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We met by accident
and I wonder what I would be feeling at this moment instead
if I had only gone to New York the previous summer, like I should have
if you were never in that math class, or whatever it was
If your parents never met–there’d be no you
If my parents’ parents never met–maybe I’d be better

We discussed these things sometimes, but agreed nothing happens for a reason
yet in our searches and creations, I made you all of mine
It was as if everything that had ever happened in the history of time
was in preparation for:
the silly songs on the radio I knew you could hear too
every blue sky that was a souvenir
the winter day I was in Maryland with you, heated rooms like heaven
a summer afternoon when you told me you could have liked me a lot

Could have
But I know you did, even when it was wrong
Distance was a shield from truth
And if there was a God where we existed, that God was no musician
Because timing is a thing,
and you were living in a different meter
Eventually, I was only your offbeats

So what if the universe had taken just one, small step in the other direction?
Then maybe,
July wouldn’t have been poems about getting high
August wouldn’t have been picnics and storms in New Hampshire
September wouldn’t have been about longing
October wouldn’t have been about trying to make things different
November, I really should have stopped myself by now
December, I couldn’t
So I kissed other people in January to not forgive, but forget
Because you never showed up in Pennsylvania
Left me half furious, a fourth in love,
a quarter lost on Walnut and Broad

May is just a rainy day or two
and I wouldn’t even be thinking about that
if it weren’t for how I handled you
I’m trying to blame it on the INFJ,
right brain, 1800s piano,
big jet planes
I’m more or less a crazy person
Because girls are persons too
But I think it’s worse than that–
being the other girl,
even the times you never let me know
just kept the two of us beaming
It was because you cared too much, you said
I call b.s.

I don’t exactly know who “they” is, but they say it’s easiest to write while you’re loving someone
I don’t want to anymore
The ink in my pens have been bleeding for your curly brown hair for too long,
and you know I’m a sucker for brunettes
But what else do you know about me now?

You don’t know that I’ve been noticing my breath, planning trips to the South,
listening to Showtek
You don’t know that deep breathing doesn’t work when I’ve let you become the air around me,
that I remember you wanting to travel, knowing you just needed to run away
Next month I’ll be dancing without you at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway
And you will never know that I won’t think about you then

You don’t know that I’ve been writing to remember,
but this time I’m writing to forget
I don’t think I’ll be writing about you again
when I can start to wake up without the contour of your name in my lashes–
I treasure the minutes that will someday become all the time
When shampoo is just shampoo, without your cotton scent
When insomnia is not profound, and pillows are just as pleasant
without the imprint of your head

So maybe this moment is an accident,
along with everything that happened after “Hi”
But no, I won’t think about the “what if”s and “could have been”s
when I’m looking at calendars and maps
Because I don’t need to lose myself in people who are no longer homes,
don’t need to lose my mind
Our parents, the struggle that is math,
New York, and feelings,
they all happened
There is a you
There is an I
And this is an end

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Before Going Away
Photos & Poems by Linda Zhou

I. Forgetting
II. My Morning Brie
III. Sorry, I’m Going to Hell
IV. Flowers on Locust
V. I Will Still Love You in Hell
VI. Remembering

I.
Forgetting
(For the Sadder Parts of Me)

That morning I told myself I woke up on the wrong side of bed
I laughed and laughed, thinking of what it’d be like to crash into the white wall on my left side
They say you’re most lovely when you laugh
They don’t know anything about big brows, flat nose, small eyes

I forgot how to walk at my sixth grade graduation
But I wouldn’t do it over again even if I could
Because the beginning of things like body hair, boyfriends,
curves, and curse words were themselves, hairy curses

One day us girls stopped eating and I started dancing to the rhythm of hunger
I forced the noise out of me, for it was too unfavorable to live quietly
But still, all they saw were almond eyes, boring black hair
So I forgot about Gene Kelly and Audrey, became their x+y=z, y=mx+b,
2/4, 6/8, Beethoven, Debussy

My Brother in Christ became a Brother in Fraud as I wandered out from under the roof of his foul body
It is too bad I never quite learned to scream
Then I heard it for the first time a few seconds before sleep
It left me frozen and floating while I recognized how to hate a body

No one remembers the girls who were almost Prom Queen
And even I want to forget who I was in the red dress that year
In that case, let me also forget who I was in the white jeans, silent for a collegiate drunk,
when I should have trampled his unapologetic hands on the filthy ground
Should have dropped off every misogynist in my passenger seat at the side of the road

But my memory won’t fail me in the way I wish it would,
And there’s still a white wall next to my bed that I cannot blame for racist jokes
Maybe in a few more years I’ll quit feeling embarrassed for my existence,
love myself more than I hate sexism and church
because I think that might be a more useful skill than shooting tequila in spite of Christ,
banking on bitter coffee to keep me alive,
trying to be beautiful when I’m about to cry

II.
My Morning Brie
(For My Best Friend)

It’s been thirteen years and the twenties are doing a strange thing
The hills where we grew up are flattening without you
So I’m leaving too

You give me love when I need it more than reason
Please, love yourself in the same way too
Because you’re my Brie in the mornings,
Grape Cider on Christmas nights
And your friendship is better than those combined

You told me you’ve once felt like dying
Because sometimes being nothing sounds easier than being something, so
Fuck the exclusion that the Agnostic-you faces in the name of honesty
Fuck the expectations and fetishes that make the Asian-American-you feel powerless
Fuck the anti-idealists that make the artist-you feel sorry for sentiment
Fuck the patriarchal system that makes the woman-you want to crumble to angry bones
Because if all of you ever disappeared like you’ve wanted to
I think I might too

But fuck our negativity too, let’s keep on living
and I’ll see you soon by the Berkeley trees that look blue
We’ll talk about Murakami, mothers, men, the moon,
how we’ll survive our twenties with our middle fingers intertwined
Remember when our violin teacher said that’s something only
bad girls do?

III.
Sorry, I’m Going to Hell
(For a Mother)

Ever since I stopped believing in your God
every performance that matters has gone to shit
I wonder if He’s sending me a sneak preview of Hell
But what kind of God doesn’t have better things to do?

You think I’m preparing for Eternal Life
but I’m just deciding how to Eternally Hide
I used to feel guilty about sadness in a four-bedroom house
But disapproval belongs to every class, fear has no mercy and
I wish these things did not make their place in homes

But if your God is as loving and merciful as you believe,
let Him bless our home
Since you never could, He can start by forgiving me instead
for never tithing, never reading the Word,
owning my body, Evolution, kissing girls,
hating Sundays, weed, loving the World

Yet I don’t need forgiveness for what I don’t think is wrong,
So why don’t you pray for your war through famines and floods
Maybe that’ll teach me to revert, but it’ll likely teach me to drown
Then let me drown in water turned wine–
at least I can be drunk in Hell

IV.
The Flowers on Locust
(For Someone I Am Learning Not to Love)

It was a Monday when you were lost
And I thought about your frown on 10th Street,
your smirk on Spring Garden,
your Russian laugh on Spruce:
Xa xa xa xa xa

The flowers on Locust were dead
like I almost was, thinking
I saw your skinny face in Rittenhouse Square,
Mozart Place–he’s dead too

The flowers that could have been on Locust are dead
Perhaps someone is dreaming about them to keep them alive
Last night I saw you again in my dishonest mind
What would have happened if I didn’t turn and shake my head?

Would you have talked about the Bright Eyes,
perfect for your dark mind?
Would you have apologized to the Dayton Airport walls
for holding in the secret wreckage I was the last time we spoke?
I didn’t forgive you then, and nothing forgives you now
If my mind brings me back tonight, I’ll be sure to remind your ghost

It is everyday that you’re lost now
But I won’t think about you again on 10th, 11th, or 12th,
Never see you in any language on Spruce
Smile in L.A., Vegas, Dayton, Houston, D.C., Philly
without a burgundy trace of you
Love no one on Locust in honor of its flowers’ deaths
Drained petals adorning the ground where I won’t remember you

Because the flowers on Locust were never alive,
and they were never dead
The flowers on Locust were always just pretend

V.
I Will Still Love You in Hell
(For a Father)

I’ve only seen you on the edge of tears once,
As I lay shivering in the hospital bed
The one time you let the tears drop you wailed,
it was the Holy Spirit, you said

I can’t comprehend flip-flops and Fox News,
sour cream in sandwiches, soups without spoons
You’re a Pentecostal, right-winger, a weirdo like me
You are determined, diligent, kind, and unafraid
Some things you cannot pass onto me

The images of your glossy red eyes are rainy days
And I’m going to need a metaphorical umbrella when I see the Hyatt on Walnut again
Do you still remember the view of Center City Philly from the ninth floor?
Do you believe that come August, I’ll be in those streets without you?

I will still love you when I am asleep on a Boeing,
while I’m making a mess on kitchen counters and bedroom floors,
I will love you when I’m grumpy and blaring the music you can’t hear, but still hate,
while I’m conflicting your beliefs, being who you thought I was not

Because if it’s real, I’m going to Hell
where I’ll get buzzed off of the red wine we used for our grilling,
plastered off of the whiskey floats we used for our summer melting,
and I promise I will love you the entire, endless time
But I hope you never know this, because it’ll make the next time you cry
not the Holy Spirit’s fault, but mine

VI.
Remembering
(About the Happier Parts of Me)

The night the Carolina Chocolate Drops played in Portsmouth
we danced in our summer dresses, even though you were lightly offbeat
I shed my heaviness to the banjo and looked up,
never before having seen the stars that clear and free

The sky is a gift, and to it I returned by airplane wings
The airport is my favorite place–just think of the possibilities
in people and places
Whens and wheres of the next home, next satisfying memory,
new inspirations, needed reminders of my brevity

Last night I forgot to love myself,
wanting to disappear into maps
I started running to keep from collapsing
Hazy sight in the dark, but this neighborhood is a familiar feeling
Bonita Street, where I held hands with the boy with a baby face,
Horizon Drive, where I let him go

I thought of sitting on the Santa Monica bus last July,
where I was no different from the man who smelled or the lady in Dooney & Bourke,
because we’ve all let somebodies go
That night I ate pupusas on the grass,
danced with some of the smartest people I know on the sunset-kissed beach–places I usually cringe to have under my feet
I apologized for being “such a girl” and they chuckled in reply,
“No, you’re such a person.”

Sometimes the sky looks like it’s running too,
as if it’s running from my first kiss on a wintery nineteenth,
my first drink at fifteen,
the overwhelming green of July Canandigua, the last time I’d ever be at Java’s Café
driving to Tiësto, falling in love to Zedd,
every time I played Schubert and Chopin perfectly without knowing it’d never happen again,
the days I was naïve enough to think I was unique

If the sky’s the limit, then I am the sky
I’m light as clouds, dark as night
Aglow with sunshine and storm all at once
I’m running like a sky should
On the fuel of stars, only stopping for the
good kind of remembering
Only stopping to affirm the clear and the free

Author’s Statement

Six is a good number for me, being born on 6/6. And I hope it is also a good number for this collection of poems.

These poems provide some tangibility of how I’m feeling before leaving home for Philadelphia this August. As the time I have been dreaming of approaches, my head is flooded, if not burdened, with memories. My intention was to write poems dedicated to my past self, current self, and select individuals who have shaped me from then to now. But as I found the ease in writing based on memories, I was reminded that memories are what make me, me. Hence, these poems are ultimately, and quite selfishly, about the so-far me.

It has been emotionally draining to actively reach inside better-hidden spaces of my mind to write, but it is a luxury to let expression be.

I. Forgetting
In the starter of this collection, I included a photo of my first-year dorm. The walls in this hall were painted yellow, in commemoration of The Wizard of Oz, with a poster my dear RA put up exclaiming, “Don’t you carry nothing that might be a load. Come on, ease on down the road!” Although the message in this photo is hopeful and relevantly about letting go, the time when I took that photo was a personally trying period in my life. I’d say the picture perfectly resembles the poem.
The poem also covers earlier memories and social ideas that have troubled me. The social ideas that I mentioned more or less elusively here were: body image/insecurity, racism/identity, religion, and feminism. These are also a part of the poem following.

II. My Morning Brie
I took this photo the first time I visited my best friend at her UC Berkeley campus. It’s even easier to say this poem very much speaks about me as well, when her and I have grown up together to be so in sync and similar, no matter how far apart.
My favorite line has to be, “But fuck our negativity too” because it’s the first, real slap of sense after lines and lines of gloom from the first to second poem. It is also the first time I introduce a more specific place before writing more and more about location throughout the next poems. (I’m considering Hell a location.)

III. Sorry, I’m Going to Hell
Although I do not have it in the subtitle, this poem could also be for God. I find it almost effortless to allude to Christianity in creative writing because of how deeply I grew up in it, and how deeply I am still surrounded by it.
Unfortunately, this poem is bitterly driven and in this particular piece, I could not find a way to include multiple aspects about someone who I do truly love. But it is honest, and for me, this is a part of my life that I many times cannot be honest about.
I took this photo after a rave this past New Year’s, lying in a cheap motel bed my mother definitely did not know I was at. There was just something so random about the word “sorry” on this kandi I was traded, and I loved it. I guess it’s not so random anymore.

IV. The Flowers on Locust
This might be my favorite one. It is my introduction to the new place I will be living, and I was able to include locations within a location. And although I was writing about someone of the past, simultaneously writing about a place in the future is forward-feeling for me. Because I wrote this poem progressing in time, the last two stanzas do seem a bit more free, even if grudgingly. Being able to use a recurring theme through the progression of time was also a technique I enjoyed using.
I included this photo of Locust and Mozart on that mentioned Monday, to make the poem realer. Art always seems to have some sort of glaze over what it actually means or what it took to get there, and that’s the illusional beauty of it. Art can turn ugly things like pain into pretty things like songs, dance, poems. Reading over this poem a hundred times, I forget that the words were once real life. But looking at the picture, I remember how those words feel.

V. I Will Still Love You in Hell
Here, I bring back the previously visited locations of Philadelphia and Hell. It could be considered a sequel to “Sorry, I’m Going to Hell”. My tone is no longer defiant here, but warmer-hearted with remorse.
All of it is rhyming except for the third of six stanzas, the middle of the poem. At first, I wasn’t sure about the sudden stop in flow, but I realized it worked. I see myself directly asking at this point, more than just writing. The Hyatt on Walnut I write of in this stanza is in the photograph used. This is where we stayed when I auditioned at my new school and explored Philadelphia for a couple of days.

VI. Remembering
The final poem. I decided to leave off on a happier note, and I liked that this both contrasts and parallels the first poem. Again, I write of specific memories and places, and used recurring themes: sky and running. I love the sky theme for the dream-like perception it gives me, because that’s what I’m doing–moving away, a personal dream. I love the running theme for the urgent sensation, and I think this helps my last two stanzas pick up speed in addition to my numerous, hurried drops of memories.
I ended the first stanza with “clear and free” and also ended the poem, and entire collection, with “clear and free”. These words are like inhaling fresh air and exhaling relief, after enduring primarily heavy poems. And that is what I’m writing about–whatever permanently bright or dark parts of me, no matter how much I love or don’t love me, I’m leaving a place that has made so much of me, and that in itself is freeing.
I took this photo on a plane to Philadelphia and I think it is dreamy too, with the hints of pinkish colors and special view. I love that this is the last photo in the series, because it is a photo about going somewhere, and in this case, going away.

I still have three more poems in mind. I would also like to heavily edit these poems as the week goes on and I feel different inspirations and find new ideas. I don’t think I’ll be able to do a chronological order by time as I first proposed, but I do think I can link one poem to the other with transitioning ideas. I also need to consider if I want to mention who it is I am writing about underneath the titles of these poems. 

 

I love you but I hate Sundays

Sundays are a dread

And under this roof,

I’m a lie

There is no Adam and Eve,

Noah’s Ark,

holy wine, end times

And you ask me if I’m praying

So maybe I’d be better if I was

smarter, lighter, more conservative,

your type of devoted to the alter,

to the man in the sky

But I’m hiding, holding my breath,

trying not to imagine the day you find out

trying not to imagine a life without this secret

You say you find your freedom in Him

But I don’t know if freedom’s real at the expense of others

And dear your God, I hope I’m not just an other

But on Sundays it seems that I am

And for you, everyday is Sunday

 

My Morning Brie

It’s been thirteen years and the twenties are doing a strange thing

The hills where we grew up are flat without you

So I’m going to have to leave too

You are my Pocahontas, my Brie in the morning

my Grape Cider on Christmas, my fellow saint-gone-sinner

A braver voice when I can’t be honest

The reminder of whatever worth I mindlessly lose

Love when I need it more than reason

Being an artist, a woman,

an Asian-American, an Agnostic

makes you want to disappear

But I hope you never do

 

The Flowers on Locust
there’s something about to burst

and it’s bound to kill me

your secret, sleepless body lingers

and I don’t know if I should let it fade

I’m always searching

some might say I’m visionary

but the winter disagreed, swallowed me whole so I beg

Summer, take my irrationality too

I’ve learned it’s more heartbreaking

when there’s no anger, no sad

just nothing, plus or minus civil reckonings

we used to talk about happiness, death, purpose,

anything at all

what is it that you feel now?

I couldn’t just say hello to say goodbye

So I won’t ask

two more months until I’m dancing under the blazing Vegas sky

will I ever find someone who understands that part of me, as you do?

I still remember what I wrote about the moon last summer

that was about you and since,

it has always been about you

three more months and I’m moving over 

but will I be moving on?

I can’t stop looking at that guy in the beanie and the girl with the red hair

but I wonder if any could ever out do you and I

not you,

you and I

or will I have to see you?

we can try Suburban Station again,

because I’m that forgiving

I can already feel myself hiding a smile

dear jaw, hold me back for christ’s sake

hold me for christ’s sake

it’s a tragic ending

just as I deserved

I used to write to hold on

now I write to let go

the flowers on Locust are dead

and if she knew, you’d be too

and if she only knew,

I’d be too

 

Please Don’t Cry

You are my favorite person
Even with your booming voice in the morning, the flip flops you won’t give up,
your soup-slurping noises, and goddamn Fox News
I don’t know how you deal with my
Grumpy mess, messy mess, silly mess
But you’re always happy to see me
Proud of what I’m doing, sad to watch your only daughter go
You joke about crying and I hope that’s all it is
Because I still remember the times you looked like you could cry
Those images are rainy days
But let’s be the summer now, our whiskey floats and rib eye grilling
Not the last, I promise
I will still love you as I’m leaving

Poetry is a sentimental thing. I try not to be, but I’m a sure sucker for sentiment. And this is a song that activates that part within me. Perhaps if you take a listen, you might feel something too.


Having grown up in Orange, California for the past thirteen years, I am ready to experience something new. This August I am moving to the big city Philadelphia, to finish up my undergraduate studies in music. Leaving home is something I have dreamed of doing for a few years now, and finally this year, my plans worked out and it’s really happening. As excited as I am, it is almost a bit scary and strange to know in four months, my life will be slipping into a completely new chapter that I might not even be able to imagine at the moment. And so, of course, I am starting to get sentimental about leaving behind home, family, friends, familiarity–it’s almost like I’m leaving behind my past, in a way.

Both the Coldplay and Frank Ocean versions of this song are phenomenal. But I feel Ocean’s lyrics are pretty fitting to my feelings these days:

“When we were kids, we hand painted strawberries on a swing
Every moment was so precious, then
I’m still kicking it, I’m daydreaming on a strawberry swing
The entire Earth is fighting, all the world is at its end
Just in case, an atom bomb, comes falling on my lawn
I should say and you should hear I’ve loved
I’ve loved the good times here, I’ve loved our good times here

Say hello, then say farewell to the places you know
We are all mortals, aren’t we? Any moment this could go
Cry, cry, cry, even though that won’t change a thing
But you should know, you should hear, that I have loved
I have loved the good times here, and I will miss our good times

Spaceships are lifting off of a dying world
And millions are left behind while the sky burns
There wasn’t room for you and I, only you, goodbye, goodbye”

I’ve decided to write a collection of poetry for my Final Writing Project in this course, using it as an opportunity to reflect on my childhood and teenage-hood. I will dedicate each poem to someone specific who has impacted me in some way, or has aroused any sort of deep contemplation while growing up. In these poems I will not just write about these certain individuals, but also write to. Besides the direct responses of my own included in the poems,  what I say about another will probably end up revealing more about me in the end. But even then, as Ocean sings, “You should know, you should hear…”, I will probably be able to say things with these poems that are difficult to say aloud.

I have a few specific people in mind, but I think I would like to begin and conclude the collection with poems more focused on me, so that there will be evident changes in character that readers can capture. For this reason, I might try to have the poems in a chronological order based on time–past to present. And now that I think about it, maybe I’ll even include something in there that’s from the future.

My poetry tends to be elusive, which is something I tend to purposely do for the sake of being less exposed. I do enjoy being less obvious and a little more mysterious, but I don’t think I will be able to write this way in every poem. I will aim to maintain a consistent voice, but perhaps as the times change within the collection, I can experiment with changing styles too. I’m going to have to venture beyond E.E. Cummings, Pablo Neruda, and Shinji Moon to gather new ideas.

There is so much freedom available in poetry, and so I am sure unexpected changes will happen in my inspirations and plans. But no matter how the writing turns out, I do want this to be a tangible gathering of my goodbyes to my California life as I’ve known it. When Ocean sings, “Every moment was so precious…”–that hits the sentimental me the hardest. Maybe one day I can look back on what is to be written and feel the same.

Cutie with the gelled hair – 2001

Your face is starting to elude my memory now, but almost any blonde-haired, blue-eyed third grader has got to be a cutie. Isn’t it weird that feelings actually exist at the pure age of eight? Twelve years later and I’m still a kid, but I do have to remind myself of the mental capacity of children.
Anyways, you always gelled your hair back, the dark crevices in between sections of hair like black streaks. It was a terrible hairstyle, and I grew up always, and still, disliking gel-styled hair. I can’t remember what you were like at all, but it must have made me forget about the top of your head.
That year my parents were gifted a religious book titled something like, “What You Say is What You Get”. When they told me it was absolutely true–that what I would say is what I would get–I was elated. So one afternoon while I waited in the car for my dad, I cleared my little throat and to no one proclaimed, “One day I will marry [you]”.
I’m cringing at that memory, but I should be used to my drama and embarrassment by now. In the mean time, I’ve also gotten used to the fact that not everything my parents tell me is true and life takes more than words locked inside of a silver van.

You in the red polo – 2003

I can’t picture the fourth grade you without your summer-colored skin in a red polo. Again, I can’t remember what it is that made me crush on you, and it makes me miss a time when such things could happen without reason.
I still remember your birthday that year. It was supposed to be a happy day even though I didn’t see you. It was simply your day. But that morning I fought with my cousin and hid under the covers in tears. Later that day, my mom made me hold my cousin’s hand on a neighborhood walk. And like she would say many times before and after, “You’re such a good kid.” I don’t know how much longer I can keep that one up.
One time in high school my girlfriend and I jokingly sent you sexy text messages, and we waited anxiously for your reaction. We both laughed when you responded back with disgust, but I was kind of confused. The next year you came out.
You’ve moved to New York City, stopped wearing red polos, lost the baby fat, and found God and drugs. The last time we talked you were on a bus, escaping to Boston. It’ll be your birthday again in two days and I hope you don’t need to escape anymore.

My first slow dance – 2006

We slow danced to classic N’Sync: “God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On You.” I downloaded it onto my iPod that night, and for a while, listened to it before falling asleep. I can still remember the way you couldn’t even look at me because you were that shy. Or maybe I was that unattractive–it’s possible when I look at pictures from the time. In any case, I think you were my favorite to love in the most innocent and junior high kind of love.
It’s entirely your fault that from that point on, December has always reminded me of romance, or the lack thereof some years. That Christmas, our friend’s mom watched as we exchanged presents. Later she told me, “I can tell he really likes you by the way he looks at you.” That still makes my heart melt to this day.
I loved you in this way for almost three years, even when we weren’t together. We’re still friends, and things should have gotten weird last summer, but they didn’t. We went back to our junior high one night last June, lying on the cement ground where we used to sit for lunch. We looked up at what little we could see of the stars in Southern California, counting how many years it had been since we’d last been in that spot. The spot where seven years ago, two counselors told us we couldn’t be holding hands on school grounds. I wonder how much more trouble we’d be in if they ever found out seven years later, we kissed right there. At least I didn’t hold your hand.

The angry one – 2009

Sometimes I still think this never should have happened. I was still trying to forget about my first slow dance from 2006 and you were always mad. Good thing you didn’t know who I was really thinking about, because you would’ve been furious. But rightfully, at that.
We don’t talk anymore but you became best friends with one of my childhood friends after we so thankfully ended. You found God when I lost Him, and when I saw our friend last month, she said you’re not so angry anymore. I sure hope so, because I still remember the time you slammed my car door in my face and followed me home. You told me my dreams were nothing but East Coast fantasies and I’ll have you know I’m transferring to a kickass music school in Philadelphia this fall with a scholarship. I hope you haven’t slammed any car doors or undermined anyone’s dreams, including your own, since then.

Summer fling – 2010

We met at a music camp in a humid and beautiful upstate New York that July. We found out we were both only children, and shared the same exact birthday, blood type, and little freckle on the center of our bottom lips. I tell myself that I started to like you on the bus ride back from that concert in Canandaigua, but I can’t be exactly sure why. It seems that my life lacks reason more than I realize.
One night we were sitting in the dorm’s game room by ourselves when an advisor came in and asked what we were doing. You said awkwardly, “Yeah, we’re just…hanging out…in here, all alone.” I face-palmed inside. A few times throughout that month, you texted me “I love you”, to which I never quite acknowledged, because you didn’t know what you were talking about. I was secretly satisfied though, finally having met someone who could be a little more embarrassing than me.
The last day of camp, I woke up at six to say goodbye, and as you made your way down the stairwell you told me you’d never forget me. I don’t think that’s true because you never talked to me again and the letter I sent you was returned. Sometimes I still wish I had those pictures of you falling asleep to Handel’s Messiah for sentimental value, but I’ve got more than enough of that without any reminders of you.

The real thing – 2010

At times I wonder what our lives would be like if you never got that haircut, because that’s when I started noticing you. And I noticed you first. You only started to notice me after I showed you the personal statement I wrote for college admissions, as if it was some kind of acceptance from you too.
We ended up in a serious relationship for nearly two years, and in that time, I seriously thought that was it. I don’t remember what it’s like to love you anymore, but even with the nasty words we can never take back, I’ll always remember our relationship fondly. We were so goofy and weird together, and I think everyone needs a safe place to unleash that side of him or her. Your family always welcomed me with kindness and love, and when you were seven hours away at school, they’d let me sleep in your bed when I couldn’t go home. I know you hated your school when we were together, but I think now you have the freedom to enjoy it, and now I have the freedom to go to my far-away, dream school.
We met up for breakfast a few months ago, and I wore my camouflage jacket to feel tough. I hadn’t seen you since our break up and I guess I was trying to protect myself, from sadness, or madness, I don’t know. But I didn’t need to. When I saw you, I knew you would never leave me mad or sad again–I would never love you again.
This past Valentine’s Day, you texted me a novel of your confessions. You didn’t know I was on a date, but it doesn’t matter because the guy never liked me like that anyways. You told me you still felt the same way, thought things could work out if we tried again. I was shocked, but I think that was the most I felt after reading all of that. I did feel slightly bad though, for isn’t it sad when someone whose world you once affected so deeply became a someone whose world you had no more impact on?

Somewhere you are not sleeping and
I’m not happy either, you know
It almost looks like I’m bleeding when I wash my hair
Hair so easily interlaced in fingers or forgeries
One day I’ll learn not to choose
The two of us are starting to disappear like this
so I tell myself it’s a beautiful fade
I think this thinking has become my religion
Unreal, but I’m praying to hell
And if the flames existed, I’d throw us in
You, me, and our mess could be the unholiest trinity
as if we aren’t already
But there will be no happy endings here
on the road where you always stop to tell me
I’d better get back, or be fucked, and how could you not know
that it has been done either way
I wonder who prays for the devil, who’s praying for you
The trees tell me they are gods,
especially the ones grown drunk, toasting to the sadness in your green liquor eyes
More like poison, I guess, as we slur our self-righteousness together
I’m trying to get back
Still, it almost looks like I’m bleeding and I am
I am a lot, but mostly not sleeping
All for longing
And how could I anyways, the resort of lost voices and songs
There is a science behind my crazy and I’ll make meaning out of
anything
Like the flowers I pretend to wear on this pounding head
One last showcase before we part
The petals’ goodbyes didn’t have to be about you
But can’t you see?
The flames don’t exist anywhere, but in somewheres they do
Just don’t tell my mother who I can’t look in the eye anymore
that I’ve chosen burning over bleeding
I know I said one day I’ll learn not to choose but
this is what art takes
People unlike me make millions off of
people like you

Yesterday, my friend Alayne and I had lunch together. We talked about her boyfriend moving away soon, my plans for the summer, our shared classes. Then she asked me, “What’s your dream?”

I was a little set aback, realizing that no one asks this much. Instead, college students like myself usually hear questions like, “What are you going to do after graduation? What are you going to do with that degree?” My everyday life is an answer to these questions about short-term goals. Go to class, practice, teach. I’m living in preparation for something I can’t seem to answer right away.

After some hesitation I said, “I think I’d like to live in a big city…keep teaching privately, maybe go into music therapy or teach at a university if I get a doctorate…travel, wear nice clothes, eat good food. Find that someone I romantically and deeply connect with. And tattoos everywhere. “

But what is it that I really want out of these things? They seem pretty attainable when simply stated like so. Yet, I struggle, because there is, of course, more than first comes to mind.

My dream isn’t just to be in a big city where I can live on almost-gourmet foods. I want to be able to do this without any guilt at all. Maybe one day I will be able to eat Lays and steak and carbs and even think about pizza without berating myself.

My dream isn’t just to keep pursuing my music studies and find my secure place in the musician’s world. I want the be in different places, with different peers and teachers, to be challenged enough where I can look back and say, “I never thought I could do this.”

My dream isn’t just to wear nice clothes. It is to be able to love myself even when I’m not in my signature color. To feel confident even when I’m not in my best outfit.

My dream isn’t just to be tattooed, sleeves on my arms and legs. I wish I didn’t have to hide my tiny one from family. I wish my borderline red hair wasn’t borderline disapproved by my family. I wish people didn’t have to be condescendingly questioned for their bodies.

My dream isn’t just to find the right someone. Before I do that—I want to live knowing only I complete myself, and if I’m lucky, someone will come along to extend me. If I find such good fortune, I will then hope for familial approval, and not hope for the questions about marriage and kids, which are already starting anyways.

These are the things that make me a lofty dreamer. But in my lofty dreaming, I understand the world owes me nothing, and it is my call to achieve the attainable, and do my best for the unattainable.