1. A portrait of yourself. You were ten years old and new at school. You were never pretty in the conventional sense. The boys back home wouldn’t touch you with a ten-foot pole and your parents were always throwing you at sports in the hopes your body would eventually even out. So when he leaned over his desk to get a better look at you, loosely sketching out the contours of your cheeks, you thought you might die right then and there and be okay with it. Now, you wonder when that portrait went missing. You wonder, if you looked at her now, if you would find that thrill of realizing you were wanted for the first time burning in your young eyes.
2. A brown and yellow mug. Its clay ridges are rough with black divots he’d shaped to separate the two tones. He was kind. Soft-spoken. You think of his hands inside you, the shock of his sharp nails, the pounding motion, the beautiful metal vents you stared up at while he worked. 3. A blue cotton blanket. He’d gotten two. One for himself, one for you. Years after he moved, you’d keep it as decoration. It wasn’t soft. You kept it on your bed between two states, two schools, what feels like two lifetimes. You miss him. When he calls to check on you your heart still swells. Relax, Mango, he tells you. Relax. Now, you fold it over the hard seat of your stationary bike. You bruise easily. You pedal furiously, panting, sweat lining the crown of your head like a halo. Your muscles tear, tighten, and regrow while you sit on that blue cotton blanket, going nowhere. 4. Three small scars on the inside of your left ankle. Three small scars on the inside of your left ankle you made after he left and wouldn’t talk to you and you had so much to say, so much pressure building inside your chest you were sure you’d suffocate if you didn’t let a little out somewhere. Three small scars you made after he left you, after his friend assaulted you when you were too drunk to speak. Three small scars. His words. You. Deserved. It. Three small scars from four incisions. A line in the sand. A boundary. You hadn’t even realized one had faded.
5. A pink record player. It doesn’t work, stopped working a few months after he left you. That was years ago. It matches your bedroom and, really, you don’t hate the guy. You’re starting to think you might have a problem letting go. 6. A moth tattooed on your left wrist. A coverup. You’d had cherries there, ones you stuck and poked with your friends while he was away. You and your friends bled together, laughed together, got drunk together. You had a good time. When he came home, you teased him about a wart on his thumb. You weren't trying to be mean. Now, you probably think he wasn't either when he told you, At least I don’t have a shitty tattoo on my wrist that I can’t get rid of. But three weeks later, you’d ask the tattooist, ashamed, if they could hide it. Now you have a delicate moth clawing its way up your hand. Beneath it, stone fruit, ripe. You think of Persephone. You wonder how much of love ends in transaction, an exchange. A hopeful promise of joy sold with pockets of loneliness has always seemed worth it.
7. A pink journal. You buy this yourself. You transcribe your problems. Promises. You want to learn how to be enough for yourself. Every Day I Will: *Write 300 words*Read (anything)*Exercise*Water plants You touch your strong legs, your soft stomach. You finger the slick green skin of your first tomato. You scan the books you’ve read, their rainbow spines a ladder. The pages you’ve written, pearled cobblestone. You think of ungiven forgiveness. That’s okay, you say. That’s okay for now.
Amanda Gaines is an Appalachian writer and Ph.D. candidate in CNF in OSU's creative writing program. Her poetry and nonfiction are published or awaiting publication in Typehouse, Pithead Chapel, Yemassee, Redivider, New Orleans Review, Southeast Review, The Southern Review, Juked, Rattle, New South, SmokeLong Quarterly, Ninth Letter, and Superstition Review.
Photo by Frankie Mish on Unsplash
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