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
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.