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Mission 100 Days: Building on the Broken

By Grace Brown, Opinion Editor


Suddenly, now that I’m in a foreign country, everyone looks like someone I already know

and I wonder if perhaps there are a finite amount of faces in the world all just being recycled,

which could perhaps be solid proof of reincarnation.

I am increasingly inclined to believe,

except for the fact that two faces for the same soul couldn't exist on the planet at the same time,

I remind myself;

unless of course, I rebuttal fleetingly, one of them is already dead.


Maybe I would be of those dead faces walking around void of a soul

if that one professor that taught me how to be nice to writing hadn’t pointed out

that I was faking my entire life, basically,

but he was nicer about it than I’ve ever been to an essay.

I might still be trying to stuff my perceived personality through that tiny hole in hotel doors

instead of stepping back (out of my own way)

and peeping through the glass at all those possibilities waiting patiently outside like wee dogs

for me to choose one and take him home.


Because I think sometimes we build our dreams on broken mirrors

that fracture the reflection of who we really are into a hundred little pieces

and we pick one of these and say ‘This is who I am,’

but we grasp onto this sliver of ourselves so tightly that our skin splits right open

and blood runs all over the people closest to us until we find apologies spilling out of us, too.

We so stubbornly cling to this shard of ourselves that we forget change is natural

evolution and all that, right?

That's what I’ve been telling my flatmates, at least, while I act like I am weathered and wise

beyond the two years I actually have on them

as though the handful of heartaches I’ve endured has made me an old and jaded hermit.


When in reality I’m not sure I’ve really gained anything from

the years I spent starving myself and chewing more gum than I could afford,

braving the icy pavement in the snowy cemetery for routine runs that wore my feet raw

bruised and bloodied and bunioned,

sort of like the one-pot dinners of vegetables I undernourished myself with daily,

the skin of red onions and beets leaving potent stains on my fingertips and lips

as though I applied lipstick or maybe kissed someone too long and strong

or all the blue nights I spent lying awake

memorizing the stubby whiskers and placid eyelids of someone I thought I could love forever,

a promise of warmth in the April night air that whispered across our toe tips

since I always insist on sleeping with the window open and he could never tell me no,

even on the coldest nights when the wind tore

at cracks in his fingertips so wide and beckoning I felt I could pour my entire heart into them,

maybe fill them, fix them up;

except of course great writing material

since we really write about the things that break our hearts the worst.


But even if that is true

all my insides still twist and churn to think about the sobby sort of icky-sticky poetry

and prose, for that matter,

forced upon the eyes of my endlessly compassionate creative writing professor

who would never and will never admit how much he disenjoyed

wading through the tidepool of my high school trauma

but to whom I would like to offer the heartiest apologies as well as gratuities

for always grinning through the grimacing and being kind and cool and wise enough

to build the ladder I needed to haul myself out of that swirling water.


And sometimes I think about the person my high school teachers adored

with her lawerly aspirations and nonexistent work-life boundaries,

who was on a strict Beatles-only diet and refused to taste any music released after 1968,

who lectored at church and acted in semi-sincere devotional videos

and had made peace with settling for perpetual suburbia;

if they knew me now — and not that I’m all worldly and shit —

but if they knew I listen to Tupac and really like Guinness but really hate Labatt Blue

and Molson for that matter,

that I swear too much and sometimes pretend I speak Brooklynese

and decidedly detest Tim Horton’s crayon water coffee,

that I meditate and sing Hare Krishna and do the “Swami Step” every Wednesday night

and might even have a crush on a monk;

Would they still think my future is bright and limitless?

Young and white and free?


But hey, that's alright, I wouldn’t even recognize me now

eating sheep’s stomach and a slew of other grossities I don't want to know three times a week,

and tatties with brown sauce,

so much brown sauce.

Little vegetarian cold skinny and not-old-enough-to-feel old me

wouldn’t believe how little I care

about all the carbs and calories in there because my body is not my identity.

My therapist said so, at least,

and maybe that’s why I decided not to get another tattoo

or maybe it’s just because the thrill is gone since my mom found out

but either way I don’t worry anymore.


I only worry about God and if it's all a lie,

if there is a life after this one

when we close our eyes for the last time

or if it is an endless mass of heavy black waiting to swallow us up.

But when I sit on a bench framed squarely in the final dredges of sunlight

peeking over the roofs of neighboring townhouses like that guy Tom

spilling into the park green and searching the crevices of now-celibate fountains

I drink in the songs of birds and relish every drop

even marveling at the way children’s shouts harmonize perfectly, although I don’t like kids,

on a day like this which boasts the perpetual May of Scottish springs,

at least in comparison to the New England Februaries of my memory,

it all seems okay.

And despite feeling vaguely hungry while thinking fondly

of the leftover chips (with brown sauce!) awaiting my return to the fridge,

I do not want to go home.

I am not ready to leave this life yet.


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