The Sto­ries You Tell to Save Your Life


The thing about the sto­ries you tell to save your life is that you’ll be­lieve them:

I was a tough girl, a scary girl, a hawk, a loo­gie in the gut­ter and stomp away on five-inch plat­forms femme, so I couldn’t use my cane for years or say when I needed to lie down

I was tough, no one fucked with me, I walked with a femmeswag­ger, femmedag­ger, so I couldn’t ad­mit when a girl was killing me with her eyes and hands

Peo­ple thought I was that an­gry girl be­cause I was brown and femme and pissed, had left my par­ents. They never saw the grief be­cause I didn’t.

When I fled my fam­ily what I knew was fierce re­lief and joy

They would never hurt me again, there would never be an­other screamed-at Christ­mas I would never hit my­self to make what didn’t show up in x-rays real.

I made love to my first apart­ments, shit­boxes with bad car­pet and win­dows so mouldy a frame fell apart in my hand,

like some­one else would pol­ish wed­ding present crys­tal. My soli­tude was my long, joy­ful wed­ding with my­self.

It wasn’t un­til she started to die and I knew be­cause I couldn’t stop cry­ing, my head a grief mi­graine light­ning strike,

that I fi­nally whis­pered I miss hav­ing a mom.

I felt the ter­ror they would show up and break up my wed­ding

Grat­i­tude was a fierce dive in my chest telling my kid she was safe, she was safe. I was her imag­i­nary friend grown up whis­per­ing all the ways we got the fuck out as I rocked, arms wrapped around knees, in my very own car.

I cried for months and then anger fi­nally came to visit

My rage was per­fect shel­lac red nail tips pierced with diamond der­mals. I was fi­nally not so god­damn un­der­stand­ing.

I was fi­nally fu­ri­ous at what they had both done.

Maybe be­cause I had be­come their age and I knew they were adults maybe be­cause if I could fight to find ther­apy for $20 they could’ve tried that too Maybe be­cause the gift of queer­ness is noth­ing is as it has to be

Maybe the gift of be­ing a sto­ry­teller is I can keep rewrit­ing my story.

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