I've been talking to myself in a baby voice, when in a room only with my thoughts and toddler-esque shadow. Coddling myself like a big sister, like, I imagine, a mother. Where my soul is a freelancing, air bending, let the world move me, gypsy, my heart is a newborn with clotting. It needs a close eye and constant care. When alone too long, the baby that still sits in me cries. And when I've been alone too long, my reflection is barely four feet tall, ice cream all over her face, staring at the floor and looking up at her daddy, arms raised for a pick up, teary-eyed pointing at the cone she's dropped on the floor. Puffy cheeks nuzzled in the comfort of being carried home in a rock, cradled in the pocket of a safety chest.
But the contemporary truth is, that I am five feet and nine inches tall, that I'll be 20 years old in exactly 20 days. And I've developed new nests to hatch in - in the smile of my little sister and the smell of her hugs, in the burrowing lap of my two-year lovesong and the sonority of his sleeptalk. No one thought it was possible, not science, not God, but they'd been massaging out my clots and, like they were only clay to begin with, reforming them into workable wings. Chipped away at a shell, wings slowly forming, heart warming and doing its damnedest to work, it seemed as if the newborn was starting to fur into her age. I've felt my egg is re-shelling around me. My clay wings turning to soot. My heart developing a murmur, yelling its pulses for her and him. I am just four feet tall. My arms are raised but there is no one here to pick me up. Take me back to homes. There is ice cream all over my face.
I missed my sister's eleventh birthday this week. I know she'll have many more years to celebrate her tip into geriatricity and sport anime gear like the Comic Con nightmare-dream I secretly admire her for, that there will many cakes to cut and songs to sing and really, who remembers their eleventh birthday? But to be away from her, not by account of distance or exams, but by helplessness, I feel a self-centered ache of absence. The part of my heart that keeps itself strong with the reminder of sisterly love feels thin and far away, even though the adult in me knows the Mayans said nothing about 2020. Even though I know we will survive. It feels at times like missing her might kill me if the virus doesn't. And it's a reversal isn't it? I've cleaned her diapers, taught her to read, wiped her face, rocked her to bed. She's told me secrets and yelled in emotional outpour and yet, now, I need her. To let me make her smile. To remind me there is love. At a distance, this specific distance which feels so much farther than it did when I spent the first semester of freshman year huddled away from her in my dorm room, I have to rely on a waning, shaking, tired intellect that she will come back and when she does, she will still love me too.
It's been hard dividing myself from my jealousy recently, too. The girl in my film class who is passing the days with her partner. The person who went to visit their girlfriend when flights were cancelled, now they're sharing a box of Oreos with their legs over each other in a Florida beach house. Of the boy in poetry class who smiled away from the camera on Zoom as a pretty, pony-tailed girl came to kiss him on the forehead. The freshman girl who asked her boyfriend if Linguistics vocal exercises made her sound silly during our online class. I'm uncontrollably tantrum-thrust jealous of the blanket he sleeps with. The shirt he wears. The couch he sits on, the food he eats, the book pages he touches. I'm jealous of his father and brother, of his sister.
We talk for hours each day, dedicate Tuesdays to Mad Men and Fridays to dressy FaceTime date nights, and tell each other "I love you" more than ever. I've been losing at virtual scrabble to him for days. He sends me pictures of himself everyday, upon request, smiling and dressed to the nines to sit in a cat-puke decorated basement. We are doing everything Glamour Magazine is telling long distance couples to do and I almost convinced myself it felt okay.
I gave myself 10 minutes of honesty this morning. And it was as if all the ice cream stores were going out of business and my daddy's arms had fallen off. It's melted and dried sticky over me like sun-bitten blood and vomit. I spent seven hours folded within myself, fetal, crying. Feeling like my muscle was being ripped from my bones, wishing and unwishing that the pain would let me sleep until the days of separation are finished. Begging a universe responding to our ruthlessness for just one more look, once more passing glance, one more kiss, one favor to let me feel safe one more time before hes stolen from me and I am left to melt in my own acidic abyss. I'm losing love for myself, becoming disenchanted with the pink skies and yellow daises outside, the longer his touch is left to linger and squander itself on my arms where he squeezed goodbye. For two years he has pat my head into sweet dreams and held me inside myself. Now my guts are falling out all over the place and the baby inside me is screaming, crying, screeching at 2 am just wanting to be held and bounced. I want him to pick up my cone from the ground and take me back inside for a new one, hold my hand and point at the rainbow sprinkles, give me a high five and ask me if I'm happy again. To walk me home and smile as I ask for a napkin, small and wide eyed. I want him to tell me to wash my hands and that its time for bed. I want him to put my head on his chest, lay a hand over my eyes, and scare away the bad dreams. Assure me that, when I wake up, whenever I see him again, he will still love me.
I know this isn't the end of the world. That my sister and my boyfriend will still be there. That we will be together again for birthdays and sleepovers. But right now, I am diving into a truth of myself that is almost cruel. There are still things to smile about, but the distance of my love is making survival survivable. I'm excited for their warmth to take the puff out of my cheeks.
I've been talking to myself in a baby voice when I'm alone. Close your eyes, baby. I love you, baby. I got you. It'll be okay. You are loved, you are loved.