There are many things that I could write about.
I could write about being 20 with blood under my nails and curls in my hair and smoke on my fingertips.
I could write about the halos of angels hidden behind foliage in Jules Bastien-Lepage’s painting of Joan of Arc.
I could write about why I keep stealing buttons and then not being able to look at them.
I could write about how sliding a hand into the rip between the jean and silk lining of my coat is a metaphor for my relationships with people? The appearance of ease, of effortlessness, the inner dichotomy of a fit that does not fit.
I could write about coat sleeves as a metaphor for my family? all this silence, all this slickness. All the rips we never mended. Looking graceful on the outside
I could write about how my sister and I have some untranslatable similarity between us, a wall incapable of being toppled.
I could write about how I can serve, perfectly, as a translator for my mother’s unwieldy affections. The incapability to consider how her child may misread her sentiments, find threats or offense in the morse code of her disapproving periods.
I could write about my sister and I read so much into codes and glances and pauses that naturally, we’re inclined to secret languages. To subtext. We’d like to think we pick up on what other people don’t, but that’s not really true. or at least, I would tell myself that — I’m an empath, I’d brag, as though a childhood of fearing the next downward drag of a mood swing is an experience that gives you skills & marketable tools at the end instead of just trauma (ugh, how mundane)
I could write about how it doesn’t.
I could write about I can’t read minds, or moods, any more than a blind man. In fact, I’m almost incredibly oblivious to emotions in others that I haven’t thought to anticipate.
I could write about how I cannot read moods, but I can read into them. So, so, so much — my sister and I aren’t telepathic, we’re touchy. Vulnerable.
I could write about how it is not always true that we are not stronger than our predecessors. Rather, we are simply crueler. At whatever moment, we have the privilege of callousness to guard ourselves with, cynicism to look down on the huddled forms before us. But that isn’t strength, and we realize that too terribly late: when we, ourselves, are huddled and weeping and bewildered by it all, shaken and startled as if from a terrible fall. the shock of a child skinning their knees, the sharp stab of an inhale before the tears.
I could write about the terror of growing up.
I could write about how one night at a party I sat cross-legged on the dining room table, using my lighter to roast a marshmallow as I sat next to the girl who drenched her skin in glitter “because how else could I look like I was going to a party?” she was coked out and blissful, imbued with the serenity and sibyllic wisdom only skinny girls with collarbones and drug-dealer boyfriends seem capable of.
I could write about if you’re holding someone else’s hand, it can feel impossible to reach out and grasp another’s. I watched a man stare down an actress during her performance, an utterly believable mess of wet hair and wounded eyes, her hand outstretched for his; his implacable, unmoving gaze; how his knuckles tightened around the grip of his — girlfriend? wife? he wouldn’t help her steady herself, and she went toppling to the floor before another audience member came to help. Focusing too intently on what you have in your hands can kill the possibility of what’s waiting for you. Of helping another. Is a bird in the hand really worth two in the bush?
I could write about how I am 20 years old and I am pushing the curls from my eyes, the blood from my cuticles. Biting the Gemini symbol with my teeth alone. taste of copper on my tongue.
I could write about how I am 20 years old and I am constantly trying to find out what I have to do next.
I could write about how I am trying to keep homemade cheesecake chilled all day. I am picking, picking, picking at my skin. I am tired, yet wired. too soft and yet too hungry. Unrecognizable in mirrors and candid photos. somehow, still, I am always a fugitive to myself.
I could write about how today I learned light-headed and delirious with laughter is not the same as happiness, but if you hold your breath for long enough it feels the same. Same rictus of dimples, the headaches of mirth. if you can’t find happiness, the pains of joy will have to do.
I could write about how I am 20 years old, and I don’t know how else to be.
I could write about how I don’t know what to write about.