with your eyes like washed over pebbles I watch you, your hands familiar to me against the steering wheel, your words a prayer of hope- that we might laugh and for a little while you won’t fantasize about driving the truck off the highway and I won’t fantasize about cutting the muscles in my neck with garden shears. I’m just as in love with you as ever- more, now, with the knowledge I’ll be leaving soon. that best friends thing always fucked me up, all my old friends give me distance because I make it weird. I didn’t hold their hand when I wanted to, I just never wanted to go home, I lingered and practiced my telepathy instead. I’m very bad at telepathy. mom said she doesn’t know how to be my mom right now and I said don’t. I have no one to hold and I so desperately need to be held. I want to be wanted more than I want to be loved, but I hate sex. I swipe right on everyone on tinder but I don’t message anyone back. I cut ties and burned bridges and aborted my attachment to all my exes but I still miss them in the abstract. I miss their hands choosing to hold mine and their lips saying my name like it dripped with honey and tasted like cigarettes. I love the smell of cigarettes- I used to date an older guy who smoked, I would stand with him outside after sex and when he tossed the cigarette on the road I would run and stomp on the cherry and he called me bunny. He said once that I was the textbook definition of a sub and I think I was right to be offended. My friend in the truck, she said I for sure was a top and I rode that high for a full week. Every time she slaps my ass I want to kiss her; obviously I don’t, and idk if it’s subdrop but I always get really sad after. She means it as a compliment so I haven’t told her to stop. I feel so broken all the time, perpetually lost, perpetually unsatisfied. I want to stop feeling like reality is shrink wrap and the only thing that can cut through is pain. I hurt so much all the time and I want to die much more than I want to live. Living hasn’t felt real in a while.
I used to take up the whole bed, I think
Now my room is vases and hollow shells to crack
I am living outside my body,
Wanting so much and
Not to hate it-
Just growing Rosemary and Sage in my bedroom
Terrified they’ll die
I sleep on the side of the bed that used to smell like the man
Old enough to be my father
Dad to a would-be baby I sent back to heaven
Told God he had the address wrong
I couldn’t tell my parents
Nothing is alive,
No baby giggling,
my period came for the first time since I took the pills
I bleed onto my blankets, my pants, my bed
It collects in my lungs
My God, I need to be held
To be rocked and soothed and
Not asked for sex
There is a boy I think of when I’m close to dying
He feels like home, and we never fit
But that wasn’t why I loved him
I feel like sunshine when I’m four years old in the field
I swear if I lean into that memory he’s beside me
And I want to leave this life with him too
He doesn’t love me like that
I don’t know how he loves me:
Except hard and frantic and it hurts
But honestly all men hurt
I love the idea of making babies,
Of that being sweaty and
heart-racing and boundary breaking
But I disassociate when they’re inside me
Can’t breathe when they’re in my mouth,
And even still, I am never full
Never ripe and whole and present
I don’t get to be twenty years old
I hate myself the most
I fall asleep with the candle burning,
Wake up to ash
Wake up to friends texting me back, six days ago,
two weeks ago, a month and a half ago
Trying to be a lesbian, you know,
Trying to be held,
Can’t see a girl if I keep eating Wendy’s and
Picking at my acne
So I don’t
Text or call or meet up
And I’m chicken and so goddamn terrified
I’m so scared
I’m so so alone
I go to work and feel like I’m trash at it
I want to quit
I know they hate me anyway
tell me how to stop reaching for tobias, for the open offer to come to his house and feel his hands make fires all over my skin before i disassociate with his violent sex
one of his best friends is in my dms and i’m terrified of breaking her heart. i have no goddamn idea what i’m doing with girls and i’m scared to death of doing it wrong
one of the managers at work spiritually manipulated me and now i’m going over to his house and he’s going to want to talk about the abortion and i’m not worried about crumbling in front of him, but i don’t know how to say no to him reassembling me
i think of derek every day.
no thing and no one wants me. not for me.
i keep asking for comfort, knowing full well the thin love of men can’t cover me and the space between friends can’t touch this depth of pain
the idea of god can’t fill me, outside is too cold and inside is too hostile and i don’t want to be around other people and have to consider their feelings
i curl up on couches and beds, too tired to exercise or sleep or read anything but twitter, awake enough to eat and masturbate and write sometimes
i call in sick to work again, my boss gives me valentines cards full of cash and all i feel is guilty
I cried every day, and I know that’s not something you want to read about. Feelings are messy and cringey and so cliche to write a story about, and yet- There we were, in the bathroom of a theatre in Missoula, Montana, in the sweet summer of 2016. North Korea was testing its rope, and North Carolina was hung up over bathroom legislation. The musical Hamilton was the center of our attention, which had only been popular a few months but was already so overplayed. We didn’t care. This summer camp meant growth and freedom unlike any we had experienced before. We rapped those verses with style.
I sang country music too. In early 2014, I finished a performance of Beauty Lou and the Country Beast, playing Beauty Lou herself. After the show I asked my director if there was anything she knew about, any opportunities to get out of this little town, to learn theatre before college applications rolled around? She was a twentysomething touring director with Missoula Children’s Theatre, and had been in Hope, Idaho for exactly six days, and was leaving tomorrow. I was a fourteen year old girl finishing up her freshman year of High School, failing English because she stayed up all night looking at theatre memes on Pinterest. She took my information and said that there was a program Missoula Children’s Theatre ran that I might be a good fit for. She took my information and said she’d call. She never did.
Really, the crying wasn’t the important part. There were lots of things I did everyday: went to dance class, did workshops, learned our choir songs, ate hummus and vegetables in the basement of a church. We were at theatre camp, and our motley crew of 22 singing, dancing, and acting teenagers wanted to be Broadway Somebodies. We wanted our name in lights, we wanted LaDuca character shoes, we wanted to star opposite Jeremy Jordan. That meant a lot of hard work, and we weren’t exactly trained. We were a bunch of kids with dreams locked inside, bursting to get out. The problem was, those dreams had been suppressed by circumstance or parents for most of our lives. We had to get really good in a year or two, before college auditions. We knew that they would only take the best.
I really wanted to be an actor. But, as I looked at the screen of my laptop I saw figures that were impossible to reach. When the director never called, I decided to do my own research. Missoula Children’s Theatre ran two camps for kids my age: South Shore Performing Arts Camp and Next Step Prep Academy for Musical Theatre. The former was only $925, and as I learned later, was probably the one my director was talking about. The problem was, it was only a two-week program and rehearsed both Sundays. It didn’t feel right. Next, I looked at Next Step Prep, the six-week program that boasted guest artists like Seth Rudetsky and Jason Robert Brown. Sundays were off, it was geared toward kids without a lot of training. It was $5,500 to go. I remember, my heart sunk so hard when I read that figure. I could never afford that.
So, we cried: of frustration, of homesickness, of insomnia, of heartache, of hydration. We took turns with panic attacks and anxiety attacks and good old-fashioned breakdowns. There were a few the first day, a lot the last day, and an innumerable amount between. No one was exempt: boys, girls, seniors, or freshmen. The classes were really difficult, and we were running on six hours of sleep at best. Have you ever tried to learn music theory, or dance when every move has a french name and you really don’t know french? I walked out of both classes at some point, tears leaving my eyes in such rapid succession I was forced to spent the rest of the period in the hallway. I brought makeup every day: packed it in my Ikea suitcase next to my jazz shoes, leotard, tights, binders, and water bottle. The foundation hid the red on my cheeks from the heat and sweat and embarrassment. The eyeliner brought attention away from the fact that my eyes were bloodshot and ringed with dark circles. The mascara just made the eyeliner look normal.
There was over a year that passed before the camp turned from an impossibility to a goal. I got a job working in a bakery, saving money. At the same time, I wanted to run away so bad; I channeled that energy into my application. If I got in, if I got scholarships, if I could somehow manage to save enough money to go, I would be able to run away for six weeks to learn musical theatre. However, going to NSP was as much about gaining experience as it was about seeing if I was worth my salt. High school hadn’t offered me the chance to take many acting classes, and the ones I did take were group settings, taught by unprofessionals. I needed to know if I was good enough to keep pursuing it, and I wanted reassurance from people who were qualified to say. I decided to apply.
Once, I spent an hour in the dance studio, sobbing to my assistant dance instructor about how I just couldn’t, about how I was trying so much but it was so hard. She was nineteen, and was choreographing a modern group number. The steps were so hard to grasp. They kept slipping out of my head like soap falling to the shower floor. She held me and said that she was so grateful that I cared. This hurt and disappointment was a million times better than being satisfied with mediocrity. It was a small comfort, and I ended up in the front row at our performance of the piece. My pas de chats and glissades weren’t the sharpest or the most graceful, but I learned the whole routine. Sometimes the basics are enough.
Backtrack to 2015. I was actually going to do this! I asked my mom and my dad if they would let me go, as a 16-year-old, to stay in dorms in Missoula, Montana all summer. I downloaded the application, and filled it out with my very limited experience and most charming anecdotes. I asked my english teacher and my principal for letters of recommendation. I entered my information on the scholarship website. This was happening! The deadline for it to be postmarked was in January. I finished the essays, crossed my fingers, and mailed it out. I was so nervous. What if they didn’t like me? What if my application fee and hours practicing my song and monologue was all for naught? A few weeks later, I saw a voicemail from my mom on my phone right above a voicemail from Missoula. She said that I needed to call Missoula Children’s Theatre, who said that I got in! They were giving me over half tuition in scholarship, and I saved just enough to cover the rest. I could go!
On the last day, we were all on the ground. Twenty-two heads lay on tummies, like a big puddle on the floor. We listened as our director read to us a speech by his favorite man in the entire world, Neil Gaiman. He orated that the important thing was to Make Good Art, to keep trying until you can create the same caliber of art that inspires you. If you never give up you have no option but to succeed; persistence was the important part. My director said that we were talented and would do well in lots of professions, but that we could be actors. We just needed to stick with it, to show it as much love as it’s shown us. The whole summer seemed kind of perfect in that moment, with light filtering through the windows onto the piano. We were all feeling the heartbeats of each other, breathing in and out, swimming in collective appreciation. I was finally content, finally happy.
I looked up at the ceiling, and I cried. Again.
tinder is a fire lacking a hearth
love isn’t flames, it’s coals-
hot and there to tend and warm
he sits in Springs, working and burning and
saying he’s done and I’m 700 miles away
without an ending
i sleep on the floor, on a yoga mat covered in scratch marks
junior year yoga was just
trying to crawl out of my own skin
a lot has changed, but I don’t remember much
I found out I was queer that summer,
Olivia and her hair on my shoulder all through the play
this is to say, I don’t want to meet anyone else
I feel myself resenting my own atheism,
wanting to believe again,
withering without fire and wanting
to speak, and taste, and my tongue, dry,
asks the boy for repentance, & embers, & him
I cut my hair with safety scissors last night at 1:30 and I love it, I love it, I love it
I feel like leaving my religion, keeping my testimony and I feel so free, so free
I’m going to apologize to my ex and it feels right, like home
When I fantasize, I cut open my chest down the middle, pulling the ribs apart, and the lungs collapsing and the heart stilling.
I don’t want to work on a future that’s just going to break.
my mom pulled the seventeen year old card again and I hated her again
an older curly-haired fake ginger at choir is trying to be friends with me, she’s so cool that I can’t talk to her about what’s actually happening
I want to stop crying at night and in the morning and when I stay outside my apartment to talk to my family about the deep cracks in our religion.
I hear the poet’s voice and it feels like his. Tobias’s. He saw me writing and loved me. He showed me Correspondence and loved me. He gave me his own words because he knew that was what I drank in shots on Friday nights and loved me.
I can’t live with myself at night. I don’t want to talk to people who want to make it better. The people who want to give understanding to hurt is all I can take.
I want to sin.
I’m filled with things to say and I am so fractured and wanting
definitely still in love, and I’m going to tell you how I remember
that that one day I sat outside the elementary school sobbing knowing nothing was going to fix this but if he was there I could hold it
and how he messaged rhiannon when what he needed was to take me away from his friends and held my hands in a place we made together
I’m just so sick, and I don’t know if I have a testimony of God and I’m bisexual and I haven’t told people that and it’s not a big deal but like
what is there to believe in, what is there to hope for,
where is the line between right and wrong and women being feminine or sexualizing themselves for a little power and influence in this effed up world
and is it wrong?
and the therapy won’t help because they’re mormon and the medication won’t help because it’s fake and the music won’t help because it’s emotional masturbation and the writing might help. if only i was heard, if only i knew the answers
why do i feel so proud of murderers
Caramel makes me think of Duane, my brother. He started drinking when I was born and moved out when I was five and The only good things I remember about him was the caramel he would make in the winter and the books he would talk to me about