Taking Shelter

‘How odd, I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.’ – David Foster Wallace

It’s been another year. Let me pull you gently now and take a good look at you. You are vibrant and gorgeous, and your mind is insanely cool. But you say, ‘I am trying to be you, but I am not you,’ and your hands are cold and don’t remember how to rub together, and your legs are restless and follow imaginary circles on the kitchen floor. I swear I don’t know what to say.

The right thing would be, ‘But you are me,’ but I know you wouldn’t believe that. Not now, after the year you’ve had. You think you’re light years away from what you dreamed of becoming by now. I get it. You need more time to come back to yourself. You need more time to come back to me.

‘You stayed kind, smart, loving, and badass. Your writing is like cotton candy for the brain. Your words are magical, but they are not for everyone. But they are for me—and don’t you always write for me?’ is another. But that wand wouldn’t work either. When your cup is empty, it’s really empty.

And right now, all you have is this handful of moments, like pebbles, left over when the rest of your world slipped through your fingers. You have hidden them all in a box, away from my eyes. You are ashamed, but I see it. Of course I see it, because it’s my box too, you fool.

The paint peeling off makes it look like the logo of a metal band, faded and stretched out. You did not bother with something pretty because you think they are ugly now. But you are wrong. They deserve to be somewhere beautiful. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that later when it does not hurt you so much to integrate them. I am not going to insist on it now, because I know.

You want everything to be more than just an instant; of everything. You don’t want to make any more memories that you’ll soon be trying hard to forget. You stand in the shadows of their hearts and tell them you’re not afraid of the dark, even if you can’t see a damn thing. You follow what you confuse for intuition like a compass, even if it doesn’t always point North, and look at where you are now. I know, I know, I know.

I’d love to tell you that those pebbles aren’t all darkness, they’re memories of facing fear after fear after freedom, of adrenaline slowly creeping into your bones, and of moments marked I’ve never told anyone this before, or, I never thought I could do this, or I think I may yell back now, or Here I am. Here I stay. I’d love to do that, because you’d would glow. But—how do I say this?—I love you, but I’m trying to force breath in the mouth of a dead thing.

I told you that locking away the pain will also lock away your capacity for love and aliveness. I told you that there are others in this world with messy hearts like you. I told you that you feel like sunshine after the rain. I told you that you looked like a piece of magic. I told you about calmer, gentler times. I told you, ‘Listen, I love you, joy is coming.’ I told you, ‘I believe in you. Go.’ But you stand here looking at me as if you heard nothing, with dead eyes and your heart falling out of your chest. I can’t speak to you if you don’t believe in yourself. You don’t hear a thing.

They say that the people with the biggest hearts have the worst tempers, because they are passionate about every aspect of life. But what happened to you? With your arms wrapped around your knees like that, how many times can you rekindle? Despite a certain dark and romantic glamour that you still have, where there used to be fire, there’s now only ash. I recognise that look. We’re not alive, not anymore. I’d would be talking to myself, and you wouldn’t listen. Try again tomorrow.

I climb the porch steps, sit down and wait. The night is over for us. Even the stars burnt out, look. I shake my head, because I know you can’t see me. You can’t see what you’ve done. But don’t worry about it. If we have one thing in common, it’s that we’re never afraid of the dark for long. Our heart fireworks over and over, until we catch fire again. I picture adding a cigarette in my free hand and how perfect the scene would be, even if half of me thinks she’s done and the other half is picking up the pieces. I will always pick up the pieces.

Love, the girl you almost are

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