But who could blame Beauty, when beasts are just so easy to love?

“Petals”

I fell in love with
a man
with no heart–
a beast,
backwards:
trapped in his human form.
I gawked,
“Enchanted!”
while he smiled,
“Cursed.”

At eighteen,
I gave him my heart:
my slow march down the aisle,
my first child,
the celebration of my first promotion,
the purchase of my first house,
the pillow next to me at night,
my “over the hill” party,
the old rocking chair next to mine–
all just red rose petals that fell
while I sang to the chorus of
“Something There That Wasn’t There Before,”
and he led the choir.

But he had no heart
to swoon over the tune.
So at nineteen,
he took mine,
ate it whole;
broke his curse,
and then I could see him:
the beast,
heartless,
pretending to be a man.

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She screamed, “Sanctuary!”

A best friend,
nine years,
an inside of an elbow that my arm fit perfectly in,
a voice across the counter asking, “Trust me,”
the collar bone I laid my head against when my sugar dropped,
a prom date,
the one who taught me how to clean my windshield,
a wink at high school graduation,
the tough hands that held mine through haunted houses and along steep edges of a river,
the ribcage I had molded myself around for the slow days we spent on a couch watching movies we’d already seen ten times,
shoulders I’d been desperate to feel cover me on my eighteenth birthday,
a white rose,
a single slice of red velvet cake that tasted better just because he’d remembered,
John Mayer,
cigar smoke in empty parking lots,
the soft patch of grass outside his house that the wheels of my parked car had worn thin,
Sanctuary;

And somehow,
the deeper his knife dug into my back,
the sweeter the memories tasted on this inside of my cheeks,
blood in my mouth;

We remember people better than they actually were,
the cuts they healed,
not the scars they carved;
God’s way of not leaving us hopeless
when we get left.

December;
a mindset: “people aren’t worth it
because they
fool you;
and,
If someone who loved me for nine years can just
stop,
there is not love
that will ever know how to stay.”

I remembered;
the healed skin,
then
the blood that had dried in my mouth.

I didn’t like the way
my own blood tasted.

I remembered.

And so I said,
No thank you,
I will take my cuts,
and I will put pressure on them
myself.”

December;
Starbucks;
Atlanta;

There was a boy;
four months,
Atlanta,
the Underground,
air hockey,
rooftops,
a boyfriend,
six months,
the text I read over and over again sitting at Peachford Psychiatric Hospital for a second time (this trip with my friend, not my cousin),
getting caught in the rain,
first kisses,
“I love you” written in Bench Diaries and whispered in dark rooms,
pinky promises,
front row seats and back stage passes,
tropical beaches,
waking up at three in the morning just to pull me closer and kiss the part of my face where my cheek meets my ear,
Braves games,
slow dances,
forever on our lips over and over again,
Sanctuary;

He showed up
when I didn’t want to see
the things in people that made them
worth loving;

He showed up
and righted all the wrongs
I had convinced myself of
just by being the person he was.

My shelters had been made out of hay and twigs,
but still I screamed, “Sanctuary, Sanctuary, Sanctuary!

And just like that,
the wind showed right back up,
and blew my house down.


Now I pray almost as often as I breathe:
walking through the doorway at work, my hands covered in caulk;
heading down the sidewalk by the road to my first class;
watching Say Yes To The Dress with my family;
staring at my ceiling fan at 2:45 in the morning;
looking for trash bags in target;
sitting in my car before church;
hopping out of the shower;
sitting across from a friend in a coffee shop.

Make it stop, God. Please just make it stop.”

Because I thought love was the only thing on this planet that I could not touch with my words, but now there is this unbearable pain, and my fingers come no where close enough to being able to touch it with my heart’s words.

Love is not something you do in halves;
it shows no partiality.
And please listen to this–
the next time someone tries to love you in halves:
that is not love.
We should stop glorifying the struggle,
and just start choosing people instead.

You are worth more than a love that loves you in halves.


 

I met a boy in fourth grade, and by the time I was a sophomore in high school
I started putting down benches and hanging stained glass windows
and calling him Sanctuary. 

And when that burned to the grown, I thought it would just get better if I took my pews and my stained glass and found somewhere else to put them.

I ran from my house of hay to my house of twigs like a scared little pig, and convinced myself that they could stand.

But my Sanctuary is not a place for pews or stained glass.

My Sanctuary is a God who loves me so much that He was tired of me looking at old, brown buildings–people– and saying,
“This, here– Now I am safe.”

So He huffed and He puffed and He blew my houses down,
until the only place I had left to run,
was Him. 

A Calendar of Sorts

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Get tattoos, they’ll teach you about commitment.
Cut your hair, it will teach you about patience.


I think I’d like to date a man with tattoos. Only because he gets it. He knows about commitment.

I think a lot of people get tattoos because of the rush, maybe some just to say they have a tattoo, others because they actually enjoy the pain. I know, for me, there’s just something about that needle against skin, that first mark made: you know as soon as the cut is drawn and something beautiful starts to get carved into your skin, there’s no going back. Needle against flesh, a step into forever.

So I think I’d like to date a man with tattoos. He knows about commitment. He knows that little words like “forever” are spoken like a promise, whether you’ve said it’s so or not.
He knows that “forever” is not a word at all, but a deep mark in the skin; a promise you get to see and follow through on every day because it’s there, and it’s beautiful.
Oh yes, I think I’d like to date a man with tattoos.

Because for me, “forever” was a deep cut in my arm. To you, it was just a deep sigh that you couldn’t see when you breathed it out into the air around us.


October 31, 2014, 4:13a.m. //
My necklace broke today. It broke a few months ago, too. But his hands reached out to fix it.
Well today it broke the same way. Just like the graffiti we had searched for on the corners of streets has faded into something you can barely see, now.
And if that does not break your heart, then I don’t know what will.

What I found out about the world when he stopped loving me //

It was the kind of thing that made you turn your car around and go back. I’ve learned that not many things are worth doing that for, and I used to think myself included. But people are always worth stopping and going back for, even if you can barely see the parts of them that you used to love. So I made an illegal U-turn in the middle of a street and went back.
For the longest time I had been watching my every step, looking for the words “Protect Your Magic” to be graffitied on a corner at any moment. I didn’t realize that they were so hard to find because of how quickly they could get worn out, how time and strangers walking on them and the sun could fade them out.
And then, on a stop sign up the street from where I work, there was something stable.
A “Protect Your Magic” sign drilled into the post.
This was worth stopping and going back for. Because I knew it wasn’t going anywhere.
Permanent. 


 

November 1, 2014, 2:27 a.m. //
I miss the way he used to pray before he went to sleep. He would pull me in close, and I’d start tracing the lines on his chest.
His prayers were never out loud, and for a while I loved that; it was like I got to be in on some little secret, somehow hear him and God talking in the silence by the breaths he took.
Then he’d look at me and tell me I was the love of his life and that he hoped I had sweet dreams.
I miss the way he used to pray at night, but mostly because i miss the way it felt to lay next to him while he did it.

What I found out about the world when he stopped loving me//

He made it hard to breathe, standing next to me.
He doesn’t want you anymore, was the only thing I could hear until the preacher man stood up and started telling us about what real love looks like.
And I was so angry. Angry that he was there, angry that he wanted to sit next to me, angry that he could love me but not want to be with me, angry about how that didn’t make sense to me.
But then the preacher man sat down and the band came up, and he swayed to the sound of the music and worshipped.

When they prayed us out into the world that night, I thanked God that He is bigger than me and all that my heart felt and couldn’t understand. Because my heart’s anger wasn’t changing anything. But He was in that room, changing the boy I love.
That’s something I can understand.


 

November 3, 2014 1:11a.m. //
So you’ll drive home at midnight, and your radio will be off, and you’ll miss the way he used to remind you to turn your headlights on, and you’ll hate the third day of every month because all you’ll be able to think about is the blanket and the park and that moment when his thumb rubbed back and forth on your calf and yours smoothed out the skin across his collar bone and the way that kiss felt.

What I found out about the world when he stopped loving me //

We sat on the old wood we’d walked miles to end up at. I say that like it was a destination, like we walked with the intention to find that deck, but that’s not true at all. We hadn’t even meant to end up there. My feet hurt and she felt nauseous, and we just happened to find the deck at the right time, like it had just been waiting for us while we did what we wanted to do and felt what we wanted to feel and just kept moving through our lives together. Still, it was there when we needed it, so we sat; we leaned back and put Taylor Swift on and studied a cloudless sky like it could change at any moment, and we didn’t want to miss it in the midst of all the feelings that were distracting us from it. There was me and there was her and we had two hearts cut from the same mold.
I don’t actually know how long we laid there.
But I do know that I woke up the next morning, and all I could think about was the way that deck felt against my back and making her hold my hand when she didn’t want to use words and how the air felt different without any clouds in the sky and the way that day felt.


November 5, 6:43 p.m. //

“It’s like a movie” she had said in my ear and I had looked up to see you standing in the doorway.
I walked up to you, and you had your arms wrapped tight around my neck so I felt like I could breathe again, like I could keep up with all the important people in the room, that I really was meant for this life I wanted.
“Today, I feel like a little fishy in a big sea,” I had once told you.
“Well that’s alright!” You said, “How else are you to grow if not in a big ocean?”

What I found out about the world when he stopped loving me //

You’re going to meet people tonight, and they are going to be important. Whoever you talk to is going to most likely have their own business and a URL to their own website and they’re going to be doing big things. And yeah, you’re nineteen and still in college and live way outside the perimeter of the city, but that’s all okay. And yeah, he’s not going to walk through the door tonight and watch you talk to people and look at you like you’re bigger than anyone there, and that’s okay, too,” I told myself while I was walking up to the door of the coffee shop. Pushing open the door, there was just noise, and I felt small even after my own pep-talk.
And before I could figure out if I was overwhelmed by the faces or excited about the hearts in the room, her arms were around my neck and her platinum curls in my face. Just like a movie. Two little fish in a big sea. With plenty of room to grow. 


Apparently, there’s this man out there named Brett who likes to blog about the advice letters he would write to his younger self. One of the things he wanted to tell his younger self to know was that life is full of choosing people. He had written a post about how there are two types of people when can choose to keep in our lives: the vampires or the surgeons. There’s the vampires, the people who suck the life, the guts, the hope, the aspirations, the joy, the security out of us; the surgeons are the people who know how to cut into us and make us better.

But I don’t think there is such a thing.
I don’t think you either keep a vampire in your life or a surgeon;
I think you pick a person, and that’s what’s hard. Because they’re just people, and we are just people, and we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves sometimes.

So. I’m gonna learn how to be really good at being a person. So that someone looks at me and doesn’t say, “Oh wow, she’s going to suck the life out of me” or even “She looks like someone who can fix my heart.”

I want someone to say, “She’s a good person. And I want her to stay.”