I admit, at twenty-two I still waste a few hours each week scrolling through Tumblr, catching up on internet-politics, laughing at Pokémon Meme’s, and re-blogging hipster lesbian posts and quotes that somehow touch me. A few days ago, I stumbled upon a “Three Minute Personality Test”, a series of questions written by Donna Marie Riley that were inspired by a similar type of prose by Jonathon Safran Foer, the writer who I, arguably, quote most-frequently. While answering the questions in my mind is an interesting though-exercise, responding with written language is more challenging, requires a more intense level of self-reflection, a level of reflection I’m interested in obtaining during this transitional period in my life.
How many people have you kissed whose names you don’t remember? I know the first names of everyone whose lips have met mine. When I was in ninth grade, still four years before a set of lips would lock with mine for the first time, before a tongue would land red and wanting in my mouth, I made myself a promise, which I inevitably have to admit I have broken: to learn the middle names of every lover who’s lips pressed against mine, to learn the middle name of every person I’d take to bed.
Do you use more than the advised amount of softener when you do laundry? Absolutely, lavender. The most feminine scent that touches my body, poured in excess. Is it because I’m a hypochromic? Is it simply because I’m rich, and at times, wasteful? Or is it simply because the detergent holder is so much larger than required amount of softener?
Where would you go if no one had to know you were there? Portland, Oregon. I would pack up my car and return to the person I got to be last summer. Perhaps nobody would have to know that I was there, but everyone would know, my love for the place written all over the way I navigate the world. An Azar Nafisi quote exemplifies my emotions when last summer came to a close and I hopped on a plane back to Connecticut, as I prepared to begin my senior year: “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place”. I want to know how it feels to return, I want to learn whether or not it is possible.
If you are reading a book and the book stirs something deep inside you, and nobody is around to hear it, do you still make a sound? If you’re touching yourself and something deep inside you is stirred, but nobody is around to hear it, do you still make a sound? Do you still allow yourself to moan? Which is to say, yes. Absolutely, yes.
When you are faking eye contact, do you look at someone’s eyebrows, mouth, or nose? If I’m staring at your lips, it is absolutely intentional, it means that I want to kiss you, to feel you blush at my boldness, to feel the red swell against your cheeks as my eyes gaze distracts you. If I’m faking eye contact, I will look at your eyebrows, but I’m not one to back down from the connection that happens when two sets of eyes lock.
What is your mother’s maiden name? Ann Marie Reaves, the last name I so badly wish she and I could share now that my parents have gotten divorced, in love with the soft subtly of it’s letters, the way it neither hides or reveals an ethnic identity, a heritage.
Do you know where your house keys are right now? In the zippered compartment of the canvas bag I used to carry my computer to my favorite coffee-shop this morning. Enclosed in a pocket alongside my debit card, a pair of sunglasses, a set of earbuds, and a stray piece of gum: the essentials for leaving home.
Are you first to sadness or to anger? To sadden, always to sadden. The cancer in me always coming through in the ease with each my shoulders slump, my teeth find my lip, chew. Or perhaps it’s the skin around my thumbs, the skin pink and sensitive from the gnawing against my gums. If I anger, it doesn’t look like thrown plates, broken appliances, or loud swears, it looks like indifference. When angry, I pull on a protective shield of indifference, a blank stare nestled deep in my my eyes, cold and flippant, a dismissiveness coats my language, in the way I engage with the person who has angered me. Sometimes relationships have a breaking point, a point of no return, a point where the apology is accepted, but nothing is ever quite the same. A devastation.
How many texts that you haven’t replied to are currently in your inbox? Does this mean you are too popular or too distant? More than I’d like to admit, perhaps twenty, maybe even as high as thirty. This is not representative of my popularity, but rather, my distance, my impatience with technology and the shallowness of text conversation. I don’t want a text with a casual greeting. I want questions, compassion. I want passion. Tell me your biggest fears? What song comes to mind when you smell a hospital? When was the last time you woke screaming? Crying? What toothpaste do you use, and is there a story behind it? Do you remember the sound you made when you first made someone come? What month do you most dread? If it’s not February, tell me, how do you get through it? Have you ever put your shoes in the washing machine? What undergarments do you wear during an interview? What’s your dirtiest fantasy? If you could be called anything in bed, what would you choose? Which sense most-easily conjures the image of your grandfather when he lay in the unforgiving coffin? Where were you when the events of 9/11 took place? Can you describe the smell of your own tears?
If you had to watch a montage of all the worst things you’ve ever done, would you still be able to sleep that night? The anxiety and stress of being unemployed have resulted in vivid dreams, sometimes even nightmares, that I wake-up convinced are reality. I wake gasping for my mother, certain she has died. This is not the case, she is asleep downstairs with the cat at her feet. It is these nightmares that inspired a poem I wrote recently, “Obituary”.
I wake in the morning sure
my mother is dead, my father alive;
other times I wake, she is alive
& he is dead. Neither are the state
of things. I wake urgent to build
a gaggle of grandmas: mu mother
duplicated for my future fetuses
out of sunset, fog & cashmere mist.
Back rubs pour from her fingers &
Older now, I call her by her first name:
a sense of familiarity. I don’t know
if the sky is filled with a God
who knows me better than me
but thirty years from now the sky
is my mother. My future lovers & I
backflat to grass look up find shapes
in the clouds: an elephant I guess
thinking of the picture in the bathroom,
socks, I say remembering her feet;
she is with me then. But in the morning
I am a child, untethered & sucking my toes.
My dreams and nightmares so vivid I spend minutes at the start of each morning deciphering the fantastical world of my mind from the reality. The point? If I had to watch a montage of all the world things I’ve ever done, the images would wheel through my mind vivid and certain, keeping me awake.
Confession: I broke up with the rape victim after six-months of insufficient foreplay. I convinced my mother she could find better, that my father’s lack of energy would slowly kill her. I ruined an engagement. I made a fat joke. I used the wrong pronouns. I stole money from my father for my mother. I smoked a cigarette every morning the November my senior year of high school. I told a lie. I flushed the Viagra. I took an Adderall. I break hearts as certainly as one disposed of molded bread. What is left, trembles almost-violently.
Do you check your shoes for spiders before you put them on? Yes. Just as I still check for monsters under the bed and in the closet.
Are you ever afraid you’re not very good at kissing? No.
The first time a kissed the sailor I’ve recently taken as a lover, a pair of of lips I’m convinced have kissed in a past life: a battle wound. As my lips moved against hers, I prepared for my signature move, my teeth grabbing for the bottom lip, sliding deliberately and slowly along its flesh; four hours later, she grabs my chin and curses under her breath, “fuck”. Looking up, I realize I have left her bottom lip swollen, tender, red and puffed. Two minutes of holding the bag of ice to her lips and she’s at my mouth again, hungry.
There is a right and wrong time to be tender. There is an eroticism in hunger.
Do you disagree? If so, the reason: incompatibility.
Is there anything cruel about love? Yes. I am not here to apologize. There is something large and monstrous about love. There is something lavender as the coming storm. Something wolfteeth and puppytongue and a growl that tastes like blook. There is something inconsolable.
Is there a rule against laughing insincerely? If there was, would you still break it? I don’t want to live in a world where two lovers don’t sometimes laugh insincerely at each other’s jokes. I don’t want to live in a world where something contagious, positive is judged based on a scale of sincerity. Instead, I want laughter, like I want to love, without rules.
Why does rage flood through you? “When something ceases to bring you pleasure, you cannot talk the pleasure back into it”- Maggie Nelson.
When you think of the person you’ve loved most in this world, why do your hands start shaking? I am already writing the eulogy of the person I love most in the world, already preparing for their death.
Who ever taught you to tie your shoelaces? My mom. Who taught me anything I know? Her, always her.
If you were offered all the happiness in this lifetime in exchange for the next not having any, would you forsake your future self in order to benefit this one? No. In my previous lifetimes I did not make that choice, and in this lifetime I will not make that choice. In this life and in every life that follows I will choose sadness and happiness because how can you protect yourself from sadness without also protecting yourself from happiness (Jonathon Safran Foer).
If you’re caught on a bridge and there’s no way forward and no way back, is there still a way off it? If you answered no, have you had too few tragedies? If you answered yes, have you had too many or are you assuming the fall won’t kill you? I am not an engineer or an architect. I am a woman with a capable body, with a body that does what I want it to do. My body will survive, I has every second up until now. The human body is a strong thing.
If you had to write your own eulogy, would you make your own mother cry? Yes.
Do you apologize too much? Yes.
Do you apologize enough? No.
Whose face do you think of when I say the word regret? My first loves. My fathers. A coincidence? Of course not.
Would you give up having children for a better childhood of your own? This question gives me anger the color of maroon. This question gives me heavy boots and big scowls. I would not change my childhood, but I still have not decided whether or not I want to have children. A hesitancy that is entirely wrapped up in fear of being a bad mother, in fear of the pain of childbirth, in fear of missing out on that womanly experience.
What is the best way to nurse a large and brutal heartache? From experience I know: the best way to nurse a heartbreak is to run where you feet must take you. The reason? The longer you run, the further the distance.
Can you miss someone you haven’t met yet? I have never missed someone who I haven’t already met in a passed life.
What ever happened to your baby teeth? I believed in the tooth fairy until I was eleven. We all have things we believe in despite all logic because we have to. I have eight baby teeth saved in a small blue-mesh satchel that is buried beneath other things I’m too sentimental to dispose of in a giant black chest upstairs.
If someone made you answer all these questions, and you had to be truthful, could you still look them in the eye afterwards? If someone made you answer all these questions, and you had to be truthful, would you be grateful to unload it all? If you had to answer, and you had to be truthful, who would you want to be asking the questions? I believe in the click, but do I believe in soulmates? I want my soulmate to ask me these questions.