This is not what I pictured. I thought I’d be older. I thought we would have the kind of mailbox you could hit with a baseball bat from a car. I thought we’d have a car. I thought ”We” would be a thing that I said. I would present things and be promoted for it. I would have a secretary. I would have an office. I would have a house on St. John, one in Aspen, and a flat in New York. I didn’t know what a flat was.
No one would tell me I was pretty anymore. I wouldn’t care if I was. Getting drunk was for teenagers. I wouldn’t laugh when someone said, “it’s floppy.”
I didn’t know that this was when I would start to feel real fire. I didn’t know the sex would be this good, the parties would be this fun, the victories would be this big. I didn’t know we’d still be smoking and drinking and trying and recovering. I didn’t know I’d be running and competing and cycling and glowing. I didn’t know that I would love pad thai. I didn’t know what pad thai was. And I really had no idea the sex would be this good.
No one told me I’d still tape things to my wall. No one told me my favorite possession would be something I made. No one told me I’d still make acceptance speeches in the mirror. No one told me I’d still make funny faces when people walked away. No one told me how silly I would be. No one told me any of it.
I go to the dentist. I wash my fruit. I growl with a mouth full of toothpaste. I worry about my bills. I worry when I’m late. I worry when you’re late. I worry. I still play pretend. I still get scared when the closet door is open. I still can’t sleep with a foot hanging over the edge of the bed. The country still scares me more than the city, and cops still give me the urge to run. I really like cuddling; I act like I don’t.
I didn’t know I’d be a writer with tattoos living in an airy apartment with strangers. I didn’t know people would call me a sweetheart. I didn’t know I would hate it and like it on a completely arbitrary basis. I didn’t know I would miss religion. I didn’t know that science would become a hobby. I didn’t know what a battle it would be to balance the two.
I figured I’d be happy, but not this much. I figured I’d be healthy, but not with these ailments. I thought I’d be in love, but not with a city. I am seeing that age is nonsense, that life is good.
But there is a loneliness to life, a certain type of grief that settles at the bottom of the pan, so you must stir and stir and stir. If you are sedentary in life, so shall you be in your heart. And the bitter taste is only a reminder that it needs some salt, some pepper, some attention. Stir.
Call your parents. Write a letter. Thank old teachers. Buy someone dinner. Say hello, thank you, and I need your help. Say I’m sorry, you’re lovely, and yes I can help. Look people in the eye when you do so they know you mean it when it’s true. Look up. Stretch. Clean your keyboard and build an immune system. Walk a different way home. Buy a vegetable you don’t know. Even the most tried and true ingredients can make something astounding when mixed in anew, but you have to mix for new results. You need to try if you’re eager to change.
There’s a weird shame in not being content with what you begged for, and there’s a humbling in admitting it. This is when your path diverges, not with options, but with emotions. You can choose to settle, to succumb, to lie to yourself. Or, you can release. You can admit to the universe, to your friends, to your dog, to yourself that you’re lost and you’re lonely and you’re looking for something, someone. There is a curious type of fire that accompanies having no idea what it is you want, but going for it anyway. This fire is often called faith.
I get drunk despite the hangover. I binge despite the pain. And I put my heart in your hand despite knowing the risk in your grip. There is many an action with a less than fruitful outcome. And yet, we choose these actions time and again. I know the stove will burn me, I know the boy will hurt me. They say the young are fearless, but I would rather be brave. To dive into something with no regard for the consequences is not insignificant, but to predict, recognize, and prepare for all possible consequences and still charge on is something to marvel at, something to aspire to.
When your house has already burned and you made it out alive, there is less fear in the flames. There is an acknowledgement, a courage. I didn’t know that I would be lonely. I didn’t know that I would be scared. I didn’t know if you existed, and I sure as hell didn’t know where.
Three commiserators sat together and talked about the most embarrassing truth of love, that sometimes it happens for no reason, too quickly, without safety net, without care, but to deny yourself the opportunity to fall can feel worse than the fall ever could.
He doesn’t have to be the one. She doesn’t have to be everything. But to feel your heart race over something it wants rather than something it fears is such sweet revery.
So rather than listening to advice, to avoiding the poison, I choose the future comfort of friends and the endless miles of pavement I can run to repair my broken heart. It’s been broken before, and it’ll be broken again, but just for a little while, just for those moments I close my eyes and breathe, it beats to the rhythm of hope.
When morning comes, I will prepare for the day like it belongs to you. I’ll comb my hair, and I’ll rouge my lips. Slip on the bracelets, the rings, the stockings. Line my eyes, put on my heels. Open my lungs to the crisp winter air. My steps will be confident and my chin will be high. And even if you give me nothing, you’ve given me something better: you’ve given me the assurance that my capacity to love has not only not diminished, but has grown and blossomed. I have not grown jaded with time. I have not grown tired and weary. Knowing plainly the truths and the consequences hasn’t made me reluctant, it has made me brave. And for that, I will always be grateful. And as long as I have something to give, I will give it my all.