Because, while driving in the car with you, I looked at bridges and wondered how big of a splash I would make if I hit the water below them. Because you told me I was gross when I spit on the page that said “stain this.” Because you never questioned what I was thinking about when I went silent for hours in the thrift store. Because I didn’t think you’d care that I was wishing it was big enough for me to get permanently lost in.
Because it had been so long since I was happy for a long period of time that I truly believed I was born to be sad. Because I made a list of things that made me sad and all of them were things you told me about myself. Because my breaking point was making a list of reasons I should leave and reasons I should stay, even though I already knew which side would be longer. Because I wrote, in clear sober letters, that I didn’t think kisses could get me by anymore.
Because you would have left for breakfast without me if I had done what I wanted and taken a picture of the flowers blooming on your tree first, even though we did not have a reservation and were not meeting anybody. Because you got mad at me for sulking over that, even though it still hurts. Because you made a face when I asked if I could come on your trip, then changed your mind and said yes, but never once included me in the plans, even though you made them in front of me. Because I poured everything I had into writing you a letter when you were sad and I can’t remember if you even thanked me for it. Because, when you broke up with me, you brought up me not getting you a birthday gift the year before, saying that my plan to take you on a trip had not failed, I had just forgotten the date. ( But I hadn’t.)
Because whenever I get depressed, I hear your voice in my head listing all of the things about me that will never be good enough. Because you roared at me (that is the only way I can describe it, your teeth were bared and I swear your eyes grew hot and red right then) and I cannot shake the image of me afterwards, stumbling away, blinded by tears, and feeling so incredibly lonely that my bones still shake just thinking about it.
Because, by the end, I felt like I should hate myself to have something in common with you. Because I have to resist pounding my pillow and screaming that you were supposed to be one of the good ones. Because I accepted you telling me that I always victimize myself and began to hate the tears in my eyes and the stupid way I’d sit in the corner, picking at scabs and trying so hard to win you back each time we fought. Because I stabbed a painting of mine in a fit of self-hate and because it had been a gift for you, you got mad and took it as a sign that I did not love you, instead of asking me what was wrong. Because when I desperately asked you to please just hide the bottle of pills in the bathroom from me, I acted like I was asking a stranger for a favor, not like I was confessing that I could not stop thinking about walking the thirty steps to the bathroom, turning on the shower, and letting steam fill the room until somebody realized I had collapsed on the floor long ago. You Are An Illness I Barely Beat | Lora Mathis
Wrote this two years ago. It was originally posted on my first writing blog (which I was forced to remake.) There’s a spoken word version of it here: https://soundcloud.com/lora-mathis/you-are-an-illness-i-barely-1. (via lora-mathis)
I fell in love
and I fell too hard,
so now i refuse to be in anything close.
They say sex and love are not equals
but when all my panties remind me of you,
it spoils the fun of taking them off for someone
I’m not yours anymore,
not someone you could ever love again.
Not someone who wants to be loved by you again.
Not someone who wants to be touched by you again.
But late at night, when I’m alone
in a t-shirt and panties
and I want neither sex nor love but just
a touch, comfort, a hand on my hip
sometimes then I think of you.
I am walking in the city when I see him. Sixteen, with a cigarette in mouth. Wearing a white shirt with stains in the underarms. Knock-off Wayfarers tucked into the collar. Hair slicked back. He is pulling a comb from his pocket and out comes a lighter too. He smirks, flips his comb open, lights his cigarette and then, while looking off into the distance, finally answers my question. “Yes,” he says, “I’ve got a lighter.”
Two years later, I skip gym class and find a boy sitting on a snowy tree stump just past the school gate. He is 18, with a large wool peacoat thrown over his lean body. A bit of pudge sticks out from under his wrinkled white dress shirt. I see him drinking beer after beer, and smiling larger with each one. I shiver and walk past him, until he calls out, “Hey, you got somewhere to be?” I turn around. “Not really, no.” He scoots over, making room for me on the stump. “Want to take a seat?” I sit down slowly and offer him a slight smile. He takes a sip of his beer-cheap stuff, likely stolen-turns away from me to burp and then excuses himself, and then says, “Cigarette?”
At the end of the school year, I see my boyfriend lighting a cigarette in his car after an exam. “You smoke now?” I ask. I am so annoyed with him. He tries so hard to be something that should take no effort at all. I have to look out the window to keep from cringing at his deliberately untucked shirt, artfully messy hair, and now the cigarette posed perfectly between his “just chapped enough” lips. “I’m stressed,” he spits back at me. I study the snow and roll my eyes. When he’s finished, he starts the car and puts on a smooth jazz station, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel to the song. Three months earlier, I tried to take him to a jazz bar and he told me everything I liked was “old-ladyish and weird.” When we reach his house, I get out after him and then steal his pack. Later that night, he heads to his car to “think” and then comes back a few minutes later with his hands shoved deep inside his pockets. “That was fast,” I say. “Yeah, I just had to get some fresh air,” he says, while slipping into bed, smelling of nothing but pine. He is snoring in two seconds, so happy to be relieved of his smoking habit that he’s fallen asleep half-smiling. I look at him for a few seconds, then slip out of the covers, grab his pack from my jacket pocket, and go outside. I return smelling of tobacco and pine.
A few years later, I take myself out to a bar and see a man putting his cigarette into his mouth, flicking his lighter, and smiling at me as he inhales. A cloud of smoke is blown into my face as he asks me my name. I give him a fake one. I don’t feel too much like myself-eighteen, and standing on a street congested with bars and traffic at two a.m. We go into the upper level of the closest bar and inside, he buys me “whatever’s on the tap” with the change in his pocket. “Honey,” he says. Honey, darling sweetheart, butter pecan lips and sugar hips. “Honey, what are you doing in a place like this?” He is combing his hair as he says this, and I am suspicious that he is only looking into my eyes in hopes of seeing his reflection. I laugh in response. To this, he declares, “I need a smoke break.” You can tell that he likes saying that more than he likes actually smoking the cigarettes. He opens his pack, puts one in-between his teeth, and then offers one to me. I shake my head. “Suit yourself,” he says. “I won’t be too long. Otherwise I’ll start to miss you.” I watch him walk down the stairs as I sip the last of my beer. I am about to join him when I notice a back door. I check my watch, then walk down the bar’s fire escape and go home. He can’t miss what he doesn’t know.
That night, with my elbows resting on my fire escape, I light a cigarette and look at the sleeping city. Hot red lights, trucks unloading in the dark, the occasional scream of a car horn cutting through the stars. I suck in deeply, hold the smoke in my throat for so long that I almost forget it’s there, and then exhale. Gone. I am secondhand smoke. I have been breathed out by so many mouthes that the stale smell of me clings to your clothes. I am in your new girlfriend’s hair when she comes home from the bar. I am floating outside your window when you return to our old apartment. And I am blackening your lungs one touch at a time.The Cigarette Stories | Lora Mathis (via lora-mathis)