Ashley Wilda


Category: Creative Nonfiction (page 1 of 6)

sticky note Sundays

fourteen yellow number notes

all stacked up in a row

top ones hiding those lying

larger, hopeful, below

I know it may be foolish but

that never stopped me before.

on every Sunday night my

crickets begin to chirp

when your sun is rising somewhere

I’ve never been before.

your day dawns on a week anew

my fingers peel back the old

greet a number that reminds me

you’re closer than you were before.

I don’t know when I’ll see you

I don’t know where you’ll go

but I can’t stop counting

the weeks away

until you come back home.

Boston Is

I think every place means something slightly different to each person that’s been there. It is fascinating to me that my experience can be completely, radically different from someone else’s, even if we happen to be standing on the exact same spot in the exact same moment. I think that’s something to remember… that our minds and hearts and lives shape the reality we create around us, the reality we see and feel, and that we can’t presume to know the colors and frequencies of the strangers that move around us. Even people that we do know well have hidden parts of themselves… and if you’re ever let into those spaces, you are a very special person indeed.

That said, here is what Boston is to me.

Boston is the T, another subway system to master, another subway system to get lost in before then. But this one is smaller, and I have the knowledge I’ve hoarded away in my brain from my attempts at independence in another larger city, and it doesn’t take quite as long. Boston is more little paper tickets with the arrows that point their way into the machines that grab the edge and suck them in and spit it back out, gates opening abruptly. More little tickets only good for one use, accumulating in my pockets and the back of my phone.

Boston is the car with its flashers on, the car coming to pick me up, pluck me out of the wet, dark streets. Boston is a friend I haven’t seen in a couple years. Boston is familiarity I’ve forgotten, a face and voice that hasn’t played clearly in my head in some time, not since that year when he called me on my birthday – it made my day, although T. probably doesn’t know it. When people do things like that, you know they won’t mind when you show up at their door.

Boston is a cute, clean apartment in the second story of a family’s home, back entrance atop slippery porch steps, through the edge of a muddy yard. Light wood floors, cards and pictures, plants, spinning chairs. Memorabilia from landmark moments, tags from used salt containers and a wrapper from a round of chocolate gifted on Christmas, all stuck to the wall by tan masking tape. Boston is a guitar in the corner, a surfboard behind the door, a Millennium Falcon pencil sharpener on the desk piled with haphazard papers. A whole drawer full of loose leaf tea and chocolate – the best logical combination for two things living in the same drawer. A Harry Potter mug. A taco ornament perched on the cabinet in the bathroom. A vase of clementines on the counter. Boston is the mini rubber ducky tea steeper that bobs in my cup, perpetually smiling up at me with its orange beak.

Boston is E., the girl T. moved to Boston for, on very short notice, I might add. I like her immediately, her pixie cut contrasting wonderfully with T’s shoulder length hair, slender and bright, eyes and voice full of life. She’s someone who has light in her, and depth. I quickly inform her that I forgive her for stealing T. away from all of us. Boston is E’s laugh in response.

Boston is figuring out the bus system. And realizing my card doesn’t have any money on it, but the bus drivers really don’t care. Boston is waiting and waiting and then walking and walking until I pop into the doors which open up to grey-tan walls and holds I recognize. Boston is feeling relief at the comfort of being around a place and people that are somehow familiar even though you’ve never met them. An unfinished puzzle on the table. The growl of drills held by routesetters crafting new problems. Boston is shredding my skin all too fast, feeling my heartbeat kaboom in my throat at the top of boulders that are a wee bit taller than I’m used to, and feeling my muscles give out faster than I’d like. Boston is watching the couple in the overhang, the easy language of laughs and brief touches, somehow casual and somehow more. Boston is wishing I had a friend to come with me.

Boston is the Turkish bakery with the menu up on cardboard sheets and sharpie letters, chocolate ‘earthquake’ cookies covered in powdered sugar which I promptly make a mess of, pita bread with piping hot sausage and spice. Boston is coming back the next day for another cookie and coffee with an inch of foam on top. I fish out what’s left at the bottom with my finger. Boston is Boston cream pie, cobbled streets, subway ride after subway ride. Boston is pouring down rain, pelting and pelting, puddles so deep I don’t walk through them for fear they will overflow the top of my boots. Boston is my phone almost dying right when I need it, and barely squeaking by on 7%. Boston is that happening a million times.

Boston is the cemetery, almost misty in the descending dusk, closing in about me, wrapping itself around the white statues and gray tombstones and wet, dark trees. I walk up to the tower, feeling like I’ve stepped into a Gothic novel, feeling like ghosts could actually be a thing, peeping down into green glades and almost-there paths branching off from the safety of asphalt and disappearing. I look out at the city from the base of what looks like a giant castle chess pawn, out at the lights, yellow and white, glowing through the mist of near night. Boston is the cemetery that closes at 5pm. Boston is me discovering that the gate through which I planned on leaving is actually closed. Boston is sprinting through the looming grounds as night claims its reign, making it back to the huge iron gates, still open, with only a few minutes to spare.

Boston is a small bookstore, poetry books under my arm in a brown paper bag. Boston is reading in the museum lobby in the kids area with the picture books and the bright green shag carpet and the hanging letters on a string which say, ‘I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.’ Boston is the enormous stained-glass globe I walk into, mesmerized by the colors and lights that wrap around me, encompassing and beautiful. The tour lady tells me that each one was handmade, that the globe is frozen in time after World War II, that if you stand under the North Star the room’s acoustics amplify your voice like a microphone, that the other day there was a visitor from Christchurch, New Zealand, who turned out to be the choir director of a Protestant church who burst into boisterous song as soon as he stepped inside the world, standing suspended on the walkway, and the lady was scared he was going to break the glass, like in the cartoons. Boston is me looking at all the countries, at me whispering my own song that’s in my head, listening to it echo, wishing you were beside me to hear it.

Boston is watching a Japanese reality show with E., which actually turns out to be pretty cool. Boston is play-arguing with T. about literature and categories of fiction and what literary fiction is and isn’t and what genre fiction is and isn’t and does it really matter in the end? We talk about jobs and school and transitions and trying to find community. Boston is finding out I kind of like port. It’s rich and red and not as dry as wine, but tiny little sips in a tiny little shot glass are enough for me. Boston is snooping in the rich neighbors’ huge house because T. is dog/cat/house-sitting and trying to get the weird dog to play with us and petting the insanely fluffy cat that yawns like a lion and playing a cooperative board game and failing to stop the epidemic from spreading to the whole cardboard world and not caring because it was fun anyway.

Boston is sipping tea and talking with E. much later than either of us had planned to. We talk about friends and relationships and holes and balance and work and struggles and hard things and beautiful things and pretty much life. We both say things which make each other think, make each other smile. We understand each other more and deeper than either of us were probably expecting. We make the air between us a comfortable space to sit in and speak into. Boston is her fierce hug the night before I leave. Boston is knowing I can come back, and they can always come to. Boston is sleeping on an air mattress at least two feet tall. Boston is a fleece blanket. Boston is watching Sherlock in the light of a reading lamp. Boston is stealing one last piece of chocolate before walking out onto the frost-slick predawn street.

Boston is knowing myself better. Boston is still being the same me. Boston is friendship, known and unexpected. Boston is being alone. Boston is thinking, and Boston is talking. Boston is balance. Boston is wishing, and Boston is exploring. Boston is not wanting to leave.

snapshot of a day well spent

some days are like a cold drink of water. a deep breath of air after it rains. most days I wake up and wish I could’ve just stayed asleep. but days like this, I’m glad I woke up for them.

grey morning. footsteps in a house still sleeping. biting cold of leather steering wheel. two cars full of people I don’t really know. somehow still comfortable. somehow not overwhelmed. bluetooth music, throwback pop to broadway musicals. no shame. coffee cup in my boot. dusting of snow on highways and cars and quiet roofs.

a gym that opens up to receive us, walls yawning and stretching and branching in the best way. feeling that giddy child wake up inside me, like someone’s pumping me full of carbonated bubbles. like a toddler in a candy store. bright blue, sharp white. rough texture on skin. new holds like pleasant sandpaper. rope spooling through fingers, higher and higher, clip after clip, feeling the jitters in my limbs as ten feet turns into twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, the overhang pushing me toward gravity’s embrace. adrenaline. I’ve missed adrenaline. feeling the pump build unexpectedly fast, forcing me to try harder. lowering, dangling. holy crap. landing yards away from where I began. a tiny tail of rope sits where a pile used to be.

we are all a little bit in awe of this place, and a lot a bit excited, to climb and flail and fall and fail and succeed and summit. the point is in the process, in the experience, not however high or hard the end point. I remember how I used to feel a kinship with people like this, people who share this kind of crazy, and the memory makes sense again. the longer I let myself enter into the moment, the less like an antisocial, angsty hermit I feel. I find that I actually can talk. laugh. the sound effects which used to be so much a part of my ridiculous personality make a brief reappearance. for these few hours, it’s not painful to be me. I am not constantly uncomfortable with just existing. I actually feel like I’m living. I feel like I can just be. I curl up in my flannel somewhere beneath the looming overhanging and alternate between dozing and watching people interact, climb, laugh, goof off. the empty space in my chest is still there, as I know it will be – I don’t expect it to be gone, when I’m still missing a piece of me – but in this moment, I can accept it as part of me. I am okay with being me. I. felt. happiness. today. no one but myself can understand what an enormous thing that is.

red hands, bruised toes, grumpy callouses, stinky feet, we all pile back into cars in the dark. pleasantly physically exhausted, feeling satisfied. as the tires and engine whir and a few errant flakes of snow drift down, I feel the sadness quietly begin to trickle back to fill me again. I knew it was going to come, I am ready for it. I try to continue the day’s trend of acceptance. I look up at the moon, so bright, spattering of craters clear in the sky. it’s a few days shy of being full. I am somehow comforted by the fact that when you look at the moon, we’re looking at the same one. it is a small connection, but still, it is something to hold on to.

remember, there is yet light

some days panic wraps its hot hands around my throat and squeezes. it mixes a cocktail of sadness and fear and missing and worry, pinches my nose, and forces me to drink. I push away the looming cloud for as long as I can, distracting myself with music and movement, but I can’t keep it at bay forever, and when it catches up with me… the world feels like a hopeless place.

so often I feel trapped within myself, living in a suffocating atmosphere of thoughts and emotions that just won’t let me go. no matter how I try to escape from myself, there is another layer, a box within a box within a box within a box, and I’m just trying to get out into the clean air and take a deep, clear breath. sometimes it feels like I’ll never get there. when I’m so trapped in circumstances I can’t change, when I’ve done everything in my power to do, when there’s still no ship on the horizon coming to rescue me from my island… well, only metaphor comes to mind to explain what that feels like. I am a whirlpool. I am a mess of scribbles. I am a wild thing curled inside a rubber ball. but I guess in the end, I am just me–a girl with a lovesick heart–and that is the problem. I can be no one else but me, and I have to learn how to live with it.

and so here I will try to compile moments from the last few days that carried some release, some beauty, some hope. moments which reminded me that there is a world that exists outside of me, and I can still interact with it. moments that said, you won’t be like this forever, no matter how you feel. moments which reminded me that it’s worth it to keep on pushing through.

the quiet rush of a river in the mountains. steel patterning the sky, holding up the bridge I stand beneath. Sweet Frog somehow still refreshing on a cold day. two pairs of footsteps on wood. the unexpectedly wise words of my fifteen-year-old sister. art galleries. songs in the car.

pushing myself on a new route, white pinches and burly moves. remembering my body still has the power in it to do hard things and come out on top. feeling my mind clear for those few moments. being successful at something I like doing.

Disney cartoons. hearing myself laugh. letting myself laugh. allowing myself to enjoy the childish ridiculousness of a fruitcake falling on a talking snowman’s head and sleighs spontaneously combusting… only in the world of Frozen. creating new inside jokes with my mom.

the tradition of Christmas Eve services. the rare blessing of feeling something, of knowing that my prayers are heard and I am cared about. the big brown eyes of baby Gabe staring at me from the row in front, obliviously sticking his tongue out in the adorable way he does. a fierce hug and present from Hilton that made me laugh out loud… a giant fake butterfly knife, perfect in utter ridiculousness.

feeling like a family on Christmas day. a dreamcatcher ornament, metal feathers silver and tinkling. the happy anticipation of giving and opening presents. the satisfying tearing and crinkling of wrapping paper. tea in a new mug with dark chocolate mint Tim Tams. playing Scrabble on a mini board.

the thrum of an electric guitar against my stomach. messing around with volume and chords. the squawk of the amp makes me smile.

the crackle of a fire. a soft knitted blanket. my mom’s heartbeat. my question, “you still praying with me?” her answer, of course, “I’m still praying.” beef stew in a gingerbread man mug. watching characters play out their antics across TV screen.

squishy movie theater seats. superheroes and their crazy adventures. the smell of extra buttery popcorn. the darkness that envelops me in story when the lights go out and sound and color shake the huge room. the ability to get lost in another world and emerge feeling like I could be more than I am. like I could fight for something that matters. like happy endings are possible.

written down this way, these moments seem more than I remember. in the flood of stretching days, of waking up and immediately entering the struggle not to drown in myself, I forget about the shafts of light, where panic eases up, when sadness consents to sit more quietly in my chest. but whether I remember them or not, they are there. and even as I hope and pray and breathe and feel and be, I will try to remember them still.

musing… another spiral.

I live my life in cycles.

I’ve realized this about myself of late… I pursue things with a frenzy until I don’t, and move on to something else, just to pick up that same original thing days or weeks later.

I’ll read for a few days. I’ll read and read and it doesn’t really matter what I’m reading, as long as I’m reading, and as soon as I finish a book I immediately pick up another one, not pausing for breath, because the craziness in my head doesn’t stop for breath so why should I let my attempts at distraction pause for breath either? That would just be giving myself room to think, which I do not need to do. I don’t have any new information to think about, although I wish I did.

But there’s a limit to any human’s ability to put up with one activity for an extended period of time. There comes a sudden moment when I’m sick of reading, I can’t read another page, so I just stop. But the space needs to be filled. Maybe I’ll listen to an audio book for a day and color. Maybe I’ll research jobs I don’t end up applying for, or do apply for and even interview and then realize I probably won’t ever take it because it exists on the west coast. Maybe I’ll go and climb every time I feel like being myself becomes too much, and keep doing that, until I’ve climbed everything or I’m sick of climbing alone or I’m sick of climbing in general and then I just quit climbing for a week or so. And then I take up walking and listening to music. I drive to a pretty, quiet place and just walk and walk until I’m done walking. And when I don’t know what to do with myself, I’ll do it again. Except now I think my feet are trying to tell me they hate my boots because it kind of feels like the shin splints I created during my short, ill-fated quidditch career are trying to resurrect themselves. I hang out with people every so often, but even that happens in shifts, like two whole days of being with people, which feels like a lot of talking, which is very, very good in the moment but by the end of the second day I’ve had my dose of social interaction for the next two weeks and I’m done. Doesn’t mean I’m not lonely anymore, but I’ve just reached my limit. The hole in my heart that just needs to be around people is all filled up, making the hole which really just needs to be around you, and you only, hurt that much sharper.

I wonder what my next cycle will be. The content of my cycles keep on reappearing, because they are part of the layers that make up me, the things that I enjoy doing. But even juggled, these cycles get boring when you’ve repeated them for months and months. I think about the things I used to do and don’t anymore, think about trying to pull them into my life again. I remember the smell of bone dust, and the rhythmic motion of sandpaper, and the deep satisfaction in just following the intuition of my fingers and watching something come to life beneath them, something which just used to exist in my imagination, and the cool kiss of newly polished pendant resting against my skin. I remember wrapping my hands and wrists, with extra padding over the knuckles, throwing myself into punches and palm strikes, breaking choke holds and blocking knife strikes, allowing my inner tendency for fierce motion to erupt through me, grappling with friends while training for the day I may run into a foe. I should work to reconnect with these moments, push to add some newness to my days. Rekindle a bond with these pieces of who I am. I should feel more alive for it.

Some activities I struggle to return to, even as I feel desire pulling in me… like singing along to the strumming of my guitar, or lying in the grass and looking up at the stars, or eating gummie bears while watching TV, because for some reason they all remind me of you. And in the absence of you, that’s just too much to carry.

to be, I wait

fear and hope war inside

the cage I call a heart

fighting an endless battle

to be myself is to love too much

to be myself is to hope against

the impossible

to be myself is to wait

for a response that may

not come

to be myself is to love you

what a thing it is

to turn myself inside out

to reveal everything

oh everything

to know I have nothing left

to give

how freeing and terrifying

to put myself in another’s hands

to sing and write and pray

to send off into the unknown

to listen to the silence

until my ears bleed

and still wait

not knowing if I will hear

your voice

yet still hoping with every breath

because to live

to breathe

to love

is to hope

and I know no other way

to be

I see you too.

I get her text, and pull myself from my nest of quiet and stories, built to erase myself from the world. Brownies for breakfast, empty mugs of tea, coloring pages of fawns and armadillos, pencil peelings lost in my sheets. Piles of books I haven’t read, audio stories of Mistborns burning metals, vigilantes in hoods shooting arrows across my computer screen (Oliver is way hotter than Barry, in case you were wondering). I’m all too good at ignoring the world, and the world is all too good at forgetting about me. But hours wear monotonous and lonely, and I know I need her.

She’s there, smiles and long curly hair, the same smell I remember from childhood, when we’d get our team hoodies mixed up and I’d know which was hers. A hug catapults us into conversation, like we’re picking up in the middle of something already started, still familiar with the language only we have shared for over six years. Our feet move as we talk, picking up speed, following the mirrored blues of the river beside us, propelling us across dirt paths, over bridges, balancing on roots. We’ve always talked best on the move, in the places we love, letting nature tease out our happinesses and hurts, easing the process of sharing and connecting.

Like a breath of sweet spring wind, the remembrance of how we talk the same, laugh the same, finish each other’s sentences, speak the same words at the same time. How something integral about our souls is the same. I let the feelings and thoughts that have been building up inside of me just spill out, and she does the same, affirming, questioning, just being there. Accepting. Caring.

There is so much I keep inside. So much I hide from everyone around me. I feel so much and share so little. I think so much that I only allow the journal by my bed to know. I hide behind the anonymity of screens and the privacy of a closed bedroom door. I bottle up who I am, the good and the hard, because it’s less scary than venturing to let another human being in. And yet I forget how the unspoken, the secret, eats away at everything that is alive inside of me.

But now, I let it all flow free, feel a safe space to welcome all that I am. I don’t need to hide here, and neither does she. We aren’t trying to fix each other, because we know we cannot. We aren’t trying to be exactly alike, because we can’t do that either, although we are insanely kindred. We aren’t trying to explain or prove or dissect. We just need to be understood. To be heard. To be loved. To be seen.

Finally feeling unalone opens my eyes again, and I feel something inside me trying to wake up. I see the forest, see it’s beauty. Green and brown arches, delicate and reaching. Clouds mirrored in water. Earthy scent of the air. Calm expanse of silver and blue. My fingers reach out to brush bark as I walk, daring to touch the world again. Laughter feels good. Honesty feels better. Embrace feels best.

I thought I had lost her once. We’d made it through high school, but college broke us apart. It was the greatest hurt I had yet felt, and it floored me. It took travelling to another country on the opposite side of the globe in order to feel like myself again, and still I missed her. Still, I hoped. (I have found that hope is something that sticks closer to me than my own breath.) My heart knew she couldn’t ever truly be replaced. What we had was too special, too unique. We meant too much to each other. Even as I didn’t understand, I made sure she knew I was still there for her. I always would be. And miraculously, with God’s help, we made our way back to each other. Now, each of us is walking through the darkest times of our lives. And she has been one of God’s greatest gifts to me through it all. We have needed the reassurance of the other’s hand in the dark. We have needed someone who sees the true self and the struggles and is not intimidated by the mess. Someone who says, I feel it too. Who says, I am not going anywhere.

Love and pain, climbing and questioning, hope and fear, waiting and following our hearts, we talk about it all, no holds barred. Minutes bleed into hours, light fades from the sky as cars hum over the bridge, and we could talk through the night if we wished. I wish I could have her every week, instead of a handful of days a year. I wish we still lived in the same city. I wish we were fourteen again, running out into rainstorms and spinning beneath the thunder. But we have this moment, and the promise of years of moments to come. She sees me. I see her. This is how we’ve always been. This is how we are. And with God’s grace, this is how we always will be. I’ll return to my world, and she’ll return to hers, but we have this to hold on to–

I see you too.


tonight I felt the braided strands

gently pull apart

and fall…

the  bracelet happened to catch

on my finger as I stretched.

I knew it would happen


knew that string can’t last

like memory can.

but still my left wrist

feels unexpectedly bare

and I don’t like it.

I knew I’d wear it til it broke

because I still cared

and it kept me sane

when the storm inside made me wonder

had I made it all up?

I remember the night

you tied it on

the two of us sitting on my bed

leaning, talking, laughing

up much too late.

I reached for a hug as you left

and you pulled me clean off the bed

and the light of that moment

I want to carry with me


regret nothing, or you’ll never fly

As this new year comes around, as Christmas peeks its faerie lights around the corner, as the whisper of snowflakes to be begin to kiss the air… I find myself thinking of beginnings. and endings. and what I hope for and what I fear. and what I’m going to do with those answers I find.

I’m afraid. I can say that much. I will admit I’ve been scared out of my mind for most of the last year. I can admit now that I’ve been sad for most of the last year, and anxious. I can also say that I don’t want to be that way any more. I can also say I don’t want to let go.

There’s other things I can say about this year. Amazing things. Things so unexpected and warm and incredible that now that they’re gone they hurt to think about even as they make me smile. The absence of those things is what makes me sad. It’s one thing, and more than one thing. It’s one big thing and many things around it. I don’t want to leave those things behind in this year. I want to take them with me, but I’m scared that if I take them with me in the same way, they’ll keep on making life too heavy.

My mind keeps circling around to one night. When I let someone really dear to me hold me close for the last time. He said, “we’re going to be okay.” I wanted to believe that. Really badly. But when months rolled around and there wasn’t a ‘we’ anymore, not the way I wanted it to be, it wasn’t true. I wasn’t okay. And I’m still not okay.

For a long time I didn’t know if I could be okay. Someone would say, you’re going to be okay, and I kind of hated them for it. How could they say that when I didn’t even know? But now, looking into this next year, for the first time I can say it to myself and believe it. I’m still not okay. But I know that somehow, someday, I’m going to be. I don’t know when, exactly. But someday. And I want to be moving toward that, even though I know that some days won’t feel like moving at all.

But that said… I know that I can’t leave any regrets behind in this year. I need to say everything that’s in my heart, or at least make it available to be heard. I need to do everything I feel like I need to do. It’s better to regret doing something than regret not doing something. (at least, in most cases) If I walk into next year and find myself still alone, I need to know that I did everything I could do. I need to know it’s not my fault. I need to know that if there was even a sliver of a chance, that I took it. I can’t be confident in myself any other way. I can’t leave it to God and try to find my dreams again without that.

Does this scare me? Heck yes. Heck. Yes.

But in the end, my fear doesn’t matter. What I do, does.

Do I want to walk into this next year alone? Um, heck no. Do I want to find connection again? Do I want to hold tight to this big hope and not let go? It’s all I’ve been able to think about for the last year. And whether or not anything changes before the year’s end, I’m still going to carry that hope with me into the next year, along with my memories. No matter what happens. That hope, those memories, are part of who I am. I’ll just walk into January with the resolve that this year, I won’t let them crush me. No matter if seeds turn into saplings, or if the ground stays hard and cold. I won’t die with them, even as I carry the prayer of growth along with me. I’m done feeling dead.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish that I could return to that moment, and hear those words change… ‘we are okay.’

I’m scared to open my heart and reveal everything that’s inside. That’s scary no matter the situation. But, in a bittersweet way, I don’t have anything to lose anymore. I’m jumping off the edge. Either someone will catch me, or I’ll fly solo. But either way, this barren cliff won’t be my home anymore.

My Mom once told me, “God won’t let you lose true home.” That rings true. No matter where I want true home to be, no matter where I think it is, no matter who I think it is, God won’t let me lose it. And as I step into the unknown, that is something I can count on.

snapshot from a Monday afternoon

I’m driving from the museum and there’s this guy standing on the median. young, with a beard and floppy longish brown hair. and a sign. he’s holding a piece of cardboard that says something like, $1 for a burger. there’s nothing unusual about this; I see a lot of people like him driving  to and from work in the city. but he’s probably not much older than me. and he could be anybody. he could be somebody I know. or could have known. and he’s probably got something to be sad about too.

something inside me constricts, and before I know it a crinkled piece of green moves from my hand to his through the window. his hair is a little greasy and his nails a tad bit too long and his thank-you sounds sincere. I want to ask his name, feel a need to know it, but don’t or can’t, I’m not sure which, the desire gets stuck halfway up before it has the chance to turn into words. and the light changes and the car moves and all of a sudden I’m crying and I don’t know why. that in itself is not unusual for me. but often it has nothing to do with other people. usually it’s about the pain I keep bottled up inside and buried where it’s the hardest for me to see it until my body says that’s it. and this moment is about that. and it isn’t.

usually, pain isolates. at least, that’s what it does to me. it wraps me in an atmosphere of alone and helplessness and misunderstanding and I can’t–or won’t–reach through and no one else can, or I won’t let them. but I’m either a nonfunctioning rain puddle on a gray day or a vibrating mess of scribbles on a forgotten sticky note or a hard, hard shell of armor that’s as brittle and unfeeling as a bone found in the woods in last year’s leaves. but no matter what it feels like, my pain isolates. because it’s somehow too much to deal with and so my heart kicks into emergency protocol–stop feeling for other people. better yet, don’t feel at all.

that’s just how it is.


but I’m becoming aware that perhaps there exists these other moments. ones where, instead of drawing me inward, folding me into myself, pain suddenly flips my insides out, throwing off my plodding mental equilibrium, and all of a sudden it is the opposite–

I’m feeling for the whole world.

the whole beautiful, terrible world.

and it’s saying, everything hurts.

but then after a blinding second everything collapses down again and I am just left with myself, my own world, my own missing, my own hole that I can’t seem to fill, and I wonder, maybe I just imagined it. maybe I just wanted to feel connected to something other than myself again. because in the end, myself is simply not enough.

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