Whole

I’m scanning the internet for a meme, a joke… something to express all of my fears as something light and silly, something laughable to get it off my chest…but there isn’t anything. I want a way to say it all out loud because I’ve been carrying it around for weeks, and I don’t know how to say what I need to say without feeling pathetic. But still, I can’t do this alone.

I feel hot, then cold, then numb. I’m tired and I have to lay down. I reach for a bottle of whiskey and tell myself that I’ll still be a woman when all of this is over. I run my fingers over my scars.

I never wanted my womanhood to be defined by sex and childbearing, but suddenly unable to do either, I find myself grappling with my value as a human. Will anybody want me? Do I have anything left to give? It was supposed to be a robotic surgery, picking through my muscles and nerves for adhesions, when suddenly the doctor sprung on me that the best option, really, the option I’d ultimately need, was a hysterectomy. The disease is already growing back, they said. Your organs will fail you anyway.

What?

Maybe this is a good thing. That’s what I tell myself, likely because I have to. Stay on the sunny side. Never again can someone claim they don’t want children, sucker me into a relationship, and then drop the bomb that I can’t fulfill their needs and they just thought I would change. One boyfriend knew three weeks in that kids were not an option with me, and he told me he didn’t want any. Then one night, in an ugly drunken slur I would come to know far too well, he told my best friend he had absolutely always wanted children. He just secretly believed I would change. When I left, he accused me in a torrent of scorn and sarcasm.

“I’m so sorry I wanted marriage and a family!”

Because my choices are valueless and less important than his. Because I must have never wanted to be married or have a family of my choosing. Because my body is perfect and functioning. Because any man has the right to demand pregnancy of a woman.

My friend Mia always calls it like it is. “ ‘Sorry I wanted marriage and a family‘? That’s a nice way of saying ‘Sorry I baited you into relationship based on a lie.’” She was right. She usually is.

I can’t change myself. I can’t change that I want to foster troubled kids before I’d ever feel the need to push one out of my body. I can’t change that my reproductive organs have been weaponized to devour the rest of my body. Auto immune diseases are a living nightmare. Your body betrays you, and mine is destroying itself.

Maybe men will have to want me for who I am after this.  Maybe the truth of my body will shut it all down. Maybe it’s a good thing.

This probably isn’t true. I suppose someone can still romance me, pretend they don’t want children, and then drop me a few years in. Even the lack of a uterus can’t put off a man on the hunt. I’ve heard the words, “You’re my dream girl.” enough times to make me shudder. I can’t be your dream, I’m just a person. How could someone who can’t have children be your dream girl if that’s what you’ve always wanted? I’m exhausted trying to carry around the fantasies projected onto me because I look good in blue jeans and tell witty jokes. I’m nobody’s dream girl. I’m a woman with scars and sight and perspective. I’m not damaged or broken, but I’ve seen some ugly things, and I’ve survived them. I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I’ve evolved into something wiser, quicker, stronger, and more assured. I have power and value beyond my ability to satisfy someone else’s needs. I sometimes falter, but I know this.

I’m better now. Happier. Free of constant shaming. Free of control. Of always being wrong to him, being told I have terrible morals and am making wrong choices. I’m free of not being allowed to hang out with my friends without retribution. Of being yelled at for scheduling my own doctor appointments without asking permission. I am free.

But I also wake up in the hospital bed alone. There is no one to sleep in the chair overnight. No one to hold me while I drift in and out, bandaged and bleeding, No one placing a stuffed animal in my arms and telling me they love me. Today, I am my strongest, fullest self I ever have been…

But in these moments, waiting for the terrible things that will help or hurt me, waiting for the days of liquid food and throwing up in garbage cans, waiting for my eighth, ninth, and tenth surgical scars… I am lonely.

They tell me I can’t wear my red lipstick in the OR, but I need to feel strong, more than just a piece of meat and a compilation of statistics, so I paint all of my nails black and shiny.

I am powerful, I tell myself.

When I wake up at 3am to take the two anti-microbial showers, I am strong.
When I can’t eat for days and have to drink a gallon of chalk, I am strong.
When I spend the days bleeding and sleeping, I am strong.

 
And when I wake up with no uterus, I’ll be alone. But alone with the smallest hope, the belief planted inside me that I have to hang on to – that I am still good enough, whole enough, to be loved.

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Snowflakes

I think it’s been about five years, and people still ask about you.

I think it’s been five years because I don’t count.  I’ve never counted.  I try not think about it at all.

When I do try to talk about you, I never know where to begin. The first time I saw you and we locked eyes across a common hall packed full of students too young to drink?  Or… your mouth pressed to mine on the balcony in that little town in Spain, high above the world or… that time you got down on one knee and pulled out your grandmother’s ring.

Everyone wants the story, and for once in my life, I don’t know what to say.

I knew you better, and I loved you harder, than anything before or since.  I’m still trying to write about you, where do I ever begin.

***

When we were living in New England, we raced to the top of the hill in the snow, only to have three busses pass us by and leave us shouting, cursing in the slush.  In the nine months I’ve lived here I have grown to hate blizzards, public transit, and the ever growing hole in my left boot that I still can’t afford to replace.

We stood there, growing later for work by the minute, shivering in the dull February morning.  I looked up into the grey sky, all doey eyed California girl, and remark to him on how the snow looks like little jagged chunks.  It only snowed once every other year or so when I was a child, I said. I’ve never really had the chance to see it closely.

He grins, feigning disbelief.  “My American baby,” he says, laughing.  I tell him to shut up as he hooks his arm around my back and draws me to him.

“Here.”

He scrapes my collar with his credit card, and holds it up for me.  I am twenty six years old.  I have never seen a snowflake.  I stare at it, all tiny and perfect as he holds me to him with his other arm – and I can feel him – warm in 10 degrees below zero, warm in the slush up our calves, warm through the two overcoats, three sweaters, and four shirts between us.

I am beaming.  I am full of love.

Windows

I want to go to his house and break all his windows.  I want to take everything that means anything to him, and curb stomp it into the ground.  I want to punch him in the stomach a thousand times, until he finally hurts as much as I do, and when he does he will cry out and say “Little bee, I had no idea, I’m so, so sorry.”

And he will remember he loves me.  He will will wrap his arms around me, we will cry together, and everything will be the same again.

But they won’t.

And they never, ever will.

Birthday to You.

I hate planning birthdays.

I just hate it.  I don’t like the stress of having to plan a whole party and make sure it goes well when all I want to do is relax and have fun.  I worry if everyone has enough ice.  I don’t like the fact that half the people who RSVP flake and I spend my lunch breaks reversing and revising the sushi reservation eighteen times.  I don’t like getting older anymore.  I guess I’ve hit that limit.

But I have Ash.  And Ash simply says things like, “I’m free on Saturday, it’s your birthday, see you then.”

As generous and sweet as she is ravenous and ridiculous, Ash shows up with cupcakes you didn’t order and a tiara you don’t want to wear because it is your birthday goddammit and you will enjoy it despite yourself.  Thank god for Ash, where would be without friends like her.

I get the feeling that my tough time planning celebrations harkens back to an ugly history of feeling let down.  Sometimes it just takes a kind hand to guide you and remind you that you’re not a kid anymore, you’re more resilient than you used to be, and regardless of what anyone else does, someone will show up with a damn tiara.  It’s your birthday.

It’s only been two weeks since the last time I spoke to Eddy.  Fourteen days is not a long time to grieve before having to go out and celebrate.  But Ash insists, so I’m insisting to myself, that I’ll have a good time.  Right now I’m just thinking that I have nothing to wear for this damn party.  I have felt out of place in all of my clothes since I lost the ability to wear heels.  My strength was in my extra five inches.  I’ve never been quite sure who I am closer to the ground.  But suddenly, as I’m pushing apart hangers, I am struck by the red dress I had picked out back in December.  The one I knew Eddy wouldn’t like, but I bought it anyway, because it was the first thing I’d found since I’d gotten sick that made me feel like I might still be beautiful.  I was going to wear it just for him, but now that it’s my body, my life, I’m pulling it out.    Life is far too short, and the red dress needs wearing.

The girls come up in a laughing, giggling swarm.  We tumble and swirl around the apartment, the old familiar energy I love.  The frenetic clash of curling irons and blush brushes, the leaning and bending into mirrors, the last eyelash curl before the taxis show up.  The lightness and the love.

Someone tells me I look beautiful, and even in my flat shoes with my hip donut, I somehow, crazily, feel a little beautiful.

We go out to sushi.  I remember this place.  Two weeks into dating Eddy, in the alley here he’d pushed me up against my car, kissing me until we pulled apart laughing, discovering black all over the backs of my calves from the wheel well.  I remember, but my new memories, stronger and searing and expanding by the second, are starting to eat the old.  We reach across each other for more edamame.  We curse chopsticks and shoot more sake.  We swap and taste and tell stories over miso soup.  I am happy.

The lights dim, and suddenly everyone is singing to me.  Ash has a point.  No matter how many years you may do it, there’s something special about people going out of their way to show you love.  I put the damn tiara on while they bring out a giant boat made of fruit.

When dinner’s over we trip back to mine for sweatpants, cupcakes, and card games.  I decide to make a move.  I plunge into my closet and grab Eddy’s birthday present, a sushi and sake set.  He had mentioned in passing several times over the summer how he had wanted one, and after raiding everywhere from Sawtelle to Little Tokyo, I determined nothing in Los Angeles was quite special enough for this man, and (way over my budget) had a set of four cups and plates handmade by a potter.  I have this weird thing with redeeming objects.  If I’m stuck with something that reminds me of you, I can’t get over it until I purge it.  If I can’t bring myself to purge it, I have to somehow make it right.

“Pour them out.” I say, setting the cups on the table.  Chloe, always prepared, has brought a bottle of sake.  Leave it to that girl to expect me to be brave.

“I knew you had it in you.”

“Just hush and let me sip one, I didn’t take my meds today.”

We laugh.  We share.  It was a work of art.  Far too beautiful to smash into the ground (Chloe’s original idea) it has a presence all it’s own.  I thought it was so precise, so exact, that it could only ever be meant for him, and what good was it otherwise?  It seemed wrong to regift something so carefully measured out and planned for someone else.  As it turns out, a room full of girls laughing and holding every piece seemed to soak the pain right out.  Redemption, right?  It all feels good.

It’s at this point that I remember the one thing I still have to get rid of.  He’s off my phone, out of my photographs, and away from my bed, but I still have these damn wine glasses.  The ones he bought each time he took me to a wine tasting.  His thing.  His thing that blew it all up.

“Who wants to smash some glasses tonight?!?”

And I know it sounds ridiculous, but we’re doing the only thing in the world that makes sense.  Trust me, it’s my birthday.  We march out of the apartment, down the stairs and to the car park, armed with glasses inscribed with the names of each and every place I want to forget.  I feel enlightened and I feel powerful and I feel – CRASH!  And the first glass shatters into the dumpster.  I jump, then I laugh, and as we keep going, I get lost in the giggle, the flurry, the buzz of love around me.

There is nothing else in this bedroom neighborhood but Saturday silence.

But here, in my home, there is the sound of girls with curled hair and false eyelashes, stumbling in high heels and short dresses, gasping, screaming – smashing memories into oblivion as we laugh into the night.

Doorways.

He isn’t the type to show up in your doorway, and that’s a good thing.

When I watch the wrong movie and the man tells the woman he respects her for her tenacity and strength, and that he wants her to be successful because she’s earned it, I cry; he doesn’t come.

When the janitor at work buys me flowers on my birthday that should have come from him, because she still loves me, but he doesn’t anymore, he doesn’t come.

When the rain hits the California ground for the first and only time all winter, not even enough to banish the edges of the drought, but enough to finally wash away the heart he drew with his fingertip on my driver’s side window, he doesn’t come.

He isn’t the type to show up in your doorway.

His pride is more important.  He will tell himself, and he’ll tell me, that it’s maturity.  He will save me, really, from the back and forth; the wavering, heart sucking, gut-wrenching act of pulling myself out of his arms, knowing somewhere deep down that in the end, all he’ll do is throw back a few too many and shatter me into a thousand pieces just like every time before.  His pride is saving me from suffering of a greater kind.  I know that.

And he doesn’t come.  And he doesn’t come.

And at two am I am up in the living room.

And he doesn’t come.

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The field on which


I hated the way you said I had no “values” because I see people with compassion.  Because I believe love has solved more problems than condemning ever has.  Because I believe your version of justice would leave the world with blank eye sockets and toothless gums, choking down their own teeth.

I hated the way you thought that being an upstanding citizen meant looking down on everyone who had it less together than you did.  That if you learned a lesson two years ago you were better than the person learning it today.  That I must be basking in secret sin to be capable of forgiving anyone I saw committing it.  That I was tempting fate by not treating those who have failed with scorn.

I hated how you actually used the term “that guy” constantly.  As in, “I’m not that guy” whenever discussing behavior you felt was beneath you, because as we all know, there are nice guys, and there are douchebags, and you sir, because you don’t smoke or chew or go with girls that do, are a nice guy, and are deserving of a virginal white princess.  If a girl deigns to stir emotions within you (or show an inch more of skin than you have secretly deemed appropriate) she is a slut and a bitch.  It’s better to say, “I’m not that guy” any time I offer solid solutions to proactively work around my illness or urge you to take time off with just the boys, rather than take me up on it and relax for a second.  Better to resist and insist to the point of being insulted, then throw it back in my face six months later.  That’ll teach me.

Since I’m a liar, and faking all of these hospital visits and needles in my spine, I’m probably just a few more hits short of spontaneous healing, so why keep pulling punches, sweetie?  Just let ’em fly.

I sometimes want to beat myself up for not seeing through you, but I am not a mind reader, a soothsayer, or a ghostbuster; and you are quite the genius masquerader, self convincer, and pious martyr.  Glorious be thy name.

A tip of the hat, sir.  You are quite the specimen.

I woke up with a sore shoulder yesterday, because I sleep horizontally on the bed now.  That’s how fucking gone you are.