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I Don't Remember How Old I Was When It Started

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when i began growing in instead of out,

becoming more and more tangled in my own existence,

like ivy coiling and folding over on top of itself.


because

there was a time when i gave away pieces of my life

the same way i exhaled air, without fear of ever running out of breath

or needing any of it back. i traded my stories

without ever realizing that i could have kept them to myself.

but, i wanted to give because i thought that all i needed

to survive was the response my words drew from a listener’s eyes.

until,

one day, i started coming up short. i would reach down into my

core and come up empty handed. before then, i hadn’t noticed all the

holes in my skin where my life, my thoughts, my poems were

leaking out between my pores. and so that night, as i curled up to fall asleep,

i tucked my chin in close to my knees in a last attempt to keep it all inside

of me—where no one else could see my dreams as i reached out to reclaim the

secrets that were long gone.

instead, i gathered my ankles, my fingers, my lips, my cheeks, and my lashes

(the things that had been seen too many times to bother to try to hide)

in hand and used them to start building walls around my chest

and form a cage for my heart.

but

no one ever told me how lonely it feels on the other side—

to live in a world where all anyone ever does is build and build

until there are barricades miles high made of plastic so thick that

it hurts to breathe, weighing us down like bricks tethered to our lungs

so that every time i tried to speak out, it felt like the words were being

crushed before they even have a chance to escape.

then,

i remembered. i remembered what it felt like to voice the truth

through un-gritted teeth and i knew that the only way out was to

first let my mind free.

yet,

i didn’t want to go back. i didn’t want to ever run my mind dry again by

giving until i had nothing left. so i did something that i had spent

so many years terrified to do, i asked for other people to join me.

it began

as a whisper. as soft waves rushing in towards the shore,

running smoothly over the rocks and although no one could

break apart any singular word, we all knew that we no longer stood alone.

and soon,

something amazing happened. the chorus of our songs

changed pitch as new voices began weaving their way into the thick

gauze of sound until we were in unison, transforming the gentle waves into

roaring gusts of water, each with an unfathomable force.

together,

we stood so strong that the bases of our cages began to

erode and people felt safe enough to emerge from their shells again,

cautiously at first, but eventually running towards each other at full speed

with outstretched arms because by then we had all learned that nothing hurts like

being alone.



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