(an excerpt from a memoir in vignettes)
1. gray hair
I love things that show their age. I grew up in hand-me-downs and still dress myself almost entirely in what I can hunt from clothing swaps and thrift stores. I cherish my crow’s feet and count laugh lines. When a friend’s heavy head of hair started graying in her early twenties, I wanted to comb through every strand of the thick mass for the pieces in a brand-new color, unruly evidence of the body’s latest shifts. If I had met you before the front corner of your dark blonde mane sprouted gray and white, it would have been too soon.
As a toddler, they predicted my adult height by doubling my current size and estimated I would reach six feet tall. I waited for my legs, beloved by my grandmother, to grow to statuesque proportions, to become the Brooke Shields she saw in me. She wanted me to play basketball. I stopped growing at twelve, at five feet seven. Some say I appear taller. Maybe because I have owned heels since age ten. I have always wanted to be a grand visible thing. Maybe I’m not grown, I’m just waiting for someone who will say they want more of me.
3. hugging at a sandy beach
You let me see your softness. Invite me to hold it. I marvel at your ability to share yourself widely, yet save this singular part of you for me. What I find between our edges is so abundant, it makes a table for others to eat at. Your soft is the moment alone, swaying together to a song in your head, to laughter through the open window. It is the unexpected instant you lock eyes with me to lip sync the hook. Your soft is where my fist fits inside. The satisfaction of being made exceptional dissolves me to sea.
4. your beauty
I become hyper-vigilant when I imagine having children—not yet born but already endangered. You say I’m always awake—you can never catch me sleeping. I might as well be a mother. The world might as well end. Over dinner your friend tells me why space colonization is logical. I want to argue that we don’t deserve to leave this planet, but I can’t explain it without sounding like I want to punish everyone for global warming. What I really want is to live with pleasure and bring bodies onto this earth who are too grounded to need more planets.
I was decorated in bows in kindergarten pictures, my straight sheet of hair clipped tight in a severe side part; the soft-colored ribbon billowing high above my head. How did my Spartan mother choose this embellishment for my head? For once, had she indulged me something frivolous I wanted? I wanted to be ador(n)ed. She was a box-dyed redhead in those days—the closest thing to a beauty regimen I remember her adopting. What did it mean to her to have a daughter? To raise a gap-toothed string bean fairy creature headed for breasts, hips, for waiting eyes and hands.
6. white tiles
The hotel bathroom has white and black marble that crawls up the walls. When I packed my suitcase for an L.A. weekend, the bright flimsy garments looked so good I worried I would want to stay. Instead I thought, “Hello, yucky,” when I landed through the smog, and I didn’t bother looking out the window in the cab. When you called, you were drunk in the best way possible. “Just so you know, I don’t want to move to California,” you announced. I saw our forevers align. I woke up in a cold sweat wanting to love you that long.
My mom once promised me that no matter what I had done, it would be better if I told her the truth. Her response to honest mistakes had so much force, I did not dare to test her claim. On Easter, I came home with a basket of pastel grass and marshmallows from dad and his new girlfriend. I shared this brightly, my tremulous smile aching with candy, as if faking normalcy could make it so. In an uncommonly quiet voice, she instructed me not to mention his girlfriend again. What she meant by “honesty,” was always muddy after that.
I find the batteries dead in the electronic keypad, the glass front door mistakenly unlocked. My heart pounds as I creep through every room of the house, anticipating your valuables vanished. I just came to water your plants. Miraculously, the only one raiding your house is me, speaking to the orchids. After laying ice cubes in every dirt bed, I press my nose into the worn clothes hanging in your closet, nestling into the chest of your blue shirt like the first night I undid your buttons. I pace like your anxious pet and find a spot on the floor.
The first time I turned bottle blonde, I felt so perfect I swore I would never go back. If I was an adult earlier I would have been Betsey Johnson or Cyndi Lauper. It’s harder to figure out who I am in the unwritten now. You asked me if men hit on me often, and I thought, “What men?” Almost everyone I know is a woman. When men approach me, they turn invisible. I avoid their thoughts. But in L.A. my blonde mane felt revered, lent stature, which seemed ironic because shouldn’t I completely vanish in the sea of bleach?
I am still embarrassed by being seen sometimes, despite my hunger for it. If we mutually own each other, if we are consensual trophies, would that somehow queer the idea, or is possession still a trap? I never learned how to be both alone and together in the healthy way. I watch my reflection and dream of living alone in another city forever. I scrutinize your face, and imagine waking to it every morning, every year, and I am hungry for that, too. If I have you without taking you, I think something new will happen. I begin to believe.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Jessica Lucia