i heard about being young but i'm not sure how it's done

It started at 8 o'clock at night. We sat in the living room, and the words came, just like they so frequently did when I was younger: "You are a terrible daughter!"

And that's when I say, "Go ahead and hit me if you want to! I can see it in your eyes." She stops for a moment, but turns and decides to walk away, withdrawing in anger to manipulate me into apologizing to her. I sit down on the couch, my head in my hands. This time the tears are coming, and the words "You bitch" just barely passes my lips.

She is slapping me, but it doesn't hurt. She's over 60 years old, for god's sake. She is weak, but in that moment you jump to your feet and push her off you. You are screaming all the curse words you know, running down the stairs.

Six months later, you sit across from her, your sister at your right and your father at your left. It's like it was back then, during those dreaded family meetings that always devolved into a screaming match. And they are repeating themselves now: "What did we do that was so bad we deserve to be treated this way?"

You're eleven, and she has you backed into the corner of the kitchen floor, crouching against the cabinets. She may or may not have been wielding a knife, but it wouldn't matter. You are terrified.

"You told me when I was 11 years old that if I wanted to get attention from people outside of our house, I was going to get raped, and if I wanted to have sex so badly, I should just have sex with K----!" You angrily wave a hand to your left.

A---'s fist comes down onto the table. She is telling you to leave, and you are screaming that you're leaving, and as you run down the stairs again, hopefully for the last time, you keep screaming "Fuck you!"

They come charging down the stairs towards you, and you know that this is the PTSD the therapists have told you about.

When you are preparing to leave the jail, you say your goodbyes to the ladies that had talked with you through the night. One asks where I used to live, and they begin to offer their services in vandalizing in retaliation. You smile through the tears, because a room full of women in jail had more compassion than your family ever did.

You saw it coming, maybe months ahead of time. Perhaps that's why you withdrew. You knew you couldn't stop it from happening, and you were too weary to keep it up anyways.

And yet. That night you notice first that your lips are hot, your hands are shaking, and your vision is beginning to close in.

You're running down the stairs, you're laying down in the street. And these hands are grabbing you now, they are picking you up, and the voices are telling you that you're going to be okay, and what is wrong, are you hurt, are you sure you're hurt, what's your name, I'm actually a doctor, I'll stay with her until the police get here.

With your back propped against the building, you see your roommate and his friends walk past. Perhaps if they had intercepted you before you walked into the middle of the road, these next things wouldn't have happened. But this isn't the time to think about that.

You're leaning over the edge of the open window. And you know you're doing exactly what you just criticized that other girl for, but you tell yourself you need to breathe air that isn't heavy with cat piss. And it might be the sixth or seventh bowl you've smoked tonight, it might be because you are wondering if S-- is having a good Halloween too, but your mouth briefly fills with vomit before you reflexively swallow it and turn back to the people sitting around you.


useful chamber

I want to talk about these things. I want to say the things you never allowed to say to yourself. And I want them to comfort you.

I want to build up the memories, one brick at a time, until I can remember just how it was. Until I feel the slide of warm skin against my exposed back. Until we're back at the start. This is the time, this is our one chance to get it right. And we won't fuck it up. Not this time.


i tried my best last time

I sit here.

I didn't stop writing simply because I had run out of words. There are an endless number of things that close our throats so that we don't cry out: a fear that because you can only write when you are sad that you wind up writing yourself into sadness; that naming your fears give them life, as if writing their shape gives them body, that acknowledgment provokes its realness. That what you have to say is ultimately worthless.

For a moment in time, there were many things I couldn't face. I had spent such an emotionally tumultuous moment in my life heading towards a single, wholly-redeeming goal (my deep-seated hope that my return to the University of Washington would signify a clear and forever departure from the pain of my past) that I had unknowingly saved nothing of myself to face the impossible, humbling, leveling of life. It had taken me nearly two years to work towards some semblance of sanity and normality that was, in the span of three months, completely wiped clean.

I could name those forces that leveled me. They have easy names with clear definitions: loss of father, the "reheaval" of his return (what could be more emotionally dissatisfying than grieving for someone that you think has finally gone, that they will forever be at rest in your heart, and you have accepted this new world without their presence, no matter how impossibly hard that is, and then having this person come force their existence in your face, to introduce themselves to you as a complete stranger, one that has violated your trust and erased your memory of them?), depression, suicidal thoughts, anorexia, antidepressants, abrupt school/career change, homelessness. They each had a name and yet I found myself perpetually silent to them.

Tonight the words came back to me, in that old way. Tonight there was a system of strings, tonight there were pennies buried underneath window frames, tonight I felt every cell of my body.

The truth is, I was born into negative space. This endless loop, these concentric circles, the constant leveling of life. I was born into a world that told me I was inherently worthless.

I grew up with the threat of being put up for adoption, being told that I was a narrowly missed abortion (and that that fact was a grievous mistake), the certainty of incarceration as my only future because of my perpetual "bad behavior", the constant slut-shaming of a 12 year old that dared to make friends on the internet. I grew up being told that I deserved the punishment that was inflicted on me. The words "demon child" and "black sheep" were labels that were forced onto me on a daily basis. I was forced into a shower at the age of 3 with the shower turned on full blast as my mother made sure to turn my face into the water, essentially waterboarding me for some thing I had done that I can't even remember now. I grew up with knives being drawn and pressed against my face, shaving my head on more than one occasion, with being choked, my face stomped on, having my head slammed against a wall, being slapped in the face endlessly until I fell to the floor, in addition to the "standard" spankings.

I grew up with abuse and I was forced to believe that that was exactly what it wasn't. I was punished for social services being called on more than one occasion, though I know now that some part of that was not because of what happened in my house but what was going on in my head, my child-aged brain and emotional maturity attempting to cope with the blind panic of agoraphobia.

In my life I have learned to rationalize and accept the bad. To many, I am "brave", because they perceive that I am still here, despite of what I have faced. But my "braveness" soon shifts into tedium, as it becomes clear that I am not here despite what I have faced. I am not here.

I am continually and perpetually told that my mental disorders are not real, or that at the very best they are seen as temporary. These same mental disorders are taken away from me (my depression is a direct result of my social connections; my agoraphobia is a result of my parents' anti-social behavior), so that even what I am facing is not my own battle but some external, trivial, temporary nothing. Denial for treatment, refusal for counseling and medication was a battle I nearly lost with my own life on more than one occasion. The stubborn refusal to acknowledge what was in fact happening to me in my life caused me not only to be suicidal, but to be emergency expelled in the eighth grade (only to be allowed back in with the caveat of school mandated therapy). And yet even these events were transformed: they are not the product of an extremely unhealthy attitude towards mental health, but a product of my perceived "badness".

To this day, I am perceived as not deserving the love that I receive from S., simply because I am still not deserving of their love in their eyes. I am told that I still need to prove myself to them as a daughter, as human, as a professional individual. There is no arena in life that I have succeeded in, regardless of my actual performance. In every personal trial I have faced and moved past (my physical health, mental health, my schooling and career) my accomplishments and progress are not only ignored but denied, so that I am no other person but the one they have never seen value in in the first place: the one that was going to end up in prison because she could not follow rules, the one that was going to get raped by all sorts of men because I sought an honest friendship with someone who I could confide in about my abuse, the one that was not their daughter and they would "tie up and leave on top of a mountain". Their denial of me is so complete that I cannot even receive love from the people outside of my family that choose to love me.

It is this that keeps me in my "concentric circles". I could, conceivably, discover where it all straightens out, I could conceivably finally discover which direction to move towards.

Living a life that is perpetually negated creates a version of you that you are forced to hate, because it's not the person that others can accept. To force someone to hate themselves is one of the most violent acts of hate against a person, because a person only has one life, and although you may want them to live a life better than the one they have, telling them not to appreciate it or love it or acknowledge its right to be loved simply because it could be better is something that is by definition, soul-crushing.

My year at the cafe had afforded me a small bubble of happiness, where I could present myself to the cafe's customers and my coworkers and each one acknowledged me as I truly was: a person, one that was of value. I cried on the display bed of the furniture store when I recounted my story, not because of the pain of remembrance, but of a sudden and poisonous, pervasive fear that I was essentially admitting to the cafe owners and my managers that I was in fact worthless. I feared that what I showed to them would be the person I had been taught to despise.

So I am winding up my clock, backwards. This time, M. will be jumping backwards, up onto the bus, unsaying my name. The blood will be flowing into wounds, the pills will be put back in the bottles. I will go through shrink spurts, the hair will un-grow from my skin. And I will wake up, happy and free and clean. All the things I ever did wrong, or ever will do, will fall up into the sky, they will clear up the stormy clouds in my life, they will un-evaporate and add their weight to the ocean. My exhales will be inhales, my rights will be lefts, my laughing and crying will be the same thing.

Sitting in the front seat of S.'s car, I finally named it: the negative space that I couldn't escape. I put my fear into words, and in those words I finally remembered what I had written so many years ago:

"I'll bury pennies underneath your window frame, so that when you tire of this view and tear it down, you'll see how I wished only the best for you." 2.20.2010

"Tonight I remembered the beauty of entropy, the knowledge that just because you exist you affect the universe. I'm gaining confidence, that perhaps if I pluck the strings in my heart I will eventually hit the right chord that will resonate with you...I can't pretend I didn't use a sharp tongue, that I didn't push you away when we needed to be closer. But every sharp word was only an attempt to hit your sympathy strings. Each stab we took at each other was only another misplayed string from our heart, an attempt to flush out the right chord that would suddenly make us resonate, that would remind us we were two violins in the same room, trying to play the same chord." 2.22.2010

"Human interaction is fucked up. I try to stay hopeful, I try to stay 'beautiful'. I try to take comfort in the fact that the words I write touch other people; there's a possibility that someone I've never met may remember me for the words I've left behind...If I could collect every word in my life, I'd rearrange them into an apology. Or perhaps I'd rearrange them into 'I love you'...I want to take every word in my life and rearrange them into a house for you and me. To protect you, to keep you warm. I'd use my words for firewood (we'd burn 'You're worthless', 'I hate you', etc), we'd eat 'I love you' soup every night. We'll pull blankets of 'You're safe with me' over our heads. I'd stitch 'I'm sorry' into all of your clothing. Every morning you'll bathe in 'You're beautiful' (the soap 'Have I ever told you that?'). That I could never utter a cross word again. That human interaction is fucked up, beautifully fucked up." 2.25.2010

"I might be remembering things wrong. As I write this sentence, 50,000 cells in my body are dying. 50,000 new cells are being created, each one without your name coded in my genes like some kind of virus. The point is, I'm not the same person when I met you. Literally. The very cells in my bones have died, been replaced, and have died again. My stomach lining was replaced in four days, so that the acid in your words couldn't eat through me. It took five months to change my skin (harder this time, of course — it is, afterall, my first line of defense). My liver, with its 500 functions — one of them trying to filter out the toxic blame you let flood my bloodstream — regenerated in six months. The miracle of this life is the centuries of evolution that took place to make the idea of you even possible. That the entire history of human life is just an elaborate dominoes of events that led to you. If history could be redone, if I could push the tears up my cheeks and back into my eyes, so that planes will fly out of buildings and the atomic bombs will fly up into the planes, if history could un-goose-step across Europe, if the machetes attached hands to limbs by a simple upward motion, there could never be a more perfect you. Evolution isn't a survival of the fittest, it's an experimentation of beauty. In the filter of you, historical events align like stars, and human life is worth all the work it takes to live it. Everything hits at once." 3.13.2010

"I close my eyes to shut her out like everyone else. Inside, I want nothing more than to reach across the aisle, to hold her hand. I want to unpack her suitcases, I want to let her shed her heavy coat. I want for her to never lower her eyes in shame again. Because in the end, I don't want to be homeless. I want to open the door to your heart, and make it my home. I never want to pack my suitcases." 3.17.2010

"I cock my head to the side and put my ear to the glass, listening to the ice cubes quietly crinkle secrets in my ear. They tell me about oceans and being scraped by mountain peaks, dinosaur kidney stones and the inside of my freezer. I tell them I'm sad as they start to melt. Last night I tried to find my happiness in the boxes I thought I had packed my childhood in, yet all I held in my hand were papers. I tried to understand the darkness that bloomed like bruises behind my eyelids and found myself pressing my hands against the bricks of our fireplace, trying to feel something solid. I watch in amazement how this sadness passes right through you. I find my hands beating against my chest like caged robins, trying to beat out the hole that will allow my sorrow to pass right through me. Tomorrow you will drag me out in the sun, you will set my feet in motion. You will turn the corners of my lips up. And I will turn my head every time they fall back down." 3.23.2010

"My mind and my body are not the same; my stomach gurgles in the middle of class when I'm not hungry, my lips like to smirk, even when I don't find anything interesting. Fingers reach for fingers without conscious thought. My heart continues to beat when I've forgotten how to live...I don't love anyone. That is the reality of the world that I live in. There is no one who wants my love, no one who cares. But I love anyways, I keep myself brimming with it. I remind myself, 'You love', and that's enough...I don't need fingers to hold. I just need to love. My heart beats contentedly...I continue to smile when I'm not happy." 4.03.2010

"I've been useless. Like the one chipped plate in your dining set, like the one wilted rose in your anniversary bouquet (the one rose ruining your twelve month metaphor), like the one burnt light bulb darkening your chandelier. In the last few days, I have been gathering my metaphors like homeless leaves, I have been tucking them away in the dark corners of my dresser, next to the high school I.D. with a suicide hotline on the back, with my mother's strand of pink plastic pearls (her favorite piece of jewelry, now with a broken clasp), the million dark treasures I can't bear to throw away. I'll put away my metaphors, I'll vacuum the stairs. I'll hide in the kitchen, restless fingers sculpting your dinner, scrubbing your dishes. I'll sit in the corner with the unplugged fan, I'll turn myself into an appliance, if only to be useful again. I've given up on being good. I just want to be useful to you." 4.26.2010

"I slammed my head into the floor today and understood why birds fly into buildings and why moths fly into light bulbs and why the day my sister and I had an argument I can't even remember anymore she threw the radio to the floor and then ran straight into a wall, and why sometimes people sit in a bathtub and beat their head against the porcelain and scream. The bump on my head hurts every time I laugh or move an eyebrow, but I am reminded of that final moment of peace, when all of my synapses finally stopped screaming for the serotonin I guess they are so desperately lacking. Sometimes I dream about pushing you out of a plane, sometimes I erase whole buildings and streets and civilizations are wiped out by a single rub from an eraser. Sometimes I scratch at my skin, picking off the bumps that were once a secret braille between you and me. There are dead flies in the water glasses, and I probably bled on the mushrooms. The ants are finding their way up the staircase and the floor hasn't been cleaned in years. If anyone came into this house they might think that no one lives here anymore. And I don't think anyone that does wants to anyway." 9.18.2010

"You could be happy. But you couldn't be happy. You sat in the closet they called an 'office', you lifted your shirt over your back and let middle-aged women needing a big break to argue whether or not those scars looked like cigarette burns. You ran from the guidance counselor, screaming. You couldn't just stop trying, you had to preemptively destroy your life before anyone else could take it away from you." 10.10.2010

"She says this is progress, we should keep the forward momentum. I can't tell if I'm just a really good liar or if this is real. This is happiness, or something like it. My happiness is a firework. The synapses ignite, then go dark. If this is happiness, I'd rather have something like it." 7.23.2011

"If I could write my own ending to this story, I wouldn't be so damaged...I want to have something to offer you, but I don't have anything to offer myself." 9.02.2011

"Nothing really gets me more interested in music than listening to musicians talk about music. And nothing wakes me up from being down in the dumps than music. I'd abandon words, and writing, I'd abandon it all if I could simply say, 'I'm having a hard time,' and have that mean something to anyone. Because I lay my words down like bridges but I'm the only person crossing them. In my dreams, all my fathers forsake me. It leaves clots in my veins and a pounding in my head. It's the same winter coat, with the same dead leaves and the same cloying grey. If, for half a moment, I can walk on a stretch of sidewalk soaked in the sun and imitate Christopher Owens' walk while singing 'Honey Bunny', if I can listen to 'Surf Solar' by Fuck Buttons on repeat with the volume turned up, it feels remotely like conversation. In the end, the people I remember most in the last year aren't the ones that I've told, 'I'm having a hard time'. It's the Noah Lennoxes, the Avey Tares, the Owen Pallets, the Bradford Coxes, the Christopher Owenses and Peter Silbermans of the world that tuck me into bed at night and whisper, 'Sometimes it's like that.'" 10.27.2011

"The things I refuse to say flood my bloodstream with guilt and shame, until I can't even manage a simple conversation or sustained eye contact, they collect like platelets and clog my veins. I could conceivably take control of this, I could be better than I am at this moment, but instead I wait for the cardiac arrest. It's only when I hit rock bottom that I know which direction to move." 5.29.2012

"I hold my happiness in a book and you transform it in front of my face, you take over my dream and I follow you, hostage to my guilt, bound by your anger towards me." 2.16.2013

"Can I go back to the days when having fingers run through my hair was the epitome of intimacy. When carving into the wooden furniture was the worst crime I'd ever committed...I remember when being small and helpless wasn't a crime...I don't want to be afraid anymore. I don't want to see all the sharp edges of pain that defines our relationships cutting away at whatever ties we have left. Please. I'm tired of sending myself out into the world and coming back crushed...But put your pain aside, just for a moment, and remember how you loved us. Using pain to curb pain doesn't work." 1.28.2010

I sit here.

"It's a very simple truth but it is hard to accept. The universe is going to catch you. We tried once to do trust falls in the kitchen, but I could only think of the linoleum and I wouldn't let you catch me. You yelled at me, I am going to catch you, but I started to cry and you said that we could play something else...You can blame yourself for building walls and drawing lines, for all the times you didn't answer the phone compared to all the times that you did. But in the end, you aren't the only person in the conversation. It's as much your choice as it is theirs, too. There are reasons why I'd like to take the blame. I think to myself, if this is your fault, you can still fix it. If I can take all the blame, I'll have all the responsibility, and things that I don't like about my life will change if I can only change myself. But changing yourself will only take you so far. You can still find yourself walking down a street in the University District crying by yourself when all of your plans fall through. In the end, it isn't about how much people can like you, because as Facebook has demonstrated, liking something is simply not being committed enough to get to somewhere real. It isn't about changing yourself to be the type of person that appeals to others. It's about accepting that the universe is going to catch you, about leaving space for love to come into your life, about room for forgiveness and second chances. It's about doing trust falls in the kitchen when someone tells you they love you." 6.11.2011

I cried into the night, I watched my breath collect on the windows of the front seat. I finally put this into words, because I owed it to myself.


you're not good enough

I keep trying to pull myself away. At times these feel like old scars, the ones on my shins that I inspect in the bath and can't remember where they came from. It doesn't make sense to pick at them; they seem irrelevant to me now. And yet I carry it with me, everywhere I go.

These old scars don't make me impervious to the same old wounds. I'd like to believe there is some learning from mistakes, that there is forward progression in my life that matches my steadily increasing age, yet from what I can see my life moves in concentric circles, with no sense of lineation.

My mind takes flight and I am beyond these streets where I sat on the curb and cried, I am far past my old walks and these stairs where I wanted to have a great fall and I am sitting in an old style bathtub, releasing Sylvia from my blood and I will wake up new and clean and my skin will shine with every scar and every one of them a testament of what is behind me now.


you (ha ha ha)

I told them my story, sitting on the bed in the nearly empty furniture store:

"I had no idea. I just thought you'd come out of your shell!"

Whenever I tell people my story, it's always the same reaction. I guess there's some minimum amount of bravery involved in the way I can let my life crash and burn, again and again, as many times as I'm willing to move on from my last big mistake.

The truth is, I've made more mistakes than other people have been willing to make. I know this because I'm still struggling just to get back into a school most of my peers have already graduated from.

People have always told me I'm strong, or that I've been through more than they have. It sounds like praise, maybe even envy or self-pity for not having a life of perceived hardships and momentarily feeling like they don't have a right to complain.

The fact is, I'm not a strong person, or indestructible. I chased around happiness for a long time, all the way to the bottom of a prescription pill bottle before I was able to accept mistakes as they happen.

I've learned not to get too attached to a bad state of being, because if it can get much worse, it can also get better.


it's not just me, i tell you it's the both of us

If I am a master of anything, it is being a wildly, recklessly, hopeful person. I believe in a world better than the one I've seen, I've hoped for life to treat me better than it has. Even without any evidence to do so, I recklessly continue to fill myself with impossible hopes.

Maybe it's because I spend too much time in my own head. I swear to god, it's a better place than anywhere I've ever been. In my head, my friends are happy and I keep my last contact with each of them in my mind, tucking them away safely in my happy memories and keeping them at arm's length so reality can't reach them. In my own mind, every bad experience eventually washes away, memories become so sun-kissed as to bleach away all the darkness in my mind.

Perhaps this is the line between hopeful and delusional.


everything you exhale

I think I waited around for the pain to become dull before I felt ready to fill my cup again. It always takes me by surprise when the pain doesn't dull, when it simply twists itself around, comes back sharper and clearer and cuts through me as easily as it did the first time.

I didn't stop writing because I began to be happy. I didn't stop writing because I wanted to hide from my depression. I simply never wanted to begin telling a story I hoped would never end.