A Still Life

I like a still life, a painting of a pitcher of flowers or pieces of fruit piled high in a ceramic bowl
Sometimes life is so still, the privacy of it bleeds out
I value the stillness, the privacy
but I let it out of myself and then feel disdain for that boisterous part of me, for letting the world into the stillness, into the privacy

I like a still life, a world alone with far-reaching thoughts and dreams, making the stillness seem eternal with hope and nightmares
Sometimes the stillness suffocates, it’s all too close
I hate the suffocation, the endlessness
but who cares? my friend asks, leaving me ashamed of sharing, of opening myself out of the stillness and into a world of remorse

I am showing you my stillness
admitting my shamefulness
revealing the secret of my weakness

I like a still life, of peace and quiet and solitude and dreaming and visions and privacy and bleeding and death and grief
I see the demons of life creeping out into the light in the middle of solitude
not the demons with wings and talons and razor-sharp teeth, whose essence is invisible and imaginary,
but the real demons of memories and regrets, of loss and deception, of betrayal and lies

I like a still life where the battles are silent and the victories are private, where all I smell is hay, all I see is lemon rinds
a still life is not still
the peonies blow away from the pitcher, the apple rolls out of the bowl
the still life is alive
privacy is revealed
the solitude blows away in the wind

It Felt Like Confusion

He looked like a teacher or someone’s uncle, the man who tried to molest me in the movie theater. They didn’t talk us through scenarios back then of how to respond to creepy old men sitting next to you and slipping their hand into your chair. I felt afraid, and tried to crawl as far away as I could, climbing halfway into the lap of my best friend on the other side. I finally grabbed her hand and whispered, “Come with me, NOW!” I was horrified and frightened and at a loss for how to respond. Tell an adult. Find an employee. Run. Why didn’t I think of any of those responses? I was frozen. I wasn’t even sure what he wanted. A grown man. I was twelve.

They looked like men who would be friends with our dads, the men who tried to pick us up like we were virgin prostitutes. But we were too young to grasp what was happening. Our mothers hadn’t told us not to sit on the grassy corner of a street to talk and giggle. They never told us that men prowled our quiet suburban streets looking for girls like us. Exchange of money for an exchange of innocence. “How much?” they’d ask and we’d respond with, “How much for what?” We didn’t comprehend the adult game these men were playing. They could’ve been our dads. Two girls braiding daisy chains and enjoying the sunshine on a grassy corner on a quiet residential street. We were naive and so close to danger. Grown men. I was thirteen.

He looked like any other preteen boy, gangly and handsome in a little boy way, the boy who grabbed my breasts every day at school. But I was made to feel guilty for developing early. “Girls with big breasts are easy. They’re asking for it,” the boys whispered to each other. I wasn’t the only one being molested every day in the crowded Junior High hallways between classes. Other girls had breasts, too. We told the school officials, they told us he’s a good boy. A good student. They told us we should be ashamed for enticing nice boys. One woman called my friend a slut. We told our mothers. They told us boys will be boys and to stay away from them if we didn’t like it. Like it? We learned to hold our notebooks clutched protectively to our chests. We learned to wear baggy t-shirts that didn’t show our budding figures. We learned that no one would back us up if we sought help. A teenage boy. I was fourteen.