I want to touch you. Not the rough contours of your jaw, or the smooth skin that cloaks your shoulders; not the long, thick fingers that suspend from your palms like branches, not the jut of your hip bone from under your jeans. 

I want to touch you. Not the full bloom of your lower lip, or the gentle rise of your chest; not the bone that creates a fork in your elbow, or the bridge of your nose.

I want to touch you. Not the simple plane of your thigh, or the course curls of your forarms; not the slippery fields of your hands, or the brown freckles of your skin.

I want to touch you. Not the dip in your lower back, or the cave where your belly button meets your spine; not the hill of your collar bone, or the silky lobe of your ear.

I want to touch you. Not the knob of your ankle, sneaking out from under your sock; not the swell of your calf, or the hollow behind your knees.

I want to touch you, I want to feel you, I want to know you. I want to see through the shadows of yourself and find the glimmer of light you guard like a treasure.

I want to touch you, I want to feel you, I want to see the fragments you laced together in haste, in agony, in hope.

I want to peel away the layers and reveal bits of death, and life, and all the seemingly mundane things that paint the parts in-between.

I want to touch you.



When you tell me something is wrong with me, I don’t know what to think.

When you tell me I’m a liar and a manipulator, that I am a fraud and fake, I recoil; I hide. 

When you look up lists online for mental illnesses and describe to me how I have all those symptoms, I fear you and your ability to invade my confidence.

When you talk on the phone to your parents and they tell you get away from her or don’t trust her, she’s manipulating you or I bet she’s cheated on you or she’s fucked up, I feel the rising panic of anxiety flood my system and being still and calm is the only avenue I have for peace of mind.

I thought, last year when I reached out to your mom, that I was going to someone who wanted what was best for us. It feels now, like they want what they want for you, but it’s not necessarily best for you or for us.

I was in shock over their reaction to my pleas. Where was their outrage when you were screaming over me as I nursed our baby at 2:00 in the morning? Where was their concern when you drove wildly through the streets, your veins crawling out of your neck at the rage with which you shook the car? Where was their shock when you were telling me I’ll divorce you and take our child and you’ll never see her again? What was their advice to you when you were telling me I was trash, useless, worthless, ugly, disgusting, fat, whore, slut, crazy…? What were their thoughts when you locked me out of the house in the middle of the night, or took all my belongings from our room and flung them out the back door, or smashed my guitar to splinters with your steal-toed boots, or lifted furniture off the ground with your massive hands and threw it against the wall, waking our baby with your childish outbursts?

I remember what they said then: get out, you’re playing with fire, stay far away from her, she’s no good for you

I started to think they were right; that I was crazy and disrespectful and that I could never understand you. I started to fear myself as much as I feared you.

And I said this feels like abuse and you mocked me and laughed at me, and told me that I really needed help. So I got a counselor; a student in the graduate program at the local university, who would listen to me for $3 a session. When I played a recording for her of our most recent argument (I had taken to recording our interactions in case you followed up with your threats and tried to take our child from me) she told me that abuse comes in many forms; that just because you never hit me didn’t mean you never hurt me.

Over time things changed. You’re not that man anymore, and I’m proud of that. Even in the midst of my fear and despair, I had hope that you could be the man you want to be. I think you’re getting there. It’s only been a year, but you’ve changed before my eyes. I’m so proud of that. 

And now, when I confess to you things of my past that I kept from you; those things I warned you I’m not ready to talk about, I don’t know if or when I ever will be; those things you relentlessly badgered me about; those things you insulted and threatened me for; when I told you, you said give me a reason to stay and called me a liar.

I did lie. And all my reasons might sound like excuses. Maybe they are. But I’m telling you now, and I can’t believe the idea that now you don’t know me because what about all the things I didn’t lie about? What about all the times I held your body as you shook with grief over your lost loved ones? What about all the times I told you, showed you, what is in my heart? What about the brilliant child I’ve been raising with you? What about the time I left everyone I’d ever known and moved with you, so you could pursue your career? What about that year and half when you were in school and we had no money, so I worked two jobs and took care of our daughter full time? 

I don’t expect you to be happy that I lied and kept some things from you. 

But if you believe that a person is a sum of all their sins, then there is no hope for either of us.

So that’s the reason I’ll give you; hope

It’s the reason I stayed. It’s the decision I made every day, sometimes over and over, when I worried that I was wasting my time on someone who would always be angry, who would never accept me. 

It’s not an easy decision, and it’s not a one-time thing. But I’m asking you to have hope, to have faith, that I can be the person I want to be.

I need you to believe in me.


Intimate Fear

My dad told me each person just wants to be known by another person.

He said that we want to look across the table at someone and see who we truly are reflected in their gaze. 

To be able to share our ugliness as well as our beauty, to show our shame, our happiness, our grief; our failures, both magnificent and minuscule, and see that other person still filled with the desire to know us more.

We want them to see us for who we are, not for who they imagine us to be. 

For me, who spent most of my life buried in books, with film as a close second to that passion, it seems sometimes an unreachable peak; to see what’s actually there, and not the fantasy I’ve created. 

For me, who has been so afraid to see myself, it sometimes feels like I’m jumping off the edge of a cliff when I try to reveal myself to others. 

But I’m finding that hiding from myself also hides me from others, to whom I wish to be intimate. It builds walls between me and those humans I yearn to know. 

My husband and I have been trying to reach each other over those walls we’ve both constructed. At times I hear him beating his fists against the locked door, calling for me to let him in. I am cowering in the corner of the dark room I’ve built around myself, licking my wounds and plugging my ears, feeling strangely confused he can’t reach me.

I’m afraid that he won’t love me, this man I chose. Afraid that he won’t want to know me more, after all the darkness is pulled away, that his recoil will be like a knife in my heart, a pulsing wound that won’t heal. 

I’m not sure I can bear it, you know. But I know that I must try, that I must heave off the blanket of my fears and rejection, and take a hammer to that wall. I must let him in, if I want that closeness I desire and reject all at once. 



Free Therapy

My friend is a licensed therapist, and I will shamelessly admit to utilizing her vast toolbox of knowledge, to help me with my problems.

It works, you know. It works because I trust her with my whole self, in a way I can’t seem to with anyone else. It helps because she’s been my friend for 22 years -long, messy, beautiful years- and she’s earned my heart again and again.

We’ve been communicating via text these last few days, because our schedules don’t seem to mesh, and I don’t really feel like talking; neither does she.

She said in one text recently that healing trauma is much like peeling an onion: layers upon layers of built up scar tissue must be sorted through in order to fashion my life into the thing of beauty I know is possible; and the ugly, darker parts seep through some of the layers like mold, so I must go through them more than once.

That’s the part I’m starting to understand, starting to be at peace with.

I thought that because I grew up and moved away, got married, had good jobs, had a baby, provided a living environment for my family, that those old things couldn’t hurt me anymore. But the truth is that I just sort of made myself forget about them, so that I wouldn’t have to find out how I really felt.

Anyone else noticing a theme here?

The good news is, with all these old memories popping up -at the strangest times, I might add- I’m not running away anymore. Maybe, just maybe, my body is allowing itself to recall things that hurt too much for my child-self to face; maybe, just maybe, it’s because I’m stronger now.

Strong. I like that word. I like that I feel like I’m able to apply that word to myself today, without feeling like a fraud. 

My goal is to live an authentic, truthful life; whole in all its ugliness and magic. 

I think I’m one step closer, and I’m filled with hope.



Right Now

I’m laying on the couch in my nighty, watching the Christmas lights twinkle, and crying into my empty wineglass.

And I’m wishing I wasn’t the girl that I am.

And I’m wishing I could call up mom and dad and yell at them; that I could berate them for all their mistakes in raising me; for being responsible for the person I am.

And husband has just left me on the couch to wallow in my self-pity alone. Our conversation took an unexpected turn and I’m left here with the echo of his worries: I’m too fat and I need to get healthier, lose weight before he’ll have another baby with me.

As soon as he mentions health I feel myself shut down. My eyes become unfocused on the present and I watch the lights on the Christmas tree blur into pretty baubles, illuminating the shadows with the holiday cheer I distract myself with.

I am no longer here.

And he asks me what do you think and do you have anything to say and in my head I have a litany of things that go something like this: I hate you for wanting me to change. I hate you because of what I imagine you feel about me. I hate you because I’m embarrassed of myself and I think you must be embarrassed of me, too. But I’ll do whatever you want, you know I will. Because I’m that girl, who will do whatever the boy wants, who wants to make the boy happy, even if it doesn’t make me happy. Because how can we both be happy at the same time. So I’ll get skinny for you, and I’ll be sexy for you, and I’ll look like I’m enjoying it, but on the inside I’m screaming in rage and agony and you can’t hear me bcause I refuse to share it with you.

And I want to blame you because you’re saying things that hurt me, but you’re not wrong and that hurts even worse. And I wish I trusted you enough to tell you the truth, but I’m a bit afraid of you and I don’t believe in your goodness enough to let you see how sad I feel. I don’t think you’ll understand; I think you’ll make it worse. 

I’m sad I married you.

So I just say no, I don’t have anything to say and you leave me to go bed, too frustrated at my inability, my unwillingness, to share feelings with you.

And I lay on the couch, thinking about how angry and sad I am, getting even angrier and sadder at the pathetic picture I have created out of skin and bone and feeling, and I wish –once again- that somehow, things had been different; that I had been loved differently, raised differently, wanted differently.

And that I’d been better at being all sorts of things I feel I should have been. I don’t know. I’m just sad, I guess; though that word doesn’t really put the texture, the sensation, the full experience of how I’m feeling into the context I’m looking for.

I want to change, but I don’t necessarily want anyone else to want me to change. 

And while I’m lying here, burrowing deeper into my anger, I’m remembering the first time I was touched, and my tears are coming faster now and I’m trying to be quiet so husband can’t hear me, and wishing I had a cigarette.

I was 13, spending the night at a girlfriend’s house; her family went to my church and I’m sure that’s why my parents felt comfortable leaving my siblings and me with them for a couple days; so that they could enjoy a small trip for their anniversary. 

Much of that time is blurry. I don’t remember what I did that day; what I wore or what I ate for dinner. I don’t remember what games we played or what time we went to bed.

What I do remember is the way I felt about my friend’s little brother. She was older than me, so her brother was near my age, taller than me, and thin, bony even. He was goofy-looking, and other kids made fun of him often, even at church. I remember feeling sad for him, and thinking he must feel lonely with all those kids picking on him just for being different. Big teeth and ears ran in his family, but somehow they looked funnier on him than on the rest of his siblings. I was determined to peel him out of his shell, to show him that not all kids were the same, that some people wanted to be his friend. 

There was a lightening storm that night; they lived on top of a mountain, and their parents allowed us to hang out in the balcony and watch the electricity lighting trees on fire. 

It went on all night, but we had school the next day, so we piled our sleeping bags in a long line, in front of the bay window in the playroom, and tried to fall asleep. Eventually we were just a caterpillar of children, scrunched up next to each other, dreaming our own secret things.

I don’t remember falling asleep.

But I do remember waking up.

The lightening was still crackling, illuminating the pile of sleeping children, the bookshelves lining the walls, the gargantuan television set nestled in between all the books.

I saw all of this through my eyelashes, because I was too much of a coward to open my eyes, to say stop

I’d never felt fear like that before; and I wasn’t a stranger to fear, at this point.

What woke me -more so than the crackle of lightening, or the drumbeat of thunder- were the long, thin fingers sliding under the waistband of my pajama pants, pulling aside the elastic band of my underwear, slithering into me like an unwelcome snake. Those hands are burned into my memory, just as deep as the filthy feeling they produced. Long, thin, with knobby knuckles that protruded from under his pale skin like tumors.

I was frozen; at first in fear, then in shame for being afraid. And as I lay there, trying to decide what to do, his other hand worked its way under the hem of my shirt, greedily grasping at my chest, fingernails pulling at my skin as it puckered under the assault. 

I knew how to cry in silence already, and my cheeks welcomed my tears while the rest of me suffered from inaction; my own inability to do something.

I remember feeling confused; I had been kind to him, befriended him when others teased him, showed him that there were kind children who wanted to know him.

And he waited for me to fall asleep so that he could rape my kindness and my body with his hands. And I laid there for it, already drowning in shame, my sisters and brothers asleep only a scream away.

I don’t remember how it ended. I think I feigned sleep and rolled over, squeezing my legs together as tight as I could. I do remember his hand running over my backside, seeking a way in, but I was sealed up tight and I think he gave up.

I’ve never told anyone this story before; I don’t even know why it popped up just now. 

But it did, so I wrote it down. And I’m not really sure about how I feel about it, so I’m going to post it before I grow weak and try to hide it. 

I’m so tired now. All of a sudden i can’t keep my eyes open…


Like Mother, Like Daughter

I’m a lot like my mom.

As I get older I resemble her more and more; people start to recognize me just by knowing my mom.

We have similar personality traits, as well. For example, I’m very critical of others (especially my husband) and I’m awfully good at making people feel guilty for their choices. I’m also strict, judgmental, physically lazy, and good at shifting the blame.

Over the past few weeks -since I’ve started writing again -I’ve discovered a rising tide of resentment towards mom. I’m trying to feel it out, to really allow myself to have those feelings before I sift through them.

I feel the need to defend my mom, even in my thoughts. I deny that; after all, I do love my mom, but I’m figuring out that it’s okay to acknowledge feelings about someone that present them as less than perfect. It’s okay to see the flaws in someone and still love them. 

I pay close attention to what I say to my husband these days. I want him to feel loved, lifted up, encouraged, safe. For me that usually means not criticizing the way he puts away the dishes, or which way he parts his daughter’s hair, or how often he speaks with his mother on the phone. 

I remind myself that there are plenty of fathers out there who don’t wash dishes, much less put them away. Fathers who don’t comb their daughters hair or have relationships with their parents. 

I have asked myself many times why is talking to my husband so difficult sometimes; it’s something that has confused and frustrated me since we married. And now I think it’s because I’m a lot like my mother. 

That sounds to me a bit like shifting the blame (did I mention I’m good at that?) but I don’t mean it to. I don’t want to blame my parents for who I am, but I do want to know who I am, and that journey includes taking a closer look at those who influenced my life the most: my parents.

I can recall dad doing things with us, and for us, and the sound of my mother’s voice when she’d say he doesn’t do that for me, and feeling guilty that dad was somehow not treating her right.

I can remember cleaning the kitchen floor, on my hands and knees with a rag; polishing the countertops; scrubbing the dishes by hand; organizing the pantry and cupboards; clearing gunk off the stove; and when it came time for mom to see the beauty of my hard work, the anxiety that crippled my confidence as she pointed out all the things I’d missed.

I don’t remember mom coming into a room I had cleaned and praising my hard work, or even acknowledging it. I remember not feeling like I’d done a good enough job, though.

I don’t remember when I stopped trying to impress her, or when I stopped seeking her out to show her something I was proud of. I don’t know if she noticed.

It takes me hours to clean my house. I’m very particular about it, and I wonder now if it’s because of how I felt as a kid. 

My daughter helps out with little things. Every night before bed she is asked to put her toys and books away, to place her shoes in the bin, to bring her plate and fork to the kitchen for cleaning. A few nights ago I was scrubbing the wall behind the table, trying to erase a runaway splash of coffe that had made a mess of the white paint. She wanted to help and I almost said no because how could she help me? But instead I grabbed a rag and we sat on the floor together, not making much progress but having fun all the same. I’m such a good helper, mama she said to me as she “cleaned” and I couldn’t resist squeezing her and praising her hard work.

I try to acknowledge the things she does. I tell her she works hard, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s brave. I sometimes worry that I don’t do this enough; then I worry that I do it too much and I’m building her up for disappointment; and then I think maybe I’m thinking about it too much. 

And I’m sure mom thought all those things too. 

It’s difficult to be a parent, sometimes. I know that, and I only have one child versus my mom’s nine. Being a parent means putting someone else first when maybe sometimes you don’t want to. 

I don’t blame my mother for being flawed, but I recognize that her flaws shaped me just as much as her virtues; becoming the me I want to be means feeling the things I wouldn’t let myself feel and then moving on.

So, right now, I resent her. I have a feeling it won’t last, and that’s what makes it feel okay.


The City

I dropped my daughter off at her grandparents house yesterday, and drove to the City; my first weekend away from wifing and momming.

My old friend is back in the City – after four years on the East Coast – and back in the apartment she rented during college. 

I felt the ghosts of our younger selves; our damaged selves; our freer (and yet not) selves; our drunker selves; our adventurous, naive, sister selves. It’s like coming home, after a long, long time away. We have life left here, from all the days and nights spent eating, drinking, and making merry between these walls.

I sometimes forget how much I love the City.

I took a walk last night by myself; I had nowhere to be, and no one waiting for me. The weightlessness of that moment quite literally took my breath away and I leaned my head back until my throat reached for the sky, and I reached my arms out, trying to physically hold that feeling for as long as I could.