Battle Scars

There’s battle scars on all my guitars but I still come out here and play – Ozma

At this point, I’ve given up on the idea that any one of these surgeries will cure me.  When people smile and say lovely things like, “It’s so great, after this surgery you’ll be better!”  I smile and agree politely, sighing inside, anticipating the pity and disappointment that will follow when it doesn’t work.  After ten doctors and two years of promises, you grow weary, and wary, of hope.  You just can’t afford it anymore.

My new pain management team tells me to keep my chin up.

“I know it’s been two years now, and you’ve probably been sliced and diced twelve ways to the wind, but stick with it. Pelvic pain is notoriously difficult to diagnose.  Keep with it.”

They are encouraging, but I am exhausted.  I have been sliced, diced, filleted, split open, parts removed, cauterised, injected, hospitalized, had my hip capsule pierced by a needle and my insides pumped full of botox.  I am so, so tired.

My body, for the last two years, has been completely out my control.  And while I have somewhat adapted, learning to relinquish my will in each defeat and go with the flow, I hurt; feeling as if I’ve lost myself while pain dictates where I go, how I dress, who I see.  At some point, I stopped shopping for clothing.  I realized I couldn’t control the weight I kept gaining and losing on all the medications, I couldn’t wear heels, I never felt sexy anymore.  Dressing became a hateful burden.  I despise my body for doing this to me.  How can you lovingly adorn something you can’t stand to look at?

My identity continued to shrink as I moved out of my apartment.  I lived with caretakers here, friends or a boyfriend there.  Another surgery I didn’t plan on.  Another doctor in another town.  Another month without a home to call my own.  At some point I started living out of just a duffel bag.  Shuffling from place to place, grateful for a place to lay my head but reduced to something a little less than human.  Feeling like everyone in proximity is functioning on a higher level, and me, a prisoner to my pain, washing the three T-shirts I live in, sleeping in a borrowed bed.

My body, that monstrous betrayer, that son of a bitch, has been put through the wringer for it’s sins.  As such, it bears the marks of the excruciating journey.  A scar on the inside of my arm where they botched the IV.  Three large round holes in my right hip from the arthroscopy, three rips down my stomach from laproscopic surgery, a gash across my pelvis when they realized I was too damaged for the lap.  They cut me open, peeled my congealed organs off each other, cut out six tumors, and sewed me up.

I feel ugly.  I put on a bikini and the red and purple scars scream the story of my brokenness inside.  I dye my hair so I can pretend to be someone else.  I hide.  I don’t speak up for myself.  I hope, for the first time in  my life, to be invisible.  All these scars, these ugly scars.  I take off my clothes and stand in the mirror, wondering who in the world would ever want to look at this ugly, ruined body.  Between the curve of my waist and the tops of my legs, I have been neatly ripped apart and pulled together so many times that I look and feel like a raggedy doll, repaired and restitched over and over and over again.

I remember my last surgery: I wake up with a start and call out for someone to notice me.  The nurses come and adjust the tubes and hoses, the stuffed animal placed in my arm.  They give me morphine and tell me I’ve been talking gibberish.  I hadn’t washed my hair, so frizzy, haphazard curls swirl awkwardly around my face.  I am ghostly pale and blotchy with acne from the hormones, my lips chapped and dry, a tube up my nose and a catheter between my legs.  I am bound up in bloody bandages.

He is the first to come see me, and when he does, he gently pushes the frizz out of my face, and kisses my forehead. Careful of the tube in my nose, he touches my cheek as he looks at me.  The first, and only words he says:

“Hello, Beautiful.”

And I feel in my bones there is strength to keep going. That there is a chance left in me to love.

Young Love

I should preface this by saying I’m too old for this now, and I need to stop staying up way past my bedtime, but I can’t help it.  Maybe it’s something about wandering around, barefoot on linoleum in men’s pajama pants that gets my creative juices flowing.  This is the time of night where I’ll eat six things that don’t go together and really enjoy myself; a bowl of cereal, fritos with salsa, some leftover sweet potatoes.

It sounded good at the time

I don’t know how my mind wanders to these places when I’m sleepy, but I got to thinking about a conversation I had earlier about the crushes I had when I was a kid.  At the tender age of ten, I fell madly in love with an angelic and symmetrically featured Denzel Washington during a screening of The Preacher’s Wife.  At eight, reruns of Back to the Future kept me glued to our television throughout the commercial breaks, ever anxious that I’d miss a glimpse of Michael J. Fox in a cool orange vest.  At six, I adoringly admired Harrison Ford while trying to stay up late on the couch beside my father, who was dutifully indoctrinating me with a love of Indiana Jones, although perhaps not quite the kind of love he’d hoped for.

One could say I was a bit of a precocious child when it came to love, but one would be wrong.

Case in point, when I was four, I was absolutely, positively certain that I was going to marry one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Don’t ask me how.  While not assured about the legality or formality of such a union, at four I figured, “It’ll work itself out.”.  I’m not sure how I got this idea into my four year old head in the first place, but my guess is that it may have had something to do with the fact that you’ve got better odds with four to choose from.  After all, in the end, only one of them could pin down the ever elusive April O’Neil, leaving three for me to choose from.  Well, two if she doesn’t choose Donatello.  Because come on, who freaking likes Donatello?

I think I had a hard time choosing between Raphael and Michelangelo.  Looking back, this makes a lot of sense because even at that point, they represented pretty major facets of my personality.  Raphael of course is cool but crude.  Awesomely sarcastic and slightly agro but only masking a fierce loyalty to the brothers green.  Michaelangelo is a party dude, and who can resist the allure of that?  Leonardo was all right, but he was kind of like the Red Power Ranger.  He just…. leads… for some reason we have yet to understand.  Still, better than Donatello.  Donatello is the Peter Chris of the Ninja Turtles.

I can’t say exactly how this obsession faded.  I never liked barbies or baby dolls and just sifted my way through Hot Wheels, Play-Doh, and unrealistic love interests over time.  What I can say is that since then I’ve moved on to bigger and better things.  Next up, Zach Morris.

Turtle Power!   I mean….

Run

Airports.

They’re all well and good and exciting until you’ve got a four hour delay ahead of you.  Stuck elbows deep in poorly made frappacinos and rumpled US Weekly’s… I am waiting for the plane to touch down.

I’m on the phone, arguing with the latest entry in a long line of mistakes.  My fingers turning cold from nervously running around the rim of a tall iced tea for the better part of an hour; the strangers pressing, forcing forward against the black tape that separates them from their loved ones, holding off for touchdown.  From back near the Starbucks they look like an impatient ocean.  Swelling in ebbs and flows.  Waiting.

Everyone is tired, hungry, bored, and probably writhing in anticipation.  We’ve been waiting all day on an international flight.  We have agendas with old loved ones and near strangers, and I am peeling the whites from my fingernails.

I hang up the phone.

There’s a previous flight that touches down, full of someones from somewhere.  The ocean bursts forward in an explosion.  It’s chaos.  People are screaming out in languages I don’t recognize.  The flight attendants are shoving people back behind the lines, a man with an accent is being dragged towards the door by the police, but in the midst of it it… there’s this girl.

The girl in the red shoes.

She can’t be more than twenty.  She’s probably not even eighteen.  And her arms are hung tight around a boy, face pressed into his chest.  His head is down, nose in her hair, and the bags at their feet, the noise, the crowd…. they’re forgotten.  I can see her body heave a sigh that carries out with it all the time she’d been waiting.

Slowly the ocean of travelers calms.  The girl in the red mary janes picks up one of the boy’s bags and smiles.  The airport is as it was and the people come and go.  I am still waiting for VS107.

I can feel the weight of her happiness lingering in the room – that particular joy, that youthful brand of crazy – and suddenly I wonder if anyone saw her but me, and if anybody cared.  I stare back at anxious crowd and wonder why it’s so rare to see anyone much older that she is running forward, falling into someone’s arms with tears or excitement or passion.  Maybe really, truthfully, I’m not wondering about the state anybody’s in but me.  I’d like to believe it’s still inside me.  The excitement, the abandonment.  To F* all the world when you see what you want.  To rush towards it with open arms and let yourself rest in it.  Emptied out and safe.  I’d like to think it’s still there.

I toss the last of my drink and join the ocean.  Forty-five minutes later my toes are giving out for standing high on them to see over the crowd, and I’m wondering if I should just give up and wait outside.  I’m too small to see over the swell.  The crowd is pressing forward and the airline employees start to rush against the tide.  I bite my lip, near resignation, edging towards the door…

Until I get the smallest glimpse of the person I’m waiting for, and my feet can’t carry me fast enough… the world starts sliding past me, as I break into a run.

Nineteen

The first time I heard this song, you were stretched out on your back in the emptied out shell of Charlie’s van.  The three of us had stayed out all night, and come sun up, bleary-eyed and drunk on adventure, you were driving me back to my dorm room.  Lying down in the spot where the chairs should have been but weren’t, you had your eyes shut and were mouthing the words along to the music with this smile on your face.  I had never heard the song before, but instantly felt lovely – overwhelmed in some confusing, ridiculous, catastrophic teenage emotion that really, I still don’t understand.  Ten years later, give or take…. to this very day; any time I hear it, I imagine you silently mouthing the words in the back of a van, and me, nineteen and stupid, twisting around from the front seat to look at you, smiling at your quiet lipsync as the two of you ride us towards home.

Things I Learned When I was 21

A few weeks before my twenty second birthday, I decided to write a list of the things I had learned in the previous year.  Year after year I look back to this list, and laugh not only at how true it remains, but how reflective it is of being precisely twenty one years old.  It was a time of discovery and stupidity.  I had a lot of both.  I like to re-post this each year to remind myself of where I was, and where I’m going.

THINGS I LEARNED WHEN I WAS TWENTY-ONE

Wherever I go, there I am. Disappointing, but true.

The best way to get free ANYTHING is to go out dressed as a naughty nurse.

Working full time and simultaneously attending school full time is the death of everything you hold dear. Only do that if you enjoy watching all of your health, sanity, and relationships deteriorate.

Travel. Travel travel travel. There is so much world out there and you can’t die knowing that you didn’t bother with most of it. Go get you some.

Drinking a third of a bottle of Jäger in a bathroom stall will not necessarily make you vomit, but downing a Guinness immediately afterwards will probably put you over the edge.

Hot tubs, S’mores, margaritas, high heels, bikinis, and my girls are the stuff dreams are made of.

It isn’t worth seeing the greatest sights in the world with people who don’t care about you, it’s a wasted opportunity for a grand adventure.   Experience life with those who love you, otherwise it’s not worth living.

Mono sucks. I mean really really really sucks.

Love is in the touch of a friend.

If you see your ex’s parents, be super nice to them. What goes around comes around.

Garages can be comfy places to live. Better than cars anyway. Make friends with spiders.

Double Decker busses, like everything else in life, will only get old if you let them.

My mom is an all-seeing, all knowing being.

It shouldn’t be too scary being who you really are, because those that love you best, love you no matter what you do, say, believe, or don’t believe.

Europe really is everything it’s cracked up to be.

Body boarding might rip your nose ring out, but it’s still totally worth it.

Every good relationship should have a million inside jokes, including but not limited to barn animal names, salty nut sundaes, Scrumsquatullating, “Space chair”, putting Johnny Depp in Princess Sophia for a little ride, and bumpin’ knees with nacho cheese.

Change is inevitable, and often painful. Buck up. Run into it with fists flying and make it suit you. Embrace that which you don’t understand because it still happens to be what you’ve got. If all else fails, buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, get your cat, call a friend, and watch a movie with explosions instead of a romance.

Nothing compares to a lazy day spent laughing over old family guy episodes while drinking beer and eating pizza with your favorite British person.

Tanning beds give you cancer, but even your parents will tell you that you look great.

Catching bouquets at weddings should be avoided at all costs. Even if they hit you in the chest.

It turns out the best thing my momma ever taught me was that you can get upgraded tires with a delicate mixture of tears and cleavage. Thanks mom.

Don’t kiss everyone you know on New Years just because it’s New Years. January 2nd, things might feel awkward.

College has a four year way of neatly wrapping itself up. Bands break up, friends get married, and everyone starts packing.

Mistakes are just that. Mistakes. Tattoos on the other hand, are permanent etchings on your body.

Your ex-boyfriends are your EX-boyfriends for a reason.

You will get hurt, badly, playing football in a hallway.

It’s bad to make the same mistake over and over expecting that it will work out well this time.

Family is the best thing to ever happen to me.

Mayonnaise on french fries actually isn’t all that bad.

The dorms are all fun and games until you’ve been living there for four years. Free rent can only get you so far.

Politicians, the guy who fixes my tires, and the ring finger on my right hand are crooked. There are some things we all just have to learn how to live with.

Everyone should find a person who will have adventures with them and cling to that person for the rest of their life. The mundane is a slow and painful death. Creativity is like a sunrise every second.

Nobody should ever have to live anywhere without access to, or the ability to make a little music.

It’s a bad idea to admit what you’re thinking most of the time. It’s only going to get you into trouble.

School is just not that important.

Laughing loud enough to get kicked out of somewhere is a GOOD thing.

Always live somewhere that has a bathroom.

Butt charades is an effective means of communication.

Plastic purses can effectively carry all the sand you might ever want from the beach to your dorm room.

Studio apartments =   

Long distance relationships =   :<

No bar in America truly knows how to make a snakebite.

Fanny means vagina in England.

The best things in life are free, but it costs a lot in gas money and airplane tickets to get to those things.  😉

Want

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”

― Jack Kerouac

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I want the smell of skin, hands in my hair, my head on the pillow. I want the twisting, pulling of it.

I want.

I want.

Last weekend I went to a museum with a boy and we had that conversation. We talked about that particular person who can make you stay in one room for five days straight – who makes you fail all of your classes.

I came home from my semester in England with a string of F’s that I managed to swap for withdrawals. He was the Yoko to my Lennon. He loved me, I loved him, and together – we destroyed the Beatles. Five years later, after putting a ring on my finger, he also effectively destroyed my life as I knew it.

The boy at the museum said, “It sounds so … “young.” And it is young. Can desire exist in a contained space without sucking out all the air? I’d like to think I can choose to not let the world waste away but still hate to leave you to go to work in the morning. I’d like to think I could call in sick when I’m not sick, just once. I’d like to think that despite the foresight to know better, the lip biting, heart aching taste of it is just on the tip of my tongue. Just a whisper out of reach.

Sure, you can be older and wiser. But what about younger, braver, bursting at the seams. Kerouac, of course, reminds us that this supposed greatness is little more than burning the candle at both ends. Even the man we espouse as this icon of youthful wandering eventually gave up life on the road to become a celebrated author who lived in one stationary place. The “roman candles” he wrote about fucked off to be nobody in particular.

I am not quite twenty eight years old. And besides, it almost killed me once already. I should have grown out of this by now.

But do we really grow out of it? Or do we teach ourselves to be satisfied with the comfortable instead of the kinetic. The timid instead of the tantalizing.

I am a bundle of nerve endings. All lips and tongue and fingertips. I am alone in the vastness of all the not knowing, waiting in the darkness for something to spark.

One.

Every mother has one story about each child that, over and over, they still love to tell. In this one, I am standing in the grocery store, maybe four years old – up to her knees or so – and I tug on her jeans.

“Mommy! Mom! Moooooom!” I say, eyes full and round.

She crouches down to my tiny level, cream cheese in one hand and lunch meat in the other, and as she does I throw my arms around her neck and breathe in deep.

“Mommy,” I say, “I would know you in the dark. You smell so good.”

It’s something a child that small would say. It is earnest and endearing, because it is honest.  Because it is true.

I wonder what it is that makes us feel that kind of tethered connection to another person. One could argue that it’s biological. That we know those joined to us through twisting strands of DNA, cavorting in the minutia of space. One could argue that it’s emotional. That we form a bond by choice, by desire, by proximity and repetition. That we nurture our decisions to follow through. That once we’ve chosen something, we feel the need to back it up, regardless of how illogical or nonsensical it might truly be. We’re hooked, reel us in. It’s too late.

The neurons in our brains, they dance. But they like to dance the dances they know. They look crappy trying out new shit on the dance floor. Maybe we’re just replicating the past in endless loops of static electricity, failing to notice that it’s all just rhythm with no reason at all.

My friend Shanna likes to look at the world as energy, all connected, moving in force to and away from itself. She says that we don’t know why we feel it, but we feel it. It’s how your mother knows when your broccoli goes bad and your heart is broken. It’s the reason your married ex-boyfriend texts you out of the blue after two years of dead air, when you’ve only recently stopped thinking of him. They do, in a way, have radar. Energy moved away from them, and although they don’t know why, even though there could have been years of silence between you, they suddenly felt a loss. The clip of a string, a free flying corner in the breeze. The weightiness of you is gone. They can feel it.

I don’t know if I buy that crap.

My married ex boyfriend texted me because he was drunk on a Thursday. My mom knows my broccoli is bad because I’m always emptying and filling my fridge with sporadic fervor and no sense of due process. There are reasons, I say. It’s logical, mathematical even. Read a book, I say. Duh.

My heart never presents it’s arguments in complete sentences. Allowing me to amble onwards with a quiet ache, though pain and subtlety, it warns my body that something isn’t right. A tiny, persistent wonder, a needing to touch and be touched. I can hardly stand to admit it, that despite all of my arguing and rationalizing, I feel it. My tiny hope that there a line to grasp. That there is something to hang onto in the panic of the deep.

For a year and a half, desire seemed impossible. Everything was scorched and barren. Everything tasted like ash. But now, peeking from the depths of a heart that speaks to me in silence, I know a part of me is still waiting. That I feel a blind, mad hope. That despite everything I’ve been through, despite everything my mind tells me is true, my heart feels a tug from a cord, even though I have no idea what lays pulling at the end of it.

I am groping around in the mess of things, blind. Feeling my way desperately towards something that feels like home.

When everything is peaceful. When I am still within myself. When I lay with him in the quietness of it, satisfied in silence, I’ll know it. I’ll reach across the counterpane of the sheets; my fingers will find his.

And I’ll say to him “I knew you. I found you in the dark.”