Categories
Writing

Risk

It is hard not to hold onto hurt. Forgiveness feels like offering your heart to someone who has already broken it. Despite what people say, it is beyond difficult for me to view it as a form of self-healing, instead of putting yourself at risk for getting hurt again.

The ironic thing is, I have not stopped hurting and my stubborn heart knows forgiveness could very well fix that. But I dwell in this hurt like it is the only home I have ever known. I am afraid to open the door and walk out of the only place I ever belonged to. Even if I no longer belong to it anymore.

Categories
Writing

Scratch

I scratched the itch and now I can’t seem to stop bleeding. I have left nail marks on my skin, I fear the scabs will scar. This was the only control I had left, retaining it obsessively until I let it go in such the same way. Now, there is no way to staunch the blood flow, we are past the point of bruising. I cannot recall how I obtained the scratches that eventually turned into wounds, adorning my skin like stars in the sky. They did not matter to me until they started to hurt.

I cannot narrow the ache or the origin. There are too many factors for it to be the fault of one, except the obvious: myself.

At least my clenched fists no longer make me bleed. At least my tongue is no longer trapped between my teeth. No one asked me to do so, it was a self-flagellation of my own idealized martyrdom. I reasoned that people will like me if I try to please them, even if that left me resenting them.

Categories
Writing

Costumes

I always seem to feel like I am wearing the wrong costume. As if we switched scenes so rapidly and jarringly the director forgot to mention it to me. I cannot seem to keep up with the constantly changing backdrops and cast of characters—they all change costumes so naturally, fluidly, imperceptibly and I end up saying all the wrong lines.

I am persona non grata in each scenario–the odd man out, the sole person not in on the conspiracy and I watch as they sit in quiet corners and whisper in hushed tones about things I know nothing about. I listen as they laugh at punchlines I don’t quite understand. I wish I could throw on their personality and slip seamlessly into their behaviour, I could listen and understand, I could talk and be heard.

It would be easier if I simply had costumes to don to play the part required of me. At least that way, I would know my lines and speak them; at least that way I could simply play the part and not get hurt.

Categories
Writing

Constellations

I cannot see the stars from here. There is not enough clarity, they are drowned by their manmade likeness. I miss those nights I would lie sleepless beneath them, the broken sky my only companion. I miss how they would still my breath, bring peace to my frayed soul. I miss my dissolution into the constellations.

I wonder when I stopped trusting them with myself. When I started to build these cages to protect me (or keep me trapped, I’m not sure which). I cannot see the stars from within them. When did I begin to hide myself from them? When was peace replaced with suspicions and a weight across my back? Like Atlas, cursed to hold the entire sky. The stars have stopped looking for me and I have never felt so cold in the darkness.

I no longer feel taken care of, only judged from afar. Every poor decision I make becomes an isolated event, a stain upon only myself, the only one who cannot be absolved. Thus self-isolation seems the natural answer. After all, why look for stars that are not there?

I no longer have any place in their constellation. My star has faded, exploded into bleeding darkness, and the story they tell looks better without me in it. I am void and tearing through the night that has become me. I am destructive, but I am free. I am bleeding out, but at least my tears no longer stain the sky.

Categories
Writing

Bewilderment

My breath quickens and I’m not sure why. Tears spring in the crevices of my eyes and I think long and hard about what could have caused them. Every word out of their mouth is harmless, yet I feel like I could scream. I hate what makes me like this. I hate that people believe everything I say. I hate that I don’t say everything I believe. There is no sanity to this madness; no logic to this emotion. I want what I couldn’t possibly have and I don’t want to want what I shouldn’t.

I want to be enigmatic, but all I end up doing is confusing myself. I cannot seem to name, much less sort, the amalgamation that resides in my mind. I smother it in sitcoms I’ve seen before and I flutter from book to book all the while convincing myself that my next purchase will be the Goldilocks of stories. All this, in hopes of asphyxiating the rapid movement of my brain. I do not enjoy the constant berating of thoughts.

I want to love my little contradictory self, yet I cannot seem to stop doing the things that bewilder me post hoc.

Categories
Writing

Presence

It is difficult to be exactly where you are. My mind slips easier than my breath leaves my lungs. I do not know what it is to be free of thought. To not recall past interactions and wince as I think of what I could have done differently when it was my present. It is a vicious cycle, desiring to change the past while the present I do not want happens around me.

It was easy to live in my own time when I was doing something I was proud of. When I was living the life I said I always would. When I wasn’t surprised when my parents would say they were proud of me. There’s nothing very glamorous about consistent habits and working. For these are things that I should be doing, anyway. There is nothing romantic about doing what you’re supposed to.

Categories
Writing

Habits

There is no switch. There is no on and off. There is no automatic pivot in direction. I can’t just change a habit.

Fiction often speaks of that revelatory moment, that sudden shift in perspective. The moment where things just change. For me, it is more like a few steps forward and a couple back, with sidesteps sprinkled here and there until I hardly even know where I am going anymore. For me, it comes in seasons. At one time, it smells of flowers and the sun after weeks of darkness; at another, I am watching the dead leaves fall around me once again.

Years learning how to behave around someone does not just change because they do. Years spent learning to love something does not just leave when they do. It is hard to continuously remind yourself not to feel a certain way, not to do a particular thing. I suppose the only motivation is the fact that it works both ways:

It is painful to change when people treat you as if you haven’t.

Categories
Writing

Texture

The word texture derives from the latin word for structure or network. It has roots in the verb ‘to weave’ or the noun ‘web’. Thus, it is not simply the feel of an object beneath your fingertips, weaving itself through the sensory receptors comprising your hands. Texture is not simply the finished product as the word at face value would have you believe, it is all the components of its being. It is the design, the material, and the way in which it was constructed.

In saying so, I hope you bear with me as I ponder the varying textures that constitute our world. I find it easier to contemplate the world than it is to examine myself. For example, the pine cones scattered across the splintered ground contain a three dimensional world comprised of nearly two dimensional plains, more similar to flowers than pine needles, their own kin. Mushrooms, on the other hand, feel and taste of the soil, their womb. They are smooth as dirt trapped in your fingernails and infused with the gentle darkness of the earth.

I wonder about the texture of light, as well. It is too infinitesimal to be tangible to our fragile humanness, but pervasive nonetheless. And what of the texture of people, of our networks and webs? What of the way we are woven into each other time and time again?

Categories
Writing

Beauty

I recently read that beauty is terror. I think it is more like awe, but I suppose they are nearly the same. A thing can either be awesome or awful, but either way it is saturated in awe. Either way, it is a human experience.

Beauty is a feeling, but it cannot be limited to our basic five senses. It is what happens after the sense: the rose after you smell it, the words after you read them, the painting after you see it. Beauty is the reaction to the external, what your own senses elicit within you.

There is no beauty without a sense of awe, perhaps terror. There is no beauty without your own rapid heart to make it so.

Categories
Writing

Observations at a Florentine Coffee Bar

My goal was simple: find a cappuccino for less than 2 euro. This mission had eluded me since my arrival and I had been losing hope, wandering desperately behind the Piazza della Signoria and deliberately attempting to stumble upon a coffee bar that could become my “regular” place while in Florence.

I was walking along one of the many brown-brick streets near Dante Alighieri’s fake house, checking menus as I passed through, when I saw it: cappuccino … .1.40. Relief flowed through me for about two seconds before being replaced with a flood of apprehension. 

The bar was beyond intimidating. It was small and quaint, built into the brick wall of the street and only about the size of an average living room. As soon as I crossed the threshold, wafts of burnt coffee and fresh pastries overcame me. The customers eyed me from their tables and the woman working at the pastry counter greeted me with a curt, but pleasant “Good morning.” I had never felt so out of place and imposing before.

“Ciao,” I said haltingly, quiet enough for her to lean slightly forward in an effort to hear me. “Un cappuccino, per favore?” I repeated the phrase I had been practicing so militantly in my head the entire morning, attempting to perfect my accent.

“You order cappuccino over there.” She replied, pointing to the bar.

“Ah, grazie.” I slunk, embarrassed, towards the empty bar, wincing as the floorboards creaked beneath my boots. I looked around in what I hoped was an apologetic expression, certain my mere presence was ruining everyone’s morning.

I perched on a stool, hands folded in my lap, and dutifully repeated my phrase— “un cappuccino, per favore” —to the elderly man behind the counter wiping his hands on his coffee-stained apron. He simply nodded in response and grabbed a mug as the espresso machine roared to life.

I breathed normally for the first time since I had entered, finding peace in the overpowering noise and finally able to settle into my surroundings. I felt strange sitting there, as if I was stepping into someone else’s life. It seemed more like I was watching someone through a screen than playing out the actual scene myself. 

The mirror on the back wall was the only thing I could look at without feeling like I was staring at someone. In the reflection, I could watch the reality of the bar. The woman who had greeted me filled the fridge at the back of the establishment, cheerfully chatting to the family seated beside her. The man who had just served me my coffee had disappeared into the back where I could faintly hear the crackle of a soccer (of course, they call it football here) game. The entire scene had paused when I entered and immediately resumed when I sat down, my foreignness drifting to the background. I felt invisible and I liked it better this way.

I could stop thinking about myself and start paying attention. 

I noticed the elements around me. The Italian that surrounded the experience was like water over rocks, smoothly bumping its way along its path, rising and falling with every precisely pronounced vowel and unique combination of consonants. My coffee was burnt and grainy and the space tasted the same—dark and saturated in itself. The air was tinged with sweetness and the ease of a locality that wasn’t expected to be anything but exactly what it already was. 

Voices started to fill the air around me and I felt barely there once again as Italian pleasantries were exchanged around me, between strangers and friends—I couldn’t tell the difference, the tones giving nothing away. I alighted for a little while longer, doing my best to observe the nuances around me, trying to leave myself behind for a little while. 

The man beside me, the one had drawn the elderly barista out from the back, spoke animatedly as he stood, an espresso in front of him as he waved vaguely with his hands. The man behind the counter responded cheerily, an easy smile spread across his face as he attended to another order, this time from a middle-aged woman with hair tinged with auburn. I sat nestled between both standing customers and they ignored me as if I belonged there, like my presence was the most mundane and absolutely normal part of their day. 

I paid my bill of exactly one euro and 40 centesimi and slipped out quietly, feeling the lightest I had felt since I had arrived and softer than I had ever been. The last time I felt like I could be that quiet surrounded by so many people was with my family—the last place I had expected to feel that again was in a room full of strangers I couldn’t hope to communicate with.

I noted the name on the top of my receipt and decided not to take a photo of the bar, reasoning that I could easily find it again. I followed the line on my map to my apartment, unwinding myself through the streets like Theseus with Ariadne’s thread as he found his way out of the labyrinth after accomplishing his goal. 

Moving through the city with an unhurried reverence I didn’t have that morning, I noticed things, but without the desperation of searching for them like I had before. The brick buildings were more impressive and the streets seemed directly plucked from history. I took my time getting home, admiring the city’s seamless incorporation of modernity and history—that Starbucks could have been there for centuries. 

The next week, I resolved to head out and find that bar once again. I searched high and low for the receipt with the printed name and couldn’t remember where I had misplaced it. I wandered back out again, attempting to come across it as I had before, lurking by the same streets and monuments. I turned corners and remembered places I had seen before, not recalling when. I never found that bar again.