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.

wait

Every time you close the door behind you with your carry-on bags and
overweight plans, I have to take my own hand, sit myself down, remind
myself not to worry. Remind myself that for 27 years I learned how
to be alone, was really, really good at being alone, mastered how
to be alone. Remind myself that there is a pile of books I haven’t
read, a queue of movies I haven’t watched, a lonely box from my
old apartment I still haven’t unpacked. Maybe I can order a whole
pizza for myself, or maybe I can make dinner, something fresh and
green and right; maybe I can have friends over. Maybe I can talk
to people I haven’t spoken to in years, ask them how often they
feel lonely, and whether or not they think that will ever go away.
Maybe I can pack my own bag and go off on my own adventure
while you are busy with yours, maybe I can tell myself that although
fun isn’t my strongest suit I am reliable, and trustworthy, and I know
how to take care of myself. 27 years of practice, a steady hum
of progress—there are things you don’t leave behind.

And there are things you do. There are things that no longer work
like they used to, things whose mistakes have caught up with them,
things that are bursting at the seams with hurt. Sometimes I ask myself
why I let the pile of books grow in the first place, why I can’t sit still
through movies alone anymore, what the contents of that lonely box are.
There are goodbyes that break you and goodbyes that shape you, but
there are also goodbyes that do nothing except make room. Space. Empty
out parts that have been too full for too long.

But know this: every time you come back with your eyes dancing and
your skin burning and your stories a tangled mess, announcing your
return with three swift knocks as certain as your place in the world,
your place in my world, I will take your hand, sit you down, remind
you that you are home now, remind you that you can stay.

january in numbers & colors

At the start of the year we watched two lovely people vow to be true forever as I shivered in a red lace dress made for a 13-year-old Spanish girl. I can probably be friends with a 13-year-old Spanish girl, if she'll let me. In Paoay I bruised my hip repeatedly on a 4x4, as billions of golden grains of sand stretched out before us and burrowed into our shoes, our hair, the backs of our ears. It took a week for the bruises to fade. We discovered it was too cold to swim. We shared two and a half steamed crabs so fresh we could crack them open with our bare hands, their tangerine shells crumbling underneath our fingers. A 12-hour drive in which I promised not to sleep, but did anyway. You didn't mind. Three days and three nights in Singapore crammed with roller coasters and good coffee and convenience store runs and subway rides and sudden rain and Chet Faker and yellow chicken rice. Sam Herring says he tried hard just to soften someone, and perhaps nobody should even have to do that, because we need skin that doesn't crack open easily, doesn't fall apart at the slightest touch. I missed you when I went away on my own, like I always do. It's been two years since I stopped being able to see clear blue without thinking of you. There are 11 months lined up in front of us like pools we have to dive into. We will. It'll be too cold to swim but we'll swim anyway. Try not to bruise ourselves. Remember not to soften. 

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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