Tag Archives: trust

Original Sin

What a common scene, two people on a park bench in the middle of the night demanding perfection and facing the inevitable truth that it does not exist. I am broken from your knife in my back and you are screaming for me to let you in. One more fight, another head bent in despair. How many other couples reach into unlit caverns to try and make sense of this pain. Humanity is comprised of masses desperate to be unique, mortals looking for eternity in someone else’s arms.

You sit there alternately asking and demanding forgiveness, bringing up my lighter crimes that I have allowed you to own as perspective to what you have done. I have never seen you desperate before, but I still cannot breathe from this. I expected this cruelty from everyone else and it is shattering me to realize you are common. I want to tell you, shake you so you feel me; I am no one to ask forgiveness from. I am not holy. I am not perfect. A reel of my transgressions against you plays in my mind and I wonder if silent lies are all that holds us together. I wish I could be on a cross with the high-minded claim that my blood will save you but it won’t. It is not a blessing and mixed with dirt creates nothing but mud. A snake in our Garden of Eden has exposed us.

Listen to me; listen closely so that you understand. I am afraid of what you can do, of what you are doing to me. I am on fire with what you have done. How desperately I want to cling to my vision of martyrdom, isolate this event so that you are culpable and I am the gracefully wounded. But I cannot. How many nights have you already betrayed me? How many more nights I have already betrayed you.

This is dirty business, falling in love, and it’s going to eat me alive. I do not own a single hair on you and on days like today, I hate you for it. You have mistaken apathy for freedom and I have granted you permission to bear my silence. What if this is doomed? I have spent hours agonizing over the potential of losing you and my solitude is causing you to lose me. What if this is the mistake that erodes and one day you come home to your house being exactly as you left it with one room missing? Will you miss me? Swear your house is haunted because my footsteps will remain on your carpet? Hang figures of me on the wall as protection? My fear is not that I am made up of skin and bones and that you can indeed penetrate me, my fear is that you will overtake and then forget me.

That I cannot speak these words aloud to you seems a sin you will not bear.  But what would you have me do? This is not an anonymous cloister that I can simply regurgitate all the demons swirling in my head. I cannot look at your face while I spout venom and confession is a simplistic art form at best. We are simply two people who have done the ordinary and fallen in love. Nothing unique, we are daily. If we crucify ourselves it will not matter, and men in dresses will not quote these letters I write to you. These letters are sin not scripture. I am forgiving you, not for your transgression but for your humanity. Consider my confession, then- tonight when you fall next to me remember I can leave you too.

I want to cling to my grief, to the ‘how could you’ and the accusations of not loving me enough. But in the face of this I realize I am tiny, of little importance. Days go by from the fifteen seconds it took for you wound me. Slowly hours crawl through me and I am steps closer to being in the ground. I do not have time for grief and I can no longer wait to be saved. At this moment I realize that my imperfection is mine to own and I will grow, from grief to grace. You will not make me afraid and in return I will give you opportunity to face your weakness and slay it. We are both criminals aghast at being robbed. So you have hurt me, done what I have been so afraid of and I am still living. I made you a god and am now charged with forgiving you, and I will. Night after night I will peel this off of me and hand you the blood until I am new again. Finally I realize that love is a filthy verb and requires more blood, spit and tears than it does pink bows and champagne glasses. It is an action not a faith. You will hurt me again and I need from you the courage to admit you are flawed and broken. I will give you my dark corners and come down from this holy altar I built for myself. Be careful with this, with me. We are just two people in the end, just like all the other except that I love you and you, I must believe, love me.

I will breathe this onto you, I love you I love you I love you.


It Began in the Summer of ‘72

It was the summer of 1972 and no one wanted to admit the ‘60s had come to an end — and in Weird Town, USA, they’ve yet to admit it!  I was fifteen, soon to turn sixteen, and I was looking forward to the long, carefree days of summer.

My twenty-three year old sister was my idol back then.  She treated me like I was an adult.  She was the one who got me on birth control when I admitted to having sex with my best friend’s brother.  She invited me to grown up parties, and introduced me to her campus friends.  When I needed to get out of the crazy house we grew up in and away from my siblings there was always a bed to crash on at the group house where she and her fiancé lived.

My sister was getting married in a few weeks — according to my mother to the man she’d been living in SIN with.  I was to be a bridesmaid in a small ceremony in the campus chapel with guitar music, long haired men, and women in long flowing skirts.  But first a modern shower:  both men and women were invited and asked to shower the couple with bottles of liquor to fill their liquor cabinet.

I don’t really remember that much about the evening anymore except who gave me a ride home.  He was a Nigerian graduate student.  He was six foot two, attractive, funny, and well dressed.  He told me he was twenty-one.  I wouldn’t’ normally have accepted an offer of a ride home from a man I’d just met, but I assumed he was a friend of my sister’s, so I hopped right in his new Camaro with no worries.  But, instead of driving me home, he drove me to a closed park, and he didn’t take me home until after he forced himself on me.

I definitely wanted nothing to do with this man who was way too old for me and had an accent that was difficult to understand.  I told him no and fought him off as best I could but, being six foot two to my five foot three and in great shape, he easily over powered me.   Afterwards I blamed myself.

Did he somehow sense that I wasn’t a virgin?  I had sex one other time with my friend’s brother, a boy my own age.  Did that mean I no longer had a right to say “no”?  All that I had ever heard from anyone was that sex before marriage was wrong.   No one ever offered information about what the parameters were if you decided you were going to have sex before marriage.  You were either good…or bad…there was no grey area.

At fifteen, there was no one I could talk to about this experience.  I took to my bed in shame and turned the anger inward on myself feeling depressed and empty inside.   My sister was someone I felt comfortable with but we’d never talked about sex in any honest way, other than trying to avoid the outcome of pregnancy.  My mother had never said a word to me about sex other than NOT to do it before marriage and I got the sense she didn’t think it would be much fun afterward.  We didn’t communicate in my family about anything of import and none one of us would have known how to talk about something like this.

My alcoholic Dad had died a few months prior to my sister’s wedding putting our family out of one form of its dysfunctional misery and throwing us into another.  Now my mother, who had always been a housewife and had never completed High School, was forced to do housekeeping for other women and take care of other people’s children in order to make ends meet.  (No matter how hard she worked, the bills never could quite get paid and by the end of each month the lack of funds was obvious at the dinner table.)  She had way too much on her mind already and since it was summer, and I didn’t have to be in school, I imagine she wrote off the long hours spent in my room to my being a moody teenager.

The day following the rape flowers began to arrive on our doorstep from my rapist:  beautiful yellow roses daily for a week.  The roses were followed by more gifts and many phone calls.  I suppose since I blamed myself for the abuse, as many women (and much of society) do, his attention afterward was a way for me to deny what had really happened and pretend that the man actually cared for me.  I also found myself unable to resist the gifts.  It may seem very strange to those who grew up in loving households where no one ever went hungry but to me this crazy relationship didn’t seem that different from what went on in the homes around me.   Screaming and fighting seemed to go hand in hand with kissing and hugging from what I could see.  Listening to my mother and her friends talk, sex was something all men wanted and women simply put up with in order to have someone to take care of them.

So without really understanding how it happened I began a relationship with my rapist that would last almost two years.  Those years destroyed my innocence.  He stood me up, abused me, cheated on me, and always after these violations came the apologies and lavish gifts. For a girl who grew up below the poverty line, these gifts had no small effect.  They weren’t little gems from the dollar store but expensive hand-made purses, a complete new stereo system, a 10-speed bike, and the use of his hot, new Camaro to drive around the local college campus when he was out of town.   I actually got this man to take me to my senior prom.  That was something I wish I had pictures of:  a grown man, the ONLY African-American male attending the senior prom at a conservative, white, catholic High School with a blonde haired, hazel-eyed, seventeen-year old girl.

He also bought me clothes, took me to campus parties where we danced all night, took me to my first sit-down restaurant where we were served by an attentive waiter (before this the only restaurants I’d ever been to were the Bob’s Hamburgers drive-through—I don’t think the town even had a McDonald’s yet–and Sizzler Steak House with my Mom to celebrate my birthday), and on trips to the beach and shopping in the big city.

Along with being in graduate school he  also claimed to be a tennis professional.  He gave lessons in town and was out of town on tour often.  His favorite outfit was his little white tennis shorts and crisp white top showing off his long muscular legs and deep, dark color.

At one point he was arrested and my mother saw it in the paper.  He told me he was arrested for marijuana and I believed him, never bothering to look at the paper.  (Other than the comics, reading the paper was just not something high school kids in my crowd did.)  My mother read the paper, however, and went crazy.  How could I be seeing this man? What was wrong with me? I remember telling her it was no big deal; that all my friends did it.  It was months later when a friend told me that I actually found out he was arrested for attempted rape.  Can you imagine what my mother must have thought when I told her all my friends did this?  Still, she couldn’t bring herself to say to me out loud what she’d read in the paper.  She never said the word “rape”, just as she never said the word “sex” in front of me.   I look back on this and it seems completely unfathomable but I swear to you it’s exactly what happened.  By the time I found out that he’d been arrested for attempted rape I had already rewritten our own history in order to live with myself.  I told myself he would never do such a thing.  I wondered to myself how my mother could have ever let me out of the house again reading such a thing but we never discussed it again.

After two years of this twisted dynamic, I was older and a tiny bit wiser and about ready to end things with him when a phone call came.  He was in Canada.  He had to leave quickly without telling me because there was a warrant out for his arrest.  Again, he told me it was about marijuana, and again I believed him.  Would I go to his apartment and bring him some items he wanted?  In my mind I decided that all the damage he’d done to me was complete.  I could never get back my innocence and trust so why not do as he asked one last time?  I’d never been to Canada and I couldn’t afford to get there on my own.

I went to his apartment and ducked under the crime scene tape that made a huge X across the front door.  Inside, I got the items he wanted, silly things like his favorite shoes, and then decided to have a look around while I was there.  In the bottom drawer of his dresser I found more information than I wanted to know about whom I’d been spending my time with.

My emotional survival had required that the reality of him being my rapist was rewritten in my mind over the last two years.  History got whitewashed because I couldn’t deal with acknowledging I was continuing to be abused by a man who raped me. Here in his bottom dresser drawer, however, was evidence of the reality of his life that I couldn’t ignore:  letters from his wife and mother in Nigeria, asking when he was coming home to his four children; naked pictures of my girlfriends he’d obviously had sex with; letters from his three fiancés, one in Denver, one in San Francisco, and one in Seattle; and confirmation that he was actually a thirty-two year old married man, not the single twenty-one year old he led everyone to believe he was.

I left the apartment and being pragmatic since birth, having never been to Canada, and knowing there wasn’t anything further he could take from me I headed to the Greyhound bus depot and off I went.  I stayed just one night and day.  He showed me the sites and we acted as if we were just a couple of tourists on vacation.  We said good-bye, me knowing it was the last time I would ever see him, and he was arrested the moment the bus pulled out of the station.

Upon my return, now a freshman in college, I began scouring the papers daily for news of his arrest.  Sure enough, a few days after my return, I read about his arrest and extradition back to US custody where he would be held pending trial.  He was not arrested for drugs, as he told me, but for a grand larceny mail fraud campaign he’d been perpetrating through ads in tennis magazines.  This is how I learned that all of my gifts had been bought with stolen dollars.

He was quickly convicted and sentenced to serve 10 years in a US Federal prison to be deported back to Nigeria upon his release.

Apparently the FBI had been watching him for some time and his phones had been tapped.  Just before they were about to arrest him he got wind of it somehow and fled to Canada.  The paper described how he was arrested at the bus depot in Canada after seeing off a friend.  To this day one of my biggest embarrassments in life is realizing that the FBI listened to my phone conversations with this creep.  Somewhere, in a closed case file in the basement of some FBI building, preserved for posterity, remain tapes of me flirting, cajoling, and often crying on the phone with a complete sociopath.

The next I heard from him was a letter from the State Penitentiary asking me to write him.  I did not reply.  Letters continued to come for a few weeks but I ripped them up unread.  I have often wondered if any of his many fiancés were foolish enough to stay in communication with him, but as for me, I never saw or heard of him again.

Every once in a while, even years later, I would get on an elevator and some man would have on the same cologne he used to wear and I would have a brief panic attack until I realized it could not possibly be him.  Other than that I put the memory of those years in a box, I put it on a shelf, and I rarely ever pulled it out to look at it.  Until today, when for some reason I decided to let it out into the open, possibly hoping to free the memory and let go of it forever.

McKenzie James

August 7, 2011

In Session

Lewis taps his fingers rhythmically against the paperclip. He always has something in his hand to tap against. I picked him from the long list of other therapist profiles because he looks so… Southern California. The therapist website in itself was weird, looking like a dating site with pictures and small quips about the counselors, their educational backgrounds and particular therapy styles. Lewis’ profile was different, the way most profiles that catch your eye are. He didn’t write the profile as if he were talking to you, rather it read like a Curriculum Vitae of a potential research professor.

I really like Lewis. Lewis really likes himself, which we seem to have been trained to despise but in Lewis it glows outwardly, inspiring people around him to like themselves as well. Which makes sense as to why he is a successful therapist with an office in a high rise building in downtown, the view of the harbor glittering sunshine back in. His office is mild, clean, with an outdated laptop humming away in the left hand corner of his desk.

I started therapy because the depression had gotten to the point of destruction. I found myself in my kitchen one night, in an apartment that was too big for me, crouching like some crazed beast on the cold linoleum floor holding a knife and screaming through thick, clotted tears. I wrote words down that night that were so angry I cannot read them on the page, it does not look like my writing. The next day I could not get out of bed, because the only motivation I could find for removing myself from my bed was to jump off the roof and I could not do that to my mother. I didn’t understand before this, that depression could cripple you. Grab your mind and suffocate it slowly, a boa constrictor that takes over every aspect of your life, your mind, until you are a victim to it as if a stranger were squatting like a little black lizard where your heart should have resided.

Lewis titles these episodes as my ‘earthquakes’. He says this triumphantly. Lewis loves metaphors and his own cleverness, mainly the latter.

“It’s like an earthquake! You don’t know where its coming from or how long its going to be. And then afterwards you have little aftershocks, don’t you?!”

He sits back, a self-satisfied smile still floating over his lips. I look at him from across the desk. I sit in a deep leather seat, with a pillow on my back because otherwise I’m too small and my feet don’t reach the floor.  In Lewis’ office, I always make sense. I love it there, when the words tumble out of my mouth like tiny pebbles being thrown around by white water, Lewis just leans back until I am done and then carefully reconstructs what I have said, following the tangled strings of emotions until he has clean lines laying before us. Unlike anyone else in my life, Lewis presents me with cool, linear logic that doesn’t condescend. He never angers at my reactions, in fact for the most part Lewis treats every single one of my emotions, outbursts, tears, and laughter as the most singularly important thing that has ever happened in the world. He seems truly excited and enthralled by the fact that I, indeed, exist.

Today, I am explaining to Lewis about my self-sabotaging in relationships. Not only romantic ones but friendships as well. He leans back in his chair and looks at me through his spectacles while I take him through the claustrophobic vines that I attempt to machete through when explaining how I feel to people. Therapy is an odd art form, we attempt each session to place into neat categories every memory, touch, and influence we have had throughout our lives.

“Why is it concerning you now that you do this?” Lewis asks. He pretends it is an innocent question but Lewis is a very deliberate person. He explained to me that he is the most important person in his own life, and as such his time is invaluable. He does not spend it circumventing what he really wants to know. When he told me this, I asked him if he ever worried about offending people and having them not like him. He looked slightly confused when I asked him this.

“Not like me because I am asking an honest question? Well they sound like someone with something bad to hide and, I don’t want to know those people anyway”.  Lewis lives his life with a close-knit circle of people he loves around him whom he will do anything for, and the rest of the world he treats as if they were in an interview for the last available slot to be his friend; politely and with extreme discretion.

“I’m concerned because I don’t want to sabotage anything this time. I can’t lose him, and I like my friends and I’m tired of feeling as if the only way I’ll be happy is if I am completely independent of everyone. Like my safety net is figuring out a way that I will be completely okay if any particular person is no longer in my life”.

Lewis doesn’t say anything at first, just looks at me as my body clenches and tenses. Expelling this darkness in this neat rectangular office is the most exhausting thing I have ever done. It is a chain weighing 10,000 pounds that I have wrapped around me, longer and longer, for years. Slowly we are tracing back the knots and the kinks, figuring out what I have done in order to undo it and free me, pound by pound. Sighing inwardly, Lewis sits his small frame back up in the black chair and says

“No. You are not alone, you are not independent, you are not unattached. And it is not an admirable quality to be those things. I haven’t cooked a meal in 20 years because my wife is an incredible cook, if she were to leave me I would have no idea how to cook for myself. But I don’t refuse to revel in her cooking, I take it in, I bask in it”

At this point Lewis is leaning back in his chair, arms stretched out and an almost monk like expression of peaceful bliss extends on his face.

“You have to allow people to love you. You have to just, take it all in, enjoy it, swim in it. When people want to do nice things for you, you must nod your head in agreement and say ‘yes, do nice things for me!’. Otherwise life is miserable and short. And why wouldn’t they want to do nice things for you, why wouldn’t they want to love you? You must expect people to treat you as if you were the most important person in your life because you are.”

I laugh. Lewis is not joking but I can’t help but laugh, the idea is so freeing. I am still in shock when people love me the way my friends and family do. That demonic little presence in my head has slowly convinced me it is all false, Lewis’ main job is to tell me that I am fine, that I will be fine, and that no one has the capacity to hurt me anymore than I allow myself to react by being hurt.

The hour ends, and Lewis stands and smiles at me. Therapy is precise, within a set time frame, the way situational comedies always resolve themselves within a half hour.

“Next week, same time?” he asks as he opens the door for me. I nod as I walk out the door and back down the stairs, preparing myself to re enter a world that overwhelms me, a world that never seems to resolve itself no matter how many hours tick by. I look over my shoulder and Lewis smiles and waves goodbye, until next weeks session.

An Ode to my Mother

An Ode to my Mother

When I was 8 years old, my mother, older sister, and I, rode bicycles to my soccer game. When we were about to cross the huge highway separating us from the soccer fields, a semi truck blew through the red light and came within inches of hitting me on my pink and white bike. The force of the air as the driver drove by knocked me off my bicycle and scraped up my knees and elbows, right in front of my mother’s eyes. I don’t remember that game, but I remember my mothers lap as she cradled me close to her. She didn’t say a word, but that day I learned the meaning of the word ‘treasured’, I remember her arms around me, the way her thin skin barely wrapped her collarbone where my face was pressed.

When I was 11, my father was gone again on one of his endless business trips, and my mom showed my sister and I the movie “Los Desaparecidos”, and explained to us how she had lost her older brother to forces beyond her control, how a part of her soul had been ripped out in his brutal disappearance and murder. I learned the reason of her almost endless sadness, and her eternal pride in her family and her country. She instilled in me the same pride, the same defensiveness. I am, without a doubt, my mothers’ daughter.

When I was 15, my sister left me to save herself, and us. I watched helplessly as my parents hearts were ripped out of their chests and floated away. It was my mother who stood back up, demanded reparation, made me realize that forgiveness follows heartache, that life is messy, that you must always accept people for exactly who they are. My mother demonstrated to me the power of love, and her incredible capacity for it, and forgiveness.  For what seemed like an eternity, what had always been my source of safety, security, and identity seemed to have crashed and burned. It was my mother who took me by the hand and told me “We are what we think, with our thoughts we create the world”.  Love is only love when you are willing to take someone with all the darkness, with all the eternal flaws, and adore them anyway.

When I was in college, my mother sent me care packages and letters, and would buy me groceries and take me to dinner. She listened to me sob when I missed home, and did not berate me when I forgot to call because I finally didn’t. In her Valentines card to me she wrote to me that she loved me, her sweet butterfly, for being able to see the beauty of life down to the last teardrop. It remains to this day my favorite line anyone has ever written me.

Today, my mother holds my family together still. It is my mother who plans vacations, Christmas, Three Kings, and Thanksgiving. My mother remembers birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. It is my mother who puts dinner on the table, who listens when I am crying, who knows me well enough to know when I need to be left alone, who reminds me that I am good. My mother is strong enough to take the blame from me and my sister whenever anything goes wrong, she has taken the burden of our anger, weathered the storms of my father, understands my sisters needs, my loneliness. It is my mom who transplanted from her homeland years ago and has flourished and thrived in her new home as well. I wish I could explain to her the beauty of her every movement, of how I wish every day that I could be a little more like her. I watch as she pours herself into her work and her family.

When things go wrong, when I am sick, when jobs seem scarce and relationships too frightening to endure, it is my mother who brings me soup, tells me money is fleeting anyway and will always come back, and who iterates time and again that grace and compassion are the backbone of my life. Her strength, resilience, laughter, joy, and small reminders to never drink and drive, and always call home, give us the foundation from which we are able to build our lives. From the day I was born onward, it is my mother who has never stopped believing in me, loving me, and who through her own example of existence has shown me the true meaning of being a lady.

Someday I will have a daughter, a small baby girl who will run too fast and too far, who will climb up the wrong side of the slide, who will break her arm and smash her teeth, who will come home with bruises and sawdust in her hair. She will have her heart broken, will leave me for her life to begin, and if I am lucky, I will be able to give her the same home and the same heart that my mother has bestowed upon me.



He left her a year ago, walked out of her office into the summer heat and drifted away, each step permanently bruising the cement. She never thought she would see him again, after a brief, cursory hug she sat back down in her chair and looked at her screen pretending with all her might that he meant nothing.

A year ago he walked into his house, into his ordered life with his neat, square fence, and prepared for the vacation he had been intending to savor for so long. But this girl had slipped into the crevices of his mind and she demanded all of him to be happy, he sensed her requiring every small piece of his being, every dark corner that only he was master of; she needed it all before being satiated and for some unknown reason, he had to satiate her. She was younger, impetuous, filled with a strong desire for him that he hadn’t felt in years. Absent-mindedly he wiped his hands on his leg before realizing her thighs had been left in the intricate mappings of his fingertips. He shuddered at the thought of someone else touching her, tasting her, swiftly cutting out the image of any other person creating the moans that he so viciously burned out of her. He would never admit this to her, never confess to his overwhelming need to have her only ever love him, need him, to consume her world the way she had consumed his. While he walked away a thick coating of fear trickled into his throat, if she did not love him he would disappear.

On her part, she tried in vain to forget him, convinced he did not care for her and cried in silent agony at falling for yet another human who could not consume her with the same vengeance she met every single moment of life with. She exhausted herself in the pool that night, each time she hit the wall and pushed back into cool blue wishing she would look up and see his face. He is not the type to surprise, not the type to need her so desperately that he cannot stay away. She loves this about him as well. Walking home in the thick heat to her small apartment her legs can barely pick up and carry her but her mind is far, far away. He smells stronger than the chlorine. Her organized chaos taunts her as she turns the key to her tiny apartment with too much furniture, arranged like pieces of six different puzzles. That night, away from everyone, she breaks and whatever small piece of her heart he left in her chest so that blood could still pump falls to her toes. She screams at her walls, her windows, rips down the pictures and paintings she has haphazardly put on the walls so that she would become attached to something. Left alone in this tornado she realized she was dying.

They are in love, that sickening sticky mess. Humans are piles of goop and muscles, growing bones long enough to stand up next to someone so that when they fall apart again there are arms to disappear into. She feels her skin stretch away from her breastbone towards him, forming a thin invisible line. The glue that holds the world together, and he knows that without it he will wither and die. But every mile that he drives away from her she senses herself breaking down, falling apart. Her existence is his memory of her, snippets of waists and nipples.

Together now, they celebrate the anniversary of this abandonment quietly, without flowers or cards used to mark occasions of lovers coming together, and every day she wakes up yearning for him more and more. He lies next to her every night, and yet she feels the sinking desperation to hold onto any part of him she can, mediocrity is her worst enemy, her worst nightmare. She remembers all too clearly how her heart cut out of her chest on that hot August afternoon, that horrible day he left her. She is afraid of becoming ordinary, of their love becoming daily, of becoming forgettable again. He loves her more and more, for the way she believes that omens are told through the moon, for her obsessions that change weekly, dictating the entire vacuum of her attention. He is unyieldingly proud of her, she has the courage and spirit he has emulated his whole life. She loves his ordered, careful ways. Not a single part of her understands them and it consumes a grand majority of her time to remember to put the glasses away in the right order, the place to leave the sponge, and how to lock the front door.

They live together and still cannot believe it. The darker memories gnaw at both of them in different ways, bittersweet reminders are left all over the house, a house she does not feel a part of. These memories cut at her, making her wish the skeleton made up some part of the human heart because maybe then bone could stop that cold knife of past loves from piercing. She is too young to realize how much of him she owns, youth clouds the mirror and makes it impossible to understand that other people hurt and fall in love with the same fascination. . Without realizing it they have become the lovers so many stories were written about, people so utterly smitten they have banished the cold thought of life after each other.

They mark the anniversary of this love by remembering that day, a day so hot the wind was too sticky with sweat to move.  The bitter memory of him leaving remains, like a cut on the side of her mouth that splits open every time she smiles. Her heart seizes with the thought of him one day walking away forever. Love, like life, is not to be savored because it lasts forever. It is its inevitable end that feeds the fire, makes hands grasp hips, and tongues slip over unfamiliar teeth. They love each other with voraciousness, all too aware of the pain of losing the other, and celebrate the dark side of that coin to remind themselves that for at least one more night, both get to fall asleep listening to the breathing of someone they secretly swear they can never live without.

Strange Sensation


I have a strange sensation that I’m going to die today. Some sort of a natural disaster is going to take my life, and it’s not going to be singular or important in any fashion. I think I’m not only going to die, but I’m going to be one of those numbers people read about in the newspaper. You know, ‘today a city bus overturned on I-405, killing fifteen people and injuring several more’. My family will be devastated, as will my friends. People who knew me will pretend they were better friends than we actually ever were and I won’t be around to be disdainful. In a few years most people (other than my family) will feel slight twinges of sadness when they think of me but they won’t feel me in them.

How depressing is that? It’s horrible. I don’t know why I feel that I’m going to die today. It’s a perfectly normal Wednesday, it might be singular in that its one of those perfect, beautiful fall days where the sun is out and the leaves are changing colors. Other than that, there are hundreds of Wednesdays just like today.

Except, of course, this premonition of being on the precipice of my own mortality. Facing my own mediocrity down is hard enough as is, I don’t need imminent death to make me realize how utterly insignificant I am. I get it, Universe, I really do. I am alone in a huge city. This man that I am in love with, just like all the other men except that he is himself. This man is hundreds of miles away, just a sort of quiet distant voice at the end of a telephone. In the face of this feeling, I am supposed to say no. No I am doing the right thing having moved away from him, grappling with an overwhelming loneliness, a sensation of despair that seems to tinge everything I do. Peels me raw so that I have to find again the callousness that marked me for the last six years. But all of this is more important than being in love. Love is superfluous at best. People claim it is what makes life worthwhile but looking around at them I notice that most people live their lives in search of a few fleeting moments of perfection, and fill in the rest with inanity. We exist in this vacuous continuum of spinning our wheels and shouting out how important we are.

If I die today, if the earth opens up and swallows me whole, I will miss a lot of things. I will miss the feeling of safety I get when I’m laying on the couch in my parents house and my dad puts a blanket over me and brings me ice cream while we watch criminal movies. I will miss talking to my mom while we take walks at 7 in the morning, telling this woman my secrets because I know she loves me more than her own life, a love I have yet to understand. I will miss laughing with my sister until we are both crying. I will miss running with Ella, drinking with Amy and rating women in bars. I will miss the smell of a car heater when you are driving on a really cold night and the way hot chocolate curls up into your nose. I will miss the anonymity of existence. I will miss his sweet smile when he is about to fall asleep, when he forgets to wear the armor of daily life and he is just listening to me read him old poetry about hellish punishments.

I will miss my legs burning after I have been running for too long, excusing me from feeling imperfect because look; I have exercised until it hurts. I will miss the edge in his voice, the impatience in his look. The way nothing is ever good enough, the quiet comparisons in his head between his life now and his life then. I will miss the utter sadness that I get when I hear his hesitation, because I want so badly to not feel that in someone. I will miss saying goodbye to my grandma in the airport, crying together because neither of us knows if we will see each other ever again. I will miss the taste of coffee in the morning when no one is around and I don’t have to worry about my face being puffy or my legs not being shaved. I will miss hearing the pride in my dads voice when I tell him about my accomplishments, miss the feeling of being completely loved.

I will regret not having had children. I will regret not telling him that I would do anything for him, I would leave this program and finish closer to him, I would transfer to anywhere if he asked it. I will regret not telling Aaron that I loved him so much, that I wanted him to be my husband, and that when I realized that he would never live up to being the man I needed him to be my heart broke into ten million pieces because even I couldn’t love him enough to do that for him. I will regret not telling my sister that I forgave her, that I hoped she forgave me. I will regret not having told my parents how much I loved them, how much they inspired me to live my life with grace and compassion. I will regret not being honest with him, not telling him when he was pushing too much, being too cruel. I will regret not having found someone who saw me, loved me, wanted a life with me.

I will regret never having tried to become a writer. I will regret not calling Kathryn more, or emailing Annette back. I will regret not having gotten together with Maggie more often. I will regret the million and one times I sat in front of my mirror, sobbing until I couldn’t breathe, wishing against everything that I could take a knife and cut off my pieces of my body, I wish I could take back all those moments and revel in the incredible beauty of my limbs. I will regret the times I faked an orgasm instead of just admitting I wasn’t enjoying the night and asking the man to leave. I will regret the instances when I said “I love you” when I didn’t really mean it, just to appease the ego of an idiotic boy. More than that I will regret the times I didn’t say ‘I love you” when my whole heart was screaming it and my world needed to be ripped open by it but I held back because I was convinced that behaving that intensely would be ‘too much’ for the other person.

I will regret ever having felt that my intensity was something to apologize for. I will regret having toned myself down, explained away emotions, rationalized tears in silence, let myself get swept away by the bullshit rhetoric of a man who has lost the capacity to feel.

But, truth be told, I have felt this all before, on other days in other ways, and most likely the day will end and I will still be among the living.  Thankfully, joyfully, among the living and I will have time to tell the ones I love what I need them to hear and time to not repeat those errors that I feel have lessened my soul.


Stolen Trust

Stolen Trust

She was a pleasing child

her young body mature beyond its years

and men who should have cared for her

desired her instead.

Like any child she craved attention

from adults inside her tiny world.

She looked to him for comfort and direction

and was coaxed instead to join his secret sin.

A simple tale of youthful trust stolen time and time again.

Her journey was launched and as yet it has no end.

She daily feels the pain and owns the shame.

The reminder of the frightening game.

At age fifteen abused again.

So different yet so much the same.

This time a stranger, violent and strong.

A different man, the same old pain.

Years later she watches as others maneuver through the dance.

Observing lovers as they banter and play.

Where is the line drawn? What are the rules?

Is it just another version of the secret game?

She knows a man who’ll soon be 60 who craves a sweet, young woman of 23.

He lusts to rub his aging penis between her full breasts and thinks it will set him free.

Should he not be offering to share his wisdom and giving her sage advice instead?

Should she be taking counsel at his knee, or lying with him in his bed?

She cannot understand, no matter how often repeated,

that sex is simply sex to men pure pleasure deemed their right.

Their souls are simply left outside and rarely join the night.

Yet her spirit cannot be separated no matter how she tries.

Whether freely given or stolen her soul comes along for the perilous ride.

If lust and power rule the night and fear and shame the day,

how can she rely on a man to move her soul and yet hold it safe?

She longs to partake freely with a man she can trust.

Will the time ever come?  Will the pain ever stop?

She was a pleasing child

her young body mature beyond its years

and men who should have cared for her

desired her instead.

McKenzie James

July 6, 2011

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