Your Reflection: A Coda

first published by great weather for MEDIA


You have a difficult time committing to your reflection.

On a Friday, you notice the posture of your neck and you want to file a restraining order against the skin which has begun to rebel in a grilled-cheese-melting-out-of-the-bread sort of way.

Eight months ago, you gave away your full-length mirror to the woman around the corner who said it had “been awhile since she had taken notice of her bottom parts.” Now, sometimes you miss knowing the exact pattern of your cellulite behind your thighs.

You wish your hair was shorter. Straighter, yet more queer. You imagine it darker. Lighter. Streaked like the young ones do. When you walk, before all the passing windows remind you otherwise, you imagine yourself more boyishyoungerless crumpled. 

You are eighteen, when you fall in love for what you think is the first time and decide to add another hole to your body. You pierce your eyebrow to match hers. She wears thick rings, several at a time. You are still figuring out the blur of your identity, so you do the same. Your skin is not strong enough to handle the weight, so the skin flap covering the jewelry gets thinner and thinner. Then, one day after a fight with her or yourself (who remembers), you rip the rings out. You don’t remember blood; you barely remember her now.

You often forget to clip your toenails. You have a difficult time remembering your body that far down.

If this were a movie, your love match would look at all your scars and ask for the stories. While Arcade Fire played in the background. Or Devotchka. Or Boy George. You’d point and lift and reveal as though this were a moment of foreplay. As though your scars are sexy. As though each pale slur is a love letter or romantic elegy.

Your teeth remind you of your adolescent rebellion. You wish you had an addiction to floss, and not to late night jelly beans. You told a lover once that you used to wear braces. They were convinced you meant on your legs.

“What do you mean you’re an atheist? Clearly you’re a Jew. I mean, your nose.” This was spoken by a co-worker. Or lover. It might have been a student. Or a cashier at the corner bodega. You never let anyone touch it. For years, you feared it was unstable and could collapse at any time. I mean, the drugs. I mean, the smells of trauma you collected in there. 

The truth is, you like your nipples, even though they are over-dramatic and highly caffeinated. You just wish they lived on top of a mole hill, rather than a mountain.

You can’t really remember much about the state of your vagina. (See stanza three). You feel the hair, when you’re in the mood to touch yourself. You know it’s appropriately sized. You know about its unconfirmed mood and anxiety disorder. You still don’t know how to approach it.

You are eleven. Or twelve. Maybe ten. Your orthodontist, who had a fetish for onions and rubber, yells at your small lips. “I need you to open wider,” he growls. You tell him you are making the largest circle you can and that if he is insistent on mouth-shaming, he should speak to your mother who gave them to you.

A magazine tells you that those who are most symmetrical are considered beautiful. All you can think of are butterflies. You learn from several lovers that your breasts are not the same. And that one thigh seems fatter than the other. And your hair grows longer on one side. And even your nostrils are not proportionate. You want to know why balance is so desired. Even uniforms have flaws. You grow tired trying to figure out ways to even yourself out.

On a Saturday, you are laying naked against a woman who asks you what your favorite body part on yourself is. You remain silent for what feels like three and a half days, but she is patient. She alphabetizes her list and you start to panic that you cannot even think of a bone on your body you don’t feel infuriated toward. Finally, you say, “my back” because you’ve forgotten what it looks like. Because your mirror is too tall to even see it. Because you’ve stopped turning around. She smiles, pleased that you had decided on something. Some part of you which you could call beautiful or at least preferred.

Your internet is down, so there is nothing left to do but count all the moles on your body. You give them names like Pre-cancerous and Harold. You connect them, creating shapes on your flesh. Your forearm looks like a heart monitor, rising and falling. Your thighs have flat-lined. You find three-quarters of the alphabet on your face. Some people call them beauty marks, but they just look like potholes to you. Punctuation marks. Reminders of how little you protect yourself.

It is evening and the air is roasted dark. You know it’s still there, but you cannot see it. You lay on your hands, so you cannot feel around. You can hear the nearby hissing of your mirror, two rooms away. You feel words on your tongue, keeping you up. You try to swallow them, but they are dry and thick. Gristle. When you sleep, you dream of symmetry. Of calendars. Of paved roads. Here, in the night, is when you get to leave your reflection behind. Here, is when you are everything else and nothing, before you become what you always were in the morning, when the sun wakes.

day 27: tracking.

It took you three thousand, two hundred and eighty-five days to get here. You fell in love three and a half more times with six people. You lost a pregnancy; you lost three gloves. You gained weight, several new words and two college degrees. You cut your hair; you lost your hair; you bought some hair. You learned about mountain top removal and composting. You read several books you cannot recall and you wrote some books. There were fourteen blackouts: several from various weather configurations, one due to a past due bill and the others connected to your inability to curb your alcoholism. You took a bath. You learned how to knit. You purchased a mattress and almost fell off a fire escape due to your inability to curb your alcoholism. You became sober. You cooked the most delicious meal for yourself. You learned how to banter. You took one thousand and ninety-five naps. You grew an affection for hard-boiled eggs. You had a biopsy. You moved nine times. You applied for health insurance; you acquired a primary care physician. You gained more weight. You fell in love for an evening. You purchased a pet. You lost your pet. You learned how to play a musical instrument; you lost seventeen friends. You traveled overseas; you took a road trip. You contemplated lipstick. You purchased two succulents. You tried Nattō. You had three affairs minus the six you do not mention. You still bite your nails. You still collect stamps and phone numbers. You still forget to breathe sometimes. You still fall asleep hungry some nights. You still think of _____. You still do not know how to crochet or apologize correctly. You are still alone; you are constantly surrounded. You still desire stillness. You are still learning. You are still drafting drifting dreaming.

i am the one who waits

there is a reflection of yesterday in tomorrow and two days from now it will be cold enough to remember the hush of wool’s embrace

how much does it cost to collect love affairs and can they be traded up like baseball cards

there is something to be said for a late night peanut butter sandwich on a sunday, alone, allowing the drip of peanuts to coast down chin without napkin swipe and don’t things taste better without the interruption of another


human hunches over staircase, bends body to digest lunch while stranger in white truck whistles as though human is beautiful (as though this human wants this kind of attention)…not everyone is in need of a catcall

be alive in the moments that shatter against the easier ones

speak up to the illusions of breath control to make sure that what you are getting is what you want

you can tailor your oxygen intake to include more protein or metaphors

did you hear the one about the redhead who shaved all her hair off, hoping there would be a rainbow hidden beneath the knots

all that was found: two dents and a teardrop for what was missing

talk about the time you lost track of yourself

There were only two ways to go and you chose the other. When words were slung, you loaded up with bullets instead of elipses. You were always afraid of pauses. All those times all those times you followed the sun and you never lathered and you never lathered. You trusted ultraviolet rays over medicine over sensitivity to light over cancer. You blamed the boy you blamed your body you blamed genetics you blamed misdirected diagnoses. It was that left turn. It was that fall in Brooklyn. It was that song that stopped you from kissing her. It was kind of like a dance move when ankles twisted into earth and ground bullied your bones and and and it was what spoiled in your lungs. And that time you breathed in someone else or they breathed you in and basement and fifth level garage and Denver and global warming and gluten and and and just find that slip of paper in pocket because those directions will lead you somewhere. You got your nose involved. You used your breasts. You stole soot, stuck it to tongue and licked your life away almost. You thought you were remaining but you were losing you were fading you were exiting the existence of your self.