diamond in the ocean

I’ve climbed a lot of different mountains for a lot of different reasons. This morning, I was trying to get closer to heaven. When did it get so hard to talk to the person I told everything?

Today, there was a fog thick as guilt. There were grey (with an “a”) skies. There was quiet. I couldn’t see five feet in front of my face. This year has been a lesson in learning what I do and don’t know, what I can and can’t control, what’s the right way to hold. This year was a lesson on how to live in fog.

Last August, I asked how the sky could be so blue.

Last July, all Hunter and I listened to was Frank Ocean. When the album didn’t drop, we still thought we had time to wait, time to waste. A week ago, all I listened to was Frank Ocean. When the album didn’t drop, I realized that believing you have time left is something you grow out of, like velcro, like the tooth fairy, like trusting Frank Ocean.

Last June, Hunter asked Desi if she would be sad if he died. We were all cuddled up in bed together. She thought a bit before she answered.
“No, because Grandma is gone too.”
Never before had I swallowed such a sword. When I’m sad enough to erupt, I remember that it’s Hunter’s grandmother’s turn to spend summer mornings all curled up under the covers with him.

Last May, Hunter and I traveled to Atlanta. We rode a ferris wheel that left us suspended at the top for so long that he finally said, “I guess we’ll just stay in the sky forever.”

Last April, Hunter and I sold concert tickets to pay bills. We played a lot of pool. We made plans for the fall. We had plans to make more plans. Our plants were growing through our pant-pocket seams. April showers washed away a lot of what we thought it meant to be here.

Last March, Hunter and I got rear-ended twice in one week. Once on my birthday and once on our way to the rollerskating rink. He made me a tower of chocolate cupcakes.

Last February, falling in love felt like getting fat, storing up warmth for the winter, holding hands in caves. Falling in love felt like blowing up a hot air balloon. We didn’t know where it was going. We didn’t know where it was going. Falling in love felt like French fries for dinner, tipping 25%. Falling in love felt like gaining weight– “I love you” is the heaviest thing I’ve ever said. I never felt as full as I did with you in my head. Falling in love felt like chocolate mousse on top of his car, sharing a spoon we found in the street. Hepatitis could only be real if heaven was real too. Because falling in love felt like takeout, felt like feeding you sugar out of a saucepan, felt like a clogged artery. Falling in love felt like four weeks without fasting, tasting grapefruit for the first time, forcing a tube down my throat that kept me alive. Falling in love felt like I never wanted to be forty before. Like kissing a blueberry bush. Like I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to forget
I don’t want to forget
I don’t want to forget
Falling in love felt like getting fat.

Last January, we stayed warm. Hunter would button me inside his grey wool coat.

Last December, Hunter told me he had his happiest birthday he could remember. My first time driving on the highway he yelled, “that exit! that one right there!” I threaded the needle through four lanes of traffic. I had to steer the rest of the way with one hand because he couldn’t stop giving me high fives . We got a secret fish. We spent New Year’s Eve sprawled in the basement. We were meteorologists. We tried to forecast a full year. We were optimists.

Last November,
I loved his all black high top converse and his maroon and blue coat over his navy hoodie.  I loved the way he looked that fall.  I loved his hair I loved his eyes I loved his hands and I loved that I could quietly and comfortably love all these things while pretending to just be his friend.
The weather was getting colder and the ground was coated in shattered leaves.  It felt so strange that I had known Hunter for less than a month.  There was such a familiarity in the front seat of his Volvo.  It all felt like washing my clothes.  I could have fallen for him with my eyes closed.  But my eyes were always wide open and his eyes were always grey and green and looking right at me.  His hair had tints like a sparking fire every time he tilted his head.  The bones in his fingers waxed and waned.  His feet always pointed out.  Jeans with a single cuff, shirtsleeves pushed above his elbows.  His skin was golden, even in the tail end of fall.  Lips like peonies.
“I could kiss you.”
My mom heard me say it in my sleep.
I could kiss you, I could kiss you, I could kiss you.

Three May’s ago, I met a boy at drivers-ed. I was four hours late. He pulled me out a chair. I smelled like sweat. When my mom came to pick me up, she asked who that boy was, and I said, “someone I’ll probably never see again!”

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grief

I don’t know what to say.

Eleven months ago the worst thing that could have happened did happen, and it happened to the best person that I’ve ever met. I still haven’t found a way to talk about August eleventh. The right words feel so far away– somewhere I’ll probably never be able to reach.  Maybe I’ll be stuck with tip-of-the-tongue syndrome forever. This feels like thick syrup in the back of my throat. This feels like a barbell in my stomach. This feels like I-don’t-know-what-to-do-because-for-my-whole-entire-life-all-of-my-strength-has-been-in-my-words-and-now-there-are-none-left.

There are no words.

In August, I wrote a poem about my little brother, who loved and looked up to Hunter in the purest way possible. In August, my brother was trying to fix what he couldn’t understand. In August, I hardly heard him speak. We were all trying to fix what we couldn’t understand, saying things to help heal other things we couldn’t understand; I think my brother was the only one wise enough to stay silent. Funerals also try to fix what we can’t understand. I thought a new black dress would make me feel less nervous. I thought throwing it away would make me feel less sick. I thought driving to New York would make me feel like I was going to get better.

Some things are always going to hurt.

I’m not done grieving. I’ve learned that grief is the sacrifice you make for love. If you love someone, one day you will begin to grieve, and you probably won’t stop. But I think that’s okay. I think I’ve come to terms with that. It’s fine that I won’t stop grieving because I know I won’t stop loving either.

I know what you’re thinking.

I’m no expert on grief. I’m nineteen-years-old and stubborn as hell and I’m probably not an expert on anything. But in the past eleven months, I’ve become highly familiar with my grief. I feel like I’m on an intimate level with my grief. If I cancel our plans, it’s probably because I need to spend some time with my grief.

I’m sorry.

My soul sister Morgan Noll spent her first semester at Drake University writing one of the best essays I’ve ever read. It was about grief. She had such a keen, kind eye when it came to watching grief. She saw what everyone did and felt what everyone felt. Morgan taught me how to better understand grief by looking through other people. When I started paying attention to what people said to me, really hearing their words and listening to what they meant, I absorbed so much grief, held it so close, so tightly. I don’t think I can say that there are bad ways to grieve or good ways to grieve because I’ve only lived one nineteen-year-long life and every English teacher I’ve ever had has told me that I really need to stop making such bold overgeneralizations. However, I’ve grieved eleven months and I’ve had a lot of people say things that made my grief feel heavier and I’ve had a lot of people say things that made it feel lighter. I want to share them with you because I still don’t understand grief. I thought after going through something like this, I’d know what to say when someone else I love was going through it too, but it’s still so hard. However, I’ve definitely learned what not to say, and some guidelines of what you can maybe say but full disclosure: nothing you can say will make the grief go away. If you expect that in the next few words I’ll teach you how to make grief go away, I’m sorry. I’m only nineteen.

Here we go.

Words That People Said To Me That Made Me Feel Like I Was Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor:

“Hey, I’m going through a breakup, and since you recently lost your boyfriend, I was wondering if you could give me some advice?”

“Hey, my daughter is going through a breakup, and since you recently lost your boyfriend, I was wondering if you could give her some advice?”

“Hey! I did this horrible thing to Hunter a while ago and I’m going to proceed to describe it in graphic detail without asking your permission to do so and then beg for your forgiveness and walk away from this conversation with a clearer conscience.”

“Why’d he do it?”

“Are you sad?”

“Go to college! Have fun! Move on with your life! You deserve it!”

“Can you comfort me? I kind of knew Hunter and I want you to know that I’m probably as sad as you are.”

“He’s in a better place.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“Are you pregnant?”

“Hey, I made an abrupt exit from Hunter’s life __ amount of years ago and I want you to explain in exact detail what happened to him from that time on.”

“Good morning! Here is a really cute memory that I’m texting you without warning. It is going to make you start bawling on your way to take this very important midterm. Have a great day!”

“It seems like you’re handling this really well.”
“You look great!”

“You are so strong!” (this one just gets old and is usually said by people who don’t actually know if I’m doing well or if I’m being strong).

“It’s not your fault. I am going to continue saying this despite the fact that doing so is going to make absolutely no difference in the way you feel.”

“Stay positive!” (wtf).

“Do you feel guilty that you’re still alive?” (I wish I were kidding about this one).

“I know exactly how you feel!” (no, you don’t).

“I’m going to offer to talk to you about your grief, but I’m going to use it as an opportunity to try to sleep with you! Ha ha ha! I’m really clever.”

“I’m going to offer to be there whenever you need me, but when you do actually need me, I’ll be nowhere to be found.”

“Hunter would’ve wanted you to go to school/get good grades/have fun/move on.”

“How does ___ make you feel? Wow, that must be really hard. Well, how does ___ make you feel? Yikes, that sounds tough.”

Words That People Said To Me That Made Me Believe That I Was Going To Be Okay, Even If Only for a Second:

“I’m here.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“There are no words”

“I’m sorry.”

“Some things will always hurt.”

“I’ve been there and I am so, so sorry.”

“I haven’t been there but I am still so, so sorry.”

“This sucks.”

“Cry as much as you want.”

“I don’t tell people how you’re doing if it’s none of their business.”

“Let me try to take some of that weight tonight”

“I hope you’re coping okay.”

“When everyone seems to have moved on and is tired of hearing about it, you know where I’ll be, girlfriend.”

“The what-if’s will go on forever. You just have to stop listening.”

“This is so horrible, I am so sad, but we’re going to be okay.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“thenicestplaceontheinter.net”

“I haven’t forgotten and I’m always thinking of you.”

“Is it okay if I send you a picture of Hunter I just found?”

“What color is grief?” (Burnt orange).

“I’m going to tell you a story about Hunter that is going to make you laugh and probably cry but I think you’ll like it.”

“We are so lucky to love him.”

Let Me Break It Down for You:

When talking to someone who is grieving, it is really important to not be too bossy or demanding, asking the broken person to do things they aren’t ready to do. Even asking if they’re okay can feel like a pretty big request and honestly, just a really dumb question. I really liked being told, “I hope you’re coping okay” because a.) the speaker didn’t imply that they had any inside info on how I was doing and b.) coping is really the only thing you can ask for after a tragedy. All experiences are different, so never pretend to know exactly how someone is feeling. You can share your story, but be sure not to invalidate any experiences that are different from your own. Sharing stories and memories and pictures is a really powerful way to work through grief, but please ask permission before launching into an extremely painful crawl through memory lane. Also, a breakup is different from a death. A breakup is different from a death. A breakup is different from a death. Don’t try to collect details of a death from those that are grieving. It’s not a story. It’s not gossip. It’s a tragedy. When it comes to feelings of guilt, don’t bring it up unless the griever does. There’s probably nothing you can say. Some things will always hurt.

In August I didn’t believe there was enough good left in a world without Hunter to ever feel love or loved again. A world without Hunter still has an uncomfortable emptiness, like the silence after an echo ends, but I have felt so loved. I hope no one reads this as an ungrateful slap-in-the-face to all those that have helped me through these eleven months. Your love has been appreciated more than I’d ever be able to finish explaining, even if I started right now. Most of you have been wonderful and are big parts of why I’m standing where I’m standing and doing what I’m doing. But I still haven’t gotten over some of the more careless words that were thrown my way. If even just one person takes my advice while talking to a loved one in crisis, I will feel so grateful. Words are all we have sometimes. Be very careful with them, because some things will never stop hurting.

happiness

Have you ever thought happiness is trying to catch you? I imagine it whipping wildly around corners in a hopeless race. The reason happiness hasn’t caught up is because you’re in a chase of your own. You think you’ve got your sights on happiness and you are so fixated that you don’t notice what’s tailing you. We all think happiness looks like cinnamon skin and a dandelion waist. We think it looks like a boy with broad shoulders and a car with four different colored doors. We think happiness is being invited to parties and getting asked to dance.

But, maybe, happiness actually looks like your next-door neighbor, in the morning, pre-coffee. Maybe happiness looks like sleeping on a trampoline and your little brother’s piano recital and taking your dog to the park. Maybe happiness looks like waking up at barely dawn and finding a new thing to love. Maybe happiness looks like smelly books and kind things. Maybe happiness sometimes looks like crying. Maybe happiness isn’t what you thought. Maybe happiness has narrow shoulders and corny jokes and a bad habit of looking for happiness in the wrong places.

Maybe happiness looks like remembering.

Maybe happiness is trying to catch you.

Maybe you should let it.

happy birthday

Morgan never-can-get-her-stories-in-on-time

Morgan polka-dot-pants-and-peter-pan-collars

Morgan-makes-the-days-more-okay

Morgan I-can-think-of-a-million-middle-names-for-you

Thank you for always keeping me safe and now go out and take all you deserve from the world this year.

love still lives here

Love is in yellow leaves

As much as it is in dew

Love is in grey skies

Just as much as blue

And this Love is no more in me

Than it is in you

Everything could feel so much

Braver than us

There are some things that are just

More than us

But our Love

Our Love could have swung

The Universe upon its shoulders

It could’ve swaddled it

And swept it up

And pushed it in a stroller

Because Love doesn’t die

Love takes root

Love grows knots

Love blossoms and blooms

And buds and breaks

But Love can still be

This piece of Love

That used to be You

And this piece of Love

That is still Me

Because Love doesn’t end

Love can bow and bend

And swallow pills

But Love is still as Love still is

Love set our rooms on fire

And was found sitting

Among the Ashes

Because Love doesn’t Leave

Love says Good-bye

But Love was only lying

Love still lives here

It is not gone

Love still lives here

Even when the seasons feel so long

Love still lives here

re: eating poetry

My ideas are like the water cycle

And not just because they’re wet

Not just because they’re round and frustrating

Not just because I can explain them

If you just give me enough time

But because I never seem to stop learning about them

2nd grade, 5th grade, 88 years old

I heard you never really are done growing

And I write poems like fountains

They keep flowing out of me

And I know I know I know

I act like a know-it-all

But all I want to do is write poems

Write poems

Write poems

Write good poems

Each word matters

My stream of consciousness is conscientious

My brain won’t sit still

I never forget a lesson

Alliteration, allegory, Weird Al Yankovich

I want to write poems

Write poems

Write poems

Write poems on the bus

On the back of a jogger

On airplanes

On rowboats

On bunkbeds

During sex

No not during sex

I don’t want to have sex

I just want to write poems

Write poems

Write poems

Write poems

Write good poems

Get them out of my head

And onto paper

Onto apple tree leaves

Onto hot air balloon baskets

Onto operating tables

Onto my best friends baby sister who already knows I break promises

Write poems

Get them out

Get them out

Get them out

So I can let someone in

Why can’t I write poems

Just write poems

Write poems

Write poems about boys that don’t say sorry

Poems about cinnamon days

Poems about the way ears bend

Poems about other poems that just make me want to write more poems

Poetry,

This is a love poem

I’m writing it to you