Speak

 They talked about what was lost, what had been taken away

They cried about broken trust and they poured out their rage

I sat in the circle wanting to fix them, not speaking

They took turns revealing wounds and scars and falling to pieces

They saw each other as safety, recognition of shared experience

I cried quietly and wanted to undo their past

They looked at me and asked the question

I couldn’t speak

I couldn’t share 

I hadn’t lost anything

I could still see the untouched, innocent, pure picture of me, in my head

I couldn’t reach him, but he wasn’t dead

So I didn’t tell them I understood, because I didn’t

I didn’t spill my hurts, my pains, my betrayals,

I was scared that they could tell the difference

If I showed my wounds

They would know that I hurt so much more for theirs

If I told my story they would hear the disregard I held for myself, they would know that I could see the hurt, but not feel it, I could remember the pain but never touch it, I could still hear the little boy crying and screaming in my mind but I couldn’t reach him to offer comfort, 

So I didn’t say anything, in that room where five teenage girls explained how they were abused, and I never explained why I was there. 

I kept my words inside and I never thought much of it, 

I couldn’t feel how hurt that boy was, 

I could feel the pain of those girls and my sisters and my friends and all the girls and women who had been hurt, I could see how they would suffer without end, and I was a boy turning into a man, I had no time to fit suffering into the plan, whatever I felt was moss growing on the other side of the wall, I know that it was there but I couldn’t reach it at all

But I could have spoken up in that room

I should have

That little boy deserved some respect

This Is What You’ll Say

I am three months and a week from my fortieth birthday and I miss my mom. 

I am the father of three crazy, beautiful, intelligent boys and I miss my grandmother. 

I am living a love story with a girl I met when I was eight years old and I miss my sister. 

I am working on being able to reconnect with my daughter and I miss my daughter. 

The other night I was talking with my wife about dying. It’s not unusual to do this, we have had rough lives and her mom died a month ago. She and I have a deep understanding of the temporary state of life and, honestly, sometimes life is rough enough for us that we each consider that it would be easier to end. 

I’m not going to kill myself. My wife isn’t going to kill herself. 

We talk. We argue. We cry together, sometimes. We care about each other, and because we each have some self-loathing we usually care more about each other than we do for ourselves. 

Sorry… I get sidetracked. 

So we’re talking, lying in bed, and I ask, 

“What will you say to the kids if I die?” 

She starts to say that she’ll tell them I loved them and they’ll get through it, and they-

“No.” I said, “What will you say to Aidan?”

Aidan is our six-year-old hurricane. He is overly emotional (like me), he is overly intellectual for his age (like I was), he is and has been over-the-top expressive and reactive to everything, all the time (like me). 

I am the only one he will listen to. I am the lifeline that pulls him in when he is flailing. I am his hope, because he knows I understand him. I am his, and he is mine and we both know that we need each other. 

So I asked my wife, “What will you tell Aidan?” 

She doesn’t know. She made me promise not to kill myself, she’s convinced that if I died she will wither up like a tomato plant in Fresno during August (it’s hot).

She doesn’t know how to get through Aidan’s maze. He doesn’t know how to interact with her. She loves him as fiercely as she can, and he loves her as insanely as any boy has loved his mother, and they clash. Two storms fighting for control, and they usually both end up very upset. 

Sorry… I digress. 

What would she say to him? 

Daddy died and now you have to figure things out yourself. All the chaotic emotion raging through your mind are now yours alone, the only one that knows the way through is gone. 

So here I am, just in case. 

Aidan, if it’s time for you to read this, then I’m not coming home. I’m sorry. 

I need you to know so many things that I didn’t get a chance to tell you. I have all of these dreams for you, so many hopes and ideas of how you will live. 

I can’t start telling you those, for two reasons. First, if I start, I’ll never stop. Second, my dreams for you aren’t big enough for you. 

You’re going to make mistakes. You will do things the wrong way. This is a necessity. Doing things the right way doesn’t teach you much, if anything at all. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. You will get stronger, smarter, better because you won’t want to do things wrong over and over. Do your best when you can. Just do… Don’t let fear of failure stop you from trying. 

I don’t regret anything I’ve done. My only regrets are things I didn’t do. Things I didn’t say. Chances I was too scared to take. Be better than that. 

Don’t let anger be your go-to reaction. Your emotions make you angry, not getting your way makes you angry, being sad or being tired or being hungry or being bored or being ignored or embarrassed or basically everything except music and candy make you angry and I’m telling you in absolute terms, this is going to hurt you. Learn to let anger slide past while your other emotions load up. If your reaction is sadness, be sad. If you’re embarrassed, smile and laugh because it makes embarrassment go away. If you’re going to be angry all of the time, you will make your life so much harder than it needs to be. 

Enjoy the little things, and chase the big things. Little joys are where happiness lives. Eat the cookie. Play the game. Laugh at the stupid joke. You can’t focus only on the big Happy. 

Set goals and work for them. You need a direction and it needs to be your choice. Find the thing that makes your heart beat faster, the thing that makes your brain feel like fire, and just do that. Act, sing, dance, create, do whatever makes you, you. Don’t get so caught up in comfortable happiness that you lose track of your path. 

Be prepared for things to hurt you but don’t worry about the hurt before it comes. You will always recover and the things that hurt deserve to hurt. 

When you love someone, all you can do is give that person your love and hope. You can’t make them into what you want them to be, you don’t get to choose who they are or how they will love you. You can decide what you will allow but you cannot make people give you what you need. 

Sleep when you’re tired, and when you wake up, get up. Don’t lay around doing nothing. It makes your mind stagnant. 

Eat when you’re hungry and when you feel you’ve had enough, stop. 

When you miss me, remember me. Think of the times we shared. Think about my smile, my laugh, my voice talking to you. Think about the way we connected. Remember the things about me that make you feel good, loved, special.

Because you are good. 

Because you are loved. 

Because you are special. 

Don’t ever, not for one moment, believe that I am gone. I am right here, thinking of you. You’re asleep and your brothers and Mom are sleeping, and it’s quiet. I’m thinking of you, and my heart is wrapped around you, and I will always be right here in this moment. 

Can you see me, son? I’m smiling, and loving you, and I will be, 

always. 

In Difference


I don’t know you. 

There’s no cheat sheet for life. We each get our own instruction manual when we’re born, but it’s written in a language we have to learn. 

I can remember a story about a boy, he grew into me. That memory is meaningless in my life, despite being the only foundation I have to define myself. 

What I know of myself today is that I am capable of things I never expected. I am talented and strong. I am expressive and openly emotional. 

Those few things don’t define me. 

I am mid-way through a life expectancy, and I have yet to figure out how I belong in my own life, beyond a very strong attachment to my current situation. 

I choose to let my emotional reactions to experiences be the prow of my ship. I cut the waters of my journey with how I feel. I direct my path by what feels right to me. 

I am secure in this choice. It suits me. 

I have been faced with opposition to my choice for as long as I have existed. Close or distant, family or friends, I have been told how wrong I am, over and over. 

I have not, I will not allow anyone else to choose my path. 

My path must be travelled by my feet. Nobody else is required to live my life. 

I don’t know you, and I don’t know how you have chosen, and with all due respect, 

I don’t give a damn what you choose. 

Your choices may impact my life. 

Mine might impact yours. 

We are not solitary islands, separated by oceans. We are interactive and interdependent in this reality. We are pieces of a global machine. 

My choices will be mine, and yours will be yours, and that is just fine with me. 

So give me your indifference, in this difference. 

We have our own lives to fuck up. 

Eyes, Skies, Lies


 
It’s okay if you feel like these are just words on a screen, and if that obscures the obscene from your mental regime than I cannot fault your resolve and try to topple your walls, if it’s somethin strange in your neighborhood and you don’t call Ghostbusters than I’m not sure we can really connect. 
So. I see a lowered flag waving from your heart, and I want to help it fly boldly and proudly, to stand true and strong and somehow find light in private imagined darkened rooms, pre-emptively constructed tombs of doubt and despair, to climb up the ladders and fly up the stairs no matter how the stares and the glares might pierce you and demean, your challenges accepted, you are coming clean.
] tell me what you need
And I will provide
When they read of my love for her they look above her but none could ever be supreme to her she is my queen to serve and my life is what she deserves to burn if she wants fire I’m fuel, an uncontested duel of whatever you want and what I’m willing to do, but I would sell my child’s organs for you because my skies are all lies covering a thin disguise and my eyes cannot pry from locked doors and closed minds what truth in my life I should not leave behind.  
i can’t say anything anymore without thinking of how it sounds, 
 
is there a gentle touch inside us all which might propel some form emotional evolution, some type of redistribution of values and ideas which have been seen to be false; perhaps on a cold day all men shiver, and time is a package which never remains undelivered, but the hearts of all creatures are designed with a purpose, to live the next fraction of a second before your life muscles contract, every breath is gone with no guarantee of payback.
At times I think the whole world has gone crazy and at times I know there is no world or any crazy which is crazier than the thought of a placebo effect and we still won’t believe that we are what we perceive…is there any sense to any of these insane pursuits which scuff up our boots and leave us bereft, clinging to the small pieces left from the last time we loved and got broken again. 
someday all the doubts that live in my head will be silenced for good and I will believe what I cannot deny. 
Maybe.

Too Much

When I walked through the door, I saw her. I was briefly angry at my mother for having her there. I was 22 years old and I didn’t want to deal with a bullshit set-up. 

When I saw her, my anger left. I became nervous, and the next three seconds stretched into forever. 

Her eyes met mine. I panicked. 

I looked at my sister.

My sister saw me panicking, glanced at Jennifer, then smiled at me and nodded ever so slightly. 

My panic dissolved, courage flooded my mind, and I 

Reached up and pulled my hair out of the ponytail I was wearing, and I could almost hear Jennifer’s thoughts as I looked back at her after shaking my hair loose

Oh damn, he’s sexy, oh shit his hair is beautiful, haha, he is trying to attract me, oh my God, he likes me, ooh I can deal with this boy

She looked back at me and licked/bit her lower lip briefly, and I knew

That she knew what I was doing

And the three seconds were over, and I knew

That I couldn’t kill myself, as I had planned. 

On the second day, 

We went to Denny’s and my mother fell. She was hurt so we went to Monterey Community Hospital. 

My sister took my mother in, and Jennifer and I sat. We talked about things, but really,

We were sitting and staring at each other’s mouths. 

We walked around the hospital grounds and she told me that it was easier to walk and talk, her therapist used to walk with her along this path while they talked. 

Back at the car, we sat again and as she spoke with nervous energy, I was building courage to kiss her beautiful lips, watching her form words was mesmerising, and I was about to lean in, 

When I saw my mother and sister walking to the car. 

That night, January 13, 2001, after everyone had gone to sleep, I was on the floor asleep and I had a nightmare. 

I woke up and saw Jennifer sleeping a few feet away. 

The light was coming through the window and fell perfectly on her lips. 

I stared for about 20 seconds and she looked at me

I can feel you looking at me

I felt all of the chances I had not taken, every cell in my body urging me forward, I went to her

She watched me

I leaned over her and

lips so soft met mine

her body eagerly pressed up against me

her hands grabbed the back of my neck

We kissed, 

And I realized…

I’m already lost. 

What I Really Meant To Say

I meant to say, I love you, Mom. I was eleven and lying on the living room floor, and she was falling apart. Crying about life, about the difficulty dealing with my youngest brother. She poured out her heart, and then she had to go. 

“I love you,” she sobbed. 

“Bye.” The cold cruelty in my voice startled my brother and I felt something die, inside. 

I meant to say, I need to be your friend. I had been strung out on meth for weeks, maybe months… It gets fuzzy. Fifteen years old and trying to destroy the thing called me. I was desperately in love with her, Twenty-three and so much that I understood. Smart, funny, damaged. She told me that I was too young, of course I was. I told her that I couldn’t hang out with her anymore, because I couldn’t get over wanting her. 

I meant to say, please don’t let me screw this up. Twenty-three and so easily destroying the only real love I had ever found, she needed me and I needed her. We fell in love together, holding hands and reading philosophy and poetry by the ocean. Making love every night and fucking every day. Innocently, desperately, with joy and enthusiasm, we loved our love. We licked it. We breathed it into each other, 

and there I was on the phone, saying, 

don’t come back. Inside my head I was weeping, begging the words to change, please don’t let me do this. I need to be in this love. I can’t let this happen. 

But I did. 

I meant to say, so many things. Death after death after death and I kept thinking of the perfect things to say, too late. Funerals and memorials and another and another and when, when, can I say the fucking words that I need to say, in the moment? 

I need you, I love you, I  sorry. You were so much to me, you were my favorite. I need you. I need you. I need you. I’m sorry. 
Please don’t die. 

Buckle up. 

Look both ways.

 Take care of your health. 

Go see a doctor. 

Stop doing drugs. 

I need you. 

I meant to say,  I waited my whole life for you and I screwed it up the first time but I will not, this time, thank you for loving me, today we are man and wife, woman and husband (why don’t they ever say it that way?) Today we are choosing to say, 

This is us. 

I meant to say,  

I’m not anything special, just another survivor of childhood trauma and abuse. Just another recovered drug addict. Just another tormented writer, just another contradiction. Just another overactive mind. Just another insecure, needy, desperate fool trapped in a moderately attractive and confident man. Just another magician, using sleight-of-hand to show smiles and talent while hiding broken edges and shattered dreams. Just another depressed person, struggling with PTSD and suicidal urges. Just another day in the life of the impossible. 

I meant to say, this. 

Some Day

One of these days, I’ll look back at right now and remember how I got through. 

It’s happened before, it stands to reason that it’ll happen again. 

One day all of the sleepless nights will seem like a distant memory, a fantasy I created to pass the time. 

Close your eyes…

I didn’t mean forever!” 

(What Dreams May Come)

Some day, this period will seem like ancient history, the Greeks with bronze tools, the Romans with togas and debauchery and deception. 

Some day I will sit at her side while she dies, or she will sit at mine while I go, and whichever way it happens we will remember all of the times we have rescued each other. We will remember the troubles, a little. We will remember the triumphs, a lot. 

Some day our difficulties will make us feel stronger. 

Once upon a time I thought I would be alone and unloved forever. Today I know better, that I have lives in my hands, I have hearts in my mind. I know today what I could not, then. 

Some day I will have the answers that I lack today. The stress and trouble I feel right now will feel as unnecessary as the loneliness I used to live in. 

Some day I will have the hugs and smiles that wait for me, across oceans and continents I have a family of real emotion, spread across the world. They know who they are and I know that they dream of that someday, the same as I do, 

Some day my life will end on this plane and I will be remembered as things I almost was. 

Some day I will think more about what I have done than what I will yet do. 

Eulogy for my Childhood by Jesica Nodarse

I bathed in the holy water and drank the kool aid. 

I did it willingly, even excitedly. 

I was a perfect waste of youth.
I was a good kid, not in the “your grandma says you’re good, because she loves you” kind of good,

 but in a way directly affected by my abject fear of disappointing my parents.

 This carried me throughout the first twenty years of my life. I lived in dedication to a god, and devotion to never upsetting my family.

 I didn’t even question it, at least not out loud. I instead found bible texts and church articles that cemented my utter and blind obedience,

 I think even sacrifice can become an addiction.

 Obedience came easy to me and in the same way rebels seek attention by acting out, I found mine by becoming the pastor’s golden daughter. 

I could recite bible texts before I could even read, in fact I clearly remember 

being 3 and reciting psalms chapter 23 

in its entirety

 from memory, 

and even at that age feeling a little guilty

 because the oohs and ahhs of praise 

belonged to god 

and I held them to my chest a bit longer than I should have.

 At that tender age I already had what is termed a ‘trained conscience’  

which is just religious lingo meaning

 you have been indoctrinated enough to believe every single breath you take and release is somehow linked to the big man upstairs.

 At 4 I broke all kinds of records by speaking in front of the congregation 

and the looks of admiration in my parent eyes made every decision for me

 for many years to come.

 After that it all becomes a blur of faith and devotion, fervent prayers that became litany, and sacrifices that turned to resentment, 

highlighted with moments I was hailed prodigious and made to feel important.  
I understand, they did every single thing with the best of intentions, every single controlling sentence was with the hope of giving me salvation and eternity. 

When I wasn’t allowed to play with others kids they rationalized it as protection 

and when I wasn’t allowed to join clubs or be part of any secular activity

 they saw it as vigilance for my spirituality. 
Still, somewhere between being the perfect daughter and the perfect Christian … 

I forgot to be a kid,

 and no one offered a reminder.

Jesica Nodarse is a Cuban-born immigrant living in Florida, with her husband and children. A powerful writer and poet, an intense and driven woman, Jesica offers her unique perspective in today’s world and empowers her friends and colleagues with passion and grace.

Jesica can be found on Facebook at

 facebook.com/heathenwordsmith 

and on Instagram at 

https://www.instagram.com/j.nodarse/