It’s one of those mornings where everything sounds like poetry. The kind where words are as big as love itself and they balance on tiny feet.
Tiny feet pressed close together, only able to shuffle forward. The kind of poetry where there isn’t enough space between sentences to catch your breath and, so, where you breathe is a choice of your own making.
A choice that changes the curves of the poem, a breath that cinches her at the waist like a belt, or a pause that dangles from her hips like belly-dancing threads, or a silence that wraps quietly around her neck like that yellow ribbon so many of us were traumatized by.
I don’t open my window blinds anymore because I am afraid. It’s an unspecific fear. He might not be looking for me. He might not see me. He might not do anything even if he did. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that tiny planks of plastic are keeping me safe, or that the piece of paper in my purse is meant to do anything but explain my corpse, but the illusion sits well with me. I feel safe when the blinds are down.
I feel safe, as I sit criss-cross-applesauce on the warm hardwood floors and I type lines of code onto a screen. I have a decaf coffee at my side because I shouldn’t drink real coffee anymore. I’m listening to the sounds around me because coding is second-nature to the point that I don’t need to focus, and the sounds of the street read like poetry. The staccato type of poetry. The kind where punctuation makes you breathe so often, you feel like you’re inflating the poem with your own air. Sometimes poems like those don’t like to knot themselves off at the end, and you can almost feel it deflating in your hands, somehow worse from your attempts to give it shape. Sometimes poems like those take too much of you and pop in your mouth, leaving welts inside you. Everything you put into it, lost in half the time. I have lived so many poems like that.
The floor is warm because the sun doesn’t have any bones and she can slide through anything, like an octopus. She doesn’t take my closed blinds seriously enough to stay back, and the man on the street doesn’t take the paper in my purse seriously enough to stay away, and the woman who needs this coding won’t take me seriously enough to pay.
I already know because I’ve been doing this job for a very long time. The code has changed, through the years, but people and stars tend to stay the same. I turn 33 years old this weekend. The code I write today is the granddaughter of the code I learned by. The sun I sit in today, is the same one I was born under. Time is a funny thing.
I am interrupted by a text. No, I choose to be interrupted by a text. This is where I want to put my air. In a conversation with someone who takes my existence seriously, someone who can occasionally hear all the poems. He tells a story about a woman running down his street, wearing a muumuu, yelling at someone on the phone for cheating on her.
I wish I had that intensity. I wish I was the type of poem that lit a fire and let the reader stroke it into a flame.
I know how I would react: quietly, politely, robotically.
I never react when I’m physically or emotionally assaulted, and I think some part of it is that I don’t think the person who caused my pain deserves to see it. That’s absolutely ridiculous, of course. They’re probably thrilled to move on without the consequence of an injured humanity, but I think of it as punishment, an un-linking of our villages.
But maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s that I’ve always been the type of person to listen, and maybe I’ve ingested too many memos and tweets, that say that I am not to be taken seriously. Maybe they come along so often that they sound like poetry to me, and maybe that’s why when I run into them today, I choke. I am already so full of this. This, that says my female hands cannot hold the languages I use to build worlds. This, that says my felon body does not have the same rights to protection as the one I had before the cuffing. This, that says my brown skin is invisible. This, that says no one owes anything for the work of a small business.
Maybe all of that has told me that I don’t really have a right to life, at least not the way I am living it.
And who is to blame for the part of me that believes all of it? Is it the sun and how she warms me even when I have tried to shut her out? Is it the poets I was raised on, who ride waves and glorify drowning? Is it the cops in shiny badges who smile so reassuringly that hope keeps me standing in yet another line? Is it these hands that just won’t stop building, no matter how many poems sputter to death in their palms? Is it this mouth? That just won’t shut up?
Is it me?
Be honest. Say it is me.
Tell me how the life I thought I deserved was unfaithful because of who I am. How it put its protection into another woman now, a woman who is not boneless like the sun, like an octopus. A woman who can’t survive un-survivable things by seeping through them. Tell me how she is beautiful, and unbroken, and has never killed a poem in all her life. How she only knows freedom. How she is unafraid. How she keeps her blinds open and her coffee caffeinated. How she is someone you can take seriously.
I won’t scream up and down the streets in my muumuu. I’ll just keep sitting here, typing, hoping that the girl who has the life I wanted– the simple, safe life– doesn’t read memos or tweets or plea deals or death certificates. Hoping that she loves her life. Hoping that she is real, and that the life she holds is real, and that it isn’t just a possibility my hands imagined.
You see, my hands build worlds. They speak dozens of languages that build villages. It’s second-nature. If I’m not paying close attention, they can imagine a whole life, and then write it into being.
And today, I am not paying attention.
It’s a sunny morning, even inside, even on the internet, and everything sounds like poetry.
And I’m listening.
Listening for anything you want to tell me.