Your Body is Not My Body

Your body is not my body
You don’t need to take those rocks from your chest and hurl them through my windows
I’m already broken enough

but the one thing that isn’t
is that I refuse to be afraid of heights

and every morning I get into a hot air balloon and float up into the sky.
that’s joy, flame underneath and bright colours up top
because down below is just a pit of all we could carry

My body goes through metamorphosis, heaviness into light to save itself

without doing that

I

just

sink

suffocating in a mine shaft filled with stormwater

so I go up, whether you’re with me or not but you can follow me out, if you want to

And even if
even if
even if we are on fire, so what?
you can grow many things out of ashes.

You say you’ve been burned before but I already lost my wings, time and time again this body has been alight
that horrible scent of charred flesh
then plucked like a dead canary, feathers ripped off
bloody back, kneeling down prostrate and praying to nobody in a tunnel with no end.
but now my god is eros
see I’m not afraid of flying, and no matter how many rocks you hold
this balloon can still carry you.

Beast

I tell her she has brown eyes like me.
Her brother has blue eyes like Dad.
Parts handed down like quilts, eyes from so far back and so far across the sea I don’t even know where my own body was made.
And I see in my hands, heart, lungs everything you gave me, that scarlet bloom of sickness in my chest, bursting up into the air.

I remember hiding under the table, my whole body shut tight, hoping you wouldn’t see me

searching for just a stupid rubber ball.

That ball was the end of me and my clouded eyes that didn’t really see anything at all.
I was blind and yet when I saw you I was blinded more than I ever thought possible, a crouching baby beast feels such electricity in the air and just knows that it’s wrong.

And did you put this wrongness into me too?
What on god’s earth did I inherit:

brown eyes like my mother, brown eyes like my father

and the passion of both enough to split a thousand knuckles wide open.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Tomorrow is the 9 year anniversary of my brother’s death. Discussing it is still so hard for me, and yet I’m increasingly realising that I must find better ways of dealing with it and talking about it. When I recount how he died, when I explain everything, I somehow feel like I have to give people a disclaimer.

It’s a pretty morbid story. I don’t know if you want to hear it.

I tend to avoid talking about it. But when someone starts asking about the scars on my arms, or about my depression, or about being a teenager, inevitably the topic of my stepdad comes up. And then through talking about my stepdad, I talk about my brother, and the whole dark and twisted story comes out. There’s no good way to talk about it all, there’s no simple way to say it. When I push the words out of my mouth it’s like I’m shoving them through a barrier of cotton wool, as if by uttering them, the person I’m speaking to will be so horrified that they will disappear in a puff of smoke.

He drowned, okay? He had a seizure and drowned in the bathtub.

If he was alive he would be 18 years old now. I can’t even imagine what he would be like, what his life would be like, what any of our lives would be like. When I think about him my chest feels tight and heavy, and I feel as if my mother must be consumed by this sorrow so large that she cannot even begin to climb it.

I remember stroking his hair in the hospital when he was in the paediatric ICU. His hair was flattened into a Johnny-Bravo-style peak, from everyone stroking his hair in the same way. It was so soft.

The doctors had to test if he had any brain activity remaining, so my parents could decide if they wanted to switch off the life support or not. The doctor shone a torch into his eyes, and I stared so hard at his pupils just hoping and screaming inside my head: “React! MOVE! JUST DO SOMETHING”. But nothing happened, they turned off the life support, and that was it.

I hated his hugs, because he was always sticky and slimy and he was so skinny that his hugs were bony and painful. He would hug me and say “I love you, Leah”; he’d wake me up at 3am, standing by my bed, wanting me to play with him; my boyfriend and I would babysit him and take him places and look after him as if we were our own little family. But then he was dead and the hugs were gone and I wished with every piece of my body that I could go back in time and love him better, pay him more attention, spend more time with him, make sure he knew in his bones that I adored him even though he drove me crazy.

Four brothers seems like a lot to most people. But to me it seems like such a tiny number, just four. Four doesn’t seem like enough, when it should have been five.

Beginning to Read “The Passion According to G.H.”

Yesterday I went out with a woman I met on Tinder several months ago. She’s so smart, and we have this weird connection that I don’t really understand. I like her a lot, but she seems to be plagued by this desperation about other people; she cannot bear to connect with people who are hurtful, who do not sense the world in the way she does. She told me that she used to explain away people’s flaws and their mistakes with the mosaic of issues they had experienced in their lives, but now she doesn’t seem able to do this anymore, and that loss seems to totally consume her.

I know it’s not my job to do so, but I really don’t know if I can repair this.

Another friend is struggling inside her mind too; she feels so lonely, so isolated in this knowledge that we are all ultimately alone and that everyone dies and ceases to be. This thought of losing herself, of no longer existing, seems to cover her like a thick blanket. Every time we drink a little too much, she talks about it, she seems a little scared. I adore her; when she talks like this I just want to hold her and tell her that everything will be okay.

They both live with these questions inside themselves, and I’m painfully aware that I don’t have the answers.

I began reading The Passion According to G.H. yesterday as well, and it feels like sometimes things in my life are flowing in tandem. As if the air just knows exactly what needs to happen for my brain to organise the fluttering thoughts of other people, to help me understand these parts of them.

Some quotes:

“How could I explain that my greatest fear is precisely of: being? and yet there is no other way. How can I explain that my greatest fear is living whatever comes?”

“Will I need the courage to use an unprotected heart and keep talking to the nothing and the no one? as a child thinks about the nothing. And run the risk of being crushed by chance.”

“For now I am inventing your presence, just as one day I won’t know how to risk dying alone, dying is the greatest risk of all, I won’t know how to enter death and take the first step into the first absence of me—just as in this last and so primary hour I shall invent your unknown presence and with you shall begin to die until I learn all by myself not to exist, and then I shall let you go.”

Destroy Me

I can see it happening, barrelling into my life like a freight train, a train I’ve ridden far too many times and jumped off far too many times to count.

I read you and I hear you and I feel you and I taste this pulling, dragging desire, bubbling up inside my chest, a hot pink thick soup of fear tinged with longing, cursing and calling as if all these oceans aren’t too far for you to hear me.

Every tiny word that sprouts from you is lightning in my veins, just a thrill please one more, I’ll take it if you want to give it.

I want it, all of it, all of you. I haven’t even touched your skin or heard your voice, but I know it in my bones that if you said so I would get on a boat tomorrow and sail into the moon just to eat ice cream with you and let it drip onto my body, you can lick it off and wash me with your tongue. It’s too much, I’m always too much, this feeling is too much, but it’s in me and you know I can’t push down lava, eventually it always explodes.

I can see this other me, this me that didn’t leave, this me that comes home, this me that feels the magnetism of another person more strongly than I can possibly explain, this me who wants just to try it, just to taste it, to feel all my senses alive in your bedroom.

But how can I say these words to you, you with all your strength. You could break me, shatter me into a million pieces, and do whatever you wanted. And the worst part is, I would let you.

We’re With You

Everyone cares about what other people think. I’ve been fighting against it for so long, taking tiny steps towards doing what I feel is right, presenting my true self, and living authentically. But there are still times when I think to myself “Am I doing enough? Do I still care too much? Should I come out of the proverbial closet just a little bit more?”.

We’re all driven by a desire for people to like us. It’s only problematic when that desire overtakes our own selves, to the point where we don’t ever do anything weird or unconventional or challenging, simply for fear of having the people we care about turn their backs on us.

One tiny thing that has helped me has been (surprisingly), Twitter. I started posting things. My thoughts. Re-tweeting jokes I thought were funny. I stopped worrying if anyone liked what I posted. I slowly gained followers, random people who saw some reply of mine to someone ‘bigger’. Some Twitter comedian that nobody knows unless you spend too much time on the internet.

I wrote about my ex-girlfriend, and how she dumped me. I wrote about my queer identity, my marriage, our lives, our kids, my political views. I forgot that my husband’s father follows me on Twitter.

My daughter E woke up one morning with tonsils so huge that they were blocking her throat. I rushed with her to the ENT, and struggled to explain in broken German what was wrong with her. The doctor looked in her throat for a few seconds at most, and said with a serious and firm voice “She needs surgery”. I posted on Twitter about this experience, and later that day sent an email to my in-laws back home, explaining what was happening and when the surgery would be.

When my father-in-law replied “I saw your Tweet and photo” I felt this weird feeling in my stomach. He saw my Tweet? Does that mean he saw my Tweets about my girlfriend? About getting dumped? About polyamory and getting high and being queer? I wondered what he thought. I love my husband M with all my heart. I had this cold and heavy thought that my father-in-law would think I was cheating on M, or that I didn’t love M, or that I was somehow messing up our family.

I hurriedly replied with a huge email, detailing various aspects of our lives, being careful to include how happy we are, holidays we planned together, information about our mostly-very-normal life. And then I wrote it: “You follow me on Twitter?! I tweet about a lot of stuff I don’t put elsewhere so that’s… Probably raising various questions for you…”. I decided that tackling it head-on would be best, and that if he had any questions about my other partners or about the stability of my relationship with M, he could just ask me.

It turns out that when you marry someone as wonderful as M, you should not give his parents too little credit.

My father-in-law replied within an hour, giving me all the updates on their life back in New Zealand, expressing sympathy about E’s surgery, asking me what I plan for my career when both my kids are in Kita.

And then at the end he included one final comment:

I’m a very rare twitter viewer – mostly just look when I have a few notifications come up. Don’t worry – just be real 🙂 We’re with you.

So I guess that’s the end of the story. I care immensely about what they think. Nothing worse than having your husband’s family hate your guts. But they’re with me. They’re with me, despite all the life decisions that I’m sure they wouldn’t make in a million years. That’s a pretty wonderful thing to happen; to accidentally take your mask off, and have the people that you love still support and care for everything that’s underneath.

Loving You Was Breathing

Finally it happened. I wrote before about choosing love, and not being afraid. So I walked that walk and let myself be carried along with a feeling that years ago would have terrified me. It turns out that when you open up your whole heart, sometimes it gets broken.

After J, I started a relationship with a woman called S. She is married and has a little girl called E. My own daughter and E are such good friends, it’s amazing to watch how much they like each other.

S and I met at our childrens’ Kita. We started with playdates, ‘Mom dates’, and wine. But something began for us, something totally unexpected and way out of left field. One night at dinner she touched my arm, and the attraction that flared up was something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt my heart leap while this dread sunk into my bones: “Don’t get a crush on her. Don’t fall for her. She just wants to be friends. Fuck.” I tried to be nice, friendly, caring, without letting myself get in too deep. I didn’t want to be outed as queer, I didn’t want to mess up our friendship. So I kept quiet. For months we would hug outside Kita when we picked up our children, and I’d breathe in and not want to let go. I’d bury my face in her hair and my whole chest would turn to butterflies.

I found out months later that the spark had not just been me. She had panicked and messaged her best friend, scared about what she was feeling, uncertain about what to do about it, unsure about having this feeling for a woman for the first time in her life. Afraid of ruining her relationship with her husband, S went back and forth about what to do; should she pursue something, stay silent, ignore it? She gave me small and quiet hints; a comment about loving my hugs; a text about wanting to feel that uncertainty of not knowing if someone likes you back or not. Over time these hints became louder, and I began to feel like she wanted it, she wanted me. Every time we hugged it felt like I was going to burst, the attraction was obvious and urgent and clear. My husband M was already cool with what I wanted; smiling, he encouraged me to go for it. S decided to take the risk, and asked her husband if it was okay if she and I pursued something. He, wonderful man that he is, said yes.

She asked me out for drinks and told me that we could do what we liked. I drank the rest of my wine so fast, from that moment my brain had turned to static. We walked out the door of the bar and I couldn’t do anything but kiss her. We made out on the street, reaching into each other’s clothes with a rushing intensity that only comes with tension that has been denied for too long. She ran her hands over my body, dragging her nails over my skin, kissing me with a feverish desire for more; when she pushed up my dress and put her mouth on my nipple, my heart and blood and body dissolved. People were watching. I didn’t care.

We continued as we began, frantic, desperate. She called me her girlfriend, our families began to spend more and more time together, I got to know her husband, I began to love her daughter.

Then, as quickly as it had begun, it was over. Suddenly, out of the blue, it was gone. She was too tired, too exhausted by motherhood and life and everything that made demands of her, she had nothing left for me. I’m the kind of person that takes a lot of energy to get to know. I’m complicated and anxious, intense and moody, and sometimes so sex-driven that I can’t focus on anything else. It was all too much for her, and she and I kept saying things that hurt each other. I saw it happen like a drip of water falling from a tap not quite shut, dripping and dripping over the course of a week and then the faucet was suddenly on, extinguishing everything.

We met up for a sleepover, and it felt as if her body had turned to stone. She told me she didn’t know how to say it, but I already knew what she would tell me. It was gone. We had lost it. I hugged her and I felt her face twist into this painful disappointment. I didn’t understand it but this horrible feeling was too obvious to ignore. We cried at what had happened.

I grabbed my things and she drove me home. Her husband was confused; he had been so supportive of the whole thing from the beginning. He liked me, he cared about me, he wanted “our thing” to work. She was sad. I was sad.

The morning brought this strange pain into my chest, like something was raw inside. She didn’t want it anymore. Somehow, this thing, this beautiful and special thing, was over. She sent me a text saying “I love you”.

She said that most people feel too proud to want to carry on a relationship after they get dumped. I felt the opposite; I felt so happy that I had let myself be open and curious and ultimately, hurt. Life goes on. I downloaded Tinder and got a ton of matches within the space of two days, and I have a date tonight with a beautiful woman who seems intelligent, kind, and interesting. My husband still adores me, I love my kids, I’m enjoying my study and my life and all that lies before me. Getting hurt and letting someone else be in control was a big thing for me. But somehow I felt good. I felt strong. For the first time in a long time I felt powerful and confident and secure.

Now when I hug her and breathe in, I smell her perfume and feel my heart skip a beat. I just let it beat this way, this shuddering, gasping beat. I saw the joy in her smile when she was with me. I saw the love in her eyes and felt it in her kiss. I saw the pain in her heart when it was over. I don’t ever want to be afraid of loving anyone ever again, because the joy, the passion, the desire, her smile and excitement when she looked at me … it was all worth it. In the end it was gone too soon, and in the end we both got hurt. But if I had to go back and make a choice of whether or not to have it, even knowing that it ended this way, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would do it again. I’d let my heart beat again, and again, and gasp “yes”, a thousand times over.