I cried when my first dog, Belle, died. Like me, she was a hand me down from people who had less time than love for her and I think that’s why our souls understood each other; why a part of me died when she stopped breathing. I spent hours trying to study her, unravel her; I spent years trying to reprieve her, to revive her and although, during those years, I had no storms chasing me, I found refuge in the way she curled herself around me during crisp summer nights. I guess, in a way, it makes me selfish for wanting her to live forever but she grew old quicker than she should have and before I had the chance to understand how sad loss could be- we ran out of time to say our goodbyes.
I cried the night I could feel my dad giving up on me. I grew up admiring the way the world spun in his eyes and the way the Grand Canyon weaved puzzles in his palms but that night- the night I got too drunk to remember my name yet hardly drunk enough to forget that he was an ex soldier- I saw no evidence of an Earth and all proof that he had waved a dozen white flags long before I even had the chance to sober.
Not even the strands of the leftover buzz could muffle the sound of you forgetting me; erasing me.
Have I ever told you that I once saw Jesus in a McDonald’s bathroom stall? His skin was made of porcelain and his sins, made of stainless steel manufactured in China. In bold purple Sharpie, the door read “Eat acid, see God” and, although I’ll never admit it, that night I realized the teen spirit bleeds out in more forms than one. Holy scriptures of adolescence, psalms of hormone-driven emotion etched in pencil and teen angst somehow understood that we were all sinners searching for a way out-
That we were all flawed in some sort of way and that we may possibly never know if all dogs really go to Heaven.
I cried for eternities the night I became painfully aware of my imposition on space; that I took up more of it than I probably ever deserved.
I had every intention of stripping that night of its darkness but after hours of desperately trying to scratch the stars away from the sky with my fingertips, I realized that I was incapable of stopping my world from dying so, from then on, I chose to move my body gently and eat slowly; to swallow Eucharist in the smallest of pieces and nibble timidly around the cores of apples in the case there were grenades hidden within their cores. I learned how to read labels, to walk on the edges of my toes; I learned how to control, calculate, and categorize-
buffering the awkward matter between reality and the world as I had wished it would be. Food kept me sane; kept my worlds from colliding.
“Lex, you’re so bony!”, my mom would tell me as she laid rubbing my back after long days of work. I swear, it seemed like she worked forever. Her hands, cold yet never harsh, made maps through my spine and pit stops at my hip bones, knocking hard on them to make sure they were real. Making sure I was real.
“Bony, bony, bony!”
My mom was right, though. I was never a particularly large kid- my knees jutted out farther than they probably should have and I often found myself wavering at the lower end of the BMI chart during my yearly physicals. However, her phrase- my hip bones- later became the gauge of my progress- my worth- as I shifted from preteen to teen.
And I hope she never knows that.
I’d never blame my parents for my insanity. After all, when one tells you to jump from a mountaintop, you don’t close your eyes and let the wind take you just because.
But me? I was born with too much fire and a hopelessly desperate need for adrenaline so, truthfully, I think I’d always sort of wondered what it’d feel like to fall, to be wisped away in a cool breeze just like the ones you read about in romance novels.
On nights when I cursed gravity for concreting me and the gods for making my feet too heavy, I found myself grazing the planes of the body that laid beneath the heavy sheets and thick night air, searching for those
On mornings when the air smelled of dew and cheap coffee and I prayed to the skies that I would have the power to be less needy, I found myself studying the way the shower water trickled down my stomach and over those
You could tear into these words, rip out their roots, and chop away their stringy structures; you could dislocate these words, feel your fingers through their rhythms and peel away the alliteration that binds these letters together.
You could consume these words, feel the predicates dribble from the corners of your mouth as you crunch them out of existence; analyze these words, call out their “important” images and themes and crush them into powdery debris as you ask yourself, “…and how does that make you feel?” but none of that could ever erase the fact that this world is a perplexing place. In one motion it creates the most beautiful, freeing moments and in the other, it kills your dogs and makes you hate yourself for not being invincible. I used to cry over real things, you know. I mean, real, “Holy fuck!”, life-changing kinds of things. Now, I cry when I get stuck behind sleepy trains or when my pants don’t fit or when my apples are bruised or when other things that will never matter happen and I hate the world for messing up when it