It’s one of the first things they tell you, it’s repeated and repeated and repeated. By the instructors, the textbooks, the videos.
Keep your head up.
Because the wind is blowing against you, even with your helmet you can feel it. The throttle is beneath your hand.
Eyes on the horizon.
Your first time riding a motorcycle, and it’s terrifying. I don’t care who you are. Even on a tiny little 125cc engine, you feel it go, how little it takes, and it’s goddamn terrifying to have that kind of power. You’re running through exercises, trying to remember everything they taught you. Trying to remember how to shift gears and how far out your bike needs the clutch and where the fuck are the rear brakes, anyway?
And they tell you, don’t look at the ground, when that’s all you want to do.
I tried this, after the first day of class, to look up more when I was driving my car, walking around the city, etc. My posture has been dreadful for years, and it’s only thanks to 2 years of bodywork and ballet that it’s starting to feel less grotesque to hold my head where it’s supposed to naturally be.
That being said, I still, far more often than not, look down more than ahead.
And trying it, the wind blows at my eyes, making them water, making my left eye stream, (it’s never the right, for unknown reasons, like only half of my brain is experiencing some traumatic event). It pulls against where my triceps want to go and makes the constant pounding across my forehead worse. And it feels unnatural, like I’m staring everyone and everything down in some perverse contest of self importance.
All that is to say, you remind me of riding a motorcycle.
Because I am fucking terrified of everything you make me feel.
I told you this, one bourbon filled night, that you scare me, that having this love for you is frightening beyond measure. And you held me, my head against your chest, and told me of course it was, the fear was a part of it, and you understood. You were scared, too.
Do you remember the night, lying on your living room floor, you looked at me and said, “I didn’t think anyone could tie you down,” ? And I told you, “I want to call you mine.” The cutest, most wonderful smile spread across your face, and you pulled me down to kiss you.
I knew, I was in for you.
But you know that you are a first for me. The first “I love you,” The first of so many emotional steps. And those are much, much bigger than any physical thing we could possibly do.
You ride on a bike, and the wind is flying past you, and you’re holding onto a machine and trying to remember to look up, to not be afraid, when in truth it is new and horrifying and why did anyone think you could do this and give you a license to do this and let you loose on city streets?
I have survived you leaving me once before. And I keep hearing things about this girl who had you then, and try to keep my bitterness at bay. But the more I hear and the deeper into you I fall, the less restrained I become.
I hear it in your voice, in their voices, when you all talk about her.
Everytime you say she called, or you have to tread on eggshells because of her.
I hear the hurt in you. And the more I care about you the angrier I get. Not just at her, but at you. For choosing someone you knew would hurt you again, and again, and again. And in that process, hurting me too.
I understand, if you had been happy, then we would not be ‘us’ now. But I think that would be easier to swallow than knowing we both went through hell just to wind up in the same place.
Keep your eyes on the horizon. That’s where you find your balance.
Except, we’re not in the same place. I became somehow simultaneously more jaded, and more vulnerable to you. Found the ability to be open and tell you that you, who you are and what you give me, is what I want. Is what I’ve been wanting. And you not just found your way back to me, but are even more of what you were and who you are, and have opened yourself to me too.
I love you, and I know you love me too. We can say this to each other, now.
Look up, look up, look up.
I remember the first time, on the back of your Harley, holding on to you for dear life, knowing you wouldn’t let anything happen to me. And you told me afterwards, that with the seat placed as it was, I didn’t have to hold on, I could let go.
I will survive, if you leave me again. I will not cause scenes, or chase you down, or show you any of the hurricane that would be inside me. But I would also never come back again. I think a part of you knows that. But I can’t help remembering, when you give me glimpses to a future that might be ours, that this is not new to you. These feelings that are so true, promises made in a moment that could disappear as fast as it came into being.
I hate that I still feel this way. That I can’t let these feelings go to just believe in you, and in us.
I want to feel the engine beneath me and soar up the hills. I want to look out to the sky and enjoy the ride, without fear, without a sense of impending doom.
Loving you has been less scary, with every passing day.
And why am I still sitting in this bar, waiting for you to look at me and say you want to go home.
I’m listening to your friend’s girlfriend talk about poetry and how classical music is more legitimate than others and speak of her nihilism so that you don’t have to deal. She’s talking to me about her art as if it means anything that she only writes in moleskins so you can play your goddamn pool game and I’m just sitting here like.
The fuck is wrong with me.
Because I want to leave. I want to leave and go home and remember what it feels like to cry.
What the fuck have you done to me.
I felt better when I was around you. I felt whole, I felt like a better, calmer, more fun, more relaxed version of myself But today I feel like I’m trapped in the spin cycle of a washer Wrung out like a rag, twisted and misshapen
You asked me I don’t understand how I’m not hurting you But right now, you are. I feel like hell.
And I did this to myself And I’m doing this to myself the longer I stay The longer I let myself remain in this place where I am just inherently unhappy
You didn’t want me here I can see that Can you tell me to go home? Give me something to do other than chaperone for the people you don’t like Telling me to order your drinks, watch your shit, take your photos
Why can’t I walk out the door Why can’t I leave without saying goodbye Make you see I am the farthest fucking thing from okay
How is it your friends know more about my life than you do People I adore, who will be gone the second I develop the self-respect to say no, I deserve more
It is so inherently fucked That you told me you hate yourself So you don’t want to commit yourself to me And I hate myself so much But I just want to commit myself to you
I don’t want to hate myself I just want you to talk to me like a fucking human being And that one thing I’d asked you for To tell me when you’re done To tell me if you’re leaving me for someone you loved You can’t do.
So now, I sit here, rereading through these words, remembering my drunken self writing them and wishing they were more melodramatic than they were
But this is the truth
I thought I could handle your heartbreak and I can’t I hate how much I want you I want to be stronger, and I’m not. You told me you would hurt me, and you have.
That I’m suddenly reminded of things I thought were gone
Of that night in your garage Of you holding me steady, your hands on my knees, my hips, as I try to balance, reaching for something high above me Of the feeling of your smile
I don’t want you back I don’t want you back I don’t want you back
I hear a song,
And we’re back on your couch We’re doing nothing, together You’re telling me you like my legs Your roommate is making us drinks
Four months after you left I started seeing Someone Else. And he made me happy, for a moment And when he told me what you didn’t think to
When I felt the crack and saw him falling through I held on like he was a man thrown overboard Desperately trying to pull him back to me When he’d wanted to jump in the first place
He wasn’t what you were But I tried to convince myself he was Because I couldn’t do it again Couldn’t have the same reason twice in a row Couldn’t be the inbetween
The pause button
These things have been repeated in my mind, in my words, for so long, it feels meaningless to even try to write them out
Not that you ever would
You could come back to me, tell me you’re sorry
But I would want to say no.
How could I trust you again? I can’t live in fear of your mistakes becoming reoccurring nightmares
I woke up this morning And I don’t know why I thought of you
It’s been over a year since I’ve seen your face And I never told you then, and I certainly won’t tell you now But I loved you I want my love back I want my time and my secrets and my vulnerable words whispered in the dark
I don’t want to erase you But I need your ghost disappear Vanish under the cover of a smoke bomb And leave no trace of itself behind
Does that make sense? I want to be alone I don’t want to talk to you I don’t want to do anything I just want to be alone, but with you there
Because you won’t tell me I need to talk, or be anything other than what I am being And maybe just being with you I’ll be able to talk to someone Express the feelings that swallow me like a black hole Pulling me in Pulling me under You don’t ask that of me So I feel like I could give it
Does that make sense? I doubt it I’m rambling Sitting in a lavender scented tub with a damp notebook and a hand trying to fly away from me
I don’t want to tell you what is happening, but I also do I want you to know To help me lift some of this weight off my shoulders Not pick it up for me – you wouldn’t, and I would hate you if you tried. But just keep me company while I set it down for a while
A rest between sets A momentary pause To breathe And analyze where to go from here
Because in between the call that never came And the texts with no reply And the words still ringing in my ears Between the voices in my head telling me to stop Not to try That I will only ever fail, at everything
Because no, it’s not your fault that he’s a lying asshole But it’s on you that you said
“I’ll be patient.” “No, don’t worry about it.” “I promise it’s okay.”
When it fucking wasn’t okay.
Because you are the one that prides themselves on being chill. On never being called crazy, or at least, not to your face.
Because you have seen women, so many women, who let their emotions ride them and force men into that passenger seat. Who can’t let little things go.
But those little things add up. Those little things mean something. And chill does not mean that you don’t have emotions. That you feel nothing.
And because you’ve not been monogamous, you haven’t had a real, concrete relationship, you haven’t learned how to speak for yourself. To say, this isn’t right. This isn’t how I should be treated. You’re not my boyfriend, but you fucked up.
Instead you say You’re not my boyfriend, so I have no right to be mad. Even though you are.
And that’s on you.
For setting the standard so damn low and being annoyed when even that isn’t met.
Because my darling you deserve the moon The stars Flowers and hugs and kisses on the cheek. You deserve to have your hand held To be introduced as, ‘You know, that girl I was telling you about?’
Just because you aren’t monogamous doesn’t mean you are undeserving of respect
Maybe if you didn’t act like you knew you weren’t, and didn’t deserve to be, his number one He wouldn’t make you his number two
You’ve spent so much time bottling it inside, swallowing your emotions down, allowing tension to creep through your shoulders and to turn your muscles to cement to contain the feelings threatening to drown you. And when asked a question, instead of the answer you want to give, your flood may leak over, you may speak in nonsensical ways because you are not just batting with what you should say – you are battling with yourself if you should say anything at all.
And through the mess you see what you fear the most. That look of ‘You’re crazy.’
But now you’re sitting here wondering why he’s not texting you when you gave him carte blanche To treat you however he choose While you say ‘It’s fine, I’m here for you.’ While you’re dying on the inside Wondering what you’ve done to deserve this
And you did not ask for this level of jackassery You did not ask to be treated like shit But you did not demand better Because you felt you couldn’t
That, my love, is what’s crazy You know you deserve more
That someone fucking up your night and saying ‘I’ll make it up to you…Netflix and chill?’ Is not enough
That someone saying ‘It’s just so confusing right now, I know she wants monogamy but…you’re just so cool.’ And then taking her on dates but ignoring you for days on end, is not okay.
That someone saying ‘I promise, she means nothing,’ taking you home with them, then announcing on Facebook she’s their girlfriend is some cheap shit.
You are allowed to be upset. You are allowed to feel. And calling out this bullshit should not be your responsibility – but it is.
Because you have to be your own cheerleader Your own advocate Your own coach and overprotective best friend
Because if you don’t set that standard so high that it provides you shade is this sweltering sunshine
The door swings open, and I look up to say that we’re closing, I already did last call, but stop when I see it’s you. And I smile.
You’re wearing a faded shirt, and those dark jeans I love so much. Boots that are not weather appropriate. Your hair is a perfectly tousled mess, but you’re already running your fingers through it again.
“Hey,” You look around at the empty place, and stay by the door. “Are you closed?”
I shake my head.
“Not quite yet. You want something?”
You nod, and try not to look too awkward as you sit where I point, a seat at the end where I can be close to you.
“What does not quite yet mean?” You don’t open the menu I put in front of you.
“It means, I’m shutting down, but can’t lock the doors for another fifteen minutes. So, it’s last call, basically.” I smile, you don’t.
“Shut up and pick a drink.” I keep working, cleaning, running mats and tools through the washer, and try to ignore your eyes on me, remind myself how to breathe, keep my heart rate down.
You ask for the beer I already know you’ll want, and grab one out of the fridge, and pour a whisky for myself. I tilt my glass to you, and you tap your bottle against it.
You keep looking around, not sure what to do with your hands. You tell me, “I didn’t think it would be this quiet already,”
I shrug, and don’t say anything. I’m waiting for you to speak, to tell my why you’re here. But instead, you just keep drinking. So I turn around and keep working.
“You always close this early?” You ask. I shake my head. I lean against the shelves, looking at you, picking up my glass again.
“I don’t want to keep you.”
“You’re not keeping me.” I take a drink, needing something to do. I’m afraid, afraid you’re going to leave, afraid you’ll decide it’s too awkward, that you need the break of other people around, other things to be distracted by.
You say it as my face is turned, and I don’t hide my smile. Five minutes to go, and I’m counting the cash in the drawer. I move around to the front, decline your offer to help, and bring the sign in, turn off the outside light, and lock the door.
And now we don’t know what to do.
Because we need to talk. We really do. But neither of us want to. Neither of us know how to. There is so much there that we don’t have answers to. So instead, you ask me how much more I have to do before I can leave. I tell you, not much, and finish what I need to finish. You’re nursing your beer by the time I’ve finished and clocked out, but I need another whisky. Badly. Need something in my hands if you’re here, looking like you do. You smell like smoke and something else I’ve never quite been able to place.
I sit down in the seat beside you, and the corner of your lip tilts up in a smile.
“Do you usually have after hours drinks with customers?”
I shake my head.
“Emma,” You don’t know where to start, I don’t know where to start. But you’re here, and I want you to be here. And that’s enough.
But this is my problem. I don’t know what happens next. I think of you and how you’ll look and what you might say, but I don’t know from here. Because in my mind, this is where it ends. It’s you being there when I need you to be there. To show me that you care.
But this is not our story. This is not you. Or anything you would do. And I know this.
But when it’s late, and hot, and I’m about to lock the door I wonder what it would be like if you were there, hoping to be let in.
On a chilly dark night You walk beside him on the street “Just for a few blocks,” he says, “I’m close by.” And you talk, and you laugh, and you shiver in your jacket.
When you get inside there are books, and things to look at. Things to compare. There are candles, and dim lighting and music comes through speakers A list you suggested and he likes There are curtains that could be closed or not, windows that could be shut You say no Because in a few moments his skin will be on yours And you don’t do well with sweat
Then it’s sighs, and moans Fingernails scraping skin The tickling of his scruff against the inside of your thigh “Please,” “More, please,” Hands everywhere, gripping, pulling, supporting softness of lips against the feeling of your hair being pulled back, and back “Such a good girl,” And he says your name A whisper as he’s done.
An arm is draped around your shoulders You lean back against the couch And you discuss things, improvements for next time Kisses, then more kisses goodbye They are different than before, less restrained “You’ll see me around,” And he sends you on your way
And you’re walking back down the street, to a bar you know That will always be open for you And you sit back with self satisfaction
You won’t think Well, you’ll never see him again You could have said no, let’s go out another night. Let’s go get a drink first Treat me like more than a booty call Because that was what you wanted You wanted him on top of you You wanted him to make you scream To make you feel To know that someone like him was not out of your league
So you’ll leave it, for a few days And assume he’ll message But Eventually You have to decide And you think Oh, he’s probably traveling He’s busy He’s with someone else And you hope Well, maybe he’s just as awkward as you are
But you’re not awkward You know what you want And so you send a message, a joke, an olive branch You say hello, in a way you know how And your phone will stay black And silent
You will come home, and light a candle The scent of spice a reminder of another season Of a past time When things were changing And leaves were dying And you were hurting from new things and healing from old ones And you will want to retreat, but you no longer can Not the way you used to
You can no longer run and hide from things From how you feel Or the idea of feeling And you what you wanted that idea to be You will breathe in the calm air, the humidity will cling to your lungs As you try to understand That you were weaker then
Because to be the one that says hello Is admitting that you want to talk That they were on your mind And all your time hiding in the dark, refusing to try Did nothing to prepare you For when you finally tasted the sun.
You make me want to scratch my face off. It’s not out of anger – it’s that every second you’ve been in my life has been a combination of fluttery highs that have made me happier than I can describe, and anxiety of when am I going to fuck this up because I know I will. And it’s not that you have not told me how you feel, if your own special and lovely way. It’s in the way you touch my skin, in your words in my ear, in the way you raise your eyebrow that tells me you’re thinking of all sorts of terrible things you want to do to me. In the way you say you miss me. In the way you call just to say hi. It’s because I never thought I’d feel this way at all, let alone with someone who could, maybe, possibly, like me back just as much. And having never done the adult actual bona fide relationship thing, I’ve never had any desire to have the conversation of; “So, what are we?” Because any time this might have potentially come out I would retreat into emotionless pit of darkness with a supply of vitamin D supplements because no one has time for that shit. But you make me want to venture out of my little fox hole and sniff at the sun. And you terrify me, but in a way that makes me want to jump off the high dive, that pushes me further, that makes me want to try. So, the other day when we had a conversation about our future goals, our plans, our dreams – I had a moment of; Is this enough for you? I am not ashamed of my job, of what I’m working for, of what I’m doing. But the nomadic, artistic life is definitely one of those concepts that will make a person say “Go do it, go follow your dreams and passions and conquer the world,” Or “Sure, that’s fine, but what are your real goals?” And I’ve been thinking about this, because again, that nagging horrible voice in the back of my head is saying, You’re not enough. What you want is not enough. They’ll want more. And a realization came from a most unlikely of sources. You, on your own, don’t have to be enough. Because, you and I, and I know I’m getting so far ahead of myself, but, we can have our own little bit of happiness, create something together, and it can be ours and beautiful. But you can also go do that with someone else, and that’s okay. You need to have your friends and your family and the other things in your life that complete you, and make you you. I need you to have a life outside of me, and need you to appreciate that I will have a life outside of you. I’ve always thought about the concept of ‘other halves,’ solely in how it relates to me. In that, I firmly believe that one person will not fulfill all my emotional and physical needs. That one person, or no one, might be all I can handle at any given moment, or all I want at that specific moment, but in time, I may find that x and y is missing from my life. It might be that a and b needs aren’t being fulfilled. That I want to explore m and n. And that could be something requiring another physical partner, or something that friends, or even I can do on my own. I’ve been fluctuating with on my own personal tolerance for monogamy or nonmonogamy, and I’m still figuring it out. And it might take me a while to find an answer, if there even is one. However, I haven’t spent too much time thinking about this from the opposite perspective. What it would mean if I was not enough for someone. And again, I don’t know what we are right now. But I know that I love the feel of your hands around my waist as my legs wrap around you. I love the feel of your teeth against my shoulder. I love sitting on your couch with a beer watching something stupid on TV. My friend told me that my eyes go soft when I talk about you. Because you are a lot of firsts for me. You are the first guy, as an adult, I have missed when they’re not around. You are the first guy I would be willing, even want, to stick some sort of label on, whatever that may be. Something that gives it the impression of stability. You are the first guy who’s friends I have met. Hell, met more than once. You are the first guy who I want to come to, versus having them come to me. You are some of, maybe the best sex I’ve ever had. You are the first guy who makes me want for something more. That being said, You will not be my other half. You will not be my soulmate. You will not be the center of my universe. But, you could be my love. And I want to believe that we’ll figure it out as we go. Because if you are not enough for me, and I am not enough for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t still want me, or that I don’t still want you. And maybe that’s why I like you so goddamn much.
I beat the ever loving shit out of you, push you to the breaking point, call you names, tell you to do more, that nothing is ever good enough, and expect you to show up in top form the next day.
I hate you, most of the time. But you are mine.
If other people insulted you the way I do, they would never be forgiven.
But you are stuck with me, forever.
You are I are forever entwined, mind and body, together as one.
I will call you a whiny bitch, I will call you a brat, I will tell you to stop complaining, to stop aching, to get your fat pudgy ass up and keep moving.
Because we must keep training.
Because we must keep moving.
Because my brain is not okay when you are not okay.
And right now, you are broken. You are hurt. You are wounded.
You can’t move. We can’t train. We can’t work.
I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to hurl things at the wall.
And I can’t, because I need to care for you.
I’m worried about you. I need you to be better.
Because you are the thing that lets me move though air, that lets my fingers turn my thoughts into words. That lets me turn my emotions into movements, into dance, into flight. You will let me torture you, abuse you, yell at you, shame you, and yet you will get up the next morning and start all over again. You know I want you stronger, and will endlessly fight to meet my expectations.
You are my body, the only one I have. And when you are broken, I am broken. When you stop, my life stops.
I love you, and I hate you, for all your faults and imperfections.
Be patient with me, as I try to learn to love you better. As I try to make my mind sync with you. As I try to understand how to care for you as you should be taken care of.
I’m sitting here, on a Friday, with gin and tea and candles and my favourite show, with heating packs and pain relievers. I will do this every day, until you are better.