i. he says, “you’re perfect,
you’re perfect,” and i feel the word
crawl into my diaphragm and collapse
like a dying star against my rib bones. it
burns like cigarette smoke when i try
to inhale, crowding my lungs.
ii. my mother used to play a game with me:
if i was crying, she would give me a glass
of water and tell me to be fine at the bottom of
it. she said, “bet you can’t get rid of the sad
by the time you’re done with that.”
i have become a professional in putting
my emotions into clear boxes. my palms
blister from shoving them into the back corners
of my brain. they always find a way out again.
iii. i brushed my teeth sixteen times today and for
each one i told myself “this time it will wash the
taste of sorrow out” but my throat still sings
of coagulated blood and the nights when i wanted
to take my fingernails and drive them under
my flesh until i was nothing but a skeleton.
iv. when he is out of the room, i sit on my hands
and stare at his phone. i wait for the text messages
from some other girl. this whole thing has to be
some kind of sick joke. nobody wants to be
with a person like me.
v. i say i am like broken glass, i say that chewing
on me leaves nothing but aching teeth and
split tongues. i say that i am a crossroads and an
incoming vehicle, an accident waiting to happen,
a blizzard disguised as a rainstorm, i say “don’t let
me fool you into thinking i am beautiful.”
vi. when he sees the places i have ripped blood from
myself as if it was weeds, his hands shake as they
lay like bible pages on top of my skin. he says
“how did i let this happen.”
vii. it is not beautiful to be like this. it feels like
you have swallowed space and all of its mass
and now all you are is a great vast emptiness. you cannot
let people near you without worrying either that
you will scare them off or you will become their
viii. it took me nineteen years to shake off what my father
told me and learn that even if i love a man
it wasn’t going to make me whole or happy. i could
not find my own fire when i was looking into someone’s eyes.
when i fall for him, it is only because i am finally ready.
ix. he does not cure me because he is a person
and not chemicals but when he kisses me it
does make me happy. he holds out his hand every
time i fall to the ground. he knows i am a burning
ship and says “you still feel perfect.”
x. our bodies fit together like music stanzas or
how the sun holds hands with the horizon
and i might still wake up sad but his chest cavity
feels more like home than any building will ever be
and he holds me while i fall asleep and murmurs
into my hair “see, this is what i mean.”
1. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs is not one of them.
2. Never cancel dinner plans by text message.
3. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
4. If a street performer makes you stop walking, you owe him a buck.
5. Always use ‘we’ when referring to your home team or your government.
6. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.
7. Don’t underestimate free throws in a game of ‘horse’.
8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
9. Don’t dumb it down.
10. You only get one chance to notice a new haircut.
11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack.
12. Never park in front of a bar.
13. Expect the seat in front of you to recline. Prepare accordingly.
14. Keep a picture of your first fish, first car, and first boy/girlfriend.
15. Hold your heroes to a high standard.
16. A suntan is earned, not bought.
17. Never lie to your doctor.
18. All guns are loaded.
19. Don’t mention sunburns. Believe me, they know.
20. The best way to show thanks is to wear it. Even if it’s only once.
21. Take a vacation of your cell phone, internet, and TV once a year.
22. Don’t fill up on bread, no matter how good.
23. A handshake beats an autograph.
24. Don’t linger in the doorway. In or out.
25. If you choose to go in drag, don’t sell yourself short.
26. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.
27. Never get your hair cut the day of a special event.
28. Be mindful of what comes between you and the Earth. Always buy good shoes, tires, and sheets.
29. Never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it.
30. When you’re with new friends, don’t just talk about old friends.
31. Eat lunch with the new kids.
32. When traveling, keep your wits about you.
33. It’s never too late for an apology.
34. Don’t pose with booze.
35. If you have the right of way, take it.
36. You don’t get to choose your own nickname.
37. When you marry someone, remember you marry their entire family.
38. Never push someone off a dock.
39. Under no circumstances should you ask a woman if she’s pregnant.
40. It’s not enough to be proud of your ancestry; live up to it.
41. Don’t make a scene.
42. When giving a thank you speech, short and sweet is best.
43. Know when to ignore the camera.
44. Never gloat.
45. Invest in good luggage.
46. Make time for your mom on your birthday. It’s her special day, too.
47. When opening presents, no one likes a good guesser.
48. Sympathy is a crutch, never fake a limp.
49. Give credit. Take blame.
50. Suck it up every now and again.
51. Never be the last one in the pool.
52. Don’t stare.
53. Address everyone that carries a firearm professionally.
54. Stand up to bullies. You’ll only have to do it once.
55. If you’ve made your point, stop talking.
56. Admit it when you’re wrong.
57. If you offer to help don’t quit until the job is done.
58. Look people in the eye when you thank them.
59. Thank the bus driver.
60. Never answer the phone at the dinner table.
61. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.
62. Know at least one good joke.
63. Don’t boo. Even the ref is somebody’s son.
64. Know how to cook one good meal.
65. Learn to drive a stick shift.
66. Be cool to younger kids. Reputations are built over a lifetime.
67. It’s okay to go to the movies by yourself.
68. Dance with your mother/father.
69. Don’t lose your cool. Especially at work.
70. Always thank the host.
71. If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.
72. Know the size of your boy/girlfriend’s clothes.
73. There is nothing wrong with a plain t-shirt.
74. Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.
75. Keep your word.
76. In college, always sit in the front. You’ll stand out immediately.
77. Carry your mother’s bags. She carried you for nine months.
78. Be patient with airport security. They’re just doing their jobs.
79. Don’t be the talker in a movie.
80. The opposite sex likes people who shower.
81. You are what you do, not what you say.
82. Learn to change a tire.
83. Be kind. Everyone has a hard fight ahead of them.
84. An hour with grandparents is time well spent. Ask for advice when you need it.
85. Don’t litter.
86. If you have a sister, get to know her boyfriend. Your opinion is important.
87. You won’t always be the strongest or the fastest. But you can be the toughest.
88. Never call someone before 9am or after 9pm.
89. Buy the orange properties in Monopoly.
90. Make the little things count.
91. Always wear a bra at work.
92. There is a fine line between looking sultry and slutty. Find it.
93. You’re never too old to need your mom.
94. Ladies, if you make the decision to wear heels on the first date, commit to keeping them on and keeping your trap shut about how much your feet kill.
95. Know the words to your national anthem.
96. Your dance moves might not be the best, but I promise making a fool of yourself is more fun then sitting on the bench alone.
97. Smile at strangers.
98. Make goals.
99. Being old is not dictated by your bedtime.
100. If you have to fight, punch first and punch hard.