In Sickness and in Health by Kristi Jeansonne
I remember staring at him from across the room wondering how I could love him more than he loved me. How could any God in this universe allow that? I remember how I unzipped my chest and took out my bloody, naïve heart and handed it to him… while he lounged on the sofa and counted ceiling tiles.
My 20-year-old self needed a prince, a knight, or at least a man who just would tell me how enchanting I was. I wanted him to burn down buildings and then walk through the fire to rescue me. I wanted him to see me in slow motion… to be his muse and his motivation for breathing. He should shed his masculinity but still, be a man. I thought I needed him to take me to rooftops and compare my eyes to stare. Or tell me that all the magic in the world is contained in the small space found between his palms and mine.
Love was matching tattoos and anniversaries of trivial firsts. Love was catching me off guard, taking my picture, and remembering me this young forever. Love was walking away just to feel the crushing devastation of missing each other.
I didn’t get that love. I didn’t get that man.
I discovered that love isn’t made of expectations or time lines. Love isn’t a cheap postcard.
Love isn’t a heart….. love is a backbone.
Instead, I got a man who sat near my hospital bed counting the seconds until I woke. A man who could list all my medications like ingredients in a recipe. A man who knows I am broken but never tries to fix me; only discovers a more delicate way to hold me. A man who isn’t afraid of words like cancer or recurrence because we take each day as its own. One day at a time… sometimes one minute at a time.
What I got was a man who lets me unfold myself into his arms when I’m having a bad day and celebrates the major achievement of having a good day. And I realized that rooftops and sad songs and romantic ideals Do Not Matter.
All the magic in the world is really contained in his hands as they hold my face and he looks into my tired eyes to whisper, “It’s you and me.”
The Beginning of Ugly
Written by Kristi Jeansonne
Here I am. I sit here in the dark curtains drawn together tightly with the edges tacked with clear plastic pins shoved almost horizontally into the drywall. I run to lock my door and in a panic; I tuck a blanket into the tiny gap under the door. No light is to breakthrough.
The pain is coming. Sitting on the floor isn’t enough. I must be more hidden, more isolated. I need to crawl into the closet and shut the door behind me. My back is against the wall and my head in my hands. This is where the pain comes. This is where the pain lives…. here in my hands.
I remember the first time I thought about taking my own life. I was 8 years old and under my bed, at the bottom of the heavy bedpost, I carved ‘I want to die.’
The words were simplistic; the writing was primitive, and mostly, the statement was powerful. I had no concept of death and dying, of beating hearts or failing organs. I had no conceptual ideas of heaven and hell. I didn’t realize the extreme permanence of making my words into actions. What I did know is that dying meant disappearing. And above all, I wanted to vanish.
I can’t remember the first time I was insulted or the first time I was hit. But I do know where ugly begins. I know where ugly lives, right here in the palms of my hands.
I used to feel heartbroken until I realized that my heart was fine. It’s my mind that’s broken. In this closet, in this darkness, I begin to release the victim inside of me. victim. victim. victim. victim. ugly. ugly. ugly. The words must be said to begin letting go. Say the words with me–victim. ugly. Repeat the word, write the word, stare at the word. The more you say it, the more you see it, the more foreign it feels.
Cradling back and forth, I can think. I’m unable to hear or see. All is numb except for the intense pain in the pit of my gut. The pain crawls from the center of me, up through my aching heart and erupts out through my eyes. The pain carries my memories through this well-worn path.
The wave of emotion knocks me down and washes over me. This closet is like the ocean. I’m drowning in this salty, polluted water while the broken, sandy ground below me does little to help. My body is aching, and my soul is crying out to return to dry land. I can do this: I can save myself. I can stand up and save myself from drowning. Then, I manage to pull myself up and gasp for air.
Breathe. Focus. Walk three steps. Collapse.
Falling onto the wooden floor grasping at splinters and following the worn-in, destructive path of hard times. This is who I am. A broken person, sick with some sort of mental pain. Violently drunk with desperation, my eyelids crush together to force out tears and mildly ease my blurred vision.
I see a glass atop my desk. In a reversed-crippled fashion, I stumble upwards to tower over my cluttered belongings. In one massive sweep, I clear all from my sight, revealing an ivory desktop smeared with ink and makeup stains.
I needed to hear the crash. I took a breath of relief as I felt some anxiety waning. With the tears still streaming, I flash over to the mess below, neighboring my bare feet.
With zero hesitation, I fall to my knees and dig my palms into the millions of shards of glass. My hands and mind all ache with relief.
The sight of blood soothes my mental state as if I tricked myself into believing this was why I was flooding myself in tears in the first place. With trembling fingers, I scoop the salty puddles from between my lips. I prop my limp bag of blood and bones against the wall and begin to feel peace.
It’s as if I was at war with my imaginary self and reluctantly I won.
I curl my blood-soaked fingers together and tighten my fist. It’ll soon be time for my hands to open wide and expose this pain once again.
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