I went looking for knives

I don’t want to control my reactions. I’m not interested in controlling my emotions. I want to spew all over, like a deranged child, a nasty storm, a busted pipe. I want everything that I feel to make a mess to the fullest extent, to my greatest range. My tolerance, my patience, has been burnt to a crisp. Fried up and served up and crunched up to bits. The lines in my body sound the hum, “fuck off.” Paint the wall, douse the house, find the end.

I am supposed to prove myself to my coworkers, to my students. To get my paycheck with a smile and a wave, I have to put on my show. Look at what I know, watch me not feel. Hear me speak in even, measured tones. I put on the show for my friends, for my people. Here’s a reaction, even though I don’t feel it, truly. My sister sends me a text with a lot of emojis. I tell her, “I couldn’t care less about this.”

Once I got picked up from the airport. I was tired, jet-lagged, sad. In the car, the fellow passenger shared her surprise at my direct flight, “No layover! I can’t believe that!” I didn’t respond. The driver looked at me, incredulous, poked me for a response. Fine: “Oh, yeah, direct flight. I don’t know what else to tell you.”

Fuck me, I’m tired of your talk. I laugh because I’m exhausted.

I come home and crawl into bed, under the rays of the sun. I leave the blinds open to feel present. I don’t sleep. I lie in the quiet until I feel convinced that I am safe. I am free. I am home. And I can feel whatever the fuck I want to feel. Here I am me. An hour of quiet to recalibrate my brain. An hour to remind myself, where I’ve been and where I’m going. An hour to find the path again, after spending the day too busy to fight my urge– how tempted I am to run, to escape it all. To escape the constructs and the expectations and the constant policing. The policing of my body, my mind, my words, my space. The way I am in the world. To be free, always dangling, that fruit just out of reach. An impossible thing.

Where are you, what do you think, why did you say, what will you do, why did you do, where are we going, how do you know, who told you

I am the latchkey kid, coming home to the empty farmhouse, sitting down to do my homework because that is what I’ve been told to do. Alone, but not without purpose. Free, but not without obligation. Rewrite the narrative, Morales: “It’s enough just to make you feel crazy.”

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On & Off again

I sleep in crumbs of us.
I drink in liters of us.
I listen to creaks of us.
Soaking it up–whatever it is.

And then I’m reminded of how much I am performing every day. How much I do pretend to let my walls down, pretend to feel slighted…pretend to act…invested.

Act? Which is which? Who is who? She is her?

Is the act when my switch flips? The switch is my tolerance drying up–evaporating instantly. I got carried away. Everyone around you wears the same sunglasses. 

I want to be free of all these constructs, but I do not want to live alone. Is it worth it, after all, to give up everything? More than everything–the potential of anything. To say, ‘no’ because I say, ‘yes.’ Every yes the byproduct of a no.

Do we really have the freedom of choice? Yes, but not a free choice. Not a wild card.

The lights flash, flicker. One and none. On and off again.

 

Inclusion and Diversity 

I used to walk to campus. I used to drive, then take a bus. I used to walk, then bus, then walk. Now I find myself confused to cross the street, overwhelmed with the flow of traffic. I find myself interested in the people and the spaces offered up by a big city, but missing the medium feel of my home. 

I am at a professional conference. At my first workshop yesterday, they handed us toothpicks. They handed us a sheet of paper with a cultural custom. Mine was personal space. I was supposed to walk around the room and stand very close to people, less than an arm length’s away, and give them a toothpick if they did not reciprocate. My colleagues had been given a different custom and were to give me a toothpick if I could not match their scenario. I chuckled at every toothpick, trying to decipher what offense I had committed. During the debrief, people felt uncomfortable, awkward, surprised, silenced. I felt my brow furrow in its familiar way. But did you not understand the rules of the game? I was expecting all the toothpicks. 

I was mostly surprised by how comfortable or fake comfortable all the women in the room were with me getting very, quite close. They barely edged away as I hovered closer and closer. I didn’t hand out a single toothpick, because they were trying. Because what is closeness? 

I felt myself slide back into that chameleon skin, copying the body language of my partners in the room, matching the cadence of my voice, the topic of my conversation, following their lead. Another game we played required us to group up, and switch groups numerous times. I felt myself circling around the room, preferring to self-select to be alone, to be the perpetual outsider. I didn’t understand how to choose my group, or what the benefit of a group would be. I stood alone in the back of the room, amused at the bemusement. Unsure how to classify myself in a way that didn’t seem so Catcher in the Rye

Tengo el nopal en la frente

Cause these white girls seem to make it all about them
These white girls won’t say what they mean
These white girls perform pretty, kind, shiny, envy
These white girls…they make me want to scream.

You don’t get what I mean when I say the word white
you think I mean the color of your skin
the fairness and straightness of your hair
no, white girl, I mean you

I mean the way you look at that camera
I mean the way you smile at my jokes
I mean the way you tell your jokes

I mean the way you yell at the man
I mean the way you laugh at the boys
I mean the way you write about the brown
I mean the way you think about food
I mean the way you coo-coo at babies
I mean the way you dance when you’re drunk

I mean the way you talk over me, at us

I mean the way you are, white girl, not the way you look
Tengo el nopal en la frente

Consume me, you say
To be consumed is to be loved, you say.
I caution myself never to be you.

Improvement

I haven’t been writing. In my anger and my stupor, I’ve resorted to making lists. Lists of observations, fleeting thoughts, bubbling feelings that heat, boil, rise, and fall. Dormant for another day. “That is the nature of things. You get tired.”

What are you building within

I’ve been thinking mostly of movement, of motion, of paths. Trying to sort out…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” –Alice in Wonderland

But I do not agree. The way I’ve gone has determined where I’ve ended up. And I wish to keep moving that way.

My sister came to visit, and in her I saw everything I could have been: the reason I won’t move home. I was 3 years old when we moved from Arizona to Illinois. 4 when I watched my father pack the moving truck to return to the desert. 7 when we moved from my mother’s family farmhouse to her new husband’s. 7 when my father drove us to San Antonio for the summer. 9 when we moved onto the land my mother bought from my great aunt. 16 when my sister finally packed for that yard with the pool up in the Catalinas. 17 when my sister left her husband, and we painted all the rooms in her new house. Rooms for a family of 2. 18 when my father moved from the northwest apartment to the east. 19 when he packed up and moved right back. 20 when I left home for a dingy college apartment. 22 when I left college for graduate school. 23 when I left graduate school for Indiana. 24 when I needed education to set me free again. 26 when I spread my wings and flew flew to the frozen tundra. I plant my feet, duly, in the Wisconsin snow, yet I push my students out. Usually, only to watch them fall and spiral back, missing the point of leaving, missing the point of moving. Movement. There is a story, there is a soul in the movement.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

With every action you create a space for subsequent actions. Some will be in support–actions you like, and some will be in opposition–actions you dislike. I think of the spaces I’m creating and I’m not sure…I carve out the roads to take us to the mines, then I blast the walls for the mines. I build and I gut. I try and I quit. Not sure if I can see anyone else making spaces for support, for community, for opportunity. Listen. Listen. Listen. But you are only repeating yourself now, saying what you have always said, how you have always said it. How can I break away from that? How can I give my voice new light, new air, new pitch? I want to write a song you want to sing along with. I don’t know where to start.

That’s not true. I want to write a song so good, you will forget the words to all the songs you’ve ever known. Because I’m tired of the silence.

Intensity

Don’t cry; your feelings are valid no matter what.

I shower my experience on you. Drown you in it. Feel it. Hear me. See me. This is right, right? I am right. I stop short of shaking you. Clarify through violence.

I run my fingers across my scalp; I rub the plastic rod in my arm; I pull at the skin on my face. I am present. I am solid. I am three-dimensional.

I still can’t say what I think I mean. I still can’t sit still with how I feel. Everyone has their things, right? Why do I feel so silenced and forced to sit with mine? I wish it were that simple–to speak, to mean, to say…

I speed; I rage; I drink; I eat; I fast; I sit quietly in the noise because I’m tired of feeling policed. I pull away because I’m tired of being noticed.

I am not yours. When will you let me belong to myself. 

I have my own room

The prodigal daughter,” I used to say when I called home and got the answering machine. When there was still a place to record your voice and your thoughts for the house. My family would laugh at that and play it back for me: “the prodigal daughter”

But haven’t I always been?

I take for granted my ability to read and write. Reading like water, like sunlight, like air. What would I do without it? People who can take those all too common features of existence–words–and turn them into something new, fresh, mind-blowing. Warm. Give me something I’ve never thought before–even though we have the same access to the same words. Even though our mouths move in the same way. Writing like food, like magic, like hope, like seasons. So much of what makes life good. Noticeable. Memorable. Worthy.

I scoot up behind you in the bed and my hands find either side of your torso. When you talk your middle vibrates and I tap my fingers to the beat. You read to me.

It is 2017.

I am a woman. I have things to say.

I read sentences I don’t understand and I write words to make sense of the sentences. I chase the women to cherish their stories. I find myself without children, with an income, in a place I never thought I’d be. A woman with an education. Almost thirty. Healthy. Thriving. A woman with things to say and the ability to say them. A place to have them. Hands that can form the words. A room of one’s own.

The prodigal daughter whose voice was erased from the answering machine, sure: The words that lived.