Death was my “friend”

If you are reading this, then I hope Death was never your friend. That was one persuasive, enabling son of a bitch.

But damn, he used to be a “friend.” He was the bad influence “friend.” He was the one who always urged me to drive a little faster down winding canyons roads and a little closer to freeway dividers, to walk on the street-side of the sidewalk, to cross at the very last second, to jay-walk, to hold my breath just a little longer underwater, to swim a little farther out into the ocean, to run down steep stairs a little too quickly, to leave my inhaler at home, to drink just a little more.

He was always there in those moments, skeletal face in the barest of glimpses of my peripheral vision, ghostly whisper in my ear. And when I listened, he was there with a bony hand on my shoulder and frosty air on my neck. And if I obeyed even further, if I grasped sharp edges and pressed them to soft skin, then his cloak of shadows would threaten to envelop me oh so softly.

Death is dangerous. He was there when I wanted him most, and he was there when I didn’t want him at all. His presence was invasive, his whispers infiltrated every nook and cranny of my mind, and I was stuck in his grasp, and his shadows hid any escape route, and all I could see was Death and every single path leading towards him. At the time, it made sense to follow those dark roads.

But once I escaped his hold, I realized how close I was to falling into his realm, how near I was to saying goodbye to Life forever. And I hadn’t even met her yet.

So I turned around and walked away, even now I can’t help but glance back and see his inviting arms, but I push onwards in search of Life and her musical laughter and bright face and shining smile and scarf made of knitted flowers and leaves.

I am always one step behind her, and Death is always one step behind me. But like you should with any toxic “friend,” I cut him out of my life and do my best not to look back.

I cannot deny that he was there in my darkest of times, but for reasons far more sinister than solace and comfort (which is what it seemed like at the time). But Death is no longer a “friend” of mine, not that he ever really was.

I said goodbye to Death, and I hope not to say hello to that bastard for a long, long time.



He said: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Damn right, it’s you. It was always you.

You were the first and I thought you would be the last, and it certainly felt like I was your only. But you weren’t and I wasn’t and we weren’t and we won’t be again.

I can burn every single one of your pictures and all of your presents to me and even the jackets that I stole from you, but I cannot burn the memories you have left behind or the feel of your hands on my skin or the taste of your lips in my mouth. I cannot burn away the fingerprints that you have left on the book that is my story. I cannot burn away your smell from my pillow or the sound of your laughter in my ears. I cannot burn off the phantom kisses left on my neck and shoulders. I cannot burn every article of clothing that you ever touched. I cannot burn the look of your face from the inside of my eyelids. I cannot burn your presence from my past. I can write your name down on slips of paper and burn them all and feed the ashes to the wind, but I cannot burn your name from the folds and wrinkles of my brain.

I can burn your letters into a bonfire and let the flames burn my skin and let the heat burn even my heart but all of it is too much and not enough, and you left me there to burn in the unforgiving sun, under the stares of countless strangers, as the tears made train tracks on my cheeks, and you walked away.

Once burned, twice shy.

Twice burned, and forever burnt.

Your name is poison

Your name is the assassin and the poison both, like Claudius to Hamlet Senior, you have poured liquid death into my ears and taken away my hearing and my happiness and every aspect of life, and I am left haunted, haunting, nothing but a specter of myself, and all I can do is scream into silence because no one will hear that it was you and your name.

Your name is like Taboo, the card game that I played with my cousins when I was a child, I can describe you and I can say everything about you, I can say teal and ocean and sky and almost green but not quite but I can’t say blue, I cannot say it in another language or say what it rhymes with, I cannot act it out, I cannot say it because if I do then it is game over and I am out.

Your name is like a dog whistle. I cannot help but attune to it, my ears cannot help but listen to it, it is at a frequency that I cannot ignore, all of my senses will turn my body towards the direction of its source, and I will stand at attention in case I hear it again, and it will unsettle me even in my dreams, even as I fill the night with sound of my howls, I cannot escape it.

Your name is the siren and her song. You call to me, the helpless sailor that I am. Your beauty draws in my eyes as your voice draws in my ears, and your name, your song slips into every nook and cranny of my being and takes control of my body as it pulls me to you, your name has taken over my willpower and pulls me into the unforgiving sea and pulls me under the waves, and I am drowning, I am drowning deeper and deeper to places where the sunlight cannot reach, but I am under your thrall and even though I am suffocating for breath, I cannot escape your name.

Do you get it yet? Do you understand that your name is impossible for me? Impossible to listen to, impossible to ignore, impossible for me to even say.

Your name will never again be spoken by me while my body lives, the consonants will not roll off my tongue, the vowels will not be shaped by my lips, I will never again have the taste of you in my mouth, I will never name my children any deviation of your name, it is lost to me, it is ruined for me.

But I will always remember the times when your name was the sweetest sound, the most beautiful word, the perfect complement to mine in tree trunks and notebook margins, and I would drink in your name as if it were the sweetest ambrosia.

But now it is nothing but poison.

When did it start?

It was just a bad day. It was just a bad week, a bad month, a bad phase. I would not let sadness pull me down, but before I knew it, where had the time gone, why did I not feel better, when did I lose so much weight, when did the dark bags form under my eyes, when was the last time I did not stay awake all night, when was the last time I did not feel so tired?

When did the depression start?

I cannot pinpoint the moment when I drew away from my friends, pushed them away, pushed everyone away, locked myself in my room, curtains closed, covers over my head, homework forgotten, school did not matter anyway when I was too tired to even think.

I cannot pinpoint the moment when I stopped caring about going outside and seeing the sky and doing my schoolwork and going to dance practice and seeing my friends and talking to my family, I cannot remember when I stopped caring about who I was and what I did and what I looked like and who I talked to and who missed me.

I cannot remember when I started to feel that maybe I was useless and worthless and unwanted and stupid and a bother and a burden, and I cannot remember when I started to believe my own head, and I cannot remember when I became so stuck in that negative head space that all I could believe was my mind’s own lies, and they weren’t really lies if I believed them, right?

And so I believed them and I internalized them, and I crumpled up any sense of self-confidence and I threw away any sense of self-worth and I destroyed any sense of self-value, and I truly hated myself, and I hated myself so much that I didn’t care, and I found that the worst hatred is really apathy. And I was so apathetic, I didn’t care.

But that was a lie because I did care because I wasn’t enough, and no matter what anyone told me at that time, I wasn’t enough, I didn’t deserve their words, I didn’t deserve anything, I didn’t deserve happiness or safety or stability or peace and quiet or anything at all except more darkness and more pain.

I remember when the darkness became too much and I needed more pain so I took sharp edges to skin and painted my own skin with my own life-giving ink and it was destructive and dangerous and stupid and I knew all of that even though I was so numb and uncaring but at least it made me feel something, anything, because I had forgotten how to feel, and the physical sensations of pain were better than nothing at all.

I remember when even the sensations of cold and hot and dull and sharp and pain were no longer enough, I needed more because I had nothing left, nothing in my heart, nothing to look forward to. But what is more when you are empty and everything around you is empty?

I remember when I started thinking of ending it all

Hey love

Hey love, do you remember when we were young? Even before we had met, we were already saying the same words and feeling the same emotions, and we just did not know it.

Hey love, do you remember when you were just another young single? In college and confused about everything?

I do. I remember it clearly. The summer before third year. It was a hot summer (as it always is in my hometown), and I had no car, nothing to do, no one I wanted to see, only my laptop and my dog and my bedroom. And I knew nothing. I was sure of nothing.

I had plenty to say. I knew what my major was, but not my career. I knew what my hobbies were, but not my true passions. I knew who I loved, but not who I was in love with. I had things I wanted to do, things I had planned, but nothing that I had done. But they would take me on dates and I could talk plenty, but it was never enough. My words filled nothing but empty space, and the more words I poured into space, the emptier it became.

But you were the same.

You were a gentleman, respectful and courteous and traditional, but of course never too posh because you were just as young and wild as I was. You threw your head back at all of my awful pick-up lines, and where I filled the space with words, you filled it with laughter. You had a job, but not a career. You had a home and a car, but no one to fill them with. You were a playboy but always so sweet to me anyway.

Hey love, remember when we threw all of that together? We never really figured out any of our confusion, but somehow, we made it work.

Hey love, remember when you saw your first grey hair? You complained about growing old, but your heart was still as young and wild as ever.

And so maybe we are old. Maybe we have kids and grandkids and aching joints and creaking bones and a house, once new, with faded white walls and stained pots and pans and clothes that are soft and loose, once denim and tight. Maybe we can no longer run around the park as fast as we can, arms thrown up and faces toward the sun, spinning and falling and grabbing hands. Maybe we wake up with the sun and sleep with it too, instead of defying every waking hour as we once did. Maybe our hair is all grey and white, and our skin is permanently wrinkled, and we have crow’s feet and laugh lines and frown lines and sagging skin everywhere.

Hey love, do you remember when I had to stay goodbye? You were fading, but with a smile on your face even as you left me for the last time.

Hey love, do you remember when I closed that wooden door for the last time? You were long gone, your insides no longer what I knew and no longer mine, but now stuffed and preserved with things I could never bear to think about it.

We were young singles then old couple and through it all I could talk and talk and talk and I knew exactly what to say and our kids and grandkids always got sick of me. But you never did.

But now there is no one left to hear me talk.

Hey love, when you left, did your soul leave your body and walk through me as I held your hand? Did you take my voice box with you when you walked away from this mortal Earth? Can I follow your ghost and leave behind this torturous silence?

Hey love, can we go back to when we were young?

(Inspired by a friend’s prose: “Old couple young single talking talk”)

Darling, you were born to fight.

Darling, you came into this world crying, screaming, squirming, unashamed of movement, limbs reaching up and out towards the light, occupying as much space as you could. The moment you came into this world, you were here, and you would not let a single soul in that room ignore you.

When did society put a stop to that?

“What a pretty, quiet child.”

“Children should be seen, not heard.”

“Play with your dolls quietly.” Play inside. Stay inside. Away from the dirt and grass and trees and sun. It is the boys who play outside, who play in the mud and come in covered in dirt. And even inside, they fight and wrestle, and they’re loud and brash. And already, how old are you, but you scold them and tap your footand tell them to stop fighting, but you don’t join in, because girls do not get into messes. “Boys will be boys, but girls must stay clean and pretty.”

“Put a t-shirt over your tank top. Put these gym shorts over your shorts.” Cover up. Do not reveal skin. You are young yet, barely even touching puberty, but your skin is scandalous, and it must be covered. Dress code is for girls, education is for boys. They tell you not to distract boys with your young skin. They send you home because you refuse to cover up. Your comfort in the hot summer weather means nothing when it comes to the education of boys, even though they do a fine job of distracting themselves. But worse, what about the male teachers who will look at your skin? “You do not look decent. Do not dress like a whore, a slut” (in your tank top and shorts).

“What a prude.” And what can you say to that? Because if you confirm, then you are a prude, and they will all laugh. But if you deny it, then you are a slut, and they will all laugh. Society will sexualize you when you are young, too young to even understand what that really means, and as soon as you are old enough, they will shame you for being sexual. Society will not let you win.

Take back your space Darling.

Do not let them tell you what to play with, what to enjoy. Wrestle in the mud, play with Legos, learn computer science, be a woman in STEM. Wear tank tops and crop tops and shorts and skirts. Be as sexual as you want to be, and demand that they realize your pleasure is important too.

Do not let society quiet you. Keep talking when they interrupt you. Correct them when they try to invalidate you. Speak up, speak out. Be loud. Take every single silence and fill it with your words because your words matter. Do not sit closed-legged or crossed-legged because that is what is expected of you. Sit however you want, elbows and knees out, take back your space.

You came into this world screaming and fighting for your right to be here. You have every right to be here. Do not let them take that from you.

Run outside with the wolves that howl ever more loudly in your throat. Dig your toes into the dirt as Mother Nature intended, because it is Mother Nature, and you are every bit of her as anyone else. Throw your hands up to the sky and grasp handfuls of clouds because not even the sky could limit you. Your bones are made of stardust, and galaxies have collapsed and come together to make you what you are. Your blood may be iron, but your heart is forged steel, and no words will ever be able to pierce it. There is fire in your eyes and red on your lips, and nothing can take away your space.

Darling, you were born to fight. So fight.

Fight every bit of society that tells you to be quiet and hidden. Because you are so much more, and you have every right to tell the world. And if god forbid they try to silence you, Darling, you came into this world screaming, and you will not leave it any quieter.

What’s in a name?

Is it too cliche? Is it emulating Juliet too much? Should I start over?

And yet.

I associate too much so much with a name.

J—. The smell of black coffee and overroasted beans and used filters. The always-made bed. The Lord of the Rings reading marathons. The textbooks and notebooks of organic chemistry. The faded striped polos and the khaki shorts.

J—. The revelation of red lines on thighs. The Butterfly Project. The Bracelet Project. The counseling center on campus. THe 2am panic attacks and 3am texts and 4am calls. The hour-long sobbing sessions. The blue sweatshirt that had J—‘s comforting scent. The hand-holding in the hospital.

J—. Silence. Betrayal. Cruel end.

D—-. The late-night security shifts. The blue work polo. The old black belt hanging on my closet door. The video game case. The Pokemon shirts. The cafe smoothies and sandwiches. The singing-along to pop songs. The simultaneous gaming sessions. The sweetie and em and anh.

D—-. The cuddling during rainstorms. The kisses on the forehead and cheeks. The arm around the waist. The sitting on the lap. The intimacy that’s as close as possible and everywhere. The I love you’s and pinky promises. The sharing of everything.

D—-. Sobbing. A slap. Bitter end.

E—. The everyday texts. The snapchat streak. The boba and food hangouts. The school rivalry. Te banter and humor. The six-hour conversations filled with laughter. The purple hearts. The missed calls. The byeeeeee.

E—.  The silver car with windows down and sunroof open and music blaring and leaving everything else behind. The 3-D glasses over normal glasses. The red thread of fate. The piano fingers. The promises of dancing the night away (a year from now). The surprise birthday plan. The snow globe.

E—. Smiling. Driving. Don’t end.

What’s in a name that it can hold sights and sounds and smells and sensations? How can a single name hold the power to make me cry and sob and scream and laugh and smile? Why can I not hear certain names without cringing or remembering or wishing?

Even a distant conversation with a specific name overheard will tear apart my self-control and bring me to my knees, and god, you cannot trigger warning name. Because it’s a goddamn name.

We give new lives these names that they will probably carry for the rest of their time on this earth, and what power that is. I could bestow a name on a child, and years from now, that name could bring thoughts of love or hate or nostalgia or betrayal.

But what’s really in a name? If only Shakespeare thought to answer through Romeo…