Kelsey

Underwater

 

Being underwater, all the commotion

from the surface is far away

You can hear your own heartbeat.

A gentle tide-like rhythm.

The way traffic moves

when it travels by the ocean,

more slowly.

The tide pulls at the water

that wells up inside us.

Bubbles float out of your mouth

like spheres of silver.

Every gesture made with grace

of a ballerina performing

the crescendo of her choreography.

Short lived, lungs begin to panic

from the lack of air.

I let myself be swept away in a rip tide.

I blamed myself for every cut

and scrape from the rocks.

The only way to save yourself

from a riptide is to stand up,  

that seems near impossible

when you don’t know

which way is sky

and which way is sand.

All you know is swirling water.

The pieces of myself

etched away like sea glass.

In those hours,

I was hundreds of pieces.

Broken.

 

For me this experience felt like a privileged stereotype for a long time. A white middle-class straight woman going through a breakup, the worst thing that ever happened to me. This is what the world and Disney and even God had promised me. I know God was with me there on that floor and when I got up, my sisters and brothers, chosen and biological were there for me. They let me cry, they fed me grilled cheese, wine and chocolate, Mac & Jacks. They housed me. We watched movies and threw parties. We danced. They told me to sing. I became a new edition of myself. The words of my history translated more clearly. A true representation of love for myself.

 

*


 

Tea is where I draw the line. I do not take it with sugar or milk or in any way. Though I lick my lips when my morning coffee clouds with cream filling the dark liquid like a rising morning fog, I will not drink tea. For what seemed to be looped time I was at a perpetual tea party. Accepting the tea, going along to get along. I was the fine china, tucked away in the cupboard behind frosted glass.

Sitting there, I was pretty and quiet. Still and silenced. There were few who could see that I was pounding my fists on that glass trying to break through. What if I cracked? What if I was broken? If I said one thing versus their other my imperfections would show. As a child, tea parties were water and color changing cups, light pink to dark pink and back again. As an adult I was still playing pretend.  Hot ever-spilling water coursed down my skin.  I didn’t see that those were the scars, the cracks, the vulnerabilities where the light could shine through.

Sitting there, I was pretty and quiet. Still and silenced.

Occasionally someone took me down from my shelf. Bright, unkind eyes, groping fingers, without heart, trying to reshape me. Warm low pitches, like a human voice of someone I’d rather not meet. My first love language consisted of physical touch. It took a while to sort the counterfeit from the pieces of value like myself. Many times I reached out and held the faces of those I wanted to love in cupped hands. I drank them in like the words they spoke were water keeping me alive. When I dropped my hands the bubble broke.

My voice was lost like the passed over family heirloom, forgotten for something shinier.  Silver over bone. Beyond more fumbling and erosion of the porcelain girl I was, I discovered cracks could be filled with more than tears, gold perhaps. From the fragile object I became red lips and bright lights. I learned to sing my truth. A broken silence did not shatter the pieces of my heart, but reclaimed them.

It took a while to sort the counterfeit from the pieces of value like myself.

I declared my love for the chiming of clock towers, the whispers carried on the night air to balconies hinting at adventures yet to be had. Turning from those balconies to descend spiral staircases. My roommates learned I didn’t like their music, all the time. I fought with my best friend, told her I had been hurt. After five years of participating, I went to train to become a group fitness instructor with a microphone and a stage. In the shower, upstairs in the spare room, my room, in front of a classroom, the kitchen, in the park, on the street, at Karaoke, I sang. My world learned silence was not agreement. All that long simmering quiet turned into sound.

One rainy afternoon, the weather reflected the fear reverberating in my head. Now or never, say it now, now is the time, do not let the moment pass you by, you know it, you feel it, what is the worst that can happen, what if, what if. My thoughts spun like a teacup ride. I always hated how that ride threw off my equilibrium and kept me from seeing. Through his patient coaching, deep breaths, and tears, I said, “I love you.” The world outside his white Audi kept going. It kept raining. He kept driving. I felt one crack fill with light.

I also hate chocolate, but that is a story for another time.