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one night, michelle and i were taking the subway to a party and she was drunk as hell, swaying at the pole, like she was about to backbend into a hook spin. instead she vommed. creamsicle-colored flecks danced on the speckled floor. at the next stop everyone else got off and she asked, “do you think they left because of me?” i said, “of course,” before helping her off, too

this is a story she tells better than i do. her audience makes it through the vomit to say, “what a nice friendship!” she works in theater. sometimes when i tell stories, i echo her performer’s cadence; i gesture with my palms up, to the god she no longer believes in. but usually i need time alone to solidify the live and liquid details into shapes i can slot into narratives. i’m a writer, as i’ve started to say to others

my stories are mostly about my childhood, experiences that were excruciating at the time, but funny now. like how i also vommed on the floor once—on the third day of school. how my dad picked his nose in front of my friends. how my high school crush and i comingled our pubescent stenches under the same blanket, playing hours of video games while my parents were out. neither of us had the guts to do anything, even when we snuck out at midnight to lie on the basketball court and just look for constellations, like the sky wasn’t too light-polluted to see anything

how i farted during silent reading

not everyone wants my stories; i’ve tried and failed to publish many. but i told all these to you. they were a shorthand for revealing myself: vulnerable, yet safely in the past. though when you laughed or called me cute, it felt like you were delighted by the person you were holding, not someone from years ago, someone who no longer exists


it’s been hard for me to handle rejection, especially at the end of the month, when i can blame my resentment on my body, so i let it flow free. i recede into my flesh sack, i shut the door to my room, i tire of my friends whose love isn’t enough, i dwell on every wrong i’ve ever suffered, especially the ones i’d forgiven. i try and fail to write: emails to customer service, and stream of consciousness. i spray submissions to publications i don’t even read. my left tit swells with the weight of my sins. i chug coffee to hum myself back into my body’s fundamental frequency and stay up all night, my thoughts rattling the cage of my skull. when i can sleep, i dream of you. i shit weird, too

last year i learned that “heartbreak” is a misleading metaphor. really i feel it in my gut. i’m backed up, or i can’t help but spill and spill and spill and spill, begging for an onlooker’s disgusted entrancement


this memory is now as foggy as a shower door—as the weather in november, before we parted for the second and last time to different cities—but it clarifies with the trickle: my peeing in the bidet, across from your peeing in the toilet

“this is your dream, isn’t it?” i said. we stroked each other’s cheeks and kissed. hahaha! hahaha!

it was really funny. we’d to come out of bathrooms holding hands, crowing, “we were just peeing together!” to the guy behind us in line, that stick in the mud simon was dating at the time. after the beach, in the single occupancy in panda express, we peed into each other’s pee and i scraped sand out of my crotch and we snorted out of a bag, through a straw, and the dry noodles snaked away my oxygen as the fluorescent lights winked like stars. at your friend’s sugar daddy’s house in the hamptons, we snuck kisses in bathrooms, plus that shower with the bench. at your friend’s friend’s party in london, before we parted for the first time to different cities, the molly made you constipated, and while you groaned on the toilet, i held your face in my hands to channel my energy into you and “help you poop,” i giggled. “she’s helping me poop,” you whooped, through the door to someone whose opinions could never matter

the other day, i watched this reality show about aspiring porn stars with michelle and simon and simon’s boyfriend (not jarron or rachel, though they would’ve liked it). at the corny acting and silly premises, they asked, “why do some people find humor sexy?” i don’t really. i just liked how you made us show each other our shame, how you made the disgusting beautiful, how somewhere in the middle was laughter


michelle shared with me a poem she wrote about a recent breakup. i loved it and suggested ways she could polish it. she responded matter-of-factly, “i actually don’t think i’m going to work on this anymore. i got what i wanted to get out of it as i wrote it. why do people polish things to be published? that makes the writing for others, not themselves”

i didn’t know how to answer her question. i guess for validation or attention, or out of spite. “those aren’t very good reasons,” she said. you two can be similar. you once reprimanded me for complaining about writing, about doing it because it felt expected of me. i was lying: sometimes it’s just hard to be honest about what i want

as a child, i wanted to be a writer, then for a while i wanted to be a lawyer, and now i want to be a writer again. michelle writes beautifully but doesn’t want the identity, or any identity really. i’m also watery: in the summers, gushing, three boroughs in one bender; this winter, spilled like a puddle, my mattress on the floor. i can’t collect myself, i’m spread, i’m wet, i’m without you, so define me, as the narrator of a narrative

my childhood diaries are all blank, the front pages ripped out in layers, the inner spine a sedimentary cliff that doesn’t reveal as many stories as it should. even though my diaries never left my nightstand drawer, i would get embarrassed by what i wrote. so i’d start fresh, declaring an introduction where i’d clear my throat for the perfect pages to come: “this is julie’s diary! keep out!” the reader—a fear, a hope, a fantasy—would then find lists of friends, crushes, likes, dislikes; self-definitions that would be torn to pieces weeks later

sometimes i fantasize about my friends opening my laptop after i off myself and, loving, creative people that they are, polishing and publishing my google docs, phone notes, tweet drafts—my writing that wasn’t good enough to be read in my life. then everyone would love it, how couldn’t they, love me the way my friends do


there are things i write for myself. after we parted for the first time to different cities, i made a list of everything we’d done that summer (“oh, you would do that,” you said when i told you): ikea, auto parts, oxtail, cemetery, both sides of the bridge, etc. etc. i wanted to remember, correctly; i didn’t want to tarnish the memories by exposing and re-exposing them to my longing, for them to become stories instead of lived experiences. because i’m a writer and all the stories i tell are lies

there’s also the love poem i wrote that i sent simon, but not you; another poem i wrote called “fuck you [your name]!!!” that i sent simon and michelle, but not you. there are the emails i addressed to you and sent to michelle after the end, where the lower case default arial swam in tears, where everything spilled out of me like that time i went running after drinking kombucha (hahaha!). it hurt, it burned, i have an asshole, i stopped mattering to you but i’m still a person. i feel and poop and fling it around like a monkey

they say not to call sad women dramatic or attention-seeking, but of course, i want it. often, i have to earn it. my vulnerability has to be beautifully articulated for it to be lovable instead of cringeworthy. my thoughts have to connect to and build off one another into an eiffel tower: delicate but sturdy, poised but seemingly effortless. i’ve always resented architects: artists who can create impersonally, without the blood and shit of it

i could have tried to publish those poems and emails, but i couldn’t bear to risk someone not loving them

when it was too hard to part for the first time to different cities, i didn’t tell you that you made me miss my flight until you told me that you also missed your flight. now i know to take the chances i have to tell someone whenever they hurt me, and how much i love that they can do that

so—i’m writing this, and i want to publish it. but i’m also writing this because i learned from you not to shy away from the wet and slimy and disgusting and raw. because there’s been time and distance; because while the feelings ebb and flow, they ultimately diminish; because i’ve been seeing new people and telling them about you, you story from my past


an excerpt from my last email to michelle:

“We met up today… I said what I planned on saying, probably a bit too quickly, inarticulately, i stuttered on the word ‘vulnerable’ when I said the relationship made me braver and more vulnerable… It was hard to be angry to his face... He didn't apologize, but I didn't really ask for one directly, and I ended my piece saying I wanted to feel positive energy toward him and that I was excited about the future. On the way back I thought about how I could have been more confrontational, angry, how he'd once gotten upset at me bc he felt like I didn't stand up for myself enough (it wasn't fair, as I said when I stood up to him). I thought about how I had wanted to seem cool and brave, and how I am those things, but don't always feel them, and probably don't always project them. And I don't know what he thinks of me, if he feels impressed by my niceness and maturity, turned off by my doormatness, guilty, uncomfortable, or nothing, and I won't, bc this is the end, I did what I had left to do and now there is nothing but myself. A lonely and powerful thing”

she responded, “You are brave and I am proud of you”


should i have included that email? does it fit into the themes and narrative of this story? or did i write this story as clumsy scaffolding for it, my real design? is anything orderly or beautiful about my writing just an excuse for me to spew my shit for people to see?

i can ask myself these questions, but in the end, i’ll take any excuse i have. when i write, i will inevitably think about publishing and validation and attention and my exes (1) possibly reading my work. it’s okay if i can’t publish, if no one thinks it’s good enough. but of course i want someone to. of course i want my disgusting parts to seem beautiful. of course i will seek out love, the kind you need to fight for. is writing ever pure? words and shit, they both come out of holes in the body

it’s absurd that my shit can be compelling to other people, but sometimes, it is. i wrote a fanfiction for michelle about her breakup. the “omg i love it” she texted back, how she told me she read it aloud to jarron, how she made me read it aloud to rachel: that made me so happy


you have probably peed with everyone you’ve ever loved, including the woman you do right now, because that’s the type of person you are. i’ve only been in love once, so far. but as a child, before i learned to shower, i would wash my butt and feet, in that order, with my mom. my plastic wash basin was blue, round, and flower-printed at the bottom while hers was a stern but calm beige rectangle. there wasn’t enough space in the bathroom for both of us to wash at the same time so i went first, squatting over my basin and splashing water onto my vagina and asshole, then without changing the water i sat on a stool to wash my feet. it seems we thought it was better to get butt juice on the feet than feet juice on the butt. when it was her turn, i watched her from the only other seat in the room, the toilet

when i visit her as an adult, she pees with the door open, her watery requests for me to thaw the pork or cook the rice echoing off the linoleum. i don’t reciprocate by peeing with my door open, but i could; anytime i want to, she’ll be there. i’ve never told this to anyone before. i hope it’s okay for me to share these special, gross moments with my mom, whose womb i came out of slimy and sobbing