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It was all so poetic, Ma, the way we loved. photo

It is the hour to get drunk. I write in my dilapidated poetry journal filled with lines I copied from my Tumblr dashboard, many of which were stolen from Siken, Bukowski, and Neruda. It is 6:46 AM and I am clad in my plaid blue skirt and cotton white science high school blouse. I saw poets getting drunk on Tumblr and I wanted, so badly, to be a poet. Charged by 50mg of Prozac, Nietzschean nihilism, and a mercurial teenage recklessness, I down a 500mL Nalgene of distilled palm liquor, courtesy of my classmate Leon, who lent me a copy of The Communist Manifesto when I told him I wanted to kill myself. We’ve been friends ever since—comrades even. Lambanog, which had an alcohol content of 40-45%, was usually taken in shots, but as a sheltered evangelical whose only exposure to alcohol was when Jesus turned water into wine, I down the whole jug of bitter liquid fire with water as my chaser. I am fourteen, wrists scarred, and never loved back, just like every other fourteen-year-old. I only knew to express myself through catharsis, through self-flagellation, and what’s a better way to make sense of my pain than by writing Woolfian drown-yourself-in-the-river poems? Like her, I felt the avoirdupois of my immense sadness wholly, and with lambanog in my bloodstream, I had an anesthetized awareness of this. Drowning in—

Tears! Tears! A lot of tears! Screaming Micah’s name for never loving me back! Screaming Ramon’s name for never loving me back! Screaming my mother’s name for never loving me back Even more tears! Vomit! Vomiting the expensive palm liquor! My breath smells so bad from all this alcohol. Lol! Is this the poet’s life? Am I, dare I say, a poet? Micah! Micah! Why don’t you like me? Am I not pretty enough? Is it because I suck at Math? Take me to prom, Micah! Take me to your parents’ house, Micah! We can have a son named David who plays Ultimate Frisbee and reads Kierkegaard and sings Hillsong and Steve Kuban and he’ll have your eyes and my voice and he’ll raise sheep in our cabin in the Cordilleras. We can have this life if only you love me back, Micah, but I know you never will and you leave me with no option but to end my miserable life because I hate myself and I am a burden to everyone and I feel stupid because of this school and the 1% and my mother who thinks I’m gay! I like a boy, Ma! I like Micah! That girl I was holding hands with was just my best friend! I am not in love with tender, who unearths a field of butterflies whenever she holds my hand or writes poetry at the back of the door of the girls’ bathroom stall with a black sharpie, raw and permanent. She almost kissed me at prom, Ma, and I held my hand over my mouth at the dance floor, her dress black and blue under the silver strobe lights. She leaned into my face like it was an orison between us, an unspoken liturgy only we knew. It was all so poetic, Ma, the way we loved. I’m sorry I couldn’t—

I wake up to the fluorescent ER light with an IV hooked up to my hand. My mother stands at the foot of my bed. At the mall, she buys me a blouse and skinny jeans after we check out of the hospital, making sense of her walking wreckage of a daughter over fastfood tempura, eating in her vomit-soaked school shoes. Neither your dad nor I drink, my mother sits across from me, laughing. I love her so much but would a fourteen-year-old ever admit that? The stench of my high school ID lanyard hung around my neck like a noose for the rest of the school year, reminding me of my capacity for self-destruction. Six years later, I still find that hard to unlearn, still call myself a poet, still want to die, still like Micah’s Facebook posts about his Christian organization. I still write to my best friend from halfway around the world, on a notecard with Emily Dickinson’s words etched at the back of it in fine print, two women in their nightgowns arms linked walking along the shoreline, hoping she’ll know what I meant.

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