Things Our Bodies Used to Know

people go
but how
they left

always stays

Rupi Kaur, milk and honey 

I will never learn to love that way again, so reckless, so irrepressible that I lost all demarcation, found sinews of my soul enmeshed in the form of another. Caressing that calamity of famished flesh, of tongue to skin, sketching half-shadows in the syntax of her gaze: what remained of our gutted life trickled from between her teeth, dripped down my chin, until my chest was all soaked with her screaming, salt-crest genesis. I removed my sodden shirt, unpeeled her fawning hands. I left her alone on the wine-drenched mattress: her frailty repelled me, made me wonder, made me doubt.

It stopped mattering that she left me. It stopped mattering that she was my best thing, then my nothing. For six months, I suffered and dreamed. But then I bled her, like ink, from the bedsheets. I burned every letter. I pawned borrowed clothing. I tore pages from books. I withdrew into my rage, my words, my inexpressible solitude: I emerged victorious and alive. So our long strange history died, unrealized. Will she ever find liberation from this sin? Or must she always live with this, the knowledge that she tore into another’s life unbidden, wasted my time and then destroyed it all for nothing?

I am still this, I am still me. But the wound that I was has been cauterized now, and the new skin spreads unrepentant, beguiling. Stained shades of corrosive liquor and glass-panelled bones, strains of battery acid and the battered neck of my guitar, every new, nebulous bruise where the knuckles wound their way around my throat: I seek comfort where I still can. Crouching, like an animal astride the four-wall shoreline, still seeing dimly that seraphic face beneath the waters, feeling the whiskey-tinged howl of the currents, clawing up across the muddy banks into knife-shards of moonlight: I salvage solace where it has not yet died out.

You can still see her impact in the edges of my eyes, but only rarely, in the half-light we used to share. I was so much younger then, enraptured by the ocher dusk, as poems and promises met like bodies, and every note of Calvary seemed sweet. She was an orator, an oracle, an evening in early summer. She was jasmine and hyacinth, sweet wines and badly rolled cigarettes–those heady, rose-damp offerings for false idols or docile gods. But I was the real thing. I required blood.

Did she think that, because I loved her, she was safe? That I would not tear her apart with my pen: that I needed her tongue between my teeth? Perhaps I will always be abhorred and estranged, when the glamor fades or the passion wanes. But at least I am an experience. At least they will remember me. At least they will talk about me after I have gone. I will not fade away like some sycophant, prostituting my own inadequacy. I know now, with certainty, that what she called my madness was only the slew of her own sensations, the life she was too frightened to face.

Whatever else I may be, at least I never asked another to climb the cross in my stead.

Dispossession, hunger, alienation, hurled abuses–I have learned to see and feel my way through the dark waters of a world that is so much more dangerous than my own mind could be. And there are others like me, others who have managed to survive and yet still feel keenly, feel utterly, feel indiscriminately. The strength we practice, we who face the world unflinchingly, is enthralling, anointed, instantly recognizable. We are a fragment worth exalting, a contrapuntal clashing of flesh and fractured light. We have no use for weakness or denial. We know no patience for the faint of heart.

Without warning, she was gone from my arms, a broken-winged dagger in desperate flight. But she left me with some sanity, and the promise of the springtime. I know the earth again and I recall the language of the mind that is half-mine. I am messy and monstrous and I am myself: I do not exist for your pleasure. Every night that I endure, I grow stronger. My self-sustenance is all the more formidable because it is denoted by a joy that predates those lost days.

I stand apart from my own grief, burning like something still lost: reckless and restless, insubordinate, sublime. Twisted well beyond near-recognition, I am history, trauma, possibility enfleshed. I am every oppurtunity that you were too afraid take.

And so, I am satisfied. Can you blame me? My survival is prodigious, improbable, stunning. Covered in scars, I am still on my feet.