Vinny chats me up as one can do in 8th grade
(as boys can do in 8th grade), and says,
“Girls look better with their hair down.”
Allie tells me over pizza in a torn up, faux leather booth:
“People think you’re really pretty.”
“Take the bait,” they whisper.
“We are you.”
Your face, your words,
we hold them in our hands.
I grew fragile.
“Not to mention you’re beautiful,”
a text from Devin I saved on my phone for 2 years,
a reminder that if I kept this up,
I could be loved.
“You’re special,” they said.
“Your precise,” they reminded.
“Keep it up.”
I never heard them clearly;
it was always muffled in my ears.
Confidence was for the battlefield,
and without cleats on my feet
and a soccer ball underneath
I depended, fully,
Vinny was saying he “saw my potential”
and in that moment he pointed a finger at a moon
I did not know — that lights up the sky day and night.
With each step forward from that statement came promise,
like one day my body would, miraculously, lift off the ground and fly.
High school: I worked, observed, learned to follow the rules.
I made friends. I chased boys (or at least followed the chasers).
I saw a twinkle form in my eyes like the sun hitting my face
and I felt something grow: confidence big enough to sew a sweater.
That confidence was soft and warm and humble,
each stitch a modest color, so I put it on:
oh, the comfort…the ease.
This is my skin, clear as day.
I don’t need all of these words–
they’re woven into my Long Island DNA
and somewhere…somewhere…I seized it.
College: I was prepared!
My sweater was woven!
My charm was rooted!
Soccer, friends, face.
And then, college happened.
And it was full of devils,
people a mere sweater cannot take on
you want — comfort?
We’ll beat you.
You want — friendship?
We’ll desert you.
You think you’ve got talent?
We’ll show you.
Bam bam bam.
My skin faded, my body ached,
and what can a person do but blame what is left?
Wisdom swims through my veins.
Nana has her Jesus
and I have my Julia de Burgos
and that’s quite alright with me.
I build a new ship to freedom…
something you cannot wear, but ride–
invisible on all sides, impenetrable,
so much so that my world forgets the words
“break” and “fear” and “fall,”
that Kenny’s story can be his own.
that Marlena’s antagonism can be her own,
and that I can feel the wisdom in me,
the quiet confidence that does not need
a coach to tell me my worth.
I just play.
December 22, 2018