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.

Fall

I’ve been doing everything I possibly can not to write about you.

I shut down my computer.  I make more plans.  I thwart my own desire to write.

I don’t tell friends your name, I won’t introduce you.  I put your flowers on the coffee table and stuffed the hand written note into the top left drawer of my dresser. Then suddenly, in a moment of recklessness, yanked it out and put it in my purse.

Unbeknownst to you, for the last two weeks I’ve been carrying your words, your crooked k’s and i’s dotted far to the left, everywhere I go. I know I’m falling for you. I’m fighting it every step of the god damned way.

IMG_0003

Art. Cynicism.

Travis comes to visit me, but I’m blue, and I’m lousy company.  I shrug, and apologize for being in the doldrums.

“My body is broken and so is my heart.  That’s all I’ve got going on right now, and I don’t want to bore anyone with it.”

He tells me that people aren’t bored by me, and that everything has just happened, and is still happening, and really though, it’s ok.  I breathe out a sigh and let all my feelings of inherent failure out with it.

“I never knew what to expect for the future, you know?  I wasn’t a kid with a plan, ‘I’ll be a teacher, or a social worker, or an engineer.’  I never wanted kids, but I thought eventually, I’d love someone, they’d love me back, and we’d stick together.  Or I’d have a successful job that I truly loved.  I just figured by the time I was this old, I’d know at least one thing.”

“People are assholes.  That’s a thing.”

God bless Travis.  He can always make me smile.

Travis hates museums.  Just absolutely hates them.  But because I can’t sit down, hang gliding is too expensive, the zoo is forty minutes away, and the universe seems to hate him, I manage to convince Travis that we should go to MOCA, and check out contemporary art.

I love contemporary art because it can be horrible.  I love it because I neither feel the need to enjoy it or respect it.  I can love it, hate it, be completely transfixed, or call it a piece of dogshit (which it might literally be) and go on with my day.  I enjoy wielding this power.  There is an hour long video of someone chainsawing a post.  There’s a room full of sinister clowns weeping in terror over a dead naked body.  My favorite, however, is a disco ball sitting on top of a cheap orange wig in the middle of the floor.  That’s it.  That’s the entire fucking installation.  I’m feeling bad for the saps who volunteer to spend their days guarding these abominations for fear we might touch them.

In one room we enter, it’s dark, full of couches and sledgehammers.  There are headphones for us to listen in and a video projecting on the wall.  We listen.  Teenage girls’ faces turn blue, then pink, screaming, cracking mirrors, looking vapid, talking about denim and makeup and boys in high pitched autotuned, sped up voices.  I yank the headphones off and turn to Travis.

“Ugh,” I say, “It’s like…. dating.”

The guard at the door loses it.  Just loses it.  Doubles over and grabs his knees, laughing out loud.

“You need to stop dating in Los Angeles,” says Travis.

He’s right, and we both know it.  So we do what any reasonable, single people pushing thirty in the city would do.

We leave immediately, and go get beer.

NYE

Three… two… one…  And the room goes wild.

He kisses me.  He tastes like you think a man should.  His arms are wrapped around me, clutching my back to shield me from the crowd.  We are pressed tight, an ocean of champagne and shouting.

He downs the last of an enormous beer, crashes the glass to the ground, and rides us through the crowd, throwing elbows to get to the door.  He has flown across an ocean to be here, and I am lost in something adolescent and amorous.  It’s perfect.

Stumbling out of an Irish Pub in Boston, I grip his arm in the darkness.  We laugh and slip in terror, gliding over the ice.

He climbs into bed.  With his shirt off and my hand on his chest, I breathe a sigh of relief.  Our faces close in the darkness, I am still.  The awareness of his skin, his heartbeat on my fingertips, the smell of him in the air – tells me that he’s really here.  After nearly six years, he’s here.  And when I wake in the morning I won’t be counting down the days to the next plane ticket, wondering if he’ll ever be here again.

I sleep.

I sleep clean through the freezing night.

Away We Go

We’re having a beer at the pub, and me being me, I’m being an asshole.  Other than a brief flirt at an alumni event, I hadn’t seen Kyle in about a month.  I’d skipped town, and he’d facebooked me, asking to hang out while I was surfing in Central America.

“You were ridiculous,” I chide him, and grin.  “You knew I was going to be gone.  Are you high?”

“Well, I couldn’t.” He says.

“Couldn’t what?”

“I couldn’t, you know, let you think you went to Costa Rica for two weeks and I didn’t care.”

I hadn’t expected that.  I smile.

“Well,” – And I’m feeling bolder – “If it makes you feel any better, I did go to the mixer with the intention of flirting with you.  My boss said, ‘Really?  An alumni mixer?’ and I said ‘I’m gonna flirt with a guy from summer school!  I have a plan!’.”

He grins.  “Sealed the deal for me.  Abbie Cooper’s going?  Done.”

There’s a blush of something, and we’re touching under the table.  And I don’t know what the hell feelings are, because it’s been so long, but I think these are feelings.

And then there’s a spark.  We walk from the pub and I turn on my heels, short pressed up against him.  “I think you should kiss me,” I say, “I know you want to.”  And he does.  He does and up on my toes I feel the universe wake up again.  The power lines buzz and the punks of Venice run down main street, but there is no one else in the world, nothing but electric. Nothing at all.

“Let’s find a place.”

We sit, my bare legs across his lap, and we can’t keep our hands off each other or our faces apart.  It’s bad.  We know it.  “We should get out of here,” I giggle, “They hate us.”.  But we can’t stop.  Whispering.  Leaning in.  He has a hand between my knees and I’m breathing onto his neck, telling secrets in his ear.  There is nothing but electric.  Nothing at all.

There is vodka and electric.  There is sin in the air.

“Let’s get out of here.”

It’s too much, I think.  It’s too much and it’s too fast.  But I’m lost in the blur.  I feel something.  It isn’t love, but it’s something.  And we should wait but we can’t wait and it’s in the darkness and –  and his hand pulls behind my back, into him, and we move, quiet.  Then laughing, kissing, pulling back; embarrassed, scared, unsure, but wanting.

In the morning, he asks me not to go, but I have to.  Okay, I don’t have to.  Okay, but I’m saying I have to because it’s too soon to act like I have nowhere else to be.  He kisses me goodbye, and it’s only then I realize it’s the first time I’ve kissed an unfamiliar mouth in about four years.

The morning moves on, I visit my friends, I have my day.  But I’m bursting from the inside out.  At night it’s quiet, it’s dark in my room, and then I hear my phone.

“You should be here,” He says, “I would like that.”

And I try to sleep, but I can’t.  There is neon buzzing in my veins.  Electric, electric, electric.

There we go.

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.

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.  😉