My morning routine:
The sun makes its daily journey to my window as an alarm, jerking me from bed each morning.
Before it moves out of my window, I take advantage of the blinding light and close my eyes. Sitting up straight with my legs crossed, I set my intentions for the day. Self love, confidence, and wisdom. It’s the same thing each sunrise, and will continue to be the same until I learn to do one at all times.
I brush my teeth and put on my overalls for the trek to the barns to muck the stall of my horse. I don’t allow myself to see myself. But instead, I see my mother in the world around me. Her hips, winding in the hills, eyes, wandering like leaves strewn across Ojai. Her lips, the grass kissing the soles of my feet, her hair, the river flowing along my right side. She is beautiful, but she is in Atlanta. Her face is one that I may never see again, in the home that I’ve lived in since birth. Boarding school is for the strong minded and soft hearted, but I don’t fit those requirements. I truly don’t belong here. I think of my mother back home and my home, and I feel no pain. I feel no hope to go back. Atlanta became a burial ground as soon as my love left. When she left, she changed too. She pressed her hair for the white people around her, whereas I began my dreadlocks. She started losing her Ebonics, whereas I began picking up Ebonics along with Sesotho, my mother’s tongue. As we grew apart, I lost my interest in my first home. In the place where I first looked in the mirror and thought, “I love myself.” In the place where I first thought, “I hate myself,” as well. Where the creaks of the wooden floor under my rapidly moving feet matched the hushed whines of my late night anxiety and the squeals of my early morning mania. In the place where I stopped looking in the mirror to begin with. My horse’s stall is clean, as is he. Ink rests his head on my shoulder, awaiting the reward of my forceful petting. And as always, I give it to him. I give him everything he wants, because I love him. I love so often and so much.
I trudge down the hill again, my rubber boots squeaking against the pavement the way the tires do. The birds drop their feathers into my hair; their notes forcing their way through my ears, into my brain. Clear, high pitched songs scream and circle through my head, they repeat over and over again until I can’t tell whether or not the screams are my own. The wind whistles through the leaves of the tree, making the shushing sound that I am so used to hearing and giving to myself. Hush, child. Stop crying. Stop speaking. Hush.
I open the creaky wooden door and enter the bathroom. I do attend a boarding school, but the restrooms are not as bad as you may think. I pull back the forest green door to the showers and walk in, the steamy, scalding hot water bouncing off my skin as it burns with every touch. My milk chocolate brown skin turns redder the longer I stay in the shower, but I can’t help but stay standing there. Sometimes I wonder why I like to feel pain this much. My cuts sting, on my biceps, my wrists, my thighs, my breasts, my stomach. It would be quicker to say the parts of me that I haven’t hurt: my face. Because my face is the last thing people look at when walking down Atlanta streets. My ass first, swinging side to side the way my hair does when I’m happy. My thighs next, jiggling in my tight leggings when I step. My breasts, large and plump as they usually are, bouncing if I’m running, being artifacts in a museum if not. My stomach, small in comparison, but still never small enough. Biceps, muscular enough to beat up any man who even looks towards me. And that’s when they turn away. When they find themselves threatened by me.
The water stops. I don’t know if I did it. But I run, toweled and bright red, to my room. And in the safety of my room, I drop my towel. And I look at the ceiling. Pure white, like the children who surround me in my classes. Like the teachers who surround me. Like the administration that keeps me handcuffed in my own skin. And I look to the floor. Brown, like the children and adults and family members that have made me feel more and more comfortable in my own skin. And even though I’m not confident enough yet, it is because of them that I have come so far.
I put on a brightly colored t-shirt, a black leather jacket and black leggings. I use only the mirror. I never look at my body with just my own eyes. Makeup is next. Foundation and concealer on my scars, and for my eyes a bit of mascara. But nothing too much. Nothing that may make people stare. I don’t like having eyes on me; they feel like bars encasing my soul, keeping me from being everything I am.
I sit at my desk, with school supplies strewn in front of me like a tornado has passed through. With one solid motion, I push it all to the back of my desk. My hands act as a crane, picking out which teddy bear to bring to the giddy little child(i.e. Me.). They bring me a HB pencil, my trusty sketchbook, and my vision for what will be on them. I’ve always drawn people naked. No makeup, no clothes, hair as they just got out of bed. And I’ve always considered it beautiful on everyone else. In the way their cheeks blossomed into roses. Their hair was nappy or straight and tangled. No lotion, no sucking in to be skinny, nothing wrong. As they are, no reflections or illusions. And I wonder why, just why, I can't do this for myself.
The next day I find myself staring in the mirror, dropping my makeup to the floor, and walking out of the house without it. Self-conscious, but it's a step forward. I'm waiting for the day I can look at these scars on my own. For the day I can change my intentions.