friends forever

There is a buzzing in my head from tonight’s heavy laughter
and wine, our lips stained red and our feet sore from dancing
in heels we only wear when we need to be seen, need to tower
over an entire city of shaky self-worth. Stamps on my arm,
smoke in my hair—souvenirs of teenage glory, when everyone
who hates you out of envy is a badge you pin onto your chest,
a trophy you show off on the top shelf. I end up driving you
home, listening to slurred directions I don’t need, leading myself
into battle against incoming headlights and a thick cloak of sleep.
I wait for you to say thanks, but all I get is a wink and a wave,
a finger to your lips, urging me not to tell as you sneak in
through your back door. We have secrets that have embedded
themselves into my skin, and I don’t know at which point
I’d agreed to share your sins. I asked for all of this, didn’t I,
when I decided to be your friend?

Remember when we promised we wouldn’t let the day end
without forgiving each other? But maybe the promises you
make when you’re six no longer count when you’re sixteen,
the years canceling out our conviction like writing on the
sand washed away by a frothing wave. Remember when we
said we’d always tell the truth—if not to other people, then
at least to each other? These days you don’t even look me
in the eye when you say there’s a party you can’t invite me to,
I wouldn’t like it there anyway, I wouldn’t like the guests,
I wouldn’t like the music, I wouldn’t like that version of you
anyway. We hide parts of ourselves in desk drawers and
underneath sheets, far too many places to keep track of.
What happens if we need those parts back someday?
Remember the face paint and glitter and the pom-poms
we made with our hands? Remember road trips with your
dad at the wheel, pit stops for ice cream cones and popcorn
—remember how you said you’d always wanted a sister?
Now it’s all Friday night strobe lights and scorching beach
weekends, the strained smile that stretches across your face
when I emerge from the bathroom in a swimsuit, tugging
at the strings as if this would help put everything in place.
You have no idea how much I hear when you nod and turn
away. You have no idea how much damage we have done
to the softer girls we used to be.

Today I saw you scrolling through your feed, awarding hearts
to everyone’s posts but mine, your double-tap aim missing me
by millimeters. I wonder why we even still follow each other’s
grids, maps guiding us nowhere safe. I wonder what you see
when you see my life in squares.

beautiful

Women often say—on a first date or at the altar or in the quiet
of the room they share with the man they adore—thank you
for making me feel beautiful, as if beauty were a present someone
can bestow on you, as if beauty weren’t something you already
own. As a young girl I dreamt about meeting a boy who would
see past my dark skin and my lack of curves and height, and
zoom in on my smile or my nose or the way I tucked my hair
behind my ears. As a young girl I shut the door, closed my eyes,
and dreamt about meeting a boy who would call me beautiful
every day, declare it so that there would be no room for doubt,
settling every fear I’ve ever had in my heart about being
too much of something, or not enough of something else.

Find a man who will make you feel beautiful. Love a man who will
make you feel beautiful.
Over and over again we hear this, in cafés
and schools and salons and shoe stores and over the pounding
music of a soaked, crowded bar. Gray-haired women say this
with a steady certainty, a statement of solid weight, while girls
in crop tops and sneakers whisper it to each other, a pinky-swear
promise, a question mark dancing on the tips of their tongues.

I’ve had men call me beautiful, but sometimes only because
I asked. I’ve had men make me feel beautiful but not loved,
and I’ve learned through the years the difference between
these two, how just because someone thinks you look great
first thing in the morning doesn’t always mean he’ll choose
to be there at the end of your worst day, when your thoughts
are a tangled mess and your words are sharp and cold and
cruel. How just because someone looks deep into your eyes
and sees stars doesn’t mean he’ll see the good in you when
all you can see is despair, how just because someone can’t
get enough of your silk-spun skin doesn’t mean he’ll find hope
when every single thing you touch turns into hurt. I’ve made the
mistake of believing there were men who made me feel loved
but not beautiful, but I know now that the right kind of men—
the ones who are kind and patient and brave and strong—
will make you feel loved first, and then beautiful. They will
make you feel kind and patient and brave and strong, and then
beautiful. I know this to be true because I’ve felt it, over
and over again, in the unlikeliest places, floating in the middle
of the ocean, or hiking up a mountain listening for the rushing
sound of waterfalls, or carefully balanced on top of an elephant,
or on stage, or on a plane headed somewhere that isn’t home,
or at a tattoo parlor gritting my teeth against the buzzing of
the needle against my veins, or at my desk trying to tone down
an angry email, or in my room trying to write this piece.

Find a man who will make you feel beautiful. Love a man who will
make you feel beautiful.
Over and over again we hear this, but
maybe there are more important things a man should make
you feel other than beautiful—kind and patient and brave
and strong. Phenomenal, all on your own. So find a man
who will love you without makeup, but with makeup as well,
because he knows that sometimes you need lipstick and blush
to get through the day. Find a man who thinks your mind
is beautiful and crazy and complicated, an experience all on
its own. Find a man who will show you off to his friends
not because you can turn heads in a dress and heels, but
because you can talk about the things you like and the places
you’ve been and the ideas that keep you up at night.

Find a man who knows you’re beautiful, knows it as an
undeniable truth, feels it with every fiber of his being, but
is certain, on your first date or at the altar or in the quiet
room you share, from the middle of the ocean to the top
of a mountain and in all the unlikeliest places, that you are
so much more than that.  

her/ hers

The first time you called her pretty it didn’t occur to me to worry.
My nails are always chipped and my clothes are always black and
the scent of cigarettes buried in my hair wafts into every empty
space, filling in all the cracks, but you once told me that pretty isn’t
about lace dresses and clean hair and the smell of lilies on my wrists,
and I took that to heart, the way I do your every word. It didn’t
occur to me that maybe you wouldn’t always mean it, that just
because someone says something on a summer day doesn’t mean
they’ll still feel it when the ground is brown and wet and the leaves
can’t hold onto the drops that slide right past them. There is a nook
between your jaw and your shoulder that should be saved for
my chin, my cheekbone, for moments when I need to rest against
something true, but these days it smells like lilies, a perfume-laced
threat in my nostrils. We sit in silence more often now, trying not to
drum our fingers on scratched tabletops, or tap our feet out of sync.
Your hand in mine feels limp, different, strange. This morning I
thought about buying a white dress, holding it up against my skin.
I tried saying “pretty” out loud to my reflection, but my tongue felt
like it wasn’t my own. Maybe I should practice braiding my hair,
getting enough sleep. Quit smoking. Change my polish before it
breaks. Stop wearing my darkness to cover my body.

life lately

Has been about growing up. And I know that’s something a 29-year-old should stop saying because, please, shouldn’t you have grown up already, but there it is. There have been decisions to make, difficult ones, and sometimes my heart doesn’t hold the answer, at least not in its entirety. Is there anything more grown-up than reading between the lines when somebody tells you to follow your heart? Life lately has been about learning that you can’t trust every girl in a vintage dress just because her red-lipstick smile shines from across the room, especially not if you don’t know how she takes her tea, what she prays for at night, what her sadder side looks like. But it’s also been about faith in humanity restored, how a gentle, white-haired captain can talk you into swimming with fishes and dangling from a rope strung between two small islands, your feet swinging beneath you the way they did when you were three and you tried to sit on a bar stool taller than you are. Life lately has been books and spreadsheets and conference rooms and staying in on Friday nights, and my boyfriend saying one weekend, “I think today we should go to a museum,” but we end up ordering fried chicken and macaroni soup instead, watching a movie about two tired old men in love. Sometimes I think I’m being too kind and sometimes I regret not having been kind enough, which is infinitely worse. I’ve been wondering about the best way to say goodbye to something I’ve lived and breathed for so long. I’ve been counting down the days until I say hello again.

permanent

Courage is always the first step, or maybe it’s conviction, or
maybe your bones can be shaking in uncertainty inside
of you but you do it anyway. Maybe it’s commitment. Maybe
it’s choice. Either way you will find yourself in a cramped,
dimly-lit shop filled with action figurines and the smell of stale
airconditioning, where you will say, This is what I want. On my
skin. Forever.
You will need a can of Coke to keep your
sugar up, a hand to hold to keep your spirits up; squeeze
your eyes shut when it hurts too much. Watching will only
make it worse, only make it feel like a bad decision when
it doesn’t have to be. Think about happy things: puppies and
yogurt parfaits and those cool girls on Pinterest with their
inked wrists and long necks, their clean white sheets
always ready to catch their fragile bodies. Think about the stares
you’ll meet. Think about the stories you’ll tell. Hum
your favorite song under your breath, an old song you know
by heart. Or hum a new one. Make up the words, make them
your words, as you go along: Put that buzzing needle to vein.
Teach my skin all the shapes and shades of pain.
When it’s all over
go home to your sheets that are neither clean nor white. Rest
your shaking bones. Take comfort—some things
are far from temporary.

All text original work by Marla Miniano. Powered by Blogger.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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I write, edit, and produce books for a living. I also: take photos, attempt poetry, make travel plans, snore, do the dishes, daydream on the treadmill, and dress like a loose grandma. For feedback, questions, and invitations, email me at marlaminiano@gmail.com.

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