36, Personified

He pulls the heart from my chest
I watch as it beats in his hand
blood dripping between his long slender fingers

I lay naked on the bed
looking up at him
“Give me a few minutes” he whispers
as he looks down at me with black eyes

He raises his hand

slowly bringing it to his mouth
I watch as his jaw unhinges
like a python
his mouth opens wide as he places my heart there between his teeth
holds it delicately . . .

Like a good bird dog

blood drips slowly from his lips
still warm
down his chin
onto his chest

My heart stops beating

He never breaks eye contact . . .

as I slip into unconsciousness

But I can feel him there
even in my sleep

Sense him watching me
always just out of reach

My world softly in his mouth
he stays calmly at my feet

Coiled like a cobra . . .

Waiting.

B&W

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Word on Bad Bitches and Basic Boys

It’s New Years Eve, again. I remember being eleven years old and standing out in our driveway at midnight looking for the fireworks over the mountain with the neighbor kids. It was 1993. The neighbor was drunk and kept harassing the chubby kid from down the street by saying, “Yeah you’re a real card fat boy.”

In the morning I’ll wake up thirty-five years old. It will be 2017. A misogynist racist will be sworn into office nineteen days later. We all seem to be a little sad, a little angry, a little dismayed about 2016. We’re personifying the fuck out of the year. We’re begging it not to take anymore of our beloved celebrities. We’re calling it out on being a dumpster fire. We’re raging and crying and laughing all at once.

My 2016 wasn’t a dumpster fire.

My personal year, the year in which I turned thirty-five and wore a bikini for the first time, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, at times it was the happiest I’ve been in my entire life. It was however, tumultuous at times to put it politely, because as you know this is the internet. I’ll just say that self discovery is exhilarating the same way chasing a tornado seems exciting. A lot of garbage will get thrown about in the process.

In order to really tell you about my 2016 I have to tell you about my girl, my friend. A kind of friendship I didn’t know could still exist in adulthood.

To My Boo,

Do you remember a year ago when we went to the gym but we didn’t work out? We ate chocolate muffins in the café and talked with friends. We wore dirty snow boots and heavy coats, our hair greasy, our babies still in diapers. We went home to husbands who didn’t help enough. And then one day we booked plane tickets to a beach, we made protein shakes, put in endless hours at the gym. We dropped weight, grew our hair long, got our nails done, put on make-up. We bought bikinis. We boarded a plane for paradise. We joked that we could never come back again, not the same way we were before. “You know we can never come back from this, right?” we said to each other laughing on the beach.

We didn’t.

We returned home different. We were awake. We weren’t going to participate in the self sacrificing slow death march that is so often the result of womanhood.

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For you, the universe cleared a path. She did it suddenly, violently as if cutting through the brush with a machete. She turned around, looked you straight in the eyes and motioned for you to leave.

You stood up and left.

I hope that in those moments when you’ve looked back over your shoulder, questioning if you’re headed the right direction, it’s me you see assuring you that you are. Well, me and your Mama, and the countless other women who have walked that same path. Everything in your life was merely a detour, a traffic delay on the road you’re now speeding down.

As for the destination? It’s better than Maui. I promise, I know this.

It’s so damn beautiful.

I want to tell you that I see you, and you see me. There have been many times this past year when you were the only one who could really see me. There have been moments alone together when my soul has been naked. Laughing on the Lanai drunk under the Maui moonlight. Late nights talking at your kitchen table stone cold sober with an Excel spreadsheet trying to figure shit out; other times laughing hysterically as the kids raid the pantry. Moments in the weight room where we find our rhythm alternating sets silently while listening to our own music.  I feel a love and acceptance that is rare in friendship.

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God damn, I hope you feel it too.

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I’ve discovered there’s a world of women. I have always existed within it, reveled in it, but this year I’ve felt it stronger than any other year in my life. There’s a sisterhood among us that men will always be threatened by. A way about us they will never understand. Even when in love, even with our husbands, they never fully get it. Strong men roll their eyes at women like us, weak ones grow resentful and scared.

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As I enter my thirty-sixth year I refuse to allow space for the fear of weak men, not anymore. They want to suppress us, tame us, dim our lights. They want to tell us to watch our language, stay quiet, get off the dance floor, stay inside more. They want to be president. They want to own our bodies and manipulate our own inner monologue. Whether through the use of force, abusive language or even the passing of laws, I refuse to play along and my sisters won’t either. If you are threatened by us, you are not man enough for us.

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I’m done apologizing for who I am, and you should be too. I won’t tolerate anyone telling me to tone it down. I want nothing to do with people who gasp when I mutter “mother fucker” under my breath, with people who use their God as a platform for judgment. I have no time for their definition of morals, marriage and motherhood. I care nothing for the world’s expectations of my heteronormative gender performance. I have no time for how they think I should perform my role as a woman, mother, person in their thirties. As a close friend of mine often says, “Get the fuck outta here with that shit.”

Repeat after me: I can be an excellent mother and still be a seriously bad bitch.

So, get the fuck outta here with that shit, or come at me bro.

bathroom

Because we’re ready for you.

 

 

And Then I was Gone Again . . .

Too often we craft a narrative for our own lives. We convince ourselves it’s true. We take stock and look around at the world. Perhaps we tell ourselves that our own discontent is self absorbed, a First World problem.

But look at all you have they say. Blessed. They like to throw that word around, blessed.

There are tiny moments in which I see my good fortune. In the early morning light, golden, streaming in behind her blonde hair, all ethereal. Her baby breath in my face as she whispers, “Here Mama, you cuddle with my blankie.” She strokes my arm and crawls under the covers. My lips find the top of her head and I kiss her hair, soft as silk. I run my hands over her little warm body and rub her cold naked legs. “Stay under the covers and warm up,” I whisper back to her. She does. I try and memorize this moment. I know she’ll only lay silent next to me for a few moments. I wish we could stay like this all day.

She is perfection at three.

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The last nine months I have been lost in the woods. I have avoided, burned bridges, failed to maintain friendships. When a mother of small children decides to take care of herself, like really take care of herself, well, some things will suffer. I hadn’t realized that I’d barely kept contact with my own mother, until I flew alone to see her and she choked back tears while she asked me to just “Keep in contact.”

I hadn’t realized.

I sat in my son’s room the other night and listened as he explained in great detail the Lego world he’s endlessly crafting. I looked around and for the first time saw that he really is a boy now. His artwork hung everywhere, his Legos arranged meticulously. His creations positioned painstakingly with Scotch tape, miles of Scotch tape. I listen, really listen to him for the first time in too long. I wonder when I missed it, the transition. Where have I been?

I’ve been here but not really here.

I hadn’t realized.

I’ve been here, pouring the morning cereal and barking orders, packing lunches and loading backpacks, filing homework, getting into my workout clothes while I yell, “Put on your shoes! We’re leaving in fifteen minutes.”

“Ten minutes!”

“Five minutes!”

“Get in the car. NOW! Your sister’s already in the car!”

“But Moooooooom!” He whines refusing to leave whatever project he’s currently working on in his room.

The tiny voice in my head mutters, “Stop calling me that.”

And then I am gone.

Off on a plane, again. Other mothers I know see pictures of me on a beach and comment, “Another girls’ trip?”

It is not a girls’ trip.

I sit on my mother’s patio and drink coffee. We debate the election in circles. We try to make a game plan. I watch she and her husband bicker in an adorable fashion. I tease them mercilessly about being old retired people. I envy them. We all laugh. They drive me to lunch in their old Subaru.

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We eat Cuban food. Walk the beach. Run errands. Commiserate some more.

At night after they’ve gone to bed I stand at the mirror in their guest bathroom. I brush my teeth. I stare at myself in silence. The weight of it all finally hits me.

Hard.

I push back. I shake my head side to side in denial. “No,” the little voice whispers, “put your arms down and let it in.” Grief comes up behind me and wraps her arms around my middle. “What if I’m just going to have to live with this?” I ask her.

She doesn’t answer.

Days later I sit alone in a fancy hotel room in Clearwater. I watch the sunrise over the white sand beach. If you squint, it looks like snow.

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“How’s your day?” a friend texts.

“Awful.”

“Call me.”

I call.

I sob into the phone unable to speak. They listen.

“Are you writing? You need to do the damn thing! Get down to the beach. Have you been in the water yet? Get in the water!”

“I have. I was. I had to go back to the room….” my voice broken.

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I spend the next twelve hours in that room. I never turn on the TV. I cry until the front of my shirt is wet. I write. I talk to friends. One friend makes me laugh until my belly hurts. The kind words of another make me cry even harder. I hang up the phone and feel surrounded by their love. I cry more. I lay on the bed and stare out the window as the sun slowly dips behind the ocean, families in silhouette playing on the beach. I open a bottle of cheap drugstore wine. I sit in the chair and start drinking on an empty stomach as the room grows dark. I order room service and eat a $30 cheese plate with my $8 wine. I finish the wine and leave the rest of the cheese out in the hallway.

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I crawl into bed without brushing my teeth and pass out, exhausted, spent.

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Done.

The next day I drive to the airport. On the bridge while stuck in traffic the biggest dragonfly I’ve ever seen keeps pace with my car. She stays right outside my window.

For miles and miles.

She guides me home.