“I’ve traveled around. I’ve seen so much. I did things without camera, without pen and paper, all just to see more, more, more, and goddamn, you know what I’ve found in each place? That no one is you. I don’t care if it’s taken so long for me to say so. It’s not the excitement, but the mystery of you that always stays, you know? Excitement fades, but curiosity could sustain forever. I know that now.
It’s not just the way you think, drink, and walk. And you know it drives me crazy, the way you throw you head back when you laugh. But it’s more about how we both go off and learn and shift into new things, but still turn back into each other. And I don’t trust anyone to give you everything you’ve ever deserved, not a single woman will care for you like I need them to care for you. I need you to live this best life like I need to live it for myself. Does that make sense?
And that’s why I stretch, why I have such a killer skin care regime, why I’m determined to participate in triathlons and teach children the art of beauty and tenderness.
Because I love you, you idiot. And you love me. And I want to be clean, real, strong, and affecting— not just once, but every day — for all the real living we could do together. I mean, and have you smelled my face wash? Sweet, incredible, it’s like you— something hard do just morning and night.”
This is a list of some things I’ve found.
Carrying a book makes all lines feel short. The use of ‘I’ is interesting in small doses. It’s not literary if it’s not novel and ancient at the same time. Simple things can be art, but simplicity does not make something artistic. Don’t fear being specific. It’s impolite to cut in line, period.
Wipe your shoes before you go inside homes. You almost never regret hanging your items. If you’re new to being a plant owner, leave reminders on the fridge for when to water them. You have nothing to lose from loving people. You love people by paying attention to what they need. Don’t write more than necessary. Dance hall ain’t dead.
People from other countries are the same as you, just built out of a completely different history. Start from seeing the same and then allowing difference, don’t look at someone different and then searching for what’s the same. The order of this operation matters.
Being active is essential, and there’s a million and one ways to do it. Letters take time. Taking deep breathes and walking straight really changes the sound of the voice in your head. Talk just enough so that your words to another feel like a reward for their time. Don’t be afraid of stopping someone from treating your language too casually. Maya Angelou insisted a student call her Ms. Angelou. It’s important to speak with respect to people you just meet. Learn customs of respect and use them until offered not to. The women in my life have taught me it is possible to be both gentle and to have a lion’s heart.
Opt for veggies but accept some cake. Don’t hold back on love. Ask your self what takes priority over that moment. What you need to do is not always what you want to do. Unless a certain place is exactly what you’re in the mood for, go somewhere new. Being passionate is not a problem but invite people only if you’re prepared to walk them through it. Don’t tell people how they are, no matter how tempting or clear it seems. You may tell people how they seem; they hear you clearest if you’re gentle.
She was pretty stingy about her phone digits, but positively (and invisibly) reluctant when it came her manual ones. She didn’t like the idea of someone taking her hands, nor did she find it good manners to rob another of theirs.
Save that one time she’d brushed his hand while he slept, surprising herself when she let it rest on top of his. It was more exhilarating than any handholding she’d ever done.
This is a list of some things I’ve found.
Get a cast if you break a bone. It saves money to bring your own lunch and cook your own food. A charming man can still act like you owe him something at the end of the day. You don’t have to invite people in when they come to your door. Extra calcium never hurt nobody. When something feels better, you’re healing. When getting better is no longer your preoccupation, you’re recovered. The only way to get better is to acknowledge the issue. The smell of cement reminds me of my father.
Black Panther is a must-see. If they take you in the morning, they’ll come for me that night—it means your problems are my problems. Never skip meals. Commitment to a conversation is done by looking at someone in the eye. Looking someone in the eye is easy to do when you’re genuinely interested. Dress all your perspectives in diamonds, because diamonds are made of open light, and open light listens.
I have been told that I have satisfactory emotional intelligence. Someone else once referred to it a “adequate emotional intimacy” and I—instead of losing the compliment to time—wrote her words down, folded it carefully, put in my pocket, took it to my mother’s home, and nestled it in the back corner of the white Ikea dresser drawer she kept in my old bedroom. It is to this tiny corner I go when my heart has rainy days.
This corner is made mostly of paper. It includes a birthday card from Papa, my father’s father, for my 11th birthday. It’s a large picture of a cat with the words printed as “Have a puuurrrfect birthday!” I received one for each of my birthdays, every Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but this was the only evidence I’ve kept from all those years of inked affection.
I’ve always felt that was enough.
In this corner was also a stash of all the phone numbers I have collected from the men I’d ever crossed paths with, and the boys who’d tracked me down. I was always amused by the paper they’d found—post-it’s from the front desk, old receipts, rips of newspaper, magazine, napkins.
I’d replied to each one of them back with various versions of “I so appreciate your bravery; reaching out with manners is a quality I hope to keep alive, and I’m glad you seem to think so, too. It means you deserve my acknowledgement, even when I cannot return the attention with my time, and I hope you never stop keeping kindness and class in the way you approach other humans. Best to you, and thank you again for the thoughtfulness—what it’s done for my attitude will definitely encourage what I’m working towards now! Good luck in finding the woman who’s got the time you deserve, and thanks for understanding that we’re not intersecting where I’m prepared to give it. If you ever see me around again, be sure to say hello!” And then when they respond back, I don’t.
I’ve always felt that more than enough.
This is list of some things I’ve found.
All men aren’t pigs, but they aren’t all kings either. If receiving calls from a old friend feels good, make effort to make those phone calls, too. Women aren’t objects but yelling “You aren’t an object!” doesn’t wake up the women who have been brought up to believe so. Even if people don’t take your hand before crossing over into a new way of thinking, make sure you offer it. Shooting someone with angry words ensures they’ll never cross.
I write because I cannot sleep. My mother says to write about softer things. In my opinion, nothing is more attractive than someone carrying a coffee cup. I have no doubts about my music taste. Progress depends on a healthy relationship between action and reflection.
Hot chocolate reminds me of the first time I ran away. I used to talk on the phone only if I was under a desk or deep in the corner of my closet. I love a good split-lip, the taste of my own blood when I’m not expecting it. The sound of a chainsaw triggers me to think of my mother, smiling and sweating, in the yard and standing over our cut up fig tree. Running away was how I used to punish people who treated me wrong. I practiced cursive before I learned to write normally.
Radiohead and Beachhouse make for excellent coffeeshop work music. Sleeping next to my male friends was never a problem until it was. “I couldn’t help it,” has followed every unwelcome advance. “I’ve been planning this for a while,” came from the least likely person. “I thought you’d be happy,” came another. Only once have I been asked outright “Is this something you want?” That moment replays in my head more than any of my traumas.
“He’s definitely someone you’d be into,” Her Friend said, handing the phone back.
The Girl is irked and finds herself saying, “You mean, like, his talent, right?”, sharply exiting out of YouTube and dropping the device to the kitchen table.
But this invites a slight smile from the Friend, her eyes becoming slits, and she seems to savor how the seconds before her speech stretch out like a gala carpet to deliver her royal repetition, “Definitely someone you’d be into.” Her voice is wearing Italics this evening.
Their wars are waged this way, through cursive stabs, and the Girl is feeling the heat of her face rise. She roll her eyes to say I found that a very solid performance, and Her Friend shrugs and nods as if to say But have you ever been able to separate the two? It was alright, but I wouldn’t watch it, like, twice. The Girl sits awkwardly opposite from her companion, her previous enthusiasm tarnished by the unexpected judgement, her brain suddenly corrupted by the anxiety that maybe someone knows something about her that she does not.
She has trouble dealing with the anger that arrives when someone challenges how much she knows about herself.
She has trouble dealing with her anger in general.
She decides to punish Her Friend by opening her phone and scrolling aimlessly through her email, filling her inside with a black tar of self-reproach the deeper she descends into the chore. Her posture begins to slump, and the Girl has already forgotten the music she was playing moments ago, that had nearly inspired her to fly.
This is a list of some things I’ve found.
Think before you act, love before you think. Love comes easier when you breathe slow. Breathing slow takes practice. Loving well is practice.
This is your life, drive it like you stole it. I didn’t write that, someone else did. Don’t take credit for what other people have done. I put my heart in the pockets of those who wouldn’t have the time to look for it; it goes in their jeans, they toss them in the laundry, and lays hidden at the bottom of the washing machine where other lost things—stray beads, strings, and coins— stir themselves for cycles on end. This is how I’ve avoided getting my heart broken, and I’d like to change that. People who reject grammar aren’t to be trusted. People who aren’t good at grammar are human. “Story is honorable and trustworthy, plot is shifty.” Stephen King said that, and I agree. Goals are honorable and trustworthy, plans are shifty. I said that.
Put the credit card all the way where it belongs, safe in your wallet, which you return to your purse, which you don’t leave with the new strangers, or who’s guard you don’t pawn off to someone else, after you buy the drink you actually want, after refusing to buy a drink for someone you respect, opting instead to buy beverages for those who respect you. You’ll be happy you did it later.
Could adulting be just the steady accumulation of actions that end with “You’ll be happy you did it later”? The sidewalk below her consumed her musings until the sidewalk next to the river became nothing more than a concrete treadmill.
She enjoyed walking by rivers.
Is it better to write an article about the steps one has to take to get Senegalese braids, about maneuvering around cultural appropriation? Or is it better to get the braids, and write about the experience as a story? Or should I write the story from the perspective of someone else without even getting them? Is a story better than an article? Is either useful? Is an impact only felt through a story on paper? Do people even read on paper anymore?
The other day she wanted to take someone else’s hand. When was the last time she’d ever taken someone’s hand because she liked them? She thought about all the times she’d done so, and spent several minutes counting the times in her life she could remember such unions arriving from the pure desire to thread her treasured hands into someone else. In the minute she counted six (and a half), which did not include the amount of times she’s taken another’s hands to let them know she was there for them during Big Sadness or Big Yippee, nor did it include the times when she didn’t pull away from someone’s hand who grabbed hers. “Hyper-responsive handcuffs with fleshy cages at the end,” she’d once written. “Where the keys can only be found in your mouth, at the back of your throat, behind the lump of disappointment that rose from the abrupt anger in your belly.” Who can you tell these things to, when it’s hard enough to realize? How do you reveal scars without being called damaged?
She surveyed the grey area, and glimpsed some sunlight.
The smoothest way out of a hand-hold is to fake a cough, a sneeze, or laugh too hard, creating a motive for yanking your hand away, for the withdrawal of palm to mouth in an air of accidental reflex, followed by a remark that would catalyze in them a fleeting and immediate self-absorption, blinding them momentarily to suspicion. If a natural theme doesn’t occur to you, nothing works better at triggering them to reflect on themselves like memories of glory: say how great you’re sure they were at sports in high school. Lastly, make sure to smile from your heart during this miniature flee; it’ll confuse them later when you suddenly don’t walk so close anymore, when you insist on paying for your own meal at the restaurant, when you never sleep over again, when you run away from this silly boy who wants to make you His. You cannot beat them, but you can confuse them, and in dating, it’s close to the same thing.
She enjoyed walking in silence alongside a river; thoughts swim so clearly there. She took a spare thought (“People should be able to get discounts at the check-out register if they share a personal dream of theirs to the cashier”) and skipped it as a stone across the convulsing gold fairies who danced as reflections to the raining sunlight, eroding quickly to the loud calm of her enjoyment of walking by the water.
A great dessert to bring over to Gina’s would be some strawberries, with some mint, drizzled with some honey. How easy is that?
Perhaps she’d wanted to take his hand because it had been sunset, and the center of the star was simply too gold to be free. All around them had been a chorus new-born greenery clinging at her with it’s coy overgrowth and ruthless fertility. The entire scene mounted them in a bath of absurdly pleasant cliché; she looked over at his face, ready to see him performing a look of longing to kiss her. He would not disobey the demands of the scene; he would play the character he believed to be his genuinely romantic self.
But he did not look back, rather kept staring at the solar medallion blazing ahead of them. She blinked, forgiving him for his mistake, and let another second pass for him to appropriately act out as a boy who just realized how beautiful she was, like he was supposed to, like they were bred to, tutored to, begged to.
But he did not look back at her. What began as a glance now became a hovered regard, her surprise filling up the space between them like a cloud pregnant with lightning thoughts of angry command. Find me beautiful, dammit.
Not because she needed his validation. She needed him to look at her in the same way one pleads silently on stage for the stuttering co-star to remember his lines. I cannot perform Love without you, it’s the rules.
Then he looked over. An instead of telling me how beautiful I was, he beamed, as if he was happy to see me there. And then he went back to looking at the sun, like nothing was more stunning in the world.
In that moment I forget all about romance. I just wanted to know more than anything what he was thinking about,
and how much that made me want to take his hand.
Here is a list of some things I’ve found:
Writing clearly and taking notes is a sign of self-respect. The sound of children laughing is peace to me. The ugliest thing I could think of is someone judging someone else’s sense of adventure. Any establishment can be exciting with the right book. I find it attractive when men bounce their leg while talking, along with people who throw their head back when they laugh. Pointy shoes distress me, I’m not sure why. If I can’t find the bathroom light, I can pee without one just fine. I thoroughly enjoy the performance of shopping, all the way to the point where I ‘reconsider’ at the check-out line and put it all back. I wonder if I love in the same matter that I shop, or if I shop in the same manner that I love; which is to say, I prefer the performance over the result. There is one true self, hidden by many other true ones. I didn’t say that, Virginia Woolf did.