I moved away from home 6 years ago, assuring my mother I could live by myself. Over 20 countries later, a nearly finished college degree, 2 true heartbreaks, and far too many quit jobs, I found myself in Northern Poland sitting on the train station floor waiting for a way to escape to yet another place. It was 3 am. Exhausted, I rested my head on my single suitcase which held my built up silent desperation for a home.
Next to me at this station slept two homeless men and one homeless woman. Their bloated and tired bodies laid in a state of never ending unrest. They looked how I felt inside and this pressed on my chest until I surprisingly began weeping. I did my best not to wake them, to do so seemed inconsiderate, they were actually homeless and there sat a homesick traveler, crying because for a moment she felt despair while they were caged in it.
My cry was interrupted when I heard someone shuffling toward me. I glanced up. It was another homeless man reaching out trying to place a small cup of coffee in my hands like a child offering handpicked dandelions tied into a bouquet. At first I didn’t want to accept it. Shouldn’t I be the one helping him?
Seeing his continued gestures to accept this small offering, I graciously took the cup. We didn’t say much, from my accent he knew I was foreign and maybe he didn’t want to play charades this late at night. I watch him shuffle away into a different corridor of the station and I was left to sit silently realizing how much this moment changed me.
I’ve been searching for a bigger life and a place to call home for years, but had I forgotten the other people around me who were seeking the same? This pushed me out of my momentary misery to want a home for that man, for the Syrian refugee, for the abused wife, for the homesick college student, for the abandoned child, and for the young solider with his finger on the trigger pointed at someone else’s home. I wished we could all rest if even for just one night- tonight. But if we all couldn’t, and we were stuck in our lost state of distress I wish we could find a way to be like this man, offering all we have (even if it seems like nothing) so for just a moment someone next to us could feel what we wish for most, the feeling of our tired hearts resting at home.
Art Courtesy of Nicola Kloosterman
Of course there are days I think my lungs will collapse because I’m only breathing in silence. But there too are days the solitude sings to me lullabies in a language only we know. Traveling extended amounts of time can divide me like this-Madly in love with the aloneness and going mad with the aloneness all the same.
This past month for work, I have been rotating around Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Poland. Each week I leave only to return for a matter of days then back once again. With each countryside train ride, accompanied with my aloneness, we retreat into my mind.
I dream up complications of words that make utterly no sense but taste good when I say them. I create, I wander, I lecture, I fall in love all within the comfort of my head against those bouncy train seats. Contrary to everything I’ve been taught, I never wish to be too present. An element of madness keeps me loving this life. It loosens my perceived limitations and opens my identity to be far beyond what reality could ever give me.
I don’t fear public speech because I’ve sung at Carnegie Hall once while daydreaming on my train from Bydgoszcz to Kraków. I am confident because on the bus through Romania I imagine myself to already be the woman I wish to be- Mother Teresa with platform red high heels and a rather exquisite taste in Italian gelato.
Without a doubt, it is all an illusion, but I am free from the illusion that anyone is free from illusions. This state, this highly dramatized attempt at reality, is far from adolescent. I think it’s our creativity begging for a space in this life, it’s our possibilities asking to be tried on and walked in. It’s reality taking a taste test of life outside of its train window. I rairly resist. It’s my sweet tooth that keeps me coming back for more.
Art Courtesy of Danielle Krys
Some kisses are apologizes, some are hurried preludes to more, and some are engagement rings and lasting dreams. And his kiss, this lingering kiss on my shoulders, was like he was admiring the strength of where I carry my burdens. He traced his lips up the staircase that leads to my hungry mind only to move back to the gentle dip of my collarbone filled with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.
This is when I froze in utter confusion. Normally we are in a rushed dance, one where true affection and feelings are not required. We agreed on casual kissing, but in my heart there has never been anything casual about kissing. That’s not the “chill” thing to think, and truthfully I am about as chill as the Sub-Saharan Desert on a sunny day. Because with every kiss I want to say, “Come rest your heart here” but I save it for a time he’s not in such a hurry. He’s always in such a hurry.
That is until he kissed my shoulders. For a moment it felt he was there to stay. The moon can tell the earth its uninterested but its orbit says otherwise. Yet it’s silly of me to pretend he is my moon because I am no earth- I am a blazing wildfire and he wants a calm sea to swim on occasion.
I’m kidding no one, not even myself. Regardless of how many kisses we twist ourselves into I can’t become someone I was never meant to be. I can’t be someone’s sea when I am meant to burn.
Art Courtesy of Eugenia Loli
I officially entered the stages of adulthood yesterday by separating my colors from my whites while doing laundry. Normally, I just chuck them all in together. I don’t even bother with the temperature or those annoying washing instructions that I cut off from my tee shirts. Never have I had a problem with shrinking or seeping colors, either.
For years I have been convinced people around me were lying about this bleeding colors thing, surely everyone was set on adding more time and hassle to chores to keep us women domesticated and stuck at home. But it sounded too ridiculous to believe, at the age of 22, that separating laundry was some clandestine sexist conspiracy, so I gave up my defiant ways and decided I should do my laundry like an adult.
My laundry isn’t the only adultish thing I’ve been adapting to lately. My mother is pleased to know after graduation I’ve committed to a ‘real job.’ What she’s not so pleased with is that it’s located in Warsaw and requires a lot of traveling. I could think of worse things..
In the coming months, I’ll be searching for a flat, which means I won’t be a nomad living out of my one duffle bag hopping from people’s couches or the occasional airconditionless beach house. Even more drastic for me, is the notes I now keep with various paint colors for my future place. I’m debating between Nimbus Grey or Apricot for the bathroom.
It’s all pretty exciting actually. I’ll have a flat- my own space filled with real art, travel memorabilia, bookshelves, Polish pottery and properly washed laundry hung up next to a fern I’m set on naming Angie.
I know myself and my hunger well enough to know these plans are subject to change depending on the day, the weather, and the country of the man I fall in love with this time around. But making these plans constitute as a step towards adulthood.
Cheers to growing up, or at least the paint colors and proper laundry suggest I’m doing so.
Art courtesy off Beth Hoeckel
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
I recite literature to God. He likes the ones I can’t get through without tears, mainly because He knows I’m offering my soul and not just steering words with autopilot.
Sometimes I use my own, other times someone says it better than I ever could and I trust that God accepts it the same. So this one Thursday night, Sylvia Plath said my prayer,
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
As I sat under Plath’s fig tree God remained tied tongued- tongue tied, I wondered if He too was trying to borrow just the right words.
After laying in that awful silence for over a week God spoke, “I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou [me]? Thou shalt see great things than these.” Luke 1:50.
The silence was broken to remind me God has always been the best of Poets..
Art Courtesy of Carlo Mattioli
We are the misfits. The Gay Makeup Artist in a Mormon town who hides his lip glosses like stolen candy. The Theater Guy who has a more extensive emotional vocabulary than Dickinson and Plath combined. The Hippie Girl with waves of hair down to her Sanskrit spray-on tattoo who recites Deepak Chopra like scripture. And me, The Wanna-be Poet, who got us all together every Monday night hoping to make a home out of a place we all feel so lost in.
Together we feel real, like our words can exit the script. We can say the things we maybe shouldn’t say but have kept lodged in our brains next to all our gathered shame. From the first time we met together over my gourmet canned spaghetti and cheezits, I distinctly remember feeling like God was smiling.
There is something serendipitous about meeting people you never have to preface your thoughts with “Excuse my blasphemy,” or “I know I shouldn’t feel this but…” That freedom we feel together in our openness gives us room to mend each other’s wounds. It feels a lot like love.. It feels a lot like God.
I once learned understanding God comes through understanding his children. I know that takes a lifetime. For us it will take many more Monday nights sitting around my rundown beach-house table sharing stories of the times we feared we would never find people who love us the way we feel loved now.
Art by: Ben Giles
I haven’t really stopped entertaining the idea of him reappearing. Every other aspect of my life has moved on when enough stuttering breathes passed through with each unwanted sunrise. As much as I hated the thought of it, time really does heal.
Grief hasn’t permanently prevented me from joy, but it has redefined it. At this point I’ve given up forcing myself to exclude him completely from my mind. I’ll even occasionally let him be with me as I take in the vast sea on my morning runs, “I still love you, you know” I’ll whisper it and let it wash over me only to recede with the tide. I pray somehow the swell will take it past the coral to bring him my stinging confession.
Art by-Courtney Mattison