No one is asking, because you were the one who would’ve, eventually, if anyone was going to at all. But I’ll tell you anyway.
It hurts behind my eyes. I close them, and the swirl of black that’s also somehow red and orange and green and purple and maybe bright white, like the flash of an old-timey camera’s bulb, overwhelms me. I open them, which is just as excruciating. The strain of looking out at the world is almost unbearable, especially now that it’s a world where we are not ‘we,’ we are just You and I. It hurt enough when we were We, because we weren’t, really, it turned out. Not the way I pictured Us. But today, it hurts, yes, in every color, and I see them all.
It hurts in my head, when I lean it against the window of the bus or the cold plastic of the subway wall, listening to Aimee Mann or Jenny Lewis or Fiona Apple if I’m feeling particularly miserable, trying not to think about the thing it reminds me of and using it as a conduit to give myself permission to think only of that. My skull vibrates. It’s a welcome distraction. I wonder if it’s dangerous. I’m sure it’s not, but I know you can’t fuck around with babies’ heads, so I think of that, and I do wonder. I’m not a baby. I wish I was. I guess I am, in some ways, even though that’s the same kind of bullshit thinking that used to make me want to slap you and say, “Wake up! Just deal with your shit! You’re not special!” I hated myself for thinking that, because you were, and you are, but also, you’re really, really not. You can’t be, or else I’d be wrong, and I’d be regretful, and I’d be listening to even more Fiona Apple. And that’s not really an option.
It hurts in my neck, when I remember the glorious strain of leaning uncomfortably against your couch’s arm, willing you to move closer and knowing you wouldn’t. The phantom pain makes me stretch, at my desk or at the café where I’m writing, trying to write, about any other thing. It feels good to want to work it out, to massage it, to aim for rehabilitation, even temporarily. I look down. I look up. I wince. Too fast.
It hurts in my stomach, thinking about you. Thinking about the dinner you’d make me. Thinking about the look you’d give when I was opposite you at the table. Thinking about the way you’d decide what I was thinking or feeling before I was able to articulate it, and how you’d say it first, and how hard it became to differentiate between the excruciating joy of you knowing me better than I knew myself and the realized horror of you just wanting me to believe you did. My insides flip, in the same way they did when we first met, and I shake my head, in the same way I did back then, too. Not gonna happen, I think, on purpose.
It hurts in my legs. It always hurts in my legs. I run too much. Or, I don’t run enough. Somehow, it’s worse both ways.
It hurts in my bicep, from holding my backpack over my head in this storm. I held out, because it was only drizzling when I left my apartment, and really because you weren’t around to say “Bring an umbrella!” But as I got closer to the subway, I saw the sky threaten to wail. Still, I figured I’d be fine. I always think I can be the only one to escape these things. And then it started, just spitting at me, just barely. I kept walking. It picked up, and I felt big, heavy, untenable drops pelt my head, my shoulders, my bare arms, my tattoo I got on Halloween with you beside me asking “Doesn’t it hurt? Doesn’t it hurt?” even though I kept insisting it didn’t, my neck, my once-white shoes. I kept walking. It was gradually torrential, even though that sounds like an oxymoron. It’s not. It took by the time I realized I was soaked and my makeup was running and my bra strap was sticky for me to finally think, “Maybe I should take cover.” But I didn’t have that umbrella. So I used what I could to shield myself. It barely worked, but it was what I had.
It hurts in my hip, from when I tripped off your stoop, skipping after your tiny, elderly, sweet, smelly, boring cat, who you loved more than anyone and anything and any moment, and who I decided to love just as much, because it had to go somewhere. She was always trying to escape. I was always trying to pull her back for you. Turns out, she’d have been just as happy on your back patio, which is where you’d found her in the first place, which is something you’d never told me. If you had, I might still be able to dance without my left side screaming at me. I might still be able to sleep.
It hurts in my chest, for the exact reasons you’d imagine, if you were willing to try.
I hate complaining, I think. I hate sharing. I long to be asked. I crave it. But I always demur.
“I’m fine!” I’m not.
“It doesn’t hurt, I told you!” It did, obviously, what the fuck did you think?
“It’s nothing!” It’s something.
It’s better to push it off, and keep it mine. If it’s yours, I’ll expect you to do something with it. I’ll hope you will, at least. And you’ll try, maybe, or you’ll think you’re trying, and when I stay the same at the end of the trying, I have nowhere to go with the rage and shame and unfillable grief of the deep, gaping hole I’ve now both opened and come to find that the caulk just slips right through.
So it’s easier if I say, “It hurts in my knee!”, because then I can point to it and everyone can see it and I can fix it and walk away, and it won’t be your fault, and it won’t be mine, and it’ll heal or it won’t, but either way, the scar will provide a cool story to tell at parties.
Our hurt, on the other hand, I keep inside, bottled and buried and burning hot like a coal, dying but still dangerous. I can explain it, sort of, in theory, but there’s so much inside of it that any expression, any story, any detail is somehow not enough. It’s almost nothing. I can write it, but who would read it, besides you, if you were feeling generous? So I guess, after all, and if I’m being honest, and if no one’s really asking anyway, I‘ll say it. That’s where it hurts. On the other hand.
About the author
Tina is a queer writer in Brooklyn, who uses Google mostly to image search 45-year-old women in suits, and Twitter mostly to report on her findings. She has a deep obsession with narrative, a CAROL tattoo, and, relatedly, a degree in film.