My Body, My Choice

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.”

 

10th grade:

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,

your worth:

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,

on this

damn

face.

 

Middle school:

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.

 

What sweater?

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

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after the game

when

all

I

want

to do

is scream

about the patriarchy

but I know I’d just

perpetuate

a stereotype

what am I supposed to do

when I score a goal on you

and you act like I’m a tree

whose branch luckily swayed

in the right direction

what am I supposed to do

when I tackle you

as well as some dude

but my lack of maleness

makes you stutter

I’m not sorry

that girls can do

what you can do;

I am not sorry

that, sometimes,

we do it better, too.

 

I am 24 years old,

playing a game I love

more than men

for 20 and have been playing

with them, side by side,

for the same.

 

I’ve always loved being the underdog.

 

but why can’t you

just put your head down like you do

when your friend nails a freakin maradona

these things are not so hard to do

when we treat this sport like a drug

admit that it’s mine, too;

that just because your body

can lift 200 pounds doesn’t mean

mine can’t kick your ass

with a soccer ball

that’s all I want:

the chance to come to a game,

ponytail in tow,

and still feel like I belong

to something that was here

long before I called it my own,

long before I learned

that girls aren’t supposed to do

what boys do.

 

all the friends and teams,

games and sprains, fields

and nails to the head,

bruised knees and toes,

championships and titles later

 

and these guys still insist

I need to prove myself.

 

I am not a tree

standing in the wind.

 

I am a woman–

and a pretty damn good soccer player.

 

March 4, 2016