scintilla – heartbreak

we fight, fight, fight. i say we fight but what i mean is that i get mad at the ways you slight me and you try to convince me you didn’t, and around in circles we go, me with my unmovable truths and you with your nonchalance. and we fight.

we talk the phone in the middle of the night and i pace around my tiny apartment, tile cold on my feet, while we try to untangle whatever mess we’re in at the moment, something that’s been going on all day. we hit 1, 2, 3 am, and sometimes i just get so tired that i have to give up and i pretend that i’ve forgiven you.

but mostly, we run in logic circles. you don’t care and this is why, i assert, and you retort with why it was reasonable, and i try to decide if i am crazy, if i expect too much, if i am too sensitive. i wish so hard more than anything that i could be as detached as you, i wish so hard that i just did not care. and then i wish that i did not have to wish these things.

so it’s one of these times and we’ve hit the end of one of these cycles and the beginning of the very early morning when i dig it up, when i excavate the core of it all for the first time. i clear my sobs for a few minutes and i tell you:

“i think you chose me because you knew i would wait and sit by while you hurt me over and over, because you’ve seen me do it before. i think you chose me because you knew that once i fell, and you knew i would, i would take this bullshit you knew you’d give. i think you took advantage of me, and i think it was premeditated. and i need to know if this is what you’ve done.

but before you tell me, know this. you don’t have to love me. you don’t have to see my light and you don’t have to think i am anything special – i am a big girl, by now, and i can handle your rejection. but by cornering me here, preventing me from moving out there and finding someone who does see it, who does think it, you have done something remarkably selfish and evil. and how dare you. my god, how dare you. i deserve so much better.”

this was the night i broke my own heart with all of the truth i could muster.

 

scintilla – tribes.

i’m a cofounder of the scintilla project. our goal is to give you a reason to unlock your storytelling voice. we provide a selection of daily prompts and encouragement, and you provide a post that goes beyond the surface into Why. in some you’ll be the hero, in some the villain, and in some an innocent bystander. every day is a new chance to go deeper. today’s prompt: list the tribes you belong to: cultural, personal, literary, you get the drift. talk about the experience of being in your element with your tribes..


the thing about me is that i don’t know how to identify with a larger whole. i am in my 20s. i am female. i am an american citizen. i am a nonprofit employee. i am really into the internet. these are all true and they’re pretty convenient labels, and i use them frequently, but i find it nigh impossible to say that i feel at home with anyone because they share one or some of these labels with me. there is a chance i will really dig you, but it probably has little to do with the tribes you belong to.

the reason i always felt squicky about going to church is because i didn’t really understand the concept of a parish. i knew, from context clues, that it was the group of people that attended the church. but how did that make any sense? some people are there every week and some people are there only one. i hardly know any of these people, all i do is shake their hand and say “peace be with you” – i am not the same as them. we don’t share anything. i don’t know how to be a part of your community.

so, the prompt is to talk about tribes but i can’t. perhaps this is not how i operate. what moves me, what makes me tick, are the people i call kindreds and they come few and far between. and i’m really ok with that, because it makes our relationships intensely special, and a source of huge wonder and delight. and if those relationships explode they do so spectacularly, they leave me with craters taken out of me, but this is because i have given of myself and i refuse to believe that that is a mistake.

so here is to my kindreds (two of whom are the co-organizers of this project, but i’m sure you guessed that already because i’ve gushed about them before. sorry i’m not sorry). here’s to you, my beautiful, wonderful, soulful as hell people – you are my tribe.

scintilla – letter to the bully.

i’m a cofounder of the scintilla project. our goal is to give you a reason to unlock your storytelling voice. we provide a selection of daily prompts and encouragement, and you provide a post that goes beyond the surface into Why. in some you’ll be the hero, in some the villain, and in some an innocent bystander. every day is a new chance to go deeper. today’s prompt: write the letter to the bully, to the cheater, to the aggressor that you always wanted to but couldn’t quite. now tell them why they can’t affect you anymore.


you know, i never thought what you did to me was bullying. it’s only now, thirteen years later when i rehash the tale to others that they say, “yes, dominique, you were bullied.” and i say “but i offered him my money. he never demanded it.” this, i realize, is a weak excuse.

i don’t know why i was your target. i was pudgy, i guess, and i wasn’t that pretty, and i didn’t have the straight to the shoulders hair with highlights that all the other girls had, or their coach bags. i probably wore my insecurity like a coat every day over the trendy clothes that i begged my mother for, that i believed would be the answer (spoiler: they weren’t). kids smell fear like animals.

and you, you were gregarious and you were loud and i suppose to some you were charming, but to me you were terrifying. i suppose this story would be all the more horrifying if you were also super attractive and the object of the ladies’ desires, but you weren’t. maybe this is how you made up for it. you poked at me and made fun, and you made everyone else laugh and it wasn’t quite cruel enough to be a crime but it was just cruel enough to make me hate myself a little more.

so i gave you the money my mother gave me every day for lunch and in return you weren’t allowed to speak to me. i proposed the deal, and it both helped along my burgeoning eating disorder and my small and fragile ego. really, it was a win-win for me, the way i saw it.

and i guess this isn’t really a letter, but the thing is, i don’t care anymore. i smile a little to myself now, realizing that the secret all along was to learn not to give one fuck about what you or he or she or they thought about me. to not care that i didn’t have the barely there hips you were supposed to have at 13, that my baby fat hadn’t really gone away, that i was smart and interested in things, that i really really cared what grades i got. and these things, they don’t define me any longer, and neither do people like you.

scintilla – lost

i’m a co-founder of the scintilla project. our goal is to give you a reason to unlock your storytelling voice. we provide a selection of daily prompts and encouragement, and you provide a post that goes beyond the surface into Why. in some you’ll be the hero, in some the villain, and in some an innocent bystander. every day is a new chance to go deeper. today’s prompt: show a part of your nature that you feel you’ve lost. can you get it back? would it be worth it?


(i’m pushing myself, today, to do the prompt i’m not so comfortable with. bear with me, ok?)

there was a time when i was a wild girl.

at 20 i’d been tied down for two years and he’d torn my heart, my life, my trust to shreds and there was nowhere else to turn but outward, so i shattered and i let my pieces fly. it was during this time that i lived in dee’s house, where i burned candles on a huge bureau that wasn’t mine and i photographed myself in sepia smoking cloves, after hours of crying. i could not believe how dead my eyes looked in these pictures with smoke curling around my face. my self photography sessions make me wince in their very cliche-ness now, but i was only doing whatever i wanted. i ate one meal a day, which i bought from the diner up the block, an omelette with fries topped with cheese and gravy, until i realized i just wanted the fries so screw the omelette. i lost weight.

i went back to my old job on long island every friday, a long drive that probably wasn’t worth the gas and tolls for whatever i made for the day, but i needed an anchor. where friday nights took me was up to the wind. there was a night where i talked to my friend m while i drove from the island to brooklyn, from one boy to the next, without knowing where i would sleep. we joked about the holes i was trying to fill but it was bigger than that, and we both knew it. i stood outside in the cold at a hipster bar in williamsburg to flirt with the bouncer* all night, and he let me wear his long leather coat. a few hours earlier i’d been in the back of another boy’s car and i would end up sleeping on a coworker’s couch, rigid in fear, knowing he was doing coke in his bathroom ten feet from me.

i was not alright, at this time. as i mentioned, the photographs followed hours of sobbing, my writing and chats with friends took me til 3 or 4 am every day, and i could barely tell you which way was up. i could not exist ten minutes without calling someone – i had no idea how to sit with myself, there was too much that welled up whenever i tried. and really, i didn’t want to try.

i had the greatest freedom that i’d ever had and because the pieces of me that were moving through the world were doing so with their own velocity, i did not have to decide what to do, and i never had a chance to say, stop, i am scared. i never had a chance to be scared, so i did anything.

i do not want to break, again, and i do not want to seek my solace in the things that will rot inside of me. but i miss flying without fear. i miss going, doing, seeing, saying whatever i wanted for only a hint of a reason or no reason at all. i hate why i landed there and i can’t be too proud of what i did with it, but this freedom, it was precious.

*if you had tried to tell me then that i’d be sitting in bed typing this post next to that bouncer, that we’d fall in love, move in together, and celebrate three anniversaries, i would have laughed so hard in your face. ah, life. funny, right?

scintilla – childhood room.

it’s a room on the second floor of a condo in backwoods florida. it was mine for almost four years.

i’ve got a twin trundle bed and this would be convenient if i had friends that were to come and sleep over, but i don’t. i write about this in a diary that i lock away in the desk drawer, a diary i read later that breaks my heart and i think, “was i always broken? was this in my blood?” and i never find the answers to those questions. eventually, i learn to let them go.

it’s a large desk, and it has a hutch with three or four levels of shelves. there’s a mother goose doll – she’s huge, and her body is hard, not like a regular stuffed animal. when you put a cassette in her side, she speaks the story or song. you’re meant to play stories, but i think it’s funny to put in songs, like my tape of “a whole new world”. later, i’ll have a radio with a cd player, and i’ll listen to janet jackson sitting crosslegged on the rug. i’ll shut the door, not quite understanding why i shouldn’t let grown ups hear me listen to these songs, but knowing there is something illicit about them.

i have my own door to the balcony. i play games where you stand below and let a balloon go, and i catch it. i play games where i let a balloon go, and run inside the house and up the stairs and out the balcony door as fast as i can to catch it. i don’t win these games often.

i have two walk-in closets, which seems incredibly luxurious now. one of them is filled with my things, and one of them with things that are mostly not mine. in the one with the things that are mostly not mine, there is a mobile. i spent the years staring at it – it was bright, it had a smiling sun and a rainbow with smiling clouds at each end, smiling stars and a smiling moon. the entire thing was a burst of smiles and color, and i would stare at it and sob, and i could never, never understand why something so happy inspired such sadness in me. i rearrange it, i take it down, put it up, i move it around and always, in every position, it makes me cry.

i left this room before my ninth birthday but i can still feel its carpet under my fingers, my feet, if i think hard enough.

scintilla – a song.

glowing ember, burning hot, and burning slow.

i was fifteen and i was in love and i was consumed with this boy in a way that maybe you only ever can be at fifteen. i only ever spoke the words to one adult, during that time. i knew it wasn’t something anyone would consider real, i knew it would be like telling people that e.t. had visited me in the middle of the night. it wasn’t a good thing, it wasn’t a good relationship, and it was complicated. it was built in hidden corners and built in my heart, but only in mine. but this is where i learned what love felt like.

deep within i’m shaken by the violence of existing for only you.

it was perhaps my first real lesson at the art of giving ones self up for another. this was a first try at disappearing, my opacity reducing daily as i sunk into something, got wrapped up in a tornado, what would be the first of many in my romantic life. it has been over a decade, and i’ve learned since then that you must not do this, you must always remain you, regardless of your ties. you must find a point of solidity and you must hold to that, even if it is just a point, and hopefully it is more, but a point, you can build upon.

and i had the sense to recognize that i don’t know how to let you go.

it was so long ago, so of course, it is done and over. we have flitted back and forth to each other over time, usually in crisis, but now i think things have reached a certain stasis. i knew then, somehow, that we would not leave each other’s lives – call it a vision, a prophecy, a feeling – and i was right. it is with a certain pride and tenderness that i look upon our friendship now, and a gratitude, a deep gratitude. but i remember walking suburban streets that summer with this song ringing in my ears, and knowing the weight of loss for the first time.

(italicized text is lyrics from sarah mclachlan’s do what you have to do)

scintilla – grown up.

it comes in flashes.

on sunday evenings when we’ve finished dinner, and all of the chores are done, and i’m preparing for the week, it strikes me. this feeling of completion, of being where i am supposed to be.

on holidays or days i have decided to throw a party, when i am running around like mad trying to make sure everything is right, ooking all of the things, trying to make sure everything comes out warm and at the same time.

when i am sick, and alone, and shuffling around, and wishing someone could just come care for me, and that i didn’t have to do so much on my own.

when i am scrubbing the spots out of the microwave furiously, or making sure to dust in every little corner.

i think, like many things, i have a nebulous and far reaching idea of what it means to be truly grown. and i keep expecting this peace to settle over me, and to realize, “ah, i am here now. this is Grown Up Land,” and it never does. of course it doesn’t, because this isn’t how life really works and everything is always in progress.

i think it’s because i equate adulthood with perfect responsibility. with always have your shit together and every hair in place, and this is not real, ever. so i take the flittering in and out of it, because oh, do i feel so good when i’m one of those spaces where i am just On Top of Everything. and even when i am scrambling i say, ok, so today i am scrambling. and tomorrow, maybe, will be better. and the next day, sometimes i am, and sometimes i am not. and this evolution, this push pull tidal flow, this is Life, really, so i’m learning to be alright with it.

and maybe that is what it means to be grown up, after all.

scintilla. a first.

i am scared.

i am driving to new jersey and i am scared. i have to find a place to live, because i have to go back to school and i can’t afford to live on campus. i can’t pay all of that money up front, and i think it will be cheaper if i find my own place. i am 20.

i’ve made three appointments for the day. the first, in the town very close to my school. there’s a room for rent, an elderly couple owns the home. it seems very nice, but they’re a bit strict, and they won’t allow guests. the second is an apartment share on a waterfront property, but seems more serious than i want it to be – signing a year lease and all. i can’t do that. i just have to get through the next five months of school. then i’ll figure out what happens.

i’m driving up to the third and i don’t know where i am. it’s january, the sun is getting low, and it’s bitter cold. i park on the street, and knock on the door of the big big house, and i am ushered in by a kind, down to earth, and friendly black woman. her name is dee. she tells me i should have parked in the back, and then she shows me two rooms. they are large and furnished and painted bright, cheery colors. bathrooms are shared, but there are plenty on each floor. ten people in total, probably, live in the house.

i signed a month to month agreement to rent the smaller of the rooms i was shown that day. i set a move in date for a few weeks later. and i procured myself a home.

i am driving back to new york and i am not scared. i am capable, and i am confident, and i can handle shit. i can take care of myself. i can do this.

precursor.

consider this a precursor, a prologue.

the story of my friendships is, in some ways, tragic. my friends substituted for my family, i loved them with a capital l and i wove them into the fabric of my life with a thicker thread than anything else. that fabric tore, over and over, into shreds. which left me in a similar state.

i wonder, sometimes, why i am hesitant to speak of what is new, to acknowledge, and it is, of course, fear that one day it will drop. and this, we have to accept, might happen. we have to accept this for everything.

i wish i had the words for the tornado of joy that it’s been to bring scintilla together with onyi and kim. i wish i knew how to explain how honored i am to do something with two brilliant women, how humbled i am that they wanted me along for the ride.

these are the kind of friends i know i have, now. the ones i have kept from days past and the ones who have walked in to my world recently. the kind who will tell me the unvarnished truth. the kind that will say, “leave him” if they see he is wrong and will say, “love him”, if they know i just need to let go a little. the kind to whom i want to communicate only the best of myself, the kind that let me, and push me, to shine, without ever diminishing what i am in the moment. the kind that believe in me. the kind that i want to dance all night with, that i want to drag around to my favorite places because i know how much they’ll enjoy it, and because i want to share in happiness.

how many ways can you say, i am fortunate, i am lucky, i have been blessed? how many ways can you convey gratitude? i would capture and shout them all, if i could, but the poetry of this escapes me. so all i can say is, i am fortunate, i am lucky, i am blessed. and please know, i am so grateful.

ugly.

storytime.

i’m out to lunch, and an¬†acquaintance, we’ll call him A, ¬†is there – we’ve always been friendly. another person at lunch is playing the game where we’re “casting” everybody around the table – who would play us in a movie. eventually he turns to me, and since the game has been going on for a while i’ve been thinking about it, and my response is “mila kunis”. which immediately elicits a derisive snort from A. pretty much the last thing you could accuse me of being is a shy wallflowery type, so i immediately turn to him and say “what the fuck, A? what does THAT mean?”, and he tries very hard to backpedal away from his response.

commentary: A lacks a filter. that’s ok – i do sometimes too, and i’ve offended people. while i was offended, a simple apology would have taken care of it.

more commentary: i am pretty unaware of the ins and outs of pop culture, and someone told me years ago that i look like mila kunis. *shrug* ok. in no way do i think i’m some fhm model (do they still even do fhm? is that a thing?). this is not the first time it’s been brought to my attention that i am a girl of fairly average, if that, attractiveness. i am not a bastion of confidence to begin with so…that.

i’m also – well – i’ve been described as a dog with a bone. so my ragging on A continues for a few minutes, until he offers me some of his chocolate dessert in apology and i say, “no, that might make me fat and then i’d be EVEN UGLIER so i’d better not”. A lowers his voice a bit and says, “look, you are really really making me feel like an asshole and it was NOT that big a deal so you need to just drop it”. i look at him incredulously (mostly that someone just tried to tell me what i needed to do), but for the sake of not making a scene, as it wasn’t the place nor time, i dropped it.

commentary: i’ve been known to push an issue further than other people are comfortable when something has offended me. i can accept that i may have done that.

more commentary: however, *I* don’t have to do a damn thing because *you* feel like an asshole. you caused you to feel like an asshole. you could just apologize for the assholish thing you did – genuinely.

and now, all of this happened last week. and i still feel, well, ugly. i am familiar with all of the cliches about how no one can make you feel any way without your consent and blah blah (and mostly, to be honest, i find them trite – i am not one for popular quotes or cliches), but the fact is, someone was insulting to me and i have a certain feeling in response to that, and it’s hard as hell to shake. i understand this wasn’t something done out of malice, or with any ill will, but – filterless people (i include myself in this group), for the sake of basic human courtesy and decency, try to develop at least the most basic of filters that allows you to not insult undeserving people. i was in no way trying to equate myself to some hollywood superstar goddess – believe me, i’m not the type – and i didn’t need to be cut down a few pegs.

so, basically, please try to be a generally nice person. because you don’t know how long your thoughtless words stick.