I’ve said it before but I’ll say it
again, for the sake of this poem.
I am not the kind of person that
things happen to.
I am not the kind of person that
things happen to, so I make it up.
I draw the dragon and then I
jump on its back.
I take a feeling and I say
‘Do something! Become something!
Help me or go away!’
There’s usually a boy. Sometimes
not. Either way, there’s someone
and they’ve hurt me.
There’s someone and they don’t
love me back,
because that’s what I want. That’s
I’m sorry, you know? I don’t know
what to do with the ones who have
already been here, so I pretend.
I play dolls. I change their names
and their clothes and their stories.
Call me what you want. I know
what the truth is. I know what to
put in between the lines to make it
sting like a real thing.
I know how to make myself better.
Still, I wish I could touch my
own heart instead of writing about
what it must feel like.
I wish I could do anything without
What’s left to be honest about,
if not this? What’s left?
When things don’t happen,
I kick up the dirt, I blow on the
dust, I shake the snow globe.
So what if dragons aren’t real?
I bet you wish they were.
I like cancelled plans. And empty bookstores. I like rainy days and thunderstorms. And quiet coffee shops. I like messy beds and over-worn pajamas. Most of all, I like the small joys that a simple life brings.
There is an older couple on this tour. They look like they could be my mother’s age. I see the way they hold hands and the way they look at each other. It makes me smile that two people who have seemingly been together a long time could still find this much joy in the act of touching. I tell her they look sweet together. She smiles shyly and says, ‘Thank you.’ Then, ‘I don’t tell a lot of people this, but we have been dating for about six months. My husband passed away from cancer three years ago. His wife passed away from cancer last year.’
I catch my breath. They have both known loss. And yet, right in front of me, is proof that there is hope everywhere, even after a loss as permanent as death. This explains why they act like they are still new to each other.
The tour guide tells me he has ni amistades ni una novia ni familia en Puerto Rico. I ask him how long he has been living here. ‘22 years. I haven’t been in a relationship for the last 10 years.’ I ask him if he is lonely. He shrugs his shoulders. ‘I am thinking about moving back to the States soon.’ Then, ‘Don’t tell the others this. Es un secreto entre nos dos. I don’t want them thinking I’m a loser.’
One of the hostel staff tells me how much his mom makes as a teacher. I say that she must really love teaching to stay for those wages. He tells me she suffered brain trauma from a car accident when he was young. ‘She lost a lot of her memory, and I don’t really remember how she was before it.’ Then, ‘I probably shouldn’t talk about this while I’m drinking.’
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have such honest features that invited strangers to open their painful truths. But tonight, even if it is just the alcohol bringing his past to the surface, I do not care. His bright face and buzzcut and beautiful eyes are still real. I would hold his secrets.
We don’t learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you.
I want all my secrets back
Do you love me enough that I may be weak with you?