Photo by Ilana Arougheti // North By Northwestern

Raindrops are never just raindrops, you say.

I dissolve them, crisp and numbing, on my tongue as my reply.

I swim in pools of anesthetic in your eyes.

I coat your gaze in resin.

You coat my gaze in dew.

We rush to stomp in puddles. Broadcast our sighs between the raindrops.

Turn the radio dial one notch too far left, a static umbrella,

cut the headlights and take another lap.

We choose not to see each other.

I choose not to pretend we can see each other.

You see, I’m not afraid of speaking clearly. I can stop talking about eyes and weather like they’re something romantic. I can count my syllables down as fast as I can count them up. I can save you the trouble of wading through the metaphor and just explain that the lines of poetry you just read are supposed to show, not tell, that I find power in choosing to lose myself. Creativity is power, but not in a benevolent way. It’s a warping filter and an extra layer, wrapped in the guise of a third eye.

Every book I’ve ever written in my head is about escape. My friends tell me my writing got a lot more honest when I started using first person pronouns. The self-starring ideas are all the same as my old chapters, people just see bravery in vulnerability. I am afraid of people who expect others to be open books. I refuse to weaponize my privacy, but I am not too barren without it to gift it away when I want to.

I’m always the main character, but only because you -  the reader -  speak it again and again into existence. I don’t need to make you feel like you’re reading in between the lines in order to make you feel like you know me. I don’t need to tell you the names I murmur to myself as I title each love story and angry diatribe. You’ll apply it to whoever you want anyway. Anyone can lose or find themselves in any consumption of input, and anyone can lose or find themselves in any expulsion of output. The format is irrelevant. My prose is both shield and sculpture, but either way you see it it’s still a curvy chunk of metal, quietly burning in the sun and softly blurring in the rain.

But you’ll forget this. One week from now I’ll write something gorgeous about an exoskeleton made of Legos and a throat coated in the cotton candy insulation we glimpsed from the exposed industrial ceiling of ball pits past and feared with the same religious fervor as quicksand and the Tooth Fairy. I’ll say I instead of Her when I talk about the small girl perched right behind My sternum who never felt as home again as she did standing in a tide pool in Maine in 2005 and occasionally shoots saltwater and anemone into My arteries as a reminder. You’ll extract something deep about childhood and tell me I’m brave and pretend that when your stomach lurches afterward it’s because you’re feeling my reverie. Actually, none of those things have really been holy to me for years, they’re just similes close enough to anatomy to make sense but far enough from biology to feel profound. It’s symbiotic. It’s the shallow end of the public pool – float as long as you want and get lost in the clouds, but dive in headfirst and you’ll snap your spine.

The poet’s mirror is one way. When you are seeing yourself in her, I am watching from the other side of the wall, secretly choosing the absence of revelation.