46. Portraits

A long time ago, I started taking photographs.

I started taking photographs of the gowns I wore –  the pills I took.

I started taking photographs of pain.

At first I thought it was a weird, pop culture, selfie compulsion… but I wasn’t sharing these photos.  They never touched a twitter or a tumblr.  They never left my phone.

For months this went on, needle after needle, table after table, crumpled white medical paper and a camera phone.

When he left, I cried and told my mother I finally figured out why I was taking these pictures.  I don’t look sick.  I look like a normal girl.  And in trying to be happy, in trying to be normal, I look from the outside like nothing is wrong, or if there is something wrong, it can’t possibly be too bad.

Somewhere deep inside, afraid that no one believes me, I have been documenting my descent… can anybody hear me?

Last week a friend told me he had been suffering from Crohn’s disease for over a year.  It took them that long to diagnose it, and silently, secretly he suffered.  I wanted to tell him that I understood, that I truly understood, but how can you?  Then I realized that in the midst of my completely inward terror, I had, somehow, created a tiny bit of good to give.

 

Better than a billion of my stupid, useless words – portraits.

 

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45. Drugs or Jesus

You think you know what pain is.

I thought I knew what pain was.  Abandoned my the man who pushed his grandmother’s ring onto my finger.  Left homeless, jobless, car-less, dreamless, broken.

I thought I knew what pain was.

I drag myself into the doctor’s office today.  My right hip, clenched into a knot they cannot undo for a year and counting, bent in agony.  I cry hot tears they ignore – because they are used to me, because they are sick of me – over the thin paper covering the exam table, onto the plastic pillows, onto the ground.

If they can’t cure you, it’s all in your head.

If they can’t cure you, eventually you should just shut up about it.

I thought I knew what pain was.

Robbed of everything I had made vulnerable for love, swimming in a dark sea of splintered words and shattered promises, I grieved for almost two years before I started to wake up.  Stirring in the darkness, putting a timid toe into a wading pool, I eventually dared to hope again.

I dared to hope, I dared to love, and all that man did was break my body and leave me to rot.

I am on the phone with my mother.  Poor mom, she tries to calm me down.  But today there is no comfort, and today there is no calming.  “If that man” and I’m screaming, “if THAT man can bring down some sort of fucking death sentence on me-” and I choke on my own tears.  There is nothing my anger can do to hurt him.  There is nothing my sorrow can do to save me.

I am lost in agony.  I cannot escape my own body.  There is nothing I can do.

It is at this point that people either choose drugs or Jesus.

And I gave up on Jesus ten years ago.

44. Expect

That giant purple eyesore.

Standing there. Staring at me. Making me feel like I’d been slapped upside the head by a grape.

I’ve hated it for two and a half years.  Just not enough to do anything about it.

I walk in at 10:30 at night.  I walk out.  I am shocked.

I’ve been wanting to paint over that purple wall since the second I moved in here, but I was broke, lost, and… well, mostly broke.  I didn’t have anything to spare, monetarily or emotionally, and just getting this cheap rent was incredible enough on it’s own.  I should be grateful, and I should shut up.  That much seemed a given.  I left the grape first because I was extraordinarily busy with simply remaining alive.  Then I was broke.  Then, apparently, despite hating it, I was used to it.  I hated it, but in a way that rarely crossed my mind.  Or in the way that only crosses your mind when you’re in the middle of doing something else, despite it being the first thing I saw each day upon walking into my bedroom.

I had always planned to wipe that wall of the face of the planet.  I finally made good on my word.  The unintended side effect of wiping off a thing that I hate is that the room no longer feels like mine.  It no longer feels like home. My biology has kicked in and all my senses are up, waiting for danger.  This is unfamiliar.  This is a bed that is not my own.  Hold tight, stay cautious.  You can’t sleep here.

Are you shitting me?  This is so obvious.  So obvious and so infuriatingly evident of my own lack of evolution I want to punch myself.  Two years. TWO YEARS on this fucking room.  No, not even this room, this wall.  One, single, hateful wall that all in all, the trip and the furniture pulling and the taping and the painting and the reputting of things…. maybe clocked in at three hours?  And I was avoiding that for three years because I couldn’t handle the psychological fallout of changing it???

I couldn’t embrace something not only good, but that I was certain I wanted, because I couldn’t invest $50, a few hours, and the metal shift it required.

Jesus.

I hate myself a little right now.  I wonder how many other things have waited two years or six years or ten because I wasn’t able to sleep under a different color paint job.  How many microscopic, unseen, unimportant, baseless biological things have kept me from what I wanted.  And me, stupid and rationalizing excuses when in reality, Darwin won.

God, I hate myself right now.

What is even more stupidly, pathetically evident, is that I’ve been wearing your old tank top for the past two days, and the teddy bear you got me is sitting on my bed.  I haven’t thought of you even half lovingly or wantingly in the two and a half years since I had to move here thanks to your disgusting habit of blowing everything up, and I embraced that fucking grape-ass wall like my life depended on it.

I am missing your mouth.  Your dirty talk in that British accent.

Because I feel out of place.  Because we were both out of place and stupidly thought (like young people do) that it made sense to find a place in each other.  Because you were where I went every last time I fell of the wagon.

The taste of you was toxic to me.  Poison.  We both thought we could somehow wring it around and turn it into something good.  But we couldn’t.  We never could.  The other day, for the first time in a long time, I mentioned the ring.  I still couldn’t bear to ask my mother what she had done with it, and she was smart enough not to tell me.

I look at the wall.  So elegant.  So sophisticated.  Everything I had hoped it would be.  Did it really take this, this to make me paint it.  Then I think on it.  Yes, yes of course it did. Because nothing short of the breaking of my body, forcing me to stay in one place would have ever made me paint that wall.  Because as much as I hated it, painting that wall was a bit of acceptance.  To change it meant I was settling in here, in the place I crash landed after the explosion.  The dust cleared, and I ended up here because the ad for the job said “Fortune 500”.  I never did intend to stay.  Yet here I am.  Nesting.  Am I mad because I’m giving in to it?  Or am I mad because it took me so long?

Swimming pools.  Movie stars.

Los Angeles, you mother fucker.  I only chose you under duress.

Dear god, get me out of here.  That’s what I’m thinking.  And that’s why I’m painting.  It’s a form of acceptance, and yet a way to exercise the only bit of control and refusal I still have left.

I walk into that room and I try to sleep, but my psyche won’t let me.  The energy’s too different.

 
What the hell did I expect?

41. Horizontal

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.  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 the fact that you actually used the words “that guy” all the time.  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 mean guys, and you are a nice guy.  If a girl deigns to stir emotions within you (or show an inch more skin than you have secretly deemed appropriate) she is a harlot 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, than take me up on it and *gasp* relax for a second.  Better to resist and insist to the point of being insulted when I suggest you take a break, then throw it back in my face six months later.  That’ll teach me.  

Since I’m a liar, and faking all 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 f***ing gone you are.

37. Dirty 30

Dear Jon,

I miss you.  28 year olds aren’t supposed to die of cancer.  28 year olds are supposed to hug their 10 month old sons with arms that aren’t emaciated.  28 year olds are supposed to speak with mouths that still have tongues, to talk sweet baby talk.  Have gentle hands that can wipe baby food off tiny faces.

I miss you.  I am one of a thousand that do.  I see you in your son’s eyes, I still hear you laughing when my brother laughs.  I miss you at the most ridiculous and inappropriate moments because that’s when you would have told a joke to make everything ok.

Could it possibly have been this long we’ve been without you?  Like all of my memories, it somehow feels like a thousand years ago and yesterday at the same time.

I can still feel your hug around me when I was crying in your car at seventeen.  I can still feel your hand reaching up to grab mine as I sat by the last bed you’d ever lie in, comforting me of all things, in my apologies and tears.  I just wasn’t there for you enough.

Happy Birthday sweetheart.

We miss you.  We miss you so.