I wanted love letters and fireworks. I launched a boomerang into the cosmos, and it brought back the the taste of shame and the sound of bile rising in my esophagus. In the beginning, all you wanted to do was show me off, and I should have seen that I only existed in the ways that I could make you look good. You fired the gun, and implied consent became the bullet lodged in the curve of my hip, the scream that couldn’t escape from its shell. I learned that if I said yes once, I could never take it back, and in my naivete, this made sense, even if it was a type of sense that was painted with a thin layer of cognitive dissonance. In our wedding photos, you can see the despair in my eyes, and I felt as trapped as Barnum & Bailey’s tigers must feel. Circumstance issued me a set of blinders that recognized my need to survive, and I didn’t see the holes you were leaving from my peripheral vision. I didn’t know any better, and I don’t know if I can pin you to the metaphorical wall of culpability if the word “no” is still one I don’t know how to say. My eyes were my traffic lights, but that wasn’t enough. It will never be enough. You are the screams heard as a gun goes off, and I remembered the way you would slide your hands between my legs as I pretended to sleep, and prayed to every deity I knew that you weren’t feeling persistent. I feel broken. I learned to fake orgasms so you would go away, and I learned to stifle myself and walk on eggshells, in the hopes that I wouldn’t be insulted that day. I started feeling suffocated, and I carried my hurt on the outside of my jacket, but you either didn’t see it or didn’t care. On the rare occasion you could see it through the storm clouds and lightning, you told me I was hurt because I wanted to be hurt, that I was angry because it made me feel good, and if you came to bed like that, well, you must have wanted it. I was 24 years old and you were but a prison tattoo on my soul when I found out in a hotel in lower Chelsea that sex didn’t have to hurt, and that “please don’t do that” wasn’t always met with coercion tactics and the suffocation that came when you did what you wanted anyway. I watched my reflection on the ceiling as a beautiful boy wished me a happy birthday with his cock, and I hoped he could fuck me as hard as I hated myself. I became the smell of Newports and Jack Daniels, and you continued to be the lump in the back of my throat. The handcuffs you used to stifle me came off on the corner of Park and 42nd while my eyes shot daggers at passersby and a beautiful man with skin that reminded of chocolate and a voice like molasses and velvet told me I had the most beautiful smile. I refuse to believe that you ever knew what love was, because I’m still not as jaded as I should be. You tell me you have a woman, and you’re taking it slow out of respect for me. Respect is a word you don’t know the definition of; or if you do, it was never owed to me. I hope she is stronger than I was. I hope she has already learned to walk with a broken bottle in her hand. I still can’t have sex without the heat of whiskey burning in my cheeks. I still want love letters, and I want to be held as my body pulses with hurt that I can’t put a name to. I still apologize to others for my existence. My laugh is filled with desire, and my eyes are now planets. If you stare into them for long enough, you can see Heaven, and I hope Heaven looks like the Dominican Republic and your voice doesn’t slam into me like a freight train and the holes you left in me don’t leave scars. Your hands are broken glass, and I am still pulling the shards out of my chest. I still don’t believe that I am beautiful, inside or out. I am not yet convinced that you weren’t just punishment for my not being good enough. I wish you had hit me, so I could have run and not be so wholly convinced that my body is an obscenity that I need to apologize for. I wonder if I was born to serve as a warning to others. When I have a daughter, I will teach her the word no, and how to unhook it from the sharp edges at the back of her throat. I will teach her how to love and be loved and how to accept nothing less. I will teach her to go in ready to fight and how to wage a war against not just the word, but the entire concept of disrespect. I don’t want her entire life to be an extended apology. I don’t want her to be as tired as I am from not being able to forget how to sleep with her right eye open. I don’t want her to have all of these memories that she just wishes she could find a how-to guide on forgetting. I don’t want her footsteps to be the beat of despair. I want her to know the things I still haven’t learned. I don’t want her lying awake at night, cursing the limitations of language for lacking a proper word for this anvil around my neck inscribed with the words “what do you call it when you didn’t know that you were allowed to say no?”
Here’s what I’ve got, the reasons why our marriage
might work: Because you wear pink but write poems
about bullets and gravestones. Because you yell
at your keys when you lose them, and laugh,
loudly, at your own jokes. Because you can hold a pistol,
gut a pig. Because you memorize songs, even…
“i’ve held you in front of blinking manatees,
tucked moonlight into secret places for you,
and together we’ve seen some of the lamest teen comedies hollywood has to offer.
but you failed to see the magic in that.
or rather, failed to need nurturing simple gifts the way i did.
the past had you…
I remember lying on a bed in New York, watching my reflection in the mirror above me, as this boy who you could hardly see with the lights off pounded into me, and I was so drunk that I thought if he pounded me hard enough, he could get rid of all my self-hatred and I could be valued. I could be of worth.
I was so naive to think that anything could ever make me valuable. So very naive.
Even though it’s artistically lacking, I can’t help but love reggaeton. All that time with the Nuyoricans, maybe, but it is the carefree kind of thing I need most of the time. It reminds me of the days before I was this broken.