Someone I’ve Never Written About.

He had yellow eyes. Not like a cat, just the kind of green eyes that exploded into bursts of yellow around the pupil- yellow and orange, like his favorite color.

So, he had yellow eyes, soft freckles hiding underneath them, a farmer’s tan, and he knew how to laugh. Twelve hours spent in the car, and he had found himself in the neighborhood we’d grown up in; the neighborhood our little six year old legs had run through and where his little knee had rested on the floorboards of my front porch while he handed me a blue ring I had sworn was real.
But he didn’t have little knees anymore, and mine went weak the sight of him walking towards my car that June day in the summer after our freshman year.

Three days. We spent three days together, and we started making plans and dreaming dreams for us.

He gave me his hand, and I handed over my whole heart, whether he knew it or not. I’d like to think he couldn’t fathom the way my heart could grow arms and be constantly reaching for him; I’d like to believe that it was hard for him to go back on his word and turn me down after I’d made an adventure out of the 12 hour car ride it took to spend his sixteenth birthday with him.

While my friends around me mourned the death of a fifteen year old girl that summer, I mourned the death of something I didn’t even understand.

That freckled face boy with yellow-orange eyes from Indiana— his eyes were the first to look at me with a hint of wonder woven into the specks of gold; once he had his arms around me, he didn’t know how to let go; with my head on his shoulder I could feel his body rise and fall as he breathed life into the idea that he could want me from states away for the next three years; we spoke empty promises that we swore we meant about what college years would mean for us.

I haven’t seen that boy in four summers, and I still need someone to show me how to put words to the way it made me feel when I could make his eyes dance, the way I couldn’t shake the feeling of his arms around me years after he’d been gone, the way it felt to believe that a heart could discount all distance and time and wait for me.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t use the way the looked at me to create characters for the stories I have swelling in my heart.

And to this day, I wonder if it was him I loved or the way he made me feel. Because he was the first boy I gave a ruler to and said, “Here, measure me; weigh my worth and I’ll know how wonderful I am through your eyes.” Which was the trap, because he took it all back.

The aftermath of him: I waited for someone else to come along and make me feel like that kind of magic again,
while all along I should’ve been waking up every single day learning where I could find that feeling inside my own self.
Because that’s where the need came from.

How could I wake up every day and see myself as worth the wait? Worth the distance? Worth the time?
Because at the end of it all, after our last encounter that summer, I was the one who felt the loss; I was the one who was left craving to feel like a hurricane, a tidal wave that could bring him to his knees in awe again.
If I could, I would thank him for that summer. I would thank him for letting me share the secret of love with him for just a few short weeks. I would thank him for teaching me, all these years later, how to find the line between wanting to say the words “I love you” and wanting to hear them.


 

People don’t stay the way we leave them.

I wish I could change the font of that, make it bigger somehow, but I’m no computer genius. I just know that I’ve never written truer words.
And maybe that’s why it’s so hard to leave. Because we know that there will be just as many things missing as there will be new pieces of them when we try to go back,

Because there are parts of me that have loved the idea of going back to that month of June in the summer after my freshman year;
there are parts of me that wish I could go back to car rides with my two best friends, shuffling through all three of our iPods, taking turns listening to music, pretending to be interested in each others’ tastes;
there are parts of me that wish I could go back to my grandmother’s house in the Polo Fields, back to my four year old self, playing hide and seek with my cousin again before life was a mess and made her hard.

But the truth is, that boy doesn’t think of me anymore, and I just liked feeling irresistible;
the truth is, I don’t know what either of my old friends are doing these days;
the truth is, my cousin has hurt my grandmother’s soul when we had all believed she would turn out different.

People don’t stay the way we leave them.
And it’s a tragically beautiful hope that we get to hold on to: we can change, too. 

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Cross the Rubicon

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I like dates.

I know there was a time when the the only dates that meant anything to me were the birthdays of everyone I loved, but then I was a twelve year old girl listening to a doctor out in Las Vegas tell me that I had to stop living the life I had thought was mine when I walked through the hospital doors on September 29, 2007.

September 28, 2007, I was just a girl who just had a pain in my chest.
September 29, 2007, I was the girl who brought needles to the dinner table and had to count the carbs in my food.

So dates started meaning something to me.

April 8, 2014:

We were at the Brave’s Home Opener. My mother had gotten me two tickets for my nineteenth birthday because for some odd reason it was on my bucket list to go to a Braves Home Opener. No, I don’t know a single thing about a single player on the team. I have no emotional ties to the game of baseball itself, and I don’t keep up with how the team is playing unless I’m physically at a game. But a Brave’s Home Opener was on my bucket list. Go figure.

It was the third inning and we were waiting in line for hot dogs. It was crowded, and the line was too long, and guys who smelt like beer kept stepping on me. I felt small for once in my life.
That’s when you pulled my left side into you. You started to brush your free hand along my right arm, the simple fact that you already had your arm around me not being enough for you. I felt big again, and was people watching when I felt your hand stop, your thumb starting to mechanically rub the soft part of my forearm.
That was when I caught you staring, studying the symbols, the most precious curiosity in your golden-green eyes.
You, the man who didn’t like tattoos, looked at that part of me and caressed it, treasured it, was gentle with it.

April 8, 2014. That’s the day I knew I was in love with you. You had your left arm wrapped tight around me like I was a secret you would never be able to tell, and you were watching your finger trace the symbols of my tattoo.

It was then that my heart told me it was okay to not be afraid of losing you,
even though I felt like–for the first time–
I had something to lose.


Everything was still. It was one of those days when the clouds kept playing a hide and seek game with the sun, those days when you have to dress like you’re prepared for that sticky Georgia heat and the cold rain that could fall at any second, even if the sun was out.

I was sitting on my grandmother’s back porch, staring at her pool.
He likes pools, I thought, and I could almost feel the water slapping against my skin, swallowing me, hiding me beneath the surface.
The grey clouds made it look so still, and I just couldn’t bare to sit there and not ease into that pool, not understanding the division of air and water, loving the feeling anyways, and jumping in whole-heartedly.

And then the sun peeked around the corner of my grandmother’s house.
It lit up dimensions I hadn’t seen before from where I sat on the steps. The waves were golden, and suddenly the water looked heavy, like I could reach out and touch it, grab it.

I wanted to grab the water.

I wanted to grab the water like I wanted to grab love. I wanted to make love tangible.
I wanted to be bigger than all of the things that didn’t make sense about love, and I wanted to be brighter than the dark clouds that made love look still and safe and like there wasn’t a possibility it could drown me.
And then he smiled at me and just that smile made me think I could I really do it. I really thought that I could finally shrink love up until it fit in my hand when he laced his fingers with mine; I thought that I could laugh in the face of love when I kissed his lips and sprawled out next to him in the grass and say, “Look at you, you little love: I am stronger than you are.” Because the way his arm could brush against mine made me need to reach out and feel love exploding beneath my fingers, to feel all of it’s static that sparked fires burning beneath my nails. And I really thought that I could reach out and feel it and nothing hurt.
So he made me feel like magic, and I never wanted to let go of him.
Because I had figured out how to hold him.

Then the sun started hiding again, and the shiny slivers of gold that made me want to get up and walk across the pool all disappeared.

And just like that, I was drowning.


Pretty things are scattered across my bed. Pretty, little things that I’ve kept hidden between the two favorite pages of my favorite book. Someone once said that if you fall in love with a writer, you can never die? All I know is that there’s already this burning in my chest to form words around him to trap him in this pain of mine just so that he can finally understand the things I’ve been trying to say. And so much of me wants to clean up all of these words I’ve already bled out across this screen, because I hate the thought of them being wasted. But I’ve also heard it said that we are all afraid to say the things worth saying.

I always thought that if I continued to be wrong about people, there would be a point in my life where I would get to write about the hardened heart, my ridiculous infatuation with love finally being ruined.

Let me tell you, it’s hard to breathe sometimes, but I am not hardened.
Even though I swore he was the one to save me, I am still craning my neck to see all of the golden people I can bump shoulders with.

Love is not as skinny as I thought. It’s not so skinny that we might crush it in a hug.

Hands to hold and lips to kiss aren’t what save us; it’s your sisters letter slid under your door and nights in friends’ beds. That’s how we know that love doesn’t just know how to hurt.

That’s why fireflies flash.

I believe that my mother will always, in some way, see me as the thirteen year old girl curled up on the floor in her closet, crying into her carpet, learning how to be wrong about people. And even though my legs got longer and my eyes figured out how to not always shed tears when my heart made them burn, she would still sit on our back porch and ceaselessly ask me what I was thinking and if I was really happy.

She would sip her coffee and ask what I was thinking, like she was waiting for my knees to buckle so that she could curl up next to me on her closet floor. And I guess there are parts of her that will never be able to see the parts of me that know how to pick my own self up now; the parts of me that don’t need to feel that carpet against my cheeks anymore.

We were sitting in his room, and I kept asking him what time it was, knowing I would have to leave soon. Still, I had sat quietly against the wall watching him manipulate the golden chain in his hands. So much of me wanted to tell him to put it down. He would’ve, gladly, if I had just asked. But his eyes were so serious, and his long fingers held the chain so gently; I thought how nice it would’ve been to have just reached out and touched him. But I held my breath and watched him work, biting my tongue when all I really wanted was to feel him sitting next to me. Then he held up the necklace and smiled at me.

It was fixed. And I wasn’t surprised.

He had always been so good at fixing things.

My mother found a new coping mechanism when I stopped needing her to cry on the closet floor with me: getting rid of old clothes.

I’m sitting here typing these words and she’s sitting at the door of my closet yanking shirts I don’t wear anymore off of their hangers. My sister is giggling about it, and neither of them know that I’m sitting here writing these words; neither of them know that there’s a glitch on my WordPress app, and it tells me that my second post I ever made is still a draft; they don’t know that every time I go to click on this piece I’m writing at this very moment, I accidentally click on the “draft” that isn’t really a draft.

The title is, “When ‘finally’ became my favorite word.”

And that is so hard.

There’s a field I have to pass when I’m driving to the city. At the start of the summer, there’s always a long row of sunflowers right along the road. For a few months, I’ll drive by and think they are the tallest, happiest things I think God has ever created. The way they reach towards the sky with everything that’s in them.

For the past few weeks I’ve been driving by the field and watching the farmer’s sunflowers begin to droop. Little by little, their little sunflower heads take turns flipping downwards.

Now all of the sunflowers are gray. Their little heads look so heavy and dark, like they’re about to fall off and roll in the dirt until the farmer plants new ones next summer.

I don’t like sunflowers anymore.

Today, I want to feel the carpet against my cheeks.

And that’s so okay.

She had bruised knuckles and bright eyes, like she had seen a hope she knew was worth fighting for.

There are days we’ve lived that we could close our eyes and go back to at any given moment.

December 1st, 2013.

I was wearing a pink sweater and smelled like a grande caramel macchiato. You were laughing at me because I had pulled in the wrong way to a one way Starbucks parking lot. There was a red lipstick stain on my cup, and you smelled like brown leather when I wrapped my arms around your neck, remembering when you’d taught me how to hug you right; you couldn’t talk when I asked you about the girl who broke your heart, but you wanted to know about the boy who had ruined mine.
So I told you about the boy who had stolen my heart just to put it back. Because that’s who people wanted to hear about, and I couldn’t have told you about the boy who had left broken pieces in me because I still couldn’t even say his name.
I told you about the last five months of our relationship: how everyday I was a second choice; how everyday I tried to better myself so that he would come back around; how often I tried to paint a picture with my words so that he knew how much it hurt so that he wouldn’t look at my apparently empty hands and leave me to just “deal with it.”

And I said it all like it had meant nothing, when in that very moment it meant everything.

Because there was a red lipstick stain on my cup from trying to be disaster enough and bold enough; there was a never ending flow of questions I spat out for you so that you could never know too much about me–the less you knew, the more interested you would be; I laughed and had quick comebacks and never let the conversation slow. I resented the word “boring” and was terrified of being found lacking. And every day leading up to December first had been dull and a struggle I had trudged through just so I could prove my worth.

He had left me numb, and I was so unsettled by it, so uncomfortable with not wanting to see him and being satisfied with him not wanting to be with me. That was not love, and yet I welcomed it in like a long lost prodigal son who had eluded my embrace for too long, so happy when he finally walked through my door that I never stopped to ask why he had left in the first place. 

And when that sinking feeling started, December 1st rolled through town and you were on its frozen coat tails offering me your hand and a cup of coffee to warm all of the places in me that had lost feeling.


There were things that were said that night that I knew should have hurt me. There were words that you said that I should’ve questioned more; there were things I should’ve asked that just fell off my tongue like a forgotten thought.

I sat in this room asking your suite mate questions, smiling, feeling your hand scratching my back, knowing that I’d avoided you for days. I sat knowing that none of it hurt when it should have, and your touch on my shoulders didn’t make everything better like it should have.

Because what do you do when the person who became your safe place, your sanctuary, your home– what do you do when that’s the person who sends you running?

It didn’t worry me, the way I didn’t get that gaping pain in my chest that makes it hard to swallow when you said something that should have thrown me off; it didn’t bother me that I just laughed along with you, without a lingering thought nagging at me until I asked more about the things you said; it didn’t leave me unsettled knowing that I had a book in my numb chest of all the things I needed to say.

The numbness made me feel invincible.

I knew that was sick and twisted, finding comfort in knowing there was nothing you could say or do that would sting. But then I found so much thrill in that: not caring.

And who would have known that, 10 months later, I’d again be in this place of wanting to be wanted, needing to know I am worth fighting for, waiting to be someone’s first choice.


 

The first two week of my junior year of college, and my favorite place became the inside of my car.

I didn’t know how quiet the sound of a slamming car door could be.
The way it could just hang there in the air when I didn’t stick my key in the ignition, and my car didn’t crank on.
I would trek–and yes, I mean trek— out to my car as soon as my last class got out at 5:30, throw my things in the back seat, hop in, slam the door, and just sit

I would sit and sit and sit in that Georgia heat until I couldn’t breathe, and then and only then would I finally turn my car on.

5:30-5:33 has become my favorite time of the day.

Every other moment has been spent repeating to my heart over and over again:

“But you swore you would never feel this way again.”

And yet every other moment has been spent thinking:

“Here I am walking in a pool of self-loathing and self-doubt, wishing I knew how to be 

better.” 


I started to wonder if that fight for knowing my worth and knowing what I am worthy of is a battle that will never be fully won;

if it’s just a war full of many battles, some of which I can win, and some of which I will lose.

And then at 5:30 on a Wednesday, I hopped in my car.

At 5:33, I turned the key in the ignition, turned on “Shake It Off,” and did just that—

I shook the dust.

I shook the dust until I could feel—

feel a fire from my fingers down to my toes.