When I was younger, I showed up to math class intending to make the universe known.
My first few years of school I had already wrapped everything else into perfect little boxes tied with closure
so everything was all I had left to learn.
The grown-ups had given us battles and bridges and block letters
and taught me that black is when all the colors in the universe are collected into a single object.
When I was younger, I wanted to be the human version of the color black. I wanted to soak up all the colors, absorb everyone’s feelings, become a magnet for beauty. I wanted all the knowledge there was.
As I got older, I realized I couldn’t know everything. The universe can’t fit in my pocket any more than those white dandelions could, so I just longed for something I could compact into a small enough suitcase to carry around the world with me. But eventually I realized that wouldn’t ever be enough either, I wanted a souvenir from every single person who has ever stepped into my door, every single city I’ve taken a sliver of when I leave. So there goes another dream, slipping out the window as soon as I crack it an inch for the break of spring.
As I got older, I wanted to know what made me worth it. I wanted to know who I was and why did everyone keep leaving me and why do people find it so hard to say the five letters in sorry and why do people so easily throw around the four letters in love. I wanted to know why we don’t dare to touch each other and why we hurl thunderstorms at each other at the passing of a second. I wanted to know why when she was mad at me the concrete outside my window felt softer on my shuddering skin than the bed we shared. I wanted to know why I tried so hard to fill in the pit in my stomach but every time I walk by that street it drops again. I wanted to know why I could melt into your embrace and pour out the monsters between us. I wanted to know why the picnic benches outside the window of my seventh-grade classroom were falling apart, because I felt like I was falling apart too.
But I still showed up to math class.
I watched those variables on the blackboard, shifting every question into something different. And instead of discovering the universe like I had always wanted to I became more and more lost in unknowns.
Let n equal all the doubts I’ve ever had,
I scribbled in my notebook.
And math class shoved n in my face day after day and the voice inside my head said please, pick apart everything I don’t like about myself, throw them into an equation I don’t understand so I can finally, finally begin to learn everything I have left to learn about the universe.
I still want to be the human version of the color black.
But n kept coming back, tossed chaotically across the blank page I would open to every day, forcing me every day to look at all the things I didn’t know about the world, all the things I didn’t know about myself, turning my thoughts bitter and saying everything other than
you’re worth it.
As I got older, I waited too long to know what made me worth it.
I waited so long that my commas were cut off at the ends, dangling from a crumbling cliff.
I waited so long that I would pour myself over the first one who turned around enough to look into my eyes a second time instead of just giving me a passing glance.
I waited so long that my energy was spent on things like flying and reading and looking out windows and closing my eyes and going over what I was going to say again and again and speaking sometimes and looking at beautiful people.
I used to think my unknowns were what made me beautiful. I soaked in all the colors and all the people and all the atoms in the universe and became the human version of the color black. But then they got all tied up in the pit of my stomach and I was a mixture, I became more of a mystery, even to myself.
Now I just line up my unknowns like dominoes, waiting for one of these skeletal hands to emerge from the shadows and knock them all down.
I just wanted to be everything the world told me. I want to be the human version of the color black.
And somehow school still teaches us about battles and bridges and block letters and never gives us the simple words