In the ninth grade a boy—no, a man—touched me for the first time. I remember biting my tongue until I felt blood dribble down my throat. I remember feeling like a caged, muzzled dog. I remember going home, mortified, taking a shower & scrubbing my skin until my skin pilled like the sweaters momma bought me from JC Penney. Still, then, as I traced shapes & self-portraits on the foggy, steamed up mirror, I could not apologize to myself. I could not say goodbye—tied notes & stones to the legs of swans, sobbed when they wouldn’t take flight. I reached for droplets dripping down the showerhead, let the tributaries cascade between my fingers. Still, then, I could not replace them for tears.
Years later, someday, somewhere in New York City, I wept & tore a pastel blue skirt in two, burned the pieces with a lighter, when a man on the street called me a slut. My father always told me men didn’t want women who couldn’t sew their mouths shut. He said be ladylike, to not curse anymore, to stop wearing short skirts. I told him to eat his own fucking dick. Mindlessly, I would sweep the apartment after being catcalled, or after being followed, tidied the dusty bookshelf over & over again. Fitzgerald, Zelda had to be in front of Woolf, Virginia while Sexton, Anne, had to be in between. A daily ritual, it became a second nature to fear men.
I used to wish I was normal. “Used to,” as in past tense–yet another lie I tell myself. I still do wish I’m normal. Somewhere, in a dirty college dorm where the plates are stacked so high in the sink they spill onto the counter, I kissed a boy for the first time, smiled at him sweetly as he walked to the subway. I felt pretty normal then. I was doing what everyone thought college girls should do. I occasionally swiped right on Tinder, now I was going on dates, no longer was I by myself—but why was I sitting alone & crying afterwards? Why were my hands trembling? I felt so empty, like I had overturned a cup of water over my head, let it splash all over me. I was drowning.
I had always been fascinated with history, but never my own. In the twelfth grade, I presented my lineage project to my writing class. We had spent four years together & for the first time I was admitting I had a serious problem with depression. I admitted I had been suicidal to my class, an act of vulnerability. Days later, a friend pulled me to the side. A group from my writing class had been discussing my lineage project & me. They mocked me, said I should’ve killed myself, that I was looking for attention. After class, I returned to the bedroom I grew up in & sobbed. Who would tell my story? Who would break my heart?
I was twelve years old when I first dreamed of dying. It was something terrible, something to be feared. When I tell my mother of these dreams, she tells me that our DNA is coded for depression, that this is our heritage. I was fifteen years old when my grandmother told us she wants to die, to just end it all right then & there. At eighteen I lost my grandmother, but it wasn’t to suicide. She was eating Jello & simply fell backwards—her heart had just stopped.
On spring days, when the air smelled of my momma’s primroses & goldstrums, I dreamed of being someone else. I dreamed of flying. I dreamed of starring in a Sofia Coppola film, dressed in my best pink linens, learning that being pretty was a political act, a bold statement. You don’t mess with pretty girls in Coppola’s world.
Someday, I imagine a life where the lingering sadness evaporates, where I can start over.
Let these little pains be the kaleidoscope of living, glimmering memories with each turn. Put a rhinestone in for each person I’ve met, for their story is just as bright & shiny as my own. Shake it up, make it chaotic, make these rhinestones children of diaspora. Only then will it be an accurate representation of what it means to live.
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi’s work has appeared in, or is forthcoming, Into the Void Magazine, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is a poetry reader at both Mud Season Review and Ex/Post, attended the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute, and was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow. Her website is http://ashleyhajimirsadeghi.squarespace.com/
© 2020, Ashley Hajimirsadeghi