If I Had the Means to Comfort You. If I Knew How.
You are in your twenties now.
Perhaps that is comfort enough, right there: that firm, steadying sentence. You are still alive: feeling your lungs expand and contract with every blessed breath, your mouth heavy with the remembered weight of every word that has slid off your tongue like a pearl, still gripping - within lovely, lacquered layers - that first initial moment of irritation, of despair, of hopelessness, of a hunger, an ever-aching, unshakable desire to taste satisfaction.
(You are still not sure what it tastes like. A steady job, a settled income? An idea of what such a job might be at all?
You haven’t shaken off that over-large, wolf-bold appetite: to straddle the world, reach down in its weary, bruised heart and tug out the thorn of all its ailments and crush it under one unfaltering heel. You despair over that appetite, every day. You wonder if you want too much, if your lips ache to wrap around an education it will not be able to bite through, much less chew and swallow and prepare, once more, for those who need their stomachs to be filled and their worries to be sated.
Perhaps that, too, is a comfort. Things have not changed. In this, you are not entirely sure if you have grown.)
You are in your twenties. This is often a source of anxiety for you, a reason to wake up in the late hours of the night, jerked upward with the sheets spooked away from your trembling frame.
No sleep. No sleep.
Time seems your enemy now. It jerks forward when you’ve landed your feet on the first step, makes you stagger and reach for a railing that is not quite close enough, cheeks burning, eyes blurred. You are frighteningly close to that assured, constantly talked about milestone: the end of youth, the end of promise, the moment when your enthusiasm for school becomes less of a positive attribute and more shame, shame shame.
Still in school.
Not graduated yet.
Not published yet.
Shame is one taste you do know. It is the tight constriction of a lemon, that moment when your whole body tunes up and tightens down on the sensation of utter, undistilled repulsion.
(You should know by now - I wish, I pray, that you would know by now - that the time spent away from textbooks, pursuing a sense of self and clarity, was not wasted. It does not mark you as the weak link.
You would not be enough, were you to enroll in medical school tomorrow, were you to disabuse yourself of the notion that anything in regards to books and English and publishing is useful or hopeful or something you desire in the very depths of your heart.
Perhaps that is a comfort: that I can say even that to you.
You would not be enough if you threw away everything that makes you who you are. There is always another reason to dig deep and cast the first stone.
Being in school is enough. Striving, smiling, settling into your seat at the start of the day is enough. You should believe that. You need to believe that.
It is not too late to be all that you can be.
It is never too late.)
She is still around. You know who I mean. She talks about you over your head to your mother. She will not come close enough to touch: lingering in sideways glances and cursed Facebook memories and reminiscences with the others she tore into and left as crumpled paper - remember when she said that to me. Remember how deeply she hurt me.
She pretends it is okay, but then makes sure you know it is not okay. It is not your fault. You can stop defending yourself when you share the story with someone who does not know, cannot know why you stay to your separate corners, why you snap out words as sharply as breaking open tightly sealed pea pods:
I am right here. I am present. Speak to me. Speak to me.
You can’t help feeling, every time, that she’s won.
You cried. You don’t cry for her now. It’s easier, every day. I hope it is. I’m not entirely sure.
I am no good at comfort. I am no good at the right words. Perhaps all of this has opened already sealed wounds. Perhaps you are healed deeper than I think, have thought on the low, deep nights when your tears are fresh and warm like prayed for rain, and everything is a mess, it’s all a mess and you’re not sure which thread to tug that will undo the knot or make it put up its defenses and draw tighter.
(A sad little blue knot of worries that you are running in place, you haven’t gotten far enough from those nightmare years where your companions picked you apart and the apparent covenant of the teen years with the universe that makes everything happy-bright and all about finding yourself and proving yourself and, God, loving yourself - you cannot love yourself, and that is the square one, every night, that is what coils around your leg like a snare you cannot worry yourself out, though you try and try and every worst case scenario nestles up to your side and waits to be acknowledged, thought through until you are sick, sick, sick to your stomach because you have to live and you aren’t sure how to start.)
This is what I wanted to tell you. This is what I wanted to say.
Yes, she is still around. Seeing her, conversing her, snapping out in tight little words (I am here, I am still here, you hurt me and bruised me and lied about me, but I am here) - it hurts, it hurts, it hurts.
But that was then. And this is now. And you can breathe, just a little exhale, when she moves on. You can recede from her like a small, combed out wave, and keep on, keep on toward the people who are willing to see you right here, who are willing to talk to you right here, willing to love you right here.
You will finally have words to anchor down the deep, dark storm that billows up in you and turns everything gloomy-gray on the warmest days:
You have not found that sleigh of hand, that magic trick, that corks it up in a bottle, stoppers up its deep, sad currents on the afternoons when they lap around your feet and remind you that they are there, they are present, they will not leave until they are ready.
But perhaps that will come with time. It is progress.
I know you, the way you are: a stray, silk scarf of a soul. A little spotted, weather-worn in discrete places. But watch. Let us fold that over, pin it up. Focus on the beautiful pattern, the areas in which it is not worn away by exhaustion and regret - always regret, always a sense you have not chosen the right path, the easy path, the happiness path.
One fold, or two, and now you cannot see the stains and holes and tugged out wrinkles entirely. You still have a sense of it being there: a shameless, neurotic flaw, or a should have managed my fork better stain that will never blot away. But it is better now. It is easier to think about. It does not define you. Toss it back. Stride forward. Move on.
There are people who know you. Oddly enough, unbelievably enough, they seem to like you. You, with your thick tongue and cast-down eyes and dumpling-soft cheeks, like a child waiting for a lost latchkey - a solid, tangible presence of confidence and courage - to stumble up and jostle against her knee, as if it is a wayward ant returning to the nest a little late, but better than never.
You, who waits eternally for your heart to stumble-tumble from where it has gone and left you with this invasive intruder, that does not beat out a decent, delicate pitter patter but instead chooses to aspire to the rank of cymbals and high-strung thunderclaps, every time you think you have laughed too late and smiled too little.
Sometimes, even on your worst days, it is hard to disabuse yourself of that notion: that, somewhere out there in the wide world, there are people who love and respect you and worry about you.
Sometimes, I really think they do. Like you. Think about you. Respect you. Worry about you.
And you will have a friend who makes you believe deeply, fervently in your own brown girl beauty, whose words echo in your mind when you are doing something so ridiculously mundane as chopping ginger, counting spices, sipping chai, who gives you a heady feeling of every movement, every action, every breath where you take pride in your heritage being another thread in a long, golden tapestry of your bloodline and your family.
And you will have a friend who wants you there, right with her, at her wedding and believes in what you can do when you cannot cling to a mustard seed of faith in your own two hands.
And you will have a friend who has seen you at your most awkward - lanky, lean, wide-eyed and bookish - who dreams of the stars when you are so very aware of how tethered you are to reality, to small, little pay, not at all STEM dreams.
You call them friends. You dare to. They tell you to.
You are in your twenties. You are still awkward, still growing, still aching where your bones stretch out in search of broader horizons. Still unsure. Still acutely, deeply resentful of the fact that you are slated to one body, one life - but perhaps, not one path, not one milestone to reach, one course to follow, one career to attend to.
But you have not stopped living, even when life itself feels like the globe on Atlas’ shoulders. You have not shrugged it off and thrown it away. You have stopped dwelling on the idea that those past years - these years you live in, struggle through - were the only golden years you had to blossom within. You are not a useless bud.
Now is the time when you can spread your roots. Now is the time when you can soak up the rain and seek new opportunities to flower, to flourish, to simply toss back your head and look up at the sky and realize you are still here, still breathing, and that is enough to ground you.
You are not too late. It is not too late.
If I had the means to comfort you -
If I knew how to -
I would tell you that there is one deeply steadying thing, about being you:
You have never forgotten there is always hope.