Someone once told me that the saddest four words someone could string together were “I’m used to it,” but because the moment tasted too much like bicycle chains and not enough like laugh tracks, I made some offhand comment and everyone smiled.
I have been thinking about that since the moment it happened and how evolution has shaped the way we exist, how we are only the adaptions that our grandparents fought to handle for us, how my children might carry the same thick skin and frozen heart as the one that I do. I have been thinking about how many things we are used to and how many things we have had to grow used to throughout the ages, I have been thinking about the ways which I have adapted to fit into a jungle I never wanted to run in.
I have been thinking of what I am used to. In the back of a train when a man copped a feel I was as used to the grasp of his fingers as if I had always known the span of his palm. He was as familiar to me as a longterm lover and he whispered words in my ear with a kind of intimacy that I expect at weddings. I am used to it. I am used to every person who will take this body for granted. I am used to the expectation that my art gallery is open for the public or that to see it is to have to touch it.
I am used to it. I am used to how people will look at the scars and then glance quickly away as if they are made uncomfortable by the questions hanging in the air between us. I am used to how their eyes dart anywhere else as if they are expecting me to unzip at their feet if we exchange eye contact. I am used to the invisibility cloak I have painted onto my skin as if razorblades were just steel thread. I’m used to not being asked about it.
I am used to slurs, to being a joke, to requests for threesomes. For a little bit, I admit I even thought that statements like “that’s hot” in regards to my sexuality - I used to take these as compliments rather than blanks in a shotgun: I still flinch even if it doesn’t actually kill me because I know all it takes is for you to reload with the right ammunition. I am used to what I will hear if I try to explain myself to you. I have stopped trying.
I have thought about how we have adapted. I have thought about how girls have invented claws from keys, how sad teens can withstand long sleeves in high heat, how those of us who are different have long ago learned exactly what words to search for in a person’s speech so we know whether or not you’re going to be our friend or our bully. I have thought about how when I enter a new room, my shoulders rise up like skyscrapers as if I am expecting a knife through my jugular. I have thought about how when I am hurting, I never let all of the pain show because I’m afraid of letting other people see me vulnerable. I have thought about how last night all of my friends went to a party without me and even though I was asked after, I still didn’t go because I was terrified of the possibility of what could happen if I did show.
I have thought about our evolution, how I have my grandmother’s shaky hands and my mother’s sad brain and my father’s addiction. I have thought about dna and nature and how we have all shaped ourselves to survive in a hostile environment. I have thought about the kids who cannot conform or those of us who have lost ourselves while trying. I have thought of the things that have killed me.
I don’t know if it makes me sad. I think I’m just used to it, see?❞
i am stones where used to be cities
and if you breathe too closely to me
you can still smell burning, i am
a shell constructed from
music lyrics and poems and
i don’t let people in
you are the kind
galaxies in your coffee
where others just see
sugar and cream
and you’re the one who says
“go on, i’m listening” even when
i’ve already realized how boring the story is
that i’m telling
and you’re the one who makes sure i got home
safe and that i’m eating well and getting out of bed
i mean you must be
because where others saw ruin
and black nights and
you looked into my eyes
“you’re so full
i don’t laugh so easy anymore and everything
takes just a little more effort
and maybe some of the same things still make me happy
but nothing’s really been the same
since you forgot about me.