When You Really Are A Gem

FullSizeRender (2)

Adapted from Sunday Kind of Love, July 17 edition

I came to know those walls the same way my fingertips knew the maze of muscles in your back–familiar and foreign, all at once. There was the Tracy Chapman poster. The coffee table from West Elm. The drawing your ex-girlfriend sketched using only ink pens. I knew exactly where you kept the ice trays; I popped three cubes out once and dropped them into a drink you made for me–lemon juice, Jameson, and a touch of water to even it out.

Your father died when you were young. Your mother is still in Sierra Leone. Your favorite beer is Stella Artois. See, my romantic life is laced with half-baked histories about men who no longer matter. I’ve only recently discovered that I’m not proud of this, I’m not proud of how I’ve never been able to embody Lauryn Hill’s advice not to be a hard rock when you really are a gem.

That night was stale with the scent of familiarity. The loss of novelty. The final flicker of the spark. It didn’t feel like the first night I came over and we joked with our Uber driver on the way from the bar or that time we split a bottle of wine and listened to Kid Cudi. No, that night was our default, our convenient place, our skin-deep status quo.

And when we found ourselves on separate sides of the couch, only ankle deep in a debate about whether or not people are happiest when they’re in love, I stopped you. I casually said, “Well none of this really matters because we’re just kicking it, right?” And in some crevice of my heart, the part of me that acknowledged I am a gem trying so fiercely to be a hard rock, I hoped that you wouldn’t agree. I hoped that you would stop me and tell me that I was wrong; I shouldn’t say things like that.

But, you didn’t. You fell silent and when I asked again if you agreed, you softly said that you did.

It has been some time now since you answered with that stroke of silence. We no longer stitch ourselves into the threads of each other’s Friday nights. To say I miss you would be an overstatement, but to say I don’t think of you would be a myth. Except I think of you now the way that women in the autumn of their twenties think of men from their past, with fewer floods of nostalgia and more trickles of appreciation. Because in some strange and contorted way, I needed you. I needed you to remind me that I am not a woman who ever “just kicks it.” I needed you to show me my heart grew two sizes too large to have maintained a charade of indifference. I needed you to be there during a season simmering with young, wild, and free whims of the twenty-something kind. I needed you to carry me just far enough away to feel fire, but not so far away that I couldn’t find my path back home.





karen postA Guest Writers’ Week post by Karen Devigili

I still remember the way two of his lower eyelashes clung together as I saw the first palpable sign of sadness drop from them after hopelessly clinging on for a few seconds. The tear drop fell so violently, gravid with teeming despair. It fell past his remarkably high cheekbones and landed on his quivering chin, bending the rules of physics along with it. I watched it try to escape, unsuccessful, and ashamed of its existence as it lingered aside the corners of his lips.

His lips, his lips, his lips, the ones that used to carry the happiness I fell in love with, were now so rich with heart-breaking futility. And his eyes, pointed in my direction, still could not see me. They looked through me like a torn veil, standing between him and the world he used to recognize, obscuring his view of that sense of independence he craved so strongly. The one I took away. I used to think it so beautiful when he covered himself in me, self-sacrificial, and euphoric in my scent. The utter elation between the molecules that composed our stories, as we lay in my bed, “three hours feeling like 5 minutes”, he used to say. But he sat there, eyes glossy, looking at me like a misguided memory, concealing the truths he wished he could have chased.

I could suddenly see the places he would have gone, the nights he would have had to himself, establishing his organic youth further, as opposed to letting his restless wanderlust accumulate into frantic boredom like a pestering insect. He tried to ignore it for so long, and I watched him do it. He let it land on his sighs, as he swallowed the frustration of not knowing how to rid himself of it. He couldn’t kill it; he loved it too much. That tiny pest was the last reminder of who he used to be. And he slowly began to realize it used to be a part of him, he shouldn’t need to swat it away. Those were the days when he looked at me less, understood me very little, and became increasingly absent. I would have done the same had I not sacrificed every part of me that didn’t find a place in our relationship.

He didn’t just wipe his tears, he sunk his face into his hands, the kind of tragic image that called for a soundtrack. Indulgence on top of indulgence. I took a serious moment to try to describe to myself the kind of pain that I was feeling. “I need to remember this,” I thought, “This is important.” After abandoning my obnoxiously ruthless and habitual tendency to objectify the situation by imagining what my dopamine levels probably looked like, I took a deep breath.

I suddenly saw myself floating, naked, out somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, between continents, surrounded by a black sky: I am freezing cold, floating on my back and the waves, indifferent to my existence, continue to thrash me underwater every now and then, whenever they please. I can feel the sharp, dreadful sting of the salt water on dozens of cuts, scrapes, and wounds on my bruised pale skin, and yet the only thing I seem preoccupied with is the vastness of everything. As I stare at the black sky full of stars-so deceitfully miniscule- like specks of dust deliberately sprinkled above humanity for purely aesthetic reasons, I am only reminded of how unfathomable the size of what’s under me is. The ocean, the creatures, the wholeness of their interactions as they create this vapid kingdom.

And I float there, slightly amused by how paralyzing the searing pain of the salt on all of my wounds is. I can feel it on my beat-up blue lips, my mouth half open, inviting the pain. I begin to see what might look like some sign of life on my peripheral, but by the time my eyes shift, I realize I’m chasing a hallucination of a life boat that moves accordingly, mocking me. It is only then that I suddenly realize, like a striking shock to my system, the reality of my situation. I can see myself, lifelessly floating in the crux of it all-so far from everything. My body, thousands of miles away from civilization, between the distant stars and the vast ocean. And this realization, awakens my long-lost ability to have a visceral, painful, human experience.

I start to feel a tear streaming down my face as I find myself floating back to significance. Although they loyally drift through my skin and into their salty, boundless, counterpart that is the sea, my tears feel bigger than anything I could imagine. And the stars, oh the stars. The stars that looked like simple decorations moments before now shone with their glimmering, incandescent light, enchanting me with their effortless beauty. The blackness of their surroundings, the vigor with which they shone, so far and resilient, as they covered the sky, made me feel a special kind of painful joy.

That’s when I felt the warm trickle of reality roll down my own cheek, on that painfully sunny day as I looked at him, now sobbing. Fully aware that he was just as lost as I was, I knew he was at least on dry land. I always resented him for that, but I suddenly felt a warm sense of acceptance. I reached out and took his hands away from his face. I kissed his salty tears, knowing that although the salty water on my wounds in the ample monster of the sea would be thought much less favorable than his despair on land by most, I disagreed. Even through the blistering pain, there’s nothing like that black sky, nothing like the sea, and I’m sure he’s never seen as many stars as I have.

IMG_6904Karen is a communications professional with a passion for words. On her time off she likes to overthink how to spend her time off while watching YouTube videos with her dog. She currently lives in the DC metro area. Connect with her on Twitter @Silvana_Dev.

It’s Not Complicated, We Just Like To Complicate It.

it's complicated

Fuck Facebook. Fuck it for making everyone on planet Earth believe that every matter of the heart can just be plopped into this category of utter and hopeless complication.

You and I aren’t a Facebook relationship status. We are people. And sometimes people have the grand and inexplicable impulse to destroy things. We get selfish and we get greedy and we get needy and we can only think about one thing, no matter how out-of-reach that one thing is.

I don’t think things are ever quite as complicated as we believe them to be.

You want me to provide you with a real life example. Turn my ambiguous “you” into a true story and yank my skeletons out of the closet. Show you my screw ups and tell you how many situations I have messed up, chalking them up to things being “complicated.” You want me to tell you that my stories are covered in sin, that I drink until my lips turn purple thinking about the men I have loved or liked or lusted after (or, in a few rare cases, all of the above) who slipped through my pretty little fingers.

All true. All there. Take note.

But, I had to stop telling myself that things were complicated. I had to stop using that as an excuse to behave like a complete and unadulterated jackass. At some juncture, I had to take ownership of how I felt, of the situations I put myself in, of my part in letting some things spiral entirely out of control.

See, things are not complicated. But, people? Oh, people are complicated as all hell.

Things are usually very simple. Black and white.

“We are friends; that would ruin the relationship.”

“No, he has a girlfriend.”

“This situation is going nowhere.”

“I don’t like him.”

“My friend already dated him or my friend already likes him or TERRITORY TERRITORY TERRITORY.”

Those are all things, unwritten and written codes we live by so we don’t litter our relationships with the filth of selfishness and short-sightedness.

Yet here we are, complex creatures, trying to live our lives by seemingly simple rules. And we just want to throw out that “it’s complicated” but it is so fucking not. No, we are the complicated ones. Every thing or relationship I have ever messed up in this life, I knew from my gut that I was messing it up. I knew what the run rules were and I knew at the very moment when I stopped playing by them. I knew exactly when I said something or did something or insinuated something that lit the torch. But, sometimes it felt good to stick my hand in a fire and get burned. Sometimes the burns remind us that our skin is there. Our heart is still racing. The heat still exists. Sometimes we forget. It shouldn’t require a burn. Unfortunately, it usually does. Life starts feeling so stagnant and colorless, and sometimes the wrong people remind us of the right things.

Stop saying it’s complicated. Stop reducing your whole life to a trite Facebook relationship status. It is not complicated. But, you, my love, are complicated. You are fragile and complex and sometimes stupidly selfish. You are hungry and you are human and fully capable of pure fuckery. You are animalistic and impulsive and unpredictable. Sometimes you follow your heart, sometimes you listen to your mind and sometimes you give in to your libido. You are beautiful and layered, a frenzied body of glowing contradictions. You are dynamic and ever-changing. At any given moment, there are 100 different truths inhabiting your tiny, beating heart. The things are not complicated; don’t give them so much credit. But you are complicated and will, by nature, complicate it.


The Scarcity Of Human Connection

I couldn’t wait to read Cheryl Strayed’s “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar.” Until 2012 when she revealed her identity, Cheryl Strayed always wrote under the pseudonym of “Sugar”, expelling advice that was universal, candid and profane. I read a few columns from Dear Sugar after a friend introduced me to it during college, my favorite one being Sugar’s advice to graduating English majors entitled, “The Future Has An Ancient Heart.” So, getting to read an entire book of her columns should have been amazing.

I devoured a good fraction of the book during one weekend, but I had only gotten through seven pages before I cried for the first time. The book has been a bit of a gut-wrenching read, with people writing in to Sugar about many of life’s heavyweights including the death of family members, sexual assault and broken marriages. It’s absolutely no secret that Cheryl Strayed’s writing is both phenomenal and palpable which is a skill few writers ever master. But, there is something both beautiful and tragic about strangers writing to a total stranger about some of their life’s most ill-lighted moments. It begs the question of where are these people’s families? Where are their friends? Where are the people who are supposed to love these people and huddle around them at times like these? But, that question often times elicits the answer that many people do not always have that cushion of human connection.

Recently, I cried during one of my coworker’s last days at work. It was not a happy day; she was getting laid off. And, I do not care if you amass all of the quotes about “new opportunities” and and “starting fresh” because I still believe that getting laid off fucking blows. It’s a safety net being yanked from underneath someone’s feet without their consent. I cried saying bye to her because in the year and a half that we’ve worked together, I got to know her as a person. She was one of the few people who asked about my apartment when I first moved back to the East coast. She was always worried about my safety and well-being. So, yes, I cried saying bye to her and yes, I made it supremely awkward for everyone else in the office. But, I can’t apologize for that. If crying in the office is unprofessional, then I’ve been unprofessional several times throughout my career. Because, people are people. We bring our full selves to work, even if we try endlessly to dilute those selves for the sake of professionalism. When you get to know people, you connect with them. End of story.

The world has become incredibly intolerant of emotion. We’re so fucking busy and so apathetic and we just can’t seem to be bothered with how we feel, let alone with how others feel. It frightens me that in a world where we are hyper connected, we are forgetting how to genuinely connect. We do not allow ourselves to tuck our phones away when we’re talking to another person. We have opted for surface-level chit chat over substantial conversation. To admit how deeply or strongly we feel about things means the labels “crazy” or “too emotional” could be hurled our way. Everything we say is predicated on jest or sarcasm; if we say anything serious, we feel the need to preface it or provide a disclaimer.

I do not know if I’m built for that kind of world. I’ve been called various forms of “too emotional” in my life, but I’m learning not to immediately deem that an insult. I’m vocal. I’m connected to people. I have thoughts and opinions. I cry a lot, whenever the fuck I feel like it. I shout. I write a lot of shit that other people think but won’t say. I write even more shit that I think but won’t say. But, I’ve learned that these things don’t make me “too emotional”. Instead, they mean my heart is still beating and my body is still breathing. Human connection is scarce. I’m fighting every day to make sure it doesn’t become extinct.