i. At six I knew there was something wrong.
There were thoughts that swirled around my mind,
Sinuous snakes that slithered and curled in forgotten crevices,
That feasted on follies and hissed in my ear.
I would sometimes voice the questions:
What happens after death, Mommy?
Daddy, are we alone in the universe?
And though not strictly forbidden my peers were not questioning,
Weren’t pondering their existence as extensively as I.
It was only years later that I realized the inquiries
Weren’t monsters under the bed –
I had only stumbled upon them sooner than my classmates.
ii. When I was seven I couldn’t believe in God anymore.
I gave Him four precious years in Catholic school –
Went to church every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday.
But no comfort ever came to me from uttering a few quick words.
There was something so fundamentally wrong about Him –
Where most needed no proof I craved it like a starving woman,
Longed for some tangible evidence to chalk up to His existence.
The Bible wasn’t worthy – written by drunk, wayward men
Who said women were below them and
Who still believed the Earth was flat.
iii. At nine I learned of adoration:
The feeling of a book in my eczema riddled hands,
Words flowing forth and forming infallible static between the world and I.
They were my shields and no one could take them from me.
But my books were as much my shields as they were my downfall.
The thing about school is that if you read too much you are a target,
But a book would not hurt me nearly as much as people would,
Could not betray me in such heinous ways as they
And so I accepted the contempt and learned to mold it for my benefit.
At ten I realized books meant few friends and lonely lunches.
But they also meant quiet libraries and a comforting scent,
A weight in my hands that grounded me against the onslaught
And took me on adventures beyond my wildest dreams.
Perhaps I brought it upon myself but I will be forever grateful
For the day I picked up that worn little book from the ground and read.
iv. There were days that were treacherous,
A torture chamber of hot coals disguised as high-fives
And daggers hidden behind bared teeth.
But I was naïve and believed their friendship,
Fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
At eleven I felt the ridicule to my bones,
Drowned in the suddenness of the turned tides.
Friendship didn’t mean loyalty or trust –
It meant being crushed.
v. Thirteen was when I figured out that
School would only ever see me as a statistic,
A walking ACT score, a GPA trapped in a meat suit.
They only cared about my intellect,
And not even in the subjects I adored.
For what use was there in an A+ in English
When I could barely pull off a B in Math?
What use was there for someone who could write a three-page paper in an hour
But couldn’t solve an algebraic equation to save her life?
Math and Science were all that mattered and though I festered with curiosity,
If I couldn’t get a high enough score
What did it matter?
I wouldn’t accomplish anything with a well-written paper,
Or a speech that could turn your opinions upside down on a dime.
At thirteen, I realized that Math and Science were it – the Arts didn’t matter.
At thirteen, I learned not to care.
I am more than a number –
They can’t measure my usefulness by telling me to climb a tree
When I am made for soaring through the clouds.
vi. My father was happy and that was all that mattered.
One year after he remarried and all was well –
Five stepchildren against little ol’ me but for the most part we got along.
Two years after he remarried and it went to hell –
Animosity bubbled between them and me;
Olive branches burned and doves shot down.
I was in the midst of a war and every glare was parried with scorn,
Every remark deflected with a sarcastic rebuttal.
I was winning battles but was easily overwhelmed and they circled me like jackals.
At fourteen I knew how to use words as swords.
vii. In a sexual world it was easy to nod along –
Yes, he is hot; Yes, I could eat him up –
But as my friends became active in this previously only joked about world,
I was left stranded, watching and observing.
But there was no lust in me,
No need for such primal intimacy.
There was only confusion:
Why do you think about sex at all hours? Why do you dream of it, crave it so acutely?
At sixteen I found out about Asexuality
And suddenly it all made sense.
viii. Stress ensconced me in her arms when I was seventeen.
She had always been there but now she was suffocating,
Arms wrapped around my chest and fingers toying at my neck,
Pressing in until I broke.
Thing is, though, I didn’t break – I couldn’t.
There was no logic in letting this feeling send me spiraling
And so I fought it, bared my teeth and sharpened my nails
Until she loosened her hangmen’s noose.
But there are deadlines to meet and colleges to see and she hovers,
Watching for weakness.
ix. Still seventeen and still mostly nebulous.
The curtain is thick and heavy and trust is a wavering thing but –
But adventure awaits and wanderlust tugs at my feet.
The world waits for no one.
I may be hazy and I have more battles ahead of me
But there will come a day to prove myself,
And I intend to be there on that day and stand and say,
“I am who I am. Take me or leave me but know that I love myself and you can’t change that.”
And they never will