Cover yourself in honey, raw, roll it into your cheeks like iron scraping away at the edges of you, remind yourself that you are here, feel the sting of fingernails against your bottom lip, tugging away skin you no longer need. It is not self-harm or immolation if there is no blood and no flame; becoming hurts but ending hurts, more. Your friends will remind you of who you are if you forget, or maybe you will just start over, become someone newer, instead.
Blast the music of 20-somethings from the U.K. who wear flannels from thrift stores to feel more connected to something, or maybe just to look grungy because their souls and their skin feel unclean. Surround yourself with bright orange fabric and do not apologize for the way it scorches the eyes of those who judge, who want you to remain faded. Refuse to fade. Let your eyebrows grow into unruly forests that darken into trenches and capture all hurtful thoughts. Listen to rap. Refuse to listen to any song with the word “tractor.”
There is nothing wrong with you for wanting solitude.
When you fell in love for the first time, it was with a beautiful blond boy with thin limbs like felt-covered hangers. He smelled like cigarettes and he felt you up while his friend existed inches away on speakerphone, his voice echoing through the bare living room while your boyfriend flicked your nipples for the first time and made you squeak. You were new.
When you fell in love for the second time, it was with a beautiful brunette who held your hand only because she thought you were sleeping. Your creative writing professor thought it was impossible that a gay girl would lie next to another for months without their mouths touching. You didn’t know how to explain that you’d lied about your fiction piece being fiction and that you didn’t understand how it was possible, either. For a while you scorn her for putting all physical aspects of your relationship on her terms, but then you realize that no one should do anything they don’t want to do, not even with you, whether you understand the reasons behind it, controlling or not.
When you fall in love for the third time, you will be the controlling one. You will lay beside her upon your second time hanging out with her and you will say, “I don’t want anything serious but can we just, like, make out a little?” And then you will fuck her until she flips you over, hair falling in your face, and fucks you instead. You’ll tell her you’ll never love her, even when you do.
You’re pretty much convinced that you are broken, too beat down by memories of a woman woven though the crooked blinds in your first college apartment, trampled too hard by the girl who kissed you with smoke in her mouth at 3am, loved without remorse by a woman who threw your legs over her shoulders, taking you higher than you ever knew you could go, teaching you what it meant to love.
21 and a half years old, you lay in a bed of white surrounded by an orange tapestry in the burrow that you have created for yourself because you are not 21 and a half at all but a chipped piece of dishware, ceramic, not glass, not plastic, sold on the orange rack at the end of the store aisle and grabbed by a frazzled parent in search of something to make them feel a little more whole post-divorce — if the dishes don’t match then I am not boring and they were wrong to leave.
But what they didn’t know is that nothing is as right as boredom, that panic attacks on breakup days will ruin all of the warmth that came with love; or maybe they do know that, and that is why they reach for the broken dish, because sometimes all you want to do is eat plain, milk-less Cheerios from a chipped dish and rub your thumb over the crack and hope, hope, hope that maybe, maybe, maybe your skin will catch and your Cheerios will no longer be plain, stained instead by your blood, bright red and drizzling, and the bowl, no longer white. More than just cracked. Scented by something more than the nothingness of Cheerios.
Your pillows aren’t right. They never are. You have four water bottles on the yellow bedside table to your left and a half-finished cup of tea, cold. There is the air freshener that you bought at school and used time and time again to cover the scent of sex in your bedroom. You did not have this bedding, there. You tell yourself that this means that you are refreshed.
Still, you call your most recent ex several times a week. Still, her voice brings comfort. There are those moments, though, when your skin catches on the rim of the bowl — it is always when she begins to doubt everything about herself over absolutely nothing at all and then you remember why you ended things, despite your loving her. Sometimes you think that she is less cracked than you are and maybe just painted on the outside. She’s so trapped in the bottom center of the bowl that she’ll never see her own color.
The day that you break up with your girlfriend, the one you told you’d never love, the one you sobbed against and told you loved, you will have your biggest panic attack and you will sit on your floor and sob in a way that you didn’t know you were capable of and you will stand, you will walk to your kitchen and you will test your mind by seeing if you are able to walk in a straight line along the tiles. By the time the attack ceases it will be five in the morning and you will not remember whether or not you passed your own test.