Anything Goes

By , East Amherst, NY
Sometimes I look in the mirror and the face that I see is somehow unrecognizable. Like the contours of my face rearranged in the night. The cheekbones that were once defined have blurred and smeared into a profile that no longer fits. My eyes were once stars that shone in the night but the star has been replaced by a black hole; gravity’s relentless pull has pulled me under, under the blankets of a fear so dark and endless I feel like my heart is breaking.

Crying would be too easy. I look at him and I see someone else. Don’t touch me, I say, because you are clean and I am dirty. I've been weak and leaking so much poison in all the rivers around me the fish are dying and the trees are vying for some light but I'm the eternal night. She knows why, knows why I only cry when I feel like I am about to lose control, she knows how much control is worth, knows what I lost when my power to move, was taken away by a grip so thick with hate it crucified my dreams, as his heartbeat beat another hope to death.

I remember the way love used to glow on my skin before he made his way in. Now every touch feels like a sin that could stone a prophet. You’ll have your rhythm back any day now, I think. Someday I will be loving like rumors spread. Dreaming like lunatic spacemen jump from their suits. Living like I never forgot how.

“It’s been two weeks,” she said, her voice piercing my ears through the phone. “Don’t you think it’s time to leave your apartment?”

“Yes,” my mouth answered. No, my heart said. No I don’t think so. The ceiling fan still feels like his breath. My knees are bruised from praying to forget. My blood is still boiling like water in a pot, but my lid has been ripped off; the tea kettle whistles and it sounds like a war cry.

I leave my apartment, get to the parking lot, reach my car and my lungs refuse to function. Everyone I see is the enemy clothed in terror. I walk, briskly but don’t run; suspicion and attention are the last things I need. My purse is a cave I search for my keys in. Get the key in the door please please please open. Already I can feel his five fingered noose around my neck please please please open. Two hundred pounds of hatred digging graves into the sacred soil of my flesh. My eyes are flame, I can’t see, all I know is that the door is conspiring with him, it won’t open. And then it does and my hands are still trembling as I lean my back against the door, the only thing I can trust is that now my knees will buckle and I will fall to the floor, feeling the tingling of my amputated wings.


I had not wanted to go to the party. I have a test tomorrow, I told her. I need to study. But she did not listen. She told me studying was for high schoolers, college was the time for hardcore frat parties. We were no longer children. And I went along, the mortar of my resistance crumbling into ash. There is little I remember of that night after that. I remember leaving; the fresh air was a relief from the recycled air of the party. And then I am held down, the stranger saying “God you’re so beautiful.” He said, “You make blinking stars go blind.” And I break like glass. Take me. Just take me. But you’ve got it all wrong. If you’re going to break, shatter. I look in the mirror and start to see a stranger. I look away. I can’t stand to see you like this, I tell myself. And then I can’t stand at all.

The keys of the piano contained endless music. I had tuned the music within me since I could barely walk, hearing the theme song for Sesame Street and immediately turning to the giant black beast that had the sweetest voice. The piano is both string and percussion. Both heart and soul. Both math and pure feeling. Nothing as powerful as I, in my floor length dress, sitting on a stage and my breath catches as my fingers touch the keys and I wonder. I wonder if Beethoven held his breath the first time his fingers touched the keys, the same way a soldier holds his breath the first time his finger clicks the trigger. We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe. Mine is the fact that despite my beautiful music, neither of my parents showed up. I look in the audience and my eyes survey the crowd and I see strangers. Strangers that cared so much that they decided to spend two hours of their life in my music’s company. Time that they couldn’t spare. I wonder if the heat of my fiery renditions does not beat the heat of my father’s lover’s breath, because he thinks I don’t know, but I know. I wonder if the beauty of my soaring crescendos does not lift the heart of my mother who downs harsh liquid when she believes no one can see her. But God sees her, and I see in God, in the sky so blue it’s repulsive. The sky that holds the flying kites from the nights when I convince myself that wrists are kite strings you can only cut free.

The stairs are where I heard everything. All the gatherings my mother had with her friends. The coffee they drank, the hot liquid burning their taste buds as my curiosity burned within me; the lives of adults infinitely more interesting than any cartoon. “I lie awake in bed some nights wondering what will happen to my children,” my mother says, clasping and unclasping her hands. “Such is motherhood,” her friend replies, her hands cradling her coffee mug like a baby. “I feel blessed. I have beautiful children, but tragedy cannot continue to not touch my life.” My mother nods in agreement. “They say one in five girls is raped in her lifetime. And I have three daughters,” she says, finally making use of her hands as she guides her hair into an elastic band. “And I wonder what I would tell my daughters if that ever happened.” That is not defined, and my immature brain wrestles that word around, the one she said, what does it mean? My mother’s hair is tied, her hands again freed to restlessly roam the smooth wood of the dining table. “I would not know what to do with a daughter that trusts the world as much as hands trust rusted barbed wire. My daughters are all so curious, all so alive, I just can’t imagine.” My mother’s friend sips her coffee, “You also have a son,” she says, “Maybe it’s not about what you would tell your daughters; it’s about what you’re going to teach your son.” This is not a conversation I understand, the concerns of mothers bore me, and I eventually trod back up the stairs, deciding that maybe next time they will talk about something interesting.

Deep as the Atlantic, but every ocean has a shoreline, has a tide, to wake the songbirds that perch on my fingertips, to inspire the fearless river that runs through the center of my heart to find its way home.





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