Ashley Wilda

Author

painkiller

my eyes scan the shelves

searching, searching

bottles, chewables, capsules, drinkables

I don’t like the way my hand feels

grasping, tense

reaching for something, anything

now, now

I want it right now

to help me sleep at night

to quiet the spinning in my mind

to let my throat breathe right

to close my eyes against the storm

that’s brewing, brewing

raindrops breaking on my skin–

what is this feeling, that I do not like?

the word comes at once, summoned

desperation

and I draw back

curl my empty fingers tight

to have friends

when I met him I knew what I didn’t want–

friends.

I met him working a lock in, and he was the one who asked

if I–the girl with headphones sitting alone on a rock

in a sea of rocks–was okay.

I wasn’t.

I didn’t want friends. but when he asked to climb

I said yes.

he introduced me to his girlfriend–red hair, feisty smile

warm words–and I liked her.

I still didn’t want friends.

I dodged hugs until I couldn’t dodge them anymore.

I hid my tears until I couldn’t anymore.

I buried my past until the words wouldn’t hide anymore.

I closed my heart until it couldn’t keep them out anymore.

now, I have two friends.

he likes death metal. I like acoustic.

she likes dresses. I hardly wear shoes.

they can both curse a blue streak. I’m a silent rager.

they find home in each other. I’m still aching.

they don’t believe in God. I do. and I think they should too.

I’m still scared

to have friends.

but when we’re together we all

laugh a lot

sing a lot

play a lot

create a lot

speak a lot

beĀ a lot.

a dysfunctional family, we three, to be sure

but a family, yes indeed.

we’ve got our dark days.

but if I find the courage to reach out a hand

I know it will find someone.

I guess friends are good for something.

now here we are–he’s going to school

and I don’t want to say

goodbye.

again, I am afraid

to have friends.

perhaps because last time I said goodbye

it turned out to be a lot worse than I thought

it was going to be.

but when I remind myself to listen, I hear

their plans for the future, I hear

myself in them.

South Africa, New Zealand.

movies to watch, rocks to climb.

houses to live in.

they’re not leaving me behind.

and I want to say–I’m only ever close to happy

when I’m with you two.

but I don’t.

instead I tell them I’m thankful.

instead I tell myself–

it’s okay to have friends.

beauty.

the last time I felt beautiful

was when you saw me.

alone, the months tick by, and with them

the accusations.

not

skinny enough

smooth enough

strong enough

light enough

not. enough.

too pale,

too tan?

it doesn’t matter

no one’s looking.

still the eyes in the mirror

judge

wondering,

what is enough?

sadness doesn’t look good on you,

they say.

can’t do anything about that.

but sometimes I dare

to close my eyes,

remember the words,

Just you.

and for a smidgen

of a moment

my heart

 

stops

 

wondering.

better

missing you is a little

like missing the girl

I used to be, but of course

it isn’t–

I like you way better

than her, and she’d agree.

the wave

waiting for you to come home

is like waiting for the wave

I know will wreck me

grind me into the sand

leave me airless, blind, and shaking

waiting for the moment I turn and see you

the shimmering clear blue-green

cresting in a perfect wet curve

the cool kiss of gentle foam

the hope that tumbles in my heart

as I am slapped to ocean floor

fear, fear, fear

and yet hope commands again, weary–

rise

compulsion

staying silent

keeping all the words

b

o

t

t

l

e

d

inside

corked tight

was supposed to keep

the hurt away–

from you, and everyone else.

me–I’m a bit

of a hopeless case,

whatever.

but the blank page, empty screen

was supposed to keep everything

contained

help me get good

at ignoring.

but perhaps that’s not

the most honest

truth–

I felt my words were worthless.

and my words are an extension of me.

and then I felt my words

were too powerful–

not powerful enough to convince, explain, reveal–

but powerful enough to hurt whom I love

most.

in the end–

I.

am just.

afraid.

afraid I am not enough.

afraid I am too much.

afraid you won’t read this.

afraid you’ll do nothing.

afraid I mean nothing.

and so I held my breath.

but in the end, I fear–

I want to breathe.

and so I must speak my existence into the world

even if you do not affirm it.

yes, it is for you I write–

but it is also

for me.

peace out

blog taking another hiatus.

wishes from separate skies

I tell myself you’re where you’re meant to be

with the elephants and the lake that floods and the mangrove trees spilling their muddy roots deep, deep down

with the sweat and the bats and the gumboots

with sun that rises when my moon is dawning.

I tell myself you’re where you’re meant to be although my heart says ‘I want you here, here, here.’

I tell myself I’m where I’m meant to be

but it’s much harder to believe.

I’m learning, sure.

I’m growing deeper, wiser, but not brighter.

I’m struggling to accept the darkness while knowing one day there will be light.

I’m watching dandelions burst out over entire fields of new grass

fighting to believe their promise of hope.

I’m reading blog post after blog post written by old students and knowing you’re not reading mine.

I’m searching for pictures of you because I haven’t seen your face in oh so long.

I hear your laugh in my dreams and I hold on like it could keep me afloat.

I’m tired of treading water

but I’m unwilling to let myself drown

or drift away to somewhere else

because anyplace without you isn’t worth going to.

I hope you’re happy because of course that’s what I want for you

but sadness still fills the space you left behind.

is it so wrong to hope that perhaps the space I left still aches inside of you?

in this screwed up world part of me wishes something will always be broken

until we find our way to the same soil.

I don’t care if it’s night or day, humid or dry, raining or blazing, Khmer or English

I just want to hear you say, ‘I’ll try.’

because my heart never wants to leave yours behind

no matter how many times dusk and dawn fill our separate skies.

my dream is the same: from As Cool as I Am

“‘Hey, I got your postcard.’
‘Yeah, well, just because I send you a postcard every day doesn’t mean I think about you all the time.’
‘That would be blatantly pathetic.’
‘Yeah, yeah, even for me. I had this dream where we were at the jungle gym.’
‘Wait, I’m confused. I thought that was real life.’
‘No, no… listen. In the dream, we started at the jungle gym, and we walked in opposite directions until we met on the other side of the world. And then I thanked you for always having my back.”’

 

I heard you laughing

I am dreaming.

I am next to you, in a circle, playing Apples to Apples, with a group of other people whose names I do not remember, whose faces I do not see.

My arm is draped over your leg. You are warm.

I can feel that we are still estranged, yet we are here. I do not know why, but I am grateful.

I am explaining the card I have played, defending it wildly, with ridiculous reasoning. This, as always, is part of the game.

And you laugh.

And it hits me like a freight train and fills me up and part of me, the non-dreaming conscious slumbering inside, recognizes I haven’t heard this laugh in a long, long time. Your laugh.

I am so, so, so glad to hear you laugh.

And by golly, even in this dream, for once, it sounds exactly like your laugh. It is your laugh. And I’m smiling, keeping on with my explanation, making it sillier because I just want to hear you laugh again, keep you laughing, because it’s the best sound in the world.

I can feel my sped-up heartbeat, pumping away.

I am thinking, I am so, so glad to hear your laugh.

It’s been too long.

Way too long.

And it’s amazing.

You’re amazing.

And I can feel my heartbeat and I can almost hear it and everything else fades away and it’s just my heartbeat, my heartbeat, my heartbeat and I wake up to Easter morning with this gift in my heart that I didn’t have before.

I thank God for your laugh.

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