look/see

finding what you need in a life alone


i’ve been dancing in a piece that i’ve come to resent. when i move, my heart is so, so tired. there’s no feeling anymore. i do not like the way my body looks. i do not like the way my body feels. my body does the movement it remembers whether or not i am present. i see now why hearts and minds live on, but bodies only live one lifetime. the way people look at my body—my big, brown, cumbersome body—with such disdain, i am surprised that my skin doesn’t melt off as soon as i’m in a crowd. people are tricky like that. yes, you’re looking at me, but do you see me?

my brother told me his friend’s uncle committed suicide at age sixty-five. a gay man in san francisco, he had been single and very lonely for about twenty years. owen said, “he made it all the way to sixty-five… i don’t understand what changed.” i didn’t tell him what i was thinking, which was—of course you don’t understand. you are young and in love and have been for nine years. sometimes the problem isn’t change, it’s stagnancy. the cold draft of loneliness sneaks into your heart and you don’t really notice over time until one day shivering is your natural state; you are tense in places you’ve almost forgotten.

my brother asked me if i was going to invite family for my commencement ceremony and i told him no. i haven’t had any support in my time as an undergrad, especially when i made decisions to diverge from the traditional four-year-track. i’ve gotten where i am by myself. i will graduate and celebrate the way i’ve done everything else—alone. he tsked.

my therapist told me that it would be unfair of me to expect my brother and my friends to understand how alone and overwhelmed i often feel, because they have support systems that include romantic partners, less-broken families, and financial stability. i was trying to explain to a friend of mine the thing that i look for in my partners, but she didn’t get it. “i need to feel seen,” i said. when i am honest with myself, i admit that there’ve been many times now that i’ve let men ignore me. it hurts me very much (every time), but in a way that feels familiar.

the first time i saw something die, we hit a deer on the freeway in cape cod. i saw its breathing go jagged and then stop. the first time i felt something die was when no one protected my body from a man i could not fight off by myself. i don’t know what died inside of me—but i know it did.

today i cried because i was sad (or was i angry?) i found a picture of myself in a photo album i saved from my childhood home. i was on a bicycle i taught myself how to ride. i guess my brother took the picture. i guess he thought it was a moment worth capturing. i guess i smiled big for him and showed him what i did on my own. maybe i can do everything like that—by myself, but not alone. start a family, fill my life with love, and be okay. i love babies; i love nonverbal communication and human urgency. babies cry when they’ve shit themselves, or when they’re hungry. but babies also cry when they just need to be held. somewhere along the way, i stopped asking to be held, even when i needed it most. i don’t ever want my children to be this way.


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