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Break It up


Artist: Joshua Burbank

         Slowly, after many months, it will almost leave you. You will look around at first, stumbling into things, falling and then expecting it to come pick you up and coo at your bruises. You will wait for it to come carry you, just like it did before. All of that love, body curled into arm, a small weight. You will end up looking around, wide eyed and heavy until you finally decide that you must not stay there on the ground. No, this is ridiculous, and you will stand up all on your own. Still, you will search in coffee mugs and large blankets. At the bank even, when you are depositing your check, you will wonder if it is staring back at you. It isn’t and yet the pretending helps you until it harms you. And it will eventually harm you.

         You take up a practice. Sewing, cooking, tai chi, whatever. Anything to keep your hands busy. Anything so as not to notice the giant space that is growing its own acre inside of your heart. You become a master of horticulture, designing the terrain of your heart so that only certain, nonoffensive things bloom. Inevitably a wildflower flourishes among the rest and you pull it out by its stem, out by its very root and put it in a vase beside the window. A safe distance. You will come back to it later, wearing it in your hair, on your mouth, in your eyes. It is only a matter of time.

         But matters get messy. These things usually do. You wonder if there shouldn’t be a sort of paid leave of absence for this kind of thing. Like workers comp, you are surely bruised, broken in places that once were strong. Like maternity leave, except pregnant with grief. You alternate between sleeping on the couch and not sleeping at all. You throw out old blankets and buy new sheets and pillowcases even though you can barely afford rent. You do this because this pain is the furthest you have traveled away and back to yourself again. This pain knows no kind of boundaries despite the fences you construct. You wake up in the morning calm at first and then aware. You wake up with certain priorities. Drink your coffee, brush your teeth, move even if you don’t want to. You write down a list of rules: Rule #1: Stay alive.

         Yet, throughout the day your thoughts bruise against you. This leaves the inside of your mind that purple yellow color of pain that is so ugly it alarms you. No makeup, no ice pack, no hand is going to soothe it. You explain to your friends that the water coming out of your eyes on a regular basis is natural. You’re fine. You just have watery eyes. The sun is really just too bright. They narrow their dry, radiant eyes at you and then they hold you because they know better. Because that’s what friends do. Meanwhile, you make deals with God. Laboriously elaborate deals that should come attached with their own inch-thick stack of contracts until you finally understand that God is not a gamble and you put your negotiations away.

         Days pass, months.

         With time the floor is no longer snug to your face. In fact, you only glance at it from time to time. You make dinner with friends and you raise your glass. You toast to freedom, to friendship and boldly, even to love. You don't wear your pain like you used to, a long sweeping gown. Rather it is only an accessory. A tiny trinket that no one can really see. The discomfort of your new skin has turned finally into ease and you move within it luxuriously, grabbing life at the collar, looking it straight in the eye. The once mournful line of your mouth curls into a smirk at first and then breaks, with abandon, into a smile. Amidst the wide breath of your laughter you suddenly realize that somewhere along the way the sound of your own joy had gathered an even deeper texture and you like this. You worked for this. The sky looks different, your face, the world. You've got a window and you open it. You buy red paint, barrels of it, and of course you go out into the town.

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