For Girls and Grief | Abigail Staub

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Wow. Just. Wow.

VAGABOND CITY

The first girl I ever kissed had a mouthful of luring words and veins full of Percocet.
I wore the potent perfume of pineapple vodka on my breath and wilted forward into her lap,
all curled up at the edges like a water-logged book.
We were perched on the end of a leather couch in someone’s basement and the television flickered and buzzed to mask the
piercing pounding of my heartbeat against the rib cage.
Her voice lilted softly in my ear, “Do you want to kiss me or not?” but my skinned, purple knees quivered as I questioned what people would think
when they saw me tangled up in the limbs of some Venus,
and not softly swallowing the saliva of a sweaty, calloused boy.
That was how it was supposed to be,
when you were sixteen with red lips and black stockings,
slurring empty proverbs to strangers.
Still, I…

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Someone I Ever Had

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Sometimes I think I still have him. Other times, I don’t- I’ve lost him.
But then, I realise: perhaps he had never been mine to lose.

It’s true: you don’t forget your first love. I haven’t, and I probably won’t. We will change, he and I, more than we have. I may leave, he may disappear, we may, perhaps, never speak again. I might die, or he might go before I do. But I don’t think I will ever forget.

In truth, I don’t want to.

Best friends we were, for two short, lovely years. Love was what I felt for him, love for the most perfect and flawed being I had ever known. Love, then, was the time I realised that this is what I love and want and will look for. This is what I have found, now let him find me.

He never did. He looked elsewhere, for something else, found someone else. Eventually, I did as well. I found something else to look for, found someone else. I think, though, that we still kept coming back to each other in those days. What we had wasn’t special- just different, the way relationships with everyone you know are different. That difference was special- not exclusive, but special nevertheless.

We kept coming back to each other, until we moved too far. Not one of us, you see- we both moved too far away to have something to come back to.

But the problem was that I wanted him still, after love ran out. I wanted his mind, his friendship, his smile. I wanted us to be special- exclusive special. I wanted us to be special beyond love, beyond loving, beyond time and places and the people we would meet.

I think in lifetimes, and don’t give the years enough credit. The years were too long, distances and schedules too much to handle. ‘Best friends’ proved to be too much for us to aspire to. It’s an old label for us, like a garment that doesn’t fit anymore, but that you can’t throw away due to sentiment; like the old photographs that I sometimes take out and sigh over, perhaps breathe a laugh, quell or release a sob; for the sake of that which, at one time, was.

Perhaps I had him once. But I haven’t for a while now, and perhaps I should have known that ‘special’ wasn’t for us, that it was never meant for us.

There is very little regret, anyway.

Think-Stream

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I had a teacher once, who said that even if I couldn’t think of anything to write about, I should just put my pen to paper and write. He said it didn’t matter even if I wrote the same sentence ten times; perhaps the eleventh sentence would be different.

He taught me just for a year, during my eleventh grade. I missed him a lot the next year. I wish he’d stayed. He was 22 years old; he was the only adult with whom I felt comfortable sharing my poems. We would sit in school after he’d read them, and he’d point things out to me, cool things I’d never noticed I’d done with words; he’d nudge words into better order, so the poem wasn’t lopsided. By the time we were done, it looked like it was proud of itself.
Many people had told me that I could write well; he was the first person to show me how to write better.

I have a friend whose descriptive writing I prefer to Amitav Ghosh. Her story about cancer ripped into me, but I kept reading it because of the sheer skill it took to put those layers of words and story together.

I think about my third grade class teacher who hurt me so much, and I want to meet her again and tell her about it. I don’t know if I can forgive her; maybe it won’t be necessary, maybe she won’t even want to be forgiven.

I have a friend who is incredibly attractive to me because he’s intelligent and confident and mature and a lot of fun. I don’t know if I’m attracted to him. I’m usually not, though; it’s just sometimes.

Honestly, though, the person I love the most in the world is myself, at the moment. I think that after so many years, it’s time I started believing that I’m worthy of being my most important person.

The Beginning

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I recently came to the decision that I would like to meet my third grade math teacher again.

Why, my parents ask, why after so many years? Closure, I say. Mom asks, Forgiveness? And I can’t tell her, can’t say everything that I thought, sitting in the shower.

Forgiveness. Closure. How interchangeable are these terms? Mom says that forgiveness leads to closure. I’m not so sure.

You do not humiliate eight year olds. Not even if they find it hard to add two three-digit numbers. Not even if they gave the wrong answer in an inter-class quiz- or you think they did, anyway. Not even if you think their stomach ache is a sham, and their tears are tap water, and their red eyes are a little more ingenious, achieved by violently mashing their knuckles into their eyes. Even if you don’t trust the eight year old, you do not tear into them in front of their peers, and use your tongue as a shovel to scoop them out of themselves.

I remember crying, a little. But mostly, I remember fear, Fear of math classes, fear of getting answers wrong, of not remembering my tables. Fear of the half-hour between her entering the class and leaving it. Fear of being left alone if my new best friend- protector, helper, sister- were suddenly sick again. Eight years old, and so much fear.

Hunched over, holding my stomach, tears dry and sticky and shiny on my cheek- “I’ll give you one tight smack if you don’t go back to class now”. 

Shaking pencil lead, and what if I’m wrong- “Always wrong, and so untidy, why do you even come to school?”

Nearly screaming that it wasn’t me, that I had been right, Diya had given the wrong answer, the captain didn’t remember- “I made a huge mistake choosing you in the quiz team.” And everyone staring, and Diya silent.

I still hate her for that, a little. Just unfriended her on Facebook. Oops.

Eight years old and teaching myself not to cry, to hold back tears because she mustn’t see them; thirteen years old and slicing my arms into sections, a veteran at being (faking) strong; nineteen now, and knowing where it all began; Because, from before that, I don’t remember pain. I don’t remember the tears.
Before 3-B, I didn’t know fear.

I want to meet her, because she is the first and most potent demon in my life. She took my self-confidence, and my happiness, and my joy in schooling, chewed it and spat it back in the form of venom that burnt into me, and has left its mark on my soul. When I second-guess myself, when I feel that I’m less than I am, I know that that is the part of Mrs Mitra that I carry around with me, eleven years later.

I have these moments of euphoria where I go, Yes, Goddamnit, I’m fucking hot!!. I want them to be more than than moments. I want them to be my whole fucking life.

I need to see her, not even to ask her why (though I will). I want to talk. will talk to her. I spent all that year, I’ve spent all these years Iistening to her. Now she’s going to hear it all- she’s going to know exactly what she did to me, and how she isn’t going to do it anymore. This will be my closure.

A reason may come. It doesn’t matter, really. And by some miracle, I receive an apology (I’m not fool enough to even hope)- why, maybe I can even forgive.

They aren’t the same thing, you see. But they do both bring peace, in their own way. Sometimes they do go together. But not for me.

Because I’m not even sure I have any forgiveness left for that woman anymore.