[rambles] Turning

Not to me.
Not to me.
Not for me.

Éponine, Les Misérables


Your skin burns.  It is morning.

Lately you’ve been learning not to listen to your instincts.  Instinct.  Such an animal word.  You aren’t an animal, despite all evidence to the contrary.  Your eyes glow darkly and your smile is feral and sometimes, sometimes (often) your body sings with wanting but your fine leash of control has worked against all temptation.  So far.

So far.

Today, temptation is a story.  You have a story.

You have a story. It itches to pour out of your fingers, bubbles like soda pop behind lips that want to smile and laugh and tease.  It is a small story.  A funny story.  A story that would do no harm, except the first person you think to tell—want to tell; could tell–is someone you promised to stay away from.

Someone you should stay away from.

So far, control is winning.  Later, you promise yourself.  Later.  When the infection burns out the last of your blood. When you heart learns to stop beating.  When you don’t feel the instinct (that word again) to turn up your lips, reveal teeth better suited to things other than smiling.

When you aren’t quite so blindsided by the way they make you laugh.

Your fingers hover, still longing to make contact, dancing over the letters that spell out a name.  But the urge passes, as it always does.  Your willpower wins again, and by now you’re used to how it never really feels like winning.

Once upon a time you made a choice, or maybe it was made for you.  Once upon a time, you taught yourself to live without sunlight.  You don’t need it, not anymore—the years have taught you to see just as well in the dark—but sometimes you long to stretch your hand out and hold the yellow glow in your palms, pretend it would warm instead of burn.

You think they might be sunlight.  You think you might burn.  Moth to flame, delicate and easily consumed.

Later, you promise yourself.  Later.  When they don’t seem to shine quite so bright.  When your eyes adjust.  When the tides completely turn.

Later, you promise.

Never, you know.


[ramble, GoTxHamilton] Wait For It

My back hurts.

I never feel the knives going in. Instead, I wake up and find a brand new wound, joining what I feel must be dozens–going in deep, twisting, bleeding out despite my best efforts to hold everything together.

By now, it’s old news: the knives, the sting, the unknown-but-known assailants. And me: the girl who refuses to die. Refuses to fall apart. By now, even I don’t know why I keep going. But I do, because hope is the last bit of defiance I have left.

Each knife is one less reason to stay, but somehow isn’t enough reason to leave.

I tell my friends I envy Jon Snow, the bravery it takes to whisper “Now my watch is ended.” I have died and returned and died and returned so many times, and each time I feel something must get lost. But if something does, the pain of living drowns out the pain of losing. I stumble through my days, plastering the mask of calm on my face, pretending not to recognize the fingerprints on the handles of the blades.

The mercenaries among those I hold dear tell me–unapologetically, with a blissful pride I can almost find it in myself to envy–that stab-wounds are badges of honor for those on their way upward, forgetting (of course) that not everyone aims to climb. I only ever envisioned a life of service, of devotion to a leader or leaders whose visions burned bright in my eyes. I am a girl built for adoration, a kingmaker instead of one who rules. I pledge my service. I take my oaths.

I shall wear no crowns and win no glory…

I never wanted to stand atop anything. I do not stand atop anything. Instead, I take a breath and continue to climb this neverending series of days, struggling through the pain and the blur of tears I have taught myself not to shed, because salt causes the wounds to burn, even as they close.

Each scar is one less reason to hang on, but somehow is not enough of a reason to let go.

I know I am not the only one. There are other knives, other backs, other bleeding wounds and half-knit scars on other endless uphill climbs. My mother was one, as was her mother, as are so many others who came before and will come after. We are a battered, broken brotherhood with no banners and barely any blood left…but we refuse to die, because hope is our last defiance. Is my last defiance. Life, with its weapons, does not discriminate: it takes and it takes and it takes. But we keep living anyway.

…I shall live and die at my post.

Through the blood, salt, cold, I whisper: If there’s a reason I’m still alive, when so many want me to die…

I’m willing to wait for it.



Circuit Training

Deep breath.

It’s what they tell you all the time, at the gym. Deep breath. When you push up, or pull up, or line up your arms to swing that twelve-kilo kettlebell to the level of your chest. Deep breath. As if breathing might make it hurt less, and maybe it does, but it’s more about focus, you think. More about what’s in your hands, the task at hand, the weight pulling or pushing against you that you must control if the exercise is to do its work.

You let the exercise do its work

Your chest clenches and unclenches and your vision is red. Funny how brute strength can summon rage like a wave threatening to knock you over. I guess it has to do with the pain, which sings in every muscle and wraps iron thorns around your spine so that it takes physical effort not to cry, effort you’re not sure your body has energy for but then again…

Deep breath.

You count to ten. You walk across the street, crossing cars that–blessedly–don’t bother to honk at you angrily even as they wonder if this girl has a deathwish. The wind is high, cool and kind, and the sun warms instead of blinds. It’s a good day, you would say, even if it doesn’t feel like it yet.

It doesn’t feel like it, yet. It won’t feel like it for many, many more days. Some times, not even the giant headphones you favor can blast the bass loud enough to block out the voices in your head that whisper, “They’re watching. They’re waiting. You just have to fail once and…”

You won’t fail. You’ll come close, to be sure. Your knees will shake and your ankles will wobble and your face turn red from the strain but you won’t give in to your instinct to let go, because you know the feeling will pass and in its place will be the peace that comes from having made it past another test of control. It’s the perfectly-measured swing of that kettlebell, fists parallel to your chest but no higher.

You summon all the courage you require.

You go to the gym on Wednesdays and Fridays and Saturdays, do your best to beat your body into the same shape as your soul. Those days, you circuit-train, and you learn the value of control. Light focused becomes a laser. Wind focused becomes a hurricane. You are stronger than the maelstrom of emotions threatening to break your chest open, and the silence that comes after the brief barrage of internal noise becomes your best friend. Your muscles learn to mend faster than they tear. You find some crosses get lighter and lighter to bear.

One day you’ll graduate from twelve kilos to twenty, and the pull-ups and rows won’t make you feel like your arms are being ripped from your sockets. One day, the world’s expectations will be no heavier than a puff of smoke. One day, it will be easier not to cry, because by then you’ll have realized that there is really no reason to.

One day, this will all be easier for you. But not yet. So you train. You swallow the pride, you take the pain, and every wave of hurt and rage and shame that you survive without breaking is a victory. I won’t let them have the victoryI won’t let them have the real me.

This is not yet the real me.

The real you waits at the other end of these weights and motions. You have no notion of how long it will take to get there, but you know you will. And the thought makes you smile. The wind is cool and kind and the sun warms instead of blinds.

It’s a good day.

You can feel it.