DO NOT READ THIS IF YOUR HEART IS NOT BROKEN.

      It hurt very softly. It was not an all-encompassing hurt, never a constant one. This was more of an achy, dull pain that would almost go away and then come back worse than before. It was the type of hurt that I would almost forget about if I was in the right place or with the right people or took just the right sip of the right drink. If the weather was just the way I liked it, and I didn’t get any parking tickets that day, and I got to do something I loved – like read a book on the beach or discover a new coffee shop or take my dog to the park –  I would almost completely forget that the hurt was ever even there at all.

       But then – quietly, softly, without warning, the hurt would come back. Just walking home from work some nights, I would pass a certain crack in the sidewalk or a certain song would come on Pandora blaring through only one side of my old headphones or maybe I would think of the way he would look at me or the way he would call me a ‘sexy, sexy minx’ or the way his skin felt brushing up against mine or his obnoxious laugh – randomly, for no apparent reason – and then, there it was again, that damned familiar hurt. Deep hurt. The type of hurt I couldn’t quite explain and didn’t even try. Not even to my closest friends. I needed a shoulder to cry on sometimes, a phone number that would text me back at any strange hour, or a human chest to breath onto in the sticky heat or the frigid cold. The people who really mattered would always give me that. I didn’t want to talk though. I didn’t need to talk. Talking never helped. Talking about the hurt brought thick gunk up through my throat and made me feel as if I would vomit if I had to say his name one more time or speak out loud about the past, or often even the loveliest possible rendition of the future. 

        I never felt it in my brain or my veins and it wasn’t really in my chest either. It didn’t feel even remotely close to the way I’d heard heartbreak described. I’d read all of the poems from the beat era and I’d listened to the ear-piercing “emo” music from the early 2000s before and I had talked many friends down from the ledge after being dumped by the people they’d truly thought were the loves of their lives. It still caught me by surprise. I didn’t really have a stomach ache. If I focused, I could certainly breathe. It was a hurt felt more in my bones. In every part of me, to the point where there was no way I could escape from it. It was a part of me. Sleep was only a temporary fix – for when I woke, BAM – there it was again. But not always. Only some days. There was no way for me to predict when it would come. Sometimes, I didn’t even realize it was happening until I was in tears outside of my apartment, wailing so hard and loud that my neighbors would come out and express their concerns because they’d thought my dog must have just died. Something did die, though. Not my dog. Not even a person. But death hurts the living no matter what it is that has died. That’s the thing – I was living. I must have been, to be feeling so much, so intensely. Even death can’t hurt the dead. Nothing can. 

        I know you’re hurting. I know it. It’s awful. There’s nothing anyone can say or do to console you right now. I get it.  It hurts bad. It hurts because it mattered to you more than anything else, and I’m glad that it did. Maybe it still does. I hope so. Something mattered to you so much that it had the ability to tear you apart this badly. You think this is ugly? Who told you that? It’s not ugly at all. It’s fucking beautiful. Some people never get to hurt this badly ever in their lives. I feel sorry for them, and you should too. To feel this much is human. Hurting this terribly is only an indicator of how much we were capable of loving – and guess what? That only means we are capable of loving that much again someday. I don’t want you to hurt. I know how it feels and I don’t want anybody to feel that way. But I want you to know that hurting is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to be proud of. You have a big heart just like I do. And that’s not wrong or embarrassing or shameful at all. Not one bit. 

         So don’t forget about him, or her, or it – that thing, that person, that place – whatever it was that has caused you to hurt this way or to cry this much. Whether your tears are on the outside streaming down your face where everybody can see them or deep in your bones. Maybe you can’t eat or sleep and you can’t even be yourself anymore. Remember this. Remember exactly the way it feels. Don’t ever forget it. Thank it. Cry when you have to. Laugh when you’re able to. You are not special because you’ve had your heart broken, and neither am I. But we are not big babies for crying often. We are not immature or crazy or unstable for yelling and expressing our every emotion so loudly it might wake somebody up. They can sleep tomorrow. You are hurting right now. Right this very moment.  And that’s OK. 

BAD EGGS

remember that night we took way too much MDMA and

you projectile vomited onto the sidewalk and

i asked if you were ok

you just laughed because

we were “so high right now” and

i carried you home which was sort of far and

you were really heavy

my bouncy curls went flat because

the air was wet and then

we slept on the shag carpet

in my friend laurie’s apartment

for seven hours with

all of the lights on and

when we woke up i cooked us some eggs but

i think those eggs were bad and

we shouldn’t have been eating her food anyway

 

BENNY

       The garage door was open. It was summer. The radio was on. A rail thin woman with long, dark hair set in perfect curls came up to my driveway. I had been working on my car all day. She said that she‘d lost her dog and asked if I could help her look for it. Grasped in her long and bony red-nailed fingers was a full color flyer with a blurry photo of her dog on it. She called me ‘sir’ multiple times. I didn’t feel old enough to be called ‘sir’.

       The woman looked semi-familiar to me. I asked her where she lived.

       ”I am staying with my father, just up the street from here. He suggested I ask you for help, because you are one of the only people in this neighborhood who has a car.”

       I nodded, and invited her into the only-slightly-cooler-than-outdoors garage. It smelled of sawdust and gasoline.

       I did not care much for dogs. I had never owned one, and didn’t give much thought to the beasts when I saw them attached to the ends of leashes walking by my old and crooked house. I certainly had never helped anyone look for their lost dog before. I wondered how she had lost her dog in the first place. Aren’t they supposed to come when you call them? I tried my best to make conversation.

       ”What is your dog’s name?”

       ”Benny.” she paused.

       “Will you help me look for him? It’s getting late and will be dark soon, and then it will be harder to find him.”

       I asked her how long she had owned Benny.

       ”Only a year. I was sick. My father adopted him for me to aid in nursing me back to health. Benny helped me more than any of the expensive medications ever could.”

       ”Everyone thinks I hate dogs, but I don’t really hate them. I’ve just never had one,” I told the woman defensively. I don’t know why I felt the need to tell her that.

       ”What were you sick with?” I asked reluctantly.

       ”I had a brain tumor. I don’t remember much of that time, because all of the medications made me very weak. I spent six months in the hospital, and once I got out I was confined to my bed at home for another six. If it hadn’t been for Benny, I absolutely would have gone nuts. I think he has healing powers.” The woman smiled crookedly as she gently brushed one of her dark curls out of her face with one of her sharp red fingernails. It dawned on me just then why her hair was so perfect. It was a wig.

       ”A brain tumor, wow. I was just reading an article about brain cancer statistics yesterday. It explained that it is more common in men than in women, and is very rarely found people under forty. “

       ”I am under forty,” she said quietly.

       ”I think I have also read somewhere about people bringing dogs into cancer wards to help brighten the moods of the patients,” I went on.

       ”Mmhm, there were other dogs that they brought into the cancer ward I was in, but Benny was the only one who would get under the covers and snuggle with me on my hospital bed.”

      “Yes,” I said, my voice rising, “do you think you could tell me more about him?”

       She stared at me for a moment, thinking.

     ”No,” she said, cautiously.

      “I don’t have much time. It’s getting dark and I need to go and look for my dog.”

       I struggled to think of a proper response.

       ”I understand.”

       Looking at the artificial center part in her wig, I thought to myself that she was right – she did not have much time at all.

       The woman handed the flyer with the photo of Benny on it to me. Her pale hand was shaking subtly until I grabbed it from her.

       ”Have you ever seen him?” she asked.

       Upon closer inspection of the photo, it registered with me that I had seen the dog earlier that day, digging though my neighbor’s tipped over garbage can.

       ”Let’s go and look for him,” I told her, knowing he couldn’t be far. We got into my mint green ’76 Cadillac Eldorado together and drove only a few blocks before we simultaneously spotted the mutt. I’d never seen so much genuine joy on the face of another human being as I did on hers right then.

       I kept in touch with the woman after that evening. A couple of years later, her brain cancer came back and killed her within just a few short months. I took Benny in when she died. He was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

       From time to time I tried to explain to people why I had adopted Benny. After awhile, I moved to a different city where no one knew that I hadn’t always been a ‘dog person’.

 

MY OWN KEY

you gave me my own key

to your place but

i don’t know why you did that

because

if i ever showed up there

uninvited

you would think i was

crazy

and we both know that isn’t true

 - or at least one of us does

i’m just not sure

which one

YOUR OTHER GIRLS

they liked it when you paid for

their drinks and

opened doors for them

they wanted to kiss you

during sex

which was weird

when you tried to reference

a mitch hedberg joke

they pretended to get it

but didn’t and

when you talked about

your wax art

they pretended to care

but didn’t

they hadn’t read anything by

truman capote

not even

breakfast at tiffany’s

your other girls

were much prettier

than me

they had bigger tits

better eyebrows and

louder orgasms

some even had

college degrees

some would cut your hair

for free

or get you into

exclusive parties

but none of them could

suck your dick

like i did

and none of them knew

what it felt like

to hate themselves

like i did

i could have tried

a little bit harder

i suppose I could have

done fewer crosswords

in the mornings

and spent more time

on my complexion

or spent that money

on breast implants

maybe

instead of buying

all of those vintage typewriters

on eBay

but that wasn’t really my style

and

you didn’t fuck me well enough

for me

to change myself

for you

 

 

 

COMMON GROUND

There were not

enough doors

in that house 

for me to slam

my anger was fresh

and new

to him

that day

but not 

to me

it was then that

he finally

understood

why hurricanes

are named

after 

people

sometimes 

the only thing

you have 

in common

with someone 

is that

you both

will someday 

die 

ROOT BEER BREATH

       It was winter in Los Angeles. If you’ve never spent any part of a winter in Los Angeles, this story could just as well begin with ‘It was summer in ____’, the blank representing any number of other cities in America. The air was crisp yet warm and the smog induced sunsets were capable of making even the most hurried Hollywood hotshots stop and sigh. Most days, I was thankful to be living there. But by the end of the ninth day of January of that particular year, I was not very thankful to be living at all. 

 

      The dark green bruises on my face and neck were easily covered with makeup for the most part. To draw the attention of others away from the scratches and scars – to keep them from suspecting any trouble  - was a surprisingly simple task. I often thought jokingly to myself about making a series of YouTube tutorial videos: How To Cover Bruises On A Budget. They’d go viral because people would think they were a joke. The only time anyone came close to figuring it out was when a coworker asked me if I could go out for drinks with her, and I told her my boyfriend wouldn’t allow it. I knew immediately that I had made a mistake in telling her and should have bit my tongue. Maura had been a victim of domestic abuse years prior and knew the warning signs well. I told her I had a bleeding ulcer (which was actually true) and that my boyfriend would get mad if he found out I was drinking alcohol because it was very bad for said ulcer. Hiding the bruises was only the beginning of the lies I had signed myself up to tell, and I had never been a very good liar. We went out that night after work and I had a root beer and talked about my captor for hours as if he were the love of my life. I fooled Maura that night and for many nights to follow, but I could never manage to fool myself, not even for a goddamn second. 

 

       I came home from the bar on the night of January ninth, sober and completely terrified. It was around 2:54 AM. Now, I say “around”, because that’s what the clock on my phone said. I have no idea what his said, but I can tell you that it did not please him when I was late. When I walked in after toggling with the dated gold lock for a moment, he was sitting in the dark and smoky apartment we shared with a brand new, shiny Kershaw knife in his hand – the type of knife not made for cutting things but for stabbing people. I thought for certain he would kill me then. Sometimes, looking back, I still wish that he had. Things far worse than an abusive boyfriend threatening to kill me were yet to come my way. 

 

       That adoring boyfriend of mine whose name was Benson Randall stared me down for a few moments then, stroking that pretty black knife slowly so as not to mistakenly slice one of his own precious fingers. My movements were careful, as I knew that knife was not the only deadly weapon he had within reach. If I came home too late at night by his standards, he would typically have one of his guns hidden underneath the couch cushions, just to scare me if I happened to use the wrong tone of voice with him. I cleared my throat before speaking in an attempt to sound as collected and classy as possible. 

       “I’m sorry…” I began. I wasn’t. 

       “Oh you are?” Benson interrupted, standing up and coming towards me, leaving the knife on the wooden coffee table I had built with my own hands. 

       “Yes. I tried to come straight home after work, but Maura seemed suspicious, so I went out with her.”

        “Where did you go?” he asked, lighting a cigarette. I hated it when he smoked in our apartment.

        “That little bar up the street from here… The… Something room …I can’t remember the name. There was no one there and all I had was a —”

        He grabbed me roughly by my bare shoulders, exposed by my shirt. The thin material had betrayed me like a cheating lover. Bare skin transformed him into a wild animal, especially if it was mine. He put one hand over my mouth to silence me then and pulled me towards him with the other. If I wasn’t so scared for my life, I might’ve been turned on. 

         “Let me smell your breath.” he spoke in a mere whisper, but the demanding tone made me feel like I was being yelled at.

         I blew my root beer breath towards his perfectly chiseled face, but before he decided whether it was acceptable or not he had already begun ripping my pants off of me and grabbing at my stomach and ribs aggressively. I surrendered without much of a fight, not to the possibility of sexual satisfaction but to that of yet another slow and painful beating at the hands of the man who claimed to love me. I knew exactly what was coming, because it always started the same way. I did not believe in God, but as one of Benson’s strong hands began to tighten around my neck and the other slapped me across the face over and over again, I wished for one small moment that I did – just so I could beg him to let me die right then. 

TWO CUPS OF TEA

How delightful

it might be

to someday 

make two

cups of tea

instead of

just the one. 

 

How lovely

it would be

to be stirred

awake

just once

by someone else’s

breath

instead of 

my own. 

 

“Two” I could say

proudly

when the tall man 

at the ticket counter

would ask me

“How many?” 

It may be twice the cost

for two tickets

 

 

but

oh,

wouldn’t it be worth it?

PLASTIC DAISIES

PLASTIC DAISIES

the girls all wore crowns 
of white plastic daisies on 
their heads and high-waisted shorts
because someone they followed
on Instagram
convinced them to 
they painted their nails 
pastel hues
and the boys wore american flag
bandanas
and tank tops which accentuated
the biceps 
they had earned
in a cult called cross fit
they all drank too much but 
not because they had demons
- they didn’t
and none of them knew who
friedrich nietzsche was or how to spell
‘melancholy’
or what it might feel like 
they all said ‘literally’ too much and 
did whatever someone called beyonce told them to 
they re-posted listicles
over and over
about how to be happy or 
successful or 
great
but the only thing they were 
to me
was blasé 
fake optimism was spreading 
like disease
they took pictures of their green smoothies and
sometimes their own feet
if you can believe that and
none of them cared that they were all being
brainwashed 
or maybe 
didn’t even realize it
but I did

 

 

ADVICE TO MY YOUNGER SELF

Do not date men who constantly talk about their ex-girlfriends.

Don’t constantly talk about your ex-boyfriend. 

If you’re still thinking that much about your ex-boyfriend, you shouldn’t be dating anyone anyway. 

Go ahead and buy that dress you can’t afford. It looks great on you.

Fuck anyone you want to fuck. 

If you don’t want to fuck someone, DO NOT FUCK THEM. 

Don’t work too much. I know you like having money, but your dog is much more important to you, and he misses you when you’re at work. 

If everybody likes you and you aren’t offending anyone, you’re doing something wrong. 

Be nice to your body. But still eat strawberry shortcake sometimes, because you love it. 

Learn another language. 

Don’t go out just because it’s Friday night, or because all of your friends want you to. Don’t go out if you don’t want to. Who cares if they call you anti-social. Maybe you are. And that’s ok. Stay in and read a book instead. 

Don’t EVER drive drunk. Pay $50 for a cab, even if it’s the last $50 in your bank account. 

The men who talk about how big their dicks are do not have big dicks. They’re usually pretty lousy in bed too. Also, anyone who says theirs is small probably isn’t lying. The ones with the real big dicks never talk about their dicks at all. 

Same goes for brains. The smart ones never have to tell you how smart they are. And those are the ones you want. 

Never pretend to like something you don’t just to impress someone else. Actually, never do anything just to impress someone else. 

When somebody tells you to shut up, don’t.  

Believing in science and reason does not make you a cynic. 

Don’t change your sense of humor because some people are too dense to get your jokes.

Sometimes the men who are the best in bed have the worst personalities. 

Call your parents at least once a week. They miss you. 

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. In fact, don’t believe most of it. 

Don’t get a boob job. The type of man you want to end up with probably prefers small tits anyway. 

Be selfish sometimes; but not always. 

For the price of a ticket to Coachella, you could get three new tattoos. Just sayin’.

Don’t apologize for anything you aren’t sorry for. Don’t be sorry for anything you shouldn’t be sorry for. Also, never, ever say “sorry not sorry”, and stay far away from anybody who does. 

Buy yourself flowers sometimes. They’ll mean much more than when someone else gets them for you. And yes, someone will get you flowers someday. 

Never let a man sleep in your bed who doesn’t like dogs. 

Never let a man sleep in your bed who your dog doesn’t like. 

Spellcheck. Everything. 

Never say “nice to meet you” unless it really is nice to meet that person. 

Tell the truth, even if it gets you in trouble. 

Learn how to wink. It’s sexy. 

Don’t do yoga. You hate it. It’s ok. There are other ways to be healthy. 

Don’t take pictures of your food. No one cares what you eat. 

I know you read a lot. Read more. 

Take your birth control religiously. 

Quit plucking your eyebrows. 

Invest in a good mattress.

Drink cranberry juice even though you think it’s gross. UTIs suck. 

Only call in sick to work when you’re actually sick.  

Real frowns are always better than fake smiles.