Notice Me

I throw up

Hurricanes and Tsunamis

just to get you to

notice me.

I crash land tides

of tears and cries and

threaten goodbyes

Just to get you to

change.

And to see the error of your waves.

I will flood the streets that you stroll

and the pages that you scroll

just to get you to

notice me.

I dress myself in monsoons and typhoons

to convince you to see

that there can be beauty

where there is also chaos.

I try to be the rain to your drought

but it seems that you already

soak up plenty of attention.

Maybe you can’t notice me

because I am just a drizzle of rain

to your roaring wildfire.

Warm Shoes

He will text you. As he does every Friday. He will never text you on any other day of the week because he will be at work. It isn’t that he doesn’t text you during the week because he is too busy at work to hold a conversation, but because he just isn’t home, which gives him no reason to think of you. In his text, he will ask you what you are up to, which you will reply with “nothing much.” He will immediately invite you over to hang out, but you know you’ll never actually hang out. You will reluctantly say yes and drive six minutes down the road to his apartment.

You will notice, as you always do, that his roommates aren’t there. He will greet you as you walk through the door. You will ask him where his roommates whom you’ve never met, and never will meet, are. He will say they are at work, never using their names or telling you any real detail about them. You’ll want him to tell you about them, but you won’t ask to hear more. You will take off your shoes at the door and follow him to the only part of his house you know, his room. You’re thirsty, but you won’t ask him for water because you know you won’t be here long enough to finish the glass, plus, you don’t actually know your way to the kitchen.

Once you are in his room, you notice he never takes the time to tidy up for you. Clothes will pile on the floor and you will try not to trip over them. You will shuffle your feet through coke bottles and empty chip bags. You will recognize the same to-go plate sitting on his dresser from the last time you were there. You will lay on the bed with him and he will ask you a series of routine questions that he doesn’t actually care for an answer for, and you know this, which is why you give him the same routine and basic answers.

Once the questions about how school and work have been going run out, which takes a couple minutes to happen, he will tickle your sides with his fingers digging into your ribs. It will make you uncomfortable. It will hurt a little, but you will pretend you’re ticklish because you think that is what you’re supposed to do. You won’t really be sure why you feel like you can’t tell him how you feel about his fingers digging into your skin, but you know you shouldn’t bring it up. You will judge him for using tickling you as a segue and an excuse to escalate to what you both already know is going to happen, but you will judge yourself more for letting it happen.

He will kiss you with his thin, chapped lips and slobber will be smeared all over your face. You will smell onion and salt on his breath from whatever he just ate. You’ll pretend you’re into it– or at least that you don’t notice it. It isn’t like he will notice or care if you’re into it or not. You will do this because you don’t want to upset him. You won’t understand why you don’t want to upset him and try not to ask yourself those kinds of questions. You will notice you’re out of breath. For some reason, you are always out of breath when there. Maybe you can never catch your breath because you cannot stop sighing in disappointment at yourself. It is definitely not because he takes your breath away. You will take off your clothes for a guy who will never see past what he can lay his eyes on, and for the next twelve minutes, you will believe he is all you’re worthy of. The sex isn’t good, won’t even be mediocre, but you will pretend for his sake. After it is over, which does not take long at all, you won’t lay there in his bed, because you know you aren’t actually there to hang out.

You will ask him one Friday after those twelve minutes are up, if he would like to go see a movie with you. He will decline saying he isn’t interested in that movie, but only a few days later, you will notice he posts online about going to see it with someone else. You will ask him another Friday night what you are to him – or at least what he wants you to be. You will hope he says he likes you and wants to get to know you more. You will hope he says he is looking to start something more personal and intimate than these Friday-night sessions so that you can feel a little less disappointed in yourself for sleeping with someone like him. He won’t give you the answer you were hoping for, but he will give you the answer you expected. He will say he is looking for a relationship, but he just doesn’t see it with you. He will tell you he sees you as a friend and will make a joke saying that he just likes the sex. You will laugh it off and pretend it’s funny. You will reassure him that you’re fine with that, but you and him both know that isn’t true, but he won’t care enough to ask again, and you won’t feel confident enough to bring it back up.

You get dressed while he catches his breath from what he thinks was wild and great sex, and you still won’t catch your breath from hating yourself for agreeing to this. He will tell you he has to go shopping or to pick up his brother, or one of the other excuses he will always pitch you to ensure that you don’t stay, which you were never planning to. You will be directed back downstairs and put your shoes back on. You will notice they are still warm from just taking them off less than a half hour ago. You hurry your shoes on because you know he will get impatient while waiting for you to leave. Your socks will be damp on the inside of your shoes which will remind you of how he feels when he touches you with his sweaty skin and kisses you with his slobber sticking to your face. You will smile a fake, dumb smile at him, and he will awkwardly give you a minimal-effort side-hug goodbye. You will find it weird that he can see you naked but can’t give a normal hug to the person he is sleeping with.

You will walk to your car, finally catching your breath as you try and pretend none of that just happened. You know you deserve better, but you won’t have the confidence to actually do anything about it. For the entire six-minute drive back home, you will deny the urge to cry. For the next week you will tell yourself you will never go back, but next Friday, he will text you asking what you’re up to, and you’ll respond back saying, “nothing much,” because you always respond back.

Bedtime Stories

You used to read me bedtime stories.

The kind with princesses, magic, and romance,

and happily ever afters.

You once told me that I would find myself in a story quite like these. Where unconditional love could fill page after page.

And when I went out to find my story, my own story where the girl of misfortune gets realizes she’s a Queen and finally finds her great romance,

You flipped the script

And ripped up the book

Told me it was for my own good.

You taught me that no man would ever find beauty in a woman like me.

You taught me that no man will ever respect me if I respected myself too much.

You taught me what the womanly duties were to a man without acknowledging that there were humanly duties to oneself that were more important.

You taught me to tend to a man’s every want and said that is the only way I’ll keep them.

You taught me these stories of magic just to tear down my imagination.

You taught me to always respect myself just to constantly degrade me.

You taught me about inner beauty just to tell me I didn’t have any.

You used to read me bedtime stories,

but that does not happen anymore.

And not because I stopped believing in them.

no.

It’s because I stopped believing in you.

Gummy Worms

I remember struggling to open the sliding-door to our balcony. Mom was out there, where she had spent most of her nights, inhaling a million chemicals into her lungs while fighting off the brisk winter night with a thin blanket wrapped halfway around her body, pretending she wasn’t violently shivering each time she took a puff. She sacrificed her warmth for nicotine. I remember hearing her cough a lot, cursing with the thick rasp of her voice in the moments she could catch her breath. I think the only time she wasn’t coughing was when she was on the balcony. Something about smoking in that moment made her lungs forget they were dying.

            The winters since then have only gotten colder. No matter what we do, we can’t keep the house from freezing. Each box we pick up feels like ice. I keep yelling at my son, Vince to shut the door behind him while he loads mom’s things in the truck. He yells back that he knows, but keeps making the same, routine mistake. I zip up my jacket, let out an obvious sigh, and see my breath escaping from my lungs–thick like the smoke I was so familiar with growing up.

As I pushed on the heavy metal door, it would screech on the metal rack, causing Mom to have to move the cigarette from her lips, just long enough to tell me to stop messing with her. She would immediately turn away from me, lean over the railings, and inhale, as if I hadn’t even existed. I would sit at the door, pouting, waiting for her to take notice of the sadness she was causing me, but she never looked back.

            I walk into my old bedroom where Vince was supposed to be throwing things away. He was on the floor playing with my old dolls. He was smiling and looked up to me and laughed, “Hey! Look what I found,” The ragdolls show their age as well as I do. One doll has faded red hair and a dusty blue dress. The other doll used to be blonde in pink, but she was falling apart at the stitching now.

I remember sitting on the couch that night, pretending to play with those dolls, waiting for mom to finish her smoke. I knocked on the door to ask her when she was coming in to play, or to ask if I could join her out there. She looked at me and sighed. She yelled through the door without opening it, “What the hell do you want, Meredith?” She thought I didn’t say anything, but really, she just couldn’t hear me through the glass and because she wasn’t actually listening for an answer. She turned back around. I started to cry, as I went back to my dolls. I picked them up, my teardrops making the cloth wet. I rubbed my face on the ragdolls and my drool and boogers were soaked up in their cloth dresses. I wiped my snotty nose on the dolls and threw them at the door hoping it would make a sound. It didn’t.

“Throw it out.” I say. My son seems confused. He stays on the floor, clutching the dolls to his chest and asks if he can keep them. I tell him no and he starts begging for me to allow him to take them home with us in his whiny crying voice. He keeps looking at the dolls trying to convince me of why he should keep them, and I snap back, “Just get rid of it! We are supposed to have this place cleaned out before the funeral tomorrow. I can’t sit here and hold your hand. God damnit, Vince, you don’t listen! Stop being a spoiled brat and do as I asked. I said no, now throw them out!”

He looks at me for a moment, staring into me with a fearful sadness. He rubs his eyes before allowing me to see tears fall down his cheeks. He stands up, leaving the dolls on the floor and pushes past me to go outside. I throw the dolls in a trash bag and go back into my mother’s room to pack up her clothes. I pick up one of her blouses and catch the ghostly whiff of nicotine it had been soaked in over the years.

Mom came back in after chain smoking half a pack of cigarettes that night. I’m sure if her toes weren’t turning blue, she would have finished the box. I expected her to sit next to me, or to even scold me for being up past my bedtime, but she didn’t. She didn’t even look at me, not acknowledging my presence, though I don’t know why I expected her to pay me any mind though. It’s safe to say I never existed on her nights like those. She went to bed. I was hungry, remembering mom was supposed to make a can of soup for dinner, but never did. Instead, I put a chair up to the cabinet, and hopped onto the counter to reach the top shelf. I grabbed the open bag of gummy worms from the very back. They were hard and stale, but I ate them anyway.

I leave my mother’s bedroom to get away from the old smell of smoke, caught in the threads of what she used to wear out on the balcony. I go into the kitchen and drink water from the tap, cupping it into my hands and slurping. Vince had already moved all the glassware. I look around the room, not knowing what to do next. He came back in from loading the truck, not shutting the door. “Shut the door! How many times do I have to tell you?” He closes it, apologizes cautiously, and takes the next box out, slamming the door behind him to ensure I knew he remembered. I grab a blanket, wrap it around my body, and open the sliding door to step out onto the balcony.

I struggled to open the door without it screeching. I didn’t want Mom to wake up. I eventually got it open and stood on the freezing metal chair to overlook the railing. I wasn’t wearing any shoes, so I placed my feet on the part of the blanket that was too long for me. I took a gummy worm out of the package, put it to my lips, and made a click sound with my tongue, pretending to be a lighter. I placed the edge of the stale gummy worm in my mouth and breathed in, then exhaled, watching my breath freeze over in the cold night. I looked out at the city, pretending to smoke a gummy worm, and when the cold became too much, I pushed the gummy worm into the ash tray, and went back inside, promising myself I would never be like my mom.

We have already cleaned up the balcony. The chairs and ash trays were already in the truck. That is all that was ever on the balcony growing up; she never needed anything else out here. I look out at the bright lights and rushing traffic. I take a small carton out of my pocket, take a cigarette out and light it. I breath it into my lungs, and I let it escape me. Once I get to the last puff of the cigarette, I lie to myself and say, “I’m nothing like her.” I light another cigarette.

One of the Greats

A friend of mine recently told me I should start a blog to capture all the comical, absurd, and insane stories about my life and about what goes through my head. I thought that it was absurd in it of itself for me to allow myself to think I was worthy of having my words out in the world in a format other than an instagram account with 50 followers and 12 likes.

I remind myself with routine consistency, as I sip my morning coffee and every time I pick up the pen, that I will never be one of the great writers or artists or educators that inspire me. I will never write with the power that Poe does in capturing human emotion. I will never write with the attack Vonnegut does in capturing social equality. I will never write with the impact Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath has on the female literary world. I will never be as great as these writers and I allow that to be my excuse to keep the pen from marking up my page.

Which I realize is completely fucking stupid.

So here is a page, molded in spite of my insecurities of not being one of the greats in literary arts and dedicated to that friend of mine that believed in my impact with words even when I didn’t.

Sincerely,

Not one of the greats,

Lauren Shirley