When I was little, scrawling away, people would always come up behind me and ask, “What are you writing?” And I always wanted to answer that it was none of their business, even though that was rude and I knew it.
Now, when people ask me, I always want to tell them stories I’ve made up around fragments of truth. You’re smart enough to pick and choose what really happened, right? “Once upon a time, there was a little queen in an apartment that was always dark in the evenings. She didn’t turn on the lights because if she did, water poured out of them all heavy and yellow. Everything was prettier in the dim light anyway. Old things look better when it’s not so harsh. She kept it dark and quiet. You’d have to follow your instincts to get to her.”
Sometimes, it’s just easier to tell my stories in snippets.
“Drink up, baby,” he says, gesturing to my glass of beer.
“Don’t fucking talk to me,” I say in reply, but only in my head. I do as I am told. The beer thumps warmly in my throat.
Later, I do my best to claw up his skin and leave long, pinkish-red marks on his arms and back.
That kind of love was all about punishment.
He said he didn’t think it would ever be this way again. And I said no, I supposed it wouldn’t.
This was the poem we wrote that year, the one about coats on the floor and blacking out in bed. The poem I wrote for you, not the one you wrote for me. Things were much different then.
Everything else was so boring. Everything else is so boring.
I poured all my troubles into another boy’s body and he boxed them up and moved them to a different city. He left them there when he came back, even though he knew I was still here burning away, fanning all that hazy, lovely smoke out of my eyes.
My brother and I were standing on a stranger’s stoop that summer watching a messy, loud thunderstorm thrash through my neighborhood. The rain and humidity made both of our hair start to curl in fuzzy tangles at our temples. When you watch a force of nature like that, you don’t really need to talk about it. You just watch it move and maybe say a little prayer in your head. We did it as kids in North Dakota, where storms have plenty of room to play on the prairie. I miss those storms and their bigness, their drama, their sheer anger and power. I’d always envied Dorothy her tornadoes. A tornado can destroy everything in just a few minutes.
Those were the kinds of tantrums I never threw as a child. I’d rather throw them as a grown woman. When the little boy across the hall hits the ground, stomps and screams as loud as he can, I wish that I could do the same.
“THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT,” I’d scream. “THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT.”