, confused, and hopeful.

The sun comes up. They are warm beside you. Breakfast is made, you walk around the house in your underwear out of familiar habit rather than familiarity. The day passes with formulaic conversations.

And then, its night and you’re both exhausted and you realize you are no longer grasping to connect. The love is back. It snuck up while you were grocery shopping, or as you made dinner, or perhaps on the walk by the river when they stopped you to kiss the cold tip of your nose.

The trip continues. You show one another the world you have created since they have been gone. They meet your friends, answer all of the quandaries you’ve been tied up in.

You fall in. You forget living alone. What it feels like to sleep without their breath. How to shop for one. Your world is constant gentle kisses, naps on the couch, forgotten tea cups and sheets tangled at the bottom of the bed. They put your reality into words, something you haven’t been able to do in a long time. You admit faults. You tell secrets. You forgive any wrong, forgotten postcards, nights of loneliness.

And then the visit is over. You watch them filter through security. You drive to your friend’s house and cry and laugh and drink things meant for night in the middle of the day. You take a bath and listen to Louis Armstrong. You wish you smoked. You put the things they left in your suitcase to return to them on the next visit. You hope their will be a next visit.

 

The first day without them arrives. You skype, re-realize how awful time differences are, distract yourself with work you set aside while they were there, and begin the whole thing all over again.

Forgiving my humanness

When I lie on my back, I find my hands tracing my stomach.

Once, I would pinch what I found to be excess, painfully pulling on the skin that was simply there to protect my delicate organs.

Tonight I map out my abdomen with a gentleness, a forgiving and soft reminder that my mind and body are one.

I lay on my side, imagining some lover’s arms wrapped around me.

Once, I would focus all of my tired being on creating a cavern for him to find. A concave body, a false sense of surrender.

Tonight I think about how wonderful it will be to be held, regardless of what moon my body may resemble on the night he arrives.

It’s funny. I try so hard not to love all of him, and give equal effort to not hate all of me.

 

Limbo

I take a moment each day to think about what would be easier:

Losing you to a clock that chimes a different number of goodbyes as each hour dissolves, with you awake and me asleep, I sometimes wonder if my existence is forgotten by you.

Or

Forgetting what love was, is, as I know it now, an all consuming voice that can only be silenced in moments of absolute desire for a carnal being rather than a caress of surrender.

I take a breathe each day, a staggering inhalation of sharp and cold reality to realize that you have left me in limbo.

It is an in between, a dangling participle, an unfinished sentence that started with “I needed to tell you..” and ending in 3 years of a silence that keeps stuck here, without you, without them, without me…