Thing one, thing two, and...
A crush, some poetry, and the aftereffects of trauma
Thing three: Do you want to go on a date?
CW: Mentions of sexual assault, general anxiety, happy ending
The night I told [Friend] I had a crush on a boy, I had a panic attack. I hadn’t had one in so long that I’d almost forgotten what it felt like.
I drank some water, hoping that the nausea was just dehydration instead of anxiety. I could feel how the tide crashed on the walls of my stomach. It rocked inside of me every time I tried to get more comfortable. Waves moving back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.
My friend and I read a story. The main character said human blood is made inside of bones because it’s the darkest part of the body and the most protected against UV radiation. He said this is where loss lives, in his bone marrow, where even light can’t touch it.
I told [Friend], I like him. I felt my bones cracking open.
In the midst of the worst panic I’d felt in months, I told her, whatever the fuck is in my bones is seeping out of me.
I wrote When the sun is out and sent it to her.
My bones had stopped leaking, but I could still feel the sharp grip my anxiety had on me.
I sat still in my bed for a couple seconds, thinking. I sent an email to VPR asking to get referred to a therapist, worried that I’d taken two steps back for the step forward I’d taken last year.
What had triggered that panic?
It’s been a while since I couldn’t identify what I was feeling.
Finally, the answer came to me: fear.
I was afraid. I admitted something that I had been holding close to me for months: tender feelings that I wasn’t ready to acknowledge yet. I kept thinking, the last time this happened…
[Friend] tried to provide me with some action items, but the only thing I could think of, looping in my mind, was how my ex had wanted me to ask him out first.
A couple hours before you broke up with me, I was talking to [Mom Friend] about how nervous I was about asking you out. I’d never done it before, and I wondered all the ways I could mess up.
It was unfair for you to do that to me. I deserve better than to be dropped because suddenly it was a problem. It was unfair for you to break up with me on November 1st instead of after your retreat. It was cruel for you to tell me not to worry about that conversation with God…
Nov. 4, 2018
I woke up the next day, and for the first time in years, I checked. I scanned my body and felt shame when I realized that anxiety was still in me. It’d been a while since I’d checked. It’s been since my ex that I’ve spent more time thinking about it.
I need to stop expecting myself to recover from emotional strife immediately. It doesn’t do me any good to keep checking. I remember that video that Dodie made about how her therapist told her to stop checking whether she felt present every morning. That if you looked, you would probably find.
Nov. 2, 2018
I told [Another Friend] about my crush a couple of days later. She already knew, of course. It wasn’t that I had wanted to hide these feelings so much as it was that I wasn’t ready to see them laid out so plainly in front of me.
I told her it’s been a while.
I told her my body wasn’t sure what to do with this feeling.
I told her the last time didn’t turn out so hot.
I told her, I’m going to ask him on a date.
I felt the tide crash into me again. That wave kept moving inside of me, back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. I started planning it in my mind: How would I start? How would I ask?
For the first time in months, I pulled out those old letters I wrote to my ex. They were my words, my feelings, my thoughts. I wrote to him, I love you. I wrote to him, I forgive you.
I feel ashamed, usually, to have written those words to someone that hurt me.
What you did was lousy, but I can’t blame you for it. “Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions.” That was Hume. He was a romantic. Like me. The stories of romantic heroes always end in tragedy.
I think about how nice it was tonight. How the breeze felt warm instead of cold for once.
I shared so much of myself with you. I think that’s why this hurts.
Nov. 1, 2018
And I thought about that article that I’d written about how my love aches. Always, that neverending ache. And it does. And it did.
I texted Boy to go on a walk that night instead of the time we had set for Saturday. We met at Killian. Crossing the street toward the Charles, I said to him, I have three things.
We walked halfway across the bridge by the time I got to my first.
Thing one: I’m sorry for that one time, you know, on Discord. He remembered it but not with the same worrying clarity that I did.
We were walking into Boston, then down Beacon Street. The last time I had been on Beacon Street, I thought, I was heading toward my ex’s frat. We reached that point where the street breaks in two. Not the right. I didn’t say anything.
I keep thinking about his hands on my skin. I’m not sure how much I wanted it before he actually started doing it. It’s not going to happen again. It shouldn’t have happened to begin with.
But I keep thinking about how it felt to have him around me like that, to have every motion of mine controlled and take away the need for me to make decisions. I was never good at decisions.
I keep thinking about how indecisive I am with him. Am I like that with other people? Or am I so caught up in him that I'm forgetting about myself? Letting myself fade away into him and his thoughts and his choices?
And I remember how simple it was to lose control to him entirely. It isn’t the relationship or the commitment that I’m scared of as much as it is the simple act of disappearing when I’m with him, how easily people fail to notice me sometimes.
Sep. 12, 2018
Boy guided me down the left path; I let out a breath.
Thing two: I’m sorry for texting you last week to ask if we were friends. In my defense, [Another Friend] forced me to, and sometimes I make rash, impulsive decisions when I’m tired. He said, it’s okay, I got some context.
We were only 20 minutes away from his dorm at that point. I took a deep breath in, held it, and exhaled. I said, forcing myself to sound casual, hey, isn’t this where Café 472 is? That was one of the first places my ex showed me after that summer program. We went to get froyo with some of the other students and I felt sick from eating too much.
Boy didn’t know where it was. I felt relieved at that, for some reason.
We made it to the second bridge near Trader Joe’s. I thought, this is the place that I told my friend she was my little. This is the place where I called New House home for the first time.
I wondered when I was going to be able to consider MIT my home. I noticed this morning, as we were walking back from Mayfair, that I asked [Friend], “okay, so Trader Joe’s and then home?” Just like that.
I hope that you never feel the same isolation that I felt first semester, but in case you have, I hope that you find the same relief in AEPhi that I have.
To my little,
Nov. 16, 2019
My heart swelled a little. I smiled at the arches on the bridge that we’d walked under coming from Mayfair.
Maybe, MIT was still my home.
We made it to the door of his dorm. It was late, at this point. He asked, are you sure you don’t want me to walk you to Site 4? We sat on the bench outside for the next ten minutes in still silence.
I thought about my [Mom Friend] telling me, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. But, well, I’d come this far. I took a deep breath in.
Thing three: Do you want to go on a date?
We laughed. It was somehow funny, to release that tension. He had said, earlier, that he didn’t know which of three possibilities I was going to ask him about. This was the easiest one.
I thought, there we go; proud of you.
I knew, at this point, that he was going to say no.
I waited for that tide to hit me like it had for the past couple of days. We kept walking, past the stud, past the dome, past Hayden, past —
I checked and found nothing. There was something else in my stomach where the wave had been, fluttering to get out.
He was nervous; it was kind of cute. I felt powerful standing next to him. I hadn’t expected that.
For a couple of steps, I waited to say anything. Then, teasing, “Do you want me to start for you? So… you were having a conversation with God —”
We laughed. There was something about the reminder that there was a much worse way to reject someone. I thought about how I had felt, years ago, when my ex had sat me down on the bench outside of Maseeh and started with that. I told Boy, trust me, whatever you’re going to say, I’ve had worse.
It was true.
And even despite that,
I’m writing this from the comfort of an apartment at Site 4, where I live with five friends.
I’m the president of my sorority, an editor for The Tech, and a member of several advocacy groups.
I’ve gotten brave in the past few years, grown into myself in a way that I couldn’t have predicted in high school.
I’m a fantastic fucking friend.
I have breakfast with my family every Sunday and call my parents when I’m walking back from work.
And I am loved — so much, by so many.
Boy had four points. I can’t remember the first one. It’s such a blessing to not remember.
He said, “Point two, you’re…”
He trailed off, and I laughed, “You don’t have to say it.”
Finally, I identified the feeling that was inside of me. I was having fun. I felt out of breath but it wasn’t from the waves; it was from the laughter that kept bubbling up in my chest.
I said, “Actually, no, I do want to hear it. So, point two, you’re? Or wait, sorry, is it your or you are?”
He said, “You are.”
And I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
He said, “You have a lot of the qualities that someone would want in a partner.”
I laughed again. Had I been so nervous about getting rejected?
I said, “Yes, you’re right, but tell me anyway.”
Easy to talk to. Thanks, I try to be.
Funny. Yes, I am also really funny.
A good person. My current philosophical theory is that people are not good or bad, so this statement is inaccurate, but thanks anyway.
I said, “I’m sorry for making this hard on you, but I need to get as much comedic material out of this as I possibly can.”
He grimaced. Oops, I thought, I should be nicer.
It was weird to realize that, even though I was the one being rejected, I had the upper hand.
We passed through the academic buildings as he told me, “This is really stereotypical, but, point three, we’re better as friends.”
I said, “Oh yeah, the week that passed after I confirmed we were friends was great.”
My laughter bounced off of the walls of Lobby 10.
We kept talking all the way back to my dorm until he had finished points three and four. The wind was cool, but I felt warm in my denim jacket.
I said, “Well, this is my building. I don’t quite know how to end this.”
We laughed again.
I said, “Farewell.”
“Okay, you know more languages than me.”
I plugged in my headphones to listen to “Outro: Ego” as I walked into the building.
I checked my body again, and there was a tingle of something else: I was embarrassed. But it wasn’t the clawing shame I’d been engulfed in that morning when I realized I was nervous about a boy. I was flustered, running on adrenaline, and felt a little bit awkward.
I leaned against my door frame when I got back up to my room. What a relief to feel awkward instead of hurt.
I wondered, again, if this was what I had been nervous about.
It wasn’t; I know that.
I’d told [Another Friend] earlier, I don’t ache for Boy, and it’s true. That wasn’t what was leaking from my bone marrow.
I’m still a romantic — I fall a little bit in love with everyone I meet. There’s a barista at Flour that has really nice eyes. The first time she smiled at me my heart fluttered in my chest.
This isn’t special because I liked a boy.
This is special because I asked him about it.
This is special because it’s the first time I’ve been that excited about a person since —
I unlocked the door into my room with an insane urge to start singing. I had done something that I’d considered impossible, and it had gone fine. I remembered that tiger. I felt proud of myself for going back to the store.
I called [Another Friend] and [Friend] and told them everything that had happened. They laughed in all the right places. I thought, I’m so lucky to have so many people who love me.
The night I told a boy I liked him, I fell asleep happy.
When the sun is out
CW: General anxiety and depression
When I’m going on walks with friends,
and there are no clouds,
and the moon is looking down at me,
it’s much easier to be happy.
I’m walking around Cambridge right now.
I just saw a friend.
We laughed with our whole bodies.
Laughter comes quicker,
when the sun is out.
What was that line?
When is the best time to fix my roof?
When it’s not raining.
When is the best time to fix my roof?
When the sun is out,
and I can muster up the courage to say that my life is worth something.
But I can't quite muster up the courage yet to say, unabashedly, that I love myself.
A friend said to me the other day, “You’re more responsible than —”
And I was worried that she was going to draw a comparison to herself, but instead: “than I thought you would be.”
Something in me tilted.
The same thing that I’ve been trying so hard not to carve into my bones.
I’ve been trying so hard to think,
people will see me with mercy.
And it stung to realize that: first, it’s not always the case, second, it’s not even the case for those who love me.
It’s really hard for me to care about myself, so maybe I’m a difficult person to love.
I don’t know.
It feels bad not to know.
I think I’m easier to love when the sun is out.
I keep thinking about circles. Around and around, no further from center.
Was it better to convince myself that there’s a point to all of this?
I’m just tired today.
Something about this place, it’s eating me alive.
I’m eating myself alive.
And this city is so loud.
You can probably hear it.
From wherever you are in the future, Ana, I’ll write it again:
I know you feel bad for me.
I know you feel sorry.
I feel sorry, sometimes, too.
I was feeling better, earlier.
I was sitting in the sun with friends.
And I was feeling how the warmth kissed my face.
And that hollow inside of me,
it wasn’t filled,
but it was settled.
That’s the way it is when the sun is out.
I felt happy. I can still feel happy.
I’m tired; I’m empty.
But that’s now, right?
I’m sitting in the sun,
laying on a platform with my friends;
I feel happy.
I worry that this is the real version of myself.
That this is who —
that this is who I’m —
that this is it.
That happiness is an illusion that doesn’t come easily to me anymore.
I feel embarrassed to care.
I haven’t tried doing this in a long time. And I don’t believe in God, but maybe it’ll help.
Is someone listening?
It must be years since I’ve prayed.
It must be since high school.
Are you listening?
I’m not on my knees because I can’t be, but I hope this counts anyway.
Did you mean, when you made me, did you mean to leave a piece out?
Was it always supposed to be incomplete?
Or did I chip myself away?
Breaking my finger.
Carving out my stomach.
Until there was nothing left.
Please, God, give it back.
I should go home.
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