(For Janet, Joan and Desperate Literature)
If I’m not careful all my half-hearts will spill empty on the floor and a high school art teacher will be left to make a Matisse mosaic out of them, explaining to all the teenage girls what will happen if you let it happen to you.
Where I grew up we did not have blue tennis courts and second lounges but everyone around us did. We lived just over the river on the line of the school zone which meant the sound of crystal glass and the depths of swimming pools in the summer were acutely familiar.
As soon as I could with whatever I had I flew. I flew further and further until my world turned dizzy and my body began to ache like the hull of a ship filling up with water and no island in sight.
I learned to work sharp and fast; early in the mornings I would go down to the office in the dark and come home late. I’d work till 10, two, cancel plans, spend hours on the phone. I wore lanyards, stayed in hotels with pools and made presentations to men in sneakers with their feet up on the desk. I worked so much I didn’t have to think about anything else. I thought that was the ticket you paid to get the ride and I was wrong.
If you look at my body it’s a good body but it’s never good enough. I feel both guilty that it is and guilty that it isn’t. Mostly I feel guilty that I have been to school, seen and felt the opposite sides of luck, climbed mountains, can look ANYTHING up on the internet and still, some nights I look downwards from my high-angled head like a teacher at homework that has not been completed. Some nights I don’t - but those are hardly the ones you remember are they.
Joan and I get dinner and talk about the ways we go to lose our own vanity. She tells me of going to the desert with her sister in four-wheel drives, moving deeper into the sacred silence of the sand. The dirt is thin and red and heavy with the stories of a thousand people’s pasts, she elaborates.
When they leave, her sister turns to her and says in the wind so she can barely hear - the worst thing about this all is that I’ve stopped thinking about my hair for a whole week.
I have stood in the warm coat of good love and walked back out again. I have sailed under crisp moons to the furthest places of my imagination, swam in their seas. I have had meetings in boardrooms wearing shin-splinting heels to be taken seriously. I have walked hundreds of miles to know what strength feels like, to see if it meets my body halfway and forgives it for all its misgivings.
I have done all of this but it’s gotten me nowhere. It’s my words and the fears that do the doing. They are all I’ve got. And when I am alone, so far from anything that could feel like comfort, it feels like I could have everything - if I let it.