for my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die.

You threw your ice axe straight into my face and shattered me across my oceanic bed.  My pieces glittered and twitched.  In their reflection, I saw you come back for more.  Our eyes met in those uncountable mirrors and you bro-tipped your head back at me, so I seethed in despair.  I fumbled for painkillers I don’t own; I fell down the WebMD rabbit hole; I gnawed on my own flesh for hours.

A shroud swallowed me, relieving me of you.  But now I couldn’t see, and I couldn’t touch too great, and I lost any semblance of ninja sense.  And every time I thought I was in the clear – I mostly thought this out of sheer exhaustion – you darted your dagger through my cloak, reminding me who’s boss.  You sliced right into my rind and slid between me and my cover, peeled us apart, seeded me, gutted me, lit me afire.

You’d kneecapped me a decade prior.  It’s documented in sophomore Junior Prom portraits: a little more flesh where flesh doesn’t belong.  Right between my mascara and my necklace.

In 2002, this invasion’s main impact was to make me live Gulliver’s Travels.   Gulliver had an abscess.  I didn’t know what an abscess is, but I thought I had one, too.  Swift’s description mirrored my adolescent agony.  All I could think about was that sketch from a children’s adapted version, where Gulliver’s on his back and the Lilliputians have cris-crossed him with what must have been dental floss, staking these tethers to the ground while this big man can do nothing but watch.  And the doctors said this non-life-threatening, serious, silly thing could come back, or it could not.

So it lurked.

And in 2012 it returned, here to Christmas Past / Present / Future the shit out of me.

First, the pain.  The five weeks of pain.  The pain of someone throwing a hammer into your mouth, again, and again, every eight-to-twenty-three seconds, all hours of the day, merely dulled by thousands of milligrams of ibuprofen.  But worse than the pain – the real loss – was the struggle to hold onto any thought, any hard thought, any easy thought; to process any complex information, to learn a new case, to have the energy and discipline and desire to give a shit.  So first, it attacked the organ I have cherished and relied upon my whole life: that Brain.

And then, on a day I had to moot, my face began to swell.  Nobody could tell but me. But my lips and tongue knocked each other asunder as I tried to articulate my pain-dulled logic.  So then, it took the gift I’d known I’d had for a decade: my voice.

And then, it blew up.  And between my face and my now-fleshy corpus, I wanted to do nothing but hide; and I hated myself for my vanity.  So finally, it stripped me of the weapon I’d only recently learned to deploy: my looks.  (But to be fair, I’d already been bewildered that 2L girls knew me for my clothes; it’s still a little confusing to be known as anyone but a brash, bookish, bounce of a bitch.)

My body is mortal.  My left foot caves; my right knee pops; my left shoulder crunches; my right toe snaps.  Sometimes, in contexts I haven’t yet identified, my left ear rings.  I do not carry extra weight, per se, but deservedly soft patches are a frank reminder that I should convert potential to kinetic.  I can turn me.  That energy doesn’t disappear.  I am always turning me.

This body is just another black hole.  We add to it and add to it and add to it and it keeps accepting whatever we can push toward it, and we walk around with everything all the time.  So today I finished two new American books, and those are in me; but so are The Berenstain Bears and Magic Johnson and “Kokomo” tooted on my scratched-up plastic clarinet and the salty Pacific and that purple-and-neon-green frilly-ass two-piece I detested and my mom thought was adorable that I wore into the 1990 sea.

A season-old scar curves twenty inches up my right calf.  Hello!  Ms. Parks!  You are an idiot sometimes!  The scar mocks me for being so thoughtless to warp a solo ten-mile day hike into a seventeen-miler, and for discarding Leave No Trace as the sun dipped dangerously low.

I was lost, and the snowpack was light that year, so the lake was miles beyond where I’d expected.  So the shadows stretched and I couldn’t recognize the trails –> I plowed through all those fucking bushes in the way, I suicidally pulled myself up sheer granite faces, I, with my terrible balance, I trotted across logs and streams and rocks and gravel because they were going to be worried sick about me and it was all my own goddam fault and why the hell didn’t I think to use a map?  But I wasn’t scared, because I was tired and pissed and wanted to get my ass home; and I disgusted myself for taking a leisurely pre-triathlon Rest Day traipse and perverting it into the Oregon Fucking Trail, all green light and black void and continual crashing.  OkCupid tells the world I’m More Arrogant.  I’ve grown to recognize it’s right.


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