i was a sunflower. i was staring right into the sun, and i was growing for once, so i chopped myself down. go break a toothpick and then imagine you’re the toothpick and the hands are your own and your body is collapsing bending in on itself and then you’ll understand how i felt. go bend down and touch your toes when your muscles are so sore that shuffling around islands makes you feel like you’re moving rocks. like you’re playing giant when in reality, you are only a mouse. do you understand now? pay attention to me. i need you to pay attention to me. i need to hand me your heart so i can have two because in my chest i am just a couple ledges away from empty so i go hopping across waterfalls hoping i can make it to the other side because in a story, they’d survive. i was a sunflower that i planted already half believing i would never come up but i did. i mean, not much. it was feeble. it was small. but… i lived. so i stepped on myself. see, the therapist calls this self-sabotage, and for a second i agree with her but when i look in the mirror and my face looks like it’s melting candlewax softening into something more pliable the only word i can find for it is truth. i call it i was a sunflower and it was midnight and everyone else was telling me to sleep but i didn’t because i didn’t care how bad it would feel the next morning. i didn’t do it because, whatever, i was reading just to be numb. i was looking up at the stars and then i kind of decided they shone a hell of a lot better than i did so maybe the most logical thing in this situation is to just give up. i’m trying to hold myself but it feels like i’m a baby in my own arms and i am going to drop myself and when i do, i will shatter, and when i do i’ll pass the line, and this time i will no longer be able to heave myself off the floor. it’s ok you’re just coming home but home doesn’t feel like home anymore another night another windstorm. my heart feels like all the lights are on sleep mode meaning everything i try to believe will perpetually run through a filter. i was a sunflower and i was rocking my body back and forth back and forth apologizing for all the times i made it angry at me made me want to punch me punch me punch me punch me punch me right in the mouth so i could shut about about how my life is crap about my stupid face with the lips too small and the cheeks they’re too big you are too big to package yourself up inside this little box and curl up there and rock yourself to sleep. but, i don’t know how to cry myself a lullaby, though. i don’t know how to bleed out every single drop of pain they ever afforded to me handed over like tears were currency like if i pay you enough you would notice my limp in the hallway. you would kiss my cheeks like they were postcards you were trying to hold for as long as you could before they fluttered away in the breeze. like you are trying to remind me i am real. like you are trying to remind me i am not just a shadow flickering across a wall at midnight when everything fades quickly. remind me i am not a half-asleep figment of logic that won’t make sense by morning. remind me i am not just the ghost you might see out a car window that vanishes the second you open your eyes. remind me i am real. remind me that you love me. because i was a sunflower and for a moment i thought everything was going to be different but apparently not. i was a sunflower and i hated my own conscience for being like this. so much. so much. so much. so… loud. i was a sunflower so i gripped my voice and i ran my claws through it because i’ve done this so many times i know all the moves i know the lyrics and the dances and in that moment when i’m standing on a stage right in front of you and my heart is pounding and i’m not sure whether the first word that comes out is hate or love so i choose i hate myself. i’ve been taught so many times over by so many different people that in my head even when i spend afternoons trying to speed-reprogram it love does not mean acceptance. love means winning or losing. love means me or you. love means closing my eyes and letting my skin camouflage to yours until you would barely notice me in a room. love means growing like the kind of tree people keep around only because it gives them shade in the morning and a perfect sun in the afternoon. and hate is just being the one who gets to sit in the shade of you confident in their ability to control. i was a sunflower but my whole mind was wired wrong. i was a sunflower and i put filters on my yellow so you could not see it in the full. i was an eraser that helped you wipe away the scars until they were instead just rips in the paper we could smile at fondly and tape over. i am not a fighter like the characters in books are. i am a sunflower. i am not the kind of person who thinks to swim when they fall overboard. i think of those nights when all I can do is look at the stars and touch my cheeks and think how tiny they are. how tiny is everything? i think of those nights when even the idea of trying makes me want to fall. i’m the kind of person who wonders how to send a eulogy to the last people on earth. i’m the kind of person whose heart flickers like the old tv we used to own the static crawling across the page for one little second before it blackens like sunset but digital and something i could still walk away from. i guess the books were never meant to be realistic, because i thought that they were owner manuals so when they didn’t mention something i guess i kind of assumed it never existed. i lean into the love because i guess i thought if i just ignored the hate for long enough hours in a row it would be over now. i thought if i ignored the fears in my head they would stop exchanging rumours, but apparently i was wrong because they’ve only gotten louder like children trying to regain their parents’ attention. i’m scared of my demons. my demons that feed on the scraps of blindly beautiful moths that made the mistake of fluttering from my heart to my brain just see what it was like up there. when i say i am not a fighter, i mean i am fighting for myself, but it rarely lasts long. because even your own flame when exposed to oceanwater crawling over your cheeks making your circulation slow down can and will not ask your permission before collapsing.
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