Care

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Hanna registered the sound of a door opening and then slamming shut. She remained in her bed, eyes closed, refusing to acknowledge it. A few moments passed.

“Hanna,” a firm voice called. “I’m here for a visit.”

She didn’t reply. She didn’t want to. She didn’t have the energy for it.

“I brought tea and cookies,” the voice said.

Hanna rolled over to look at her friend. He stood quietly at her bedroom door, regarding her with gentle eyes.

“It’s okay,” he said after a moment. “I know you’re tired. You don’t have to say anything. I’m just gonna leave these in your kitchen.”

He paused and watched her thoughtfully. “I’ll come back tomorrow, okay? I’ll stop by on my way home from work. And if you need anything, you can let me know. You can text me or write me a note or anything, whatever you feel up to.”

Hanna was grateful.

“I hope you know that this is a normal and healthy part of life… don’t let anyone tell you different or make you feel bad for feeling down. Well, anyway, I’ll be going now. I don’t want to be a bother. See you tomorrow.”

He left in a flash, the door once again opening and closing, the same familiar sounds echoing through the hall. Hanna lay on her back for a moment, staring at the ceiling. Then she rolled over and went to sleep.

I Will Carry You (Part III)

Previous: Part II


III. Ruins

I don’t know what to do with myself anymore.

I never thought this day would come, this beautiful, horrible day in which I watched as you traded your life away, and it was gone before I could answer your desperation with my faulty attempts at lies, gone before I had the chance to even open your eyes, and I…

I don’t know what to do with myself anymore.

Please, tell me how to live.

Teach me how to live and love at once because they seem so contradictory.

Give me answers for why I hurt so much, why I must relive this day, this pain, unto eternity.

That, at least, makes you immortal. But you never wanted to be immortal. You were just like me – we saw the trap there, we warned each other of it. I guess none of that matters anymore. You’re immortal whether you want to be or not. Endless life is just as much a prison as certain death.

Now, I can’t seem to remember… those words you said to me that day… the last words that spilled out of your mouth before you gave them the order to choke, and it’s so ridiculous to me, I’m so caught up in them. A lifetime of words between us and the ones that seem to matter now are the ones I can’t recall. People make such a big deal, such a fuss, over last words, last moments, last letters, but they aren’t always salient. Sometimes they don’t exist.

Though if there’s any consolation, I guess you were able to choose them all. Most of us never have the chance to plan out our deaths the way we stage theater plays, but you – you took complete control. And if all the world’s a stage, life itself was yours for the taking.

What hurts is that you chose to take it without saying goodbye.


Next: Part IV

Meditations

because when my arms are drenched in blood down to my fingertips I feel alive
but that is the only thing I feel

broken dreams like falling stars, you chase beyond the horizon
catching although they cut like glass
you’re unable to trust anything but your own senses but even they will sometimes lie
the pain I’m supposed to feel, unfounded in your eyes

looking down and ready to jump
with the sidewalk stained with rain, the window streaked with blood
the clouds are crying the tears I cannot shed
and the song in your throat now is dying

because when my arms are drenched in blood down to my fingertips I feel alive
but that is the only thing I feel

you beat the drum to the rhythm of the hunt
when it’s the tiger within that is driving
coursing through your veins, the pain of your own life
and you’re caged and you’re burning alive

necklaces faded and shattered on the floor
amid the shadows of those you’ve left behind
the falling petals of today’s blossoming roses
take form to shackle the curtains of our hearts

because when my arms are drenched in blood down to my fingertips I feel alive
but that is the only thing I feel

turning from the starting line to let your arrows fly
but you can’t even see yourself
blind to dreams until it’s raining red, you climb
the walls that set you free

streaked with broken glass and hatred
you cross rivers without making a sound
numb to the suffering of your own body in the end, you leap
through our still flaming ring of time

because when my arms are drenched in blood down to my fingertips I feel alive

but that is the only thing I feel


This extended poem is paired with the A-side mini-compilation「Mo{ve}ment」: Read Here

Synchronicity (Part 9)

1:03

Hira sat down in the frontmost seat with a stomachful of anxiety weighing him down. Working through a simple breathing exercise, he stared silently at the back of the driver’s head as the bus got going. In, out… in, out. Everything’s going to be okay.

He did not believe it.

In his professional life, Hira was a clinical therapist. He worked mainly with individuals suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, which were steadily on the rise. In his personal life, he was a single father working hard to make ends meet for his daughter. Things were not going too well on that front. They never seemed to. And now, for the first real meaningful time, Hira was going to therapy as the patient.

Doctors of medicine study for years and practice for longer, and even they end up in urgent cares, emergency rooms, and hospital ICUs, dying just like the countless people they’d spent their lifetimes trying to save. Hira saw therapists as being the same way. He had spent years studying in psychology, sociology, and related fields. He knew what was wrong with him the same way a neuroscientist could understand exactly what was happening in their brain as they suffered a stroke. Surgeons can die in surgery, and therapists can commit suicide. One of life’s great ironies, maybe – or just a testament to human arrogance. Hira closed his eyes and tried to stop thinking about it.

Even inside the bus, the afternoon sun beat down strongly through the windows, and it seemed like everyone was feeling the heat. Hira emptied his water bottle within the first ten minutes of the ride. He scooted onto the edge of the aisle seat and covered his bare legs with his cardigan. It did not improve his mood. But his stop was coming up, he told himself, and soon he’d be able to get inside a building, properly shaded and away from it all…

Hira was prone to running away from his problems. He was not an English major, but he knew the sun in this case was a symbol, perhaps even a metaphor, with him at the center. There were too many things he needed to do, too many places he needed to go, and nowadays he constantly felt like crying.

Well, he thought, life is wonderful. And now I’m going to therapy.

Taiga (Chapter 10)

I am not a philosopher, nor am I a writer. When I set out to transcribe this story into countless rows of words on a page, I had no intention of crafting a murder mystery or a crime novel. Maybe it seems like it, but that’s not how I felt. As I write I am only trying to understand something that cannot ever be understood – so it may be futile, but I am doing it anyway, so here I go. The section that follows contains all of the interesting facts surrounding Taiga’s death that have stood out to me over time.

In the days that followed, the biggest immediate question was that of suicide or murder. The community jumped to murder. For most people, the idea of Taiga killing himself was a complete impossibility. He was too perfect, too good, had too much going for him – and besides, they’d found me, an infamous good-for-nothing perpetually-drunk party-goer, standing over his dead body. Murder, clearly. Case closed.

But the thing is, I don’t think it was that simple. At this point in my life, if you were to ask me murder or suicide? I’d probably say both. I don’t think there’s such a clear-cut difference between the two. I might say, maybe he killed himself, but even then it’s murder, because society drove him to do it – but is that taking out his agency, his rationality? Is that too quickly framing a potential murderer? We tend to think that all questions must by nature have answers, easily explainable, rational answers. That’s not always the case.

If it was straight-up murder – that is, another person entered the basement, shot him, dropped the gun, and left before I got there – then who did it? It may as well have been me, but it wasn’t. Taiga and Isabella were having roommate problems – so was it Isabella, who upon his death almost instantly disappeared, never to be seen again? Maybe. This was another possibility that it seemed the community had failed to consider. But I honestly don’t think it was her. She was too strong-hearted – by which I mean, if she and Taiga had really been having such a significant issue that couldn’t be solved through words, she would have just moved out and found somewhere else to live. I don’t think she would have snuck into the basement of the library and shot him. To this day I wonder what happened to her, where she went and why. More unanswerable questions. Maybe a third party for whatever reason shot Taiga, kidnapped Isabella, and vanished. Maybe that third party killed her, too, and her body was just never found. But why this, why now? Who was that third party – someone from work, the guy he was dating, the drunk who slashed him across the thigh that one night? Why would they take both of my roommates – and not me? Maybe, after Taiga died, Isabella just up and left completely on her own volition, as part of her own way of processing the event, and she just never came back. I hope that she’s okay. I believe that she is. Perhaps one day in the future she’ll contact me and all these questions will be answered – but I am also equally prepared to accept that I’m just never going to know.

And what if it was suicide? Granted, I have no authority to speak on this subject – but as an outsider looking in, I’ve come to believe that most people driven to commit suicide actually go through with it not because of one singular reason but the buildup of many. I will never be as eloquent as Taiga was, nor do I hope to be – seriously, I haven’t changed that much – but if I really had to say it, I firmly believe in this very real metaphor that Taiga slipped through the cracks. Not by being invisible, but by standing out in a way that made it so nobody paid attention to him. I suspect that too many people, including myself, forgot that Taiga was himself a complex human being, that he had his own life, his own backstory, his own relationships, his own emotions. It took his death for us to remember that.

A lot of bombshells dropped in the weeks following. For one, Taiga Tatekawa wasn’t his real name. His ID was fake; he had a lot of money but nobody knew where from; the questions of how he passed his job interviews and even enrolled in a university, in a time and place where identity is so rigorously scrutinized, may never be answered. And why the fake identity in the first place? But all of this was covered up or overlooked in favor of the Taiga Tatekawa that we had known – or that we thought we had known – and I had no objection. The fact that he had lied about his name, and possibly his family and his history, didn’t make him a bad person. This is another thing his death taught me – people are more complex than we think. We can be simultaneously survivors and victims and perpetrators, and that doesn’t take away from who we are. I, for one, believe that Taiga’s deceit wasn’t out of malice. Maybe he was undocumented. Maybe he was a runaway. Who knows? Does it matter?

It might matter, depending on the paths and possibilities that we are brave enough – or paranoid enough – to entertain. I hadn’t mentioned this before, because it wasn’t important, but all of this happened around the time when our country was going to war. And it wasn’t one of the countless quiet, censored, professional-army wars. The draft was coming, and for once in our nation’s history, it was coming equally. There were no college deferments, no buy-outs, no substitutes, and up to a certain level even politicians were being put in uniform and shipped to boot camp. I couldn’t have cared less about all of this – I had such a bad track record, I was pretty sure I’d either be straight-up rejected or my superiors would get fed up and discharge me within a week – but I think it was scaring Taiga more than any of us knew. He never said a word to me about it, but I suspect he was stressed at the idea of being forced to participate in a war, maybe even being forced to fight, as a pacifist who espoused human love. And if the officials from the War Department one day walked in on one of his lectures and chose his side of the room to enlist, his fake identity would have automatically, unwillingly, come to light. Can our imaginations now even come close to the reality of how he was feeling at the time?

And what about me? I was just one of many. It may not seem like it, given that everything I’ve written has been from my perspective only, but Taiga had a whole line-up of classmates, juniors, and hopeless folks like me that he’d been trying to help. It’s not to underestimate his emotional strength and resilience, but I think that he’d been trying to take care of too many people, shoulder too many burdens on top of his own – and in the end, maybe drowning people, like me, pulled him under. I still remember that night when he’d first written the four characters of his fake, chosen name to show Isabella, and I can’t help but think: standing gracefully in a river, drowning in it. Like the stories of people who walk into the sea and never come back.

It’s easy for people to look at everything I’ve written and say suicide. It’s also easy for people to look at all the evidence and say that I killed him. As survivors, victims, and perpetrators, we are arrogant. We think we could have seen the signs, we think we can understand all the facts, we think we can look into a dead person’s heart and mind and deduce the simple reasons why they killed themselves or why someone else killed them. But after all this time has passed, I have to ask – do any of these questions even matter anymore? Does understanding the circumstances of his death matter more than understanding the circumstances of his life, the people he saved, the people he changed? Accepting the things we will never know is difficult, but hasn’t it always been more productive to focus on the things we actually do know, the memories we have, the emotions that can never be taken away?

When I first sat down to write this tale, I was incredibly determined to kill myself once I’d finished. A satisfactory, understandable conclusion – write my life story, put it in the paper shredder, and then die. But as I reach the closing of this chapter it occurs to me that this work, this stack of several dozen sheets of paper filled top to bottom with my completely unreadable scribbles, is not my life story. It’s someone else’s. At this point, Taiga’s death makes sense, but not mine –

So then what else can I do but go on living?

「winter lovers’ serenade」

alive again ~these winter waking dreams~

searching for you, I walked
       these empty moonlit winter streets
              as snow enveloped me in silent sheets
       masking the scent of waking dreams
that chased the weakness in my heart.

if you could feel my love,
would you answer me?

“we will meet again,” you said…

if I could hold you one more time,
would I live again?

reaching for you, I walked
       past the edge of this eternal night
              blinded by the shining white
       protesting this internal fight
that I could give no reason for.

if I knew I was destined to lose,
would I still keep running?

“we are going to make it,” you said…

if you really believed that,
would you have let me go?

yearning for you, I walked
       the traces of our broken past
              supported by a glowing cast
       the memories of those who last
still alive within my winter dreams.

all the things you said to me

don’t tell me you aren’t beautiful
don’t tell me you aren’t smart
don’t tell me you weren’t meant to be;
if only the world could see
       if only you could see
what I saw every time I glanced over at you
and looked into your eyes

every time you made me laugh
every time we laid in bed
       and traced our foreign days together
what was that if not beauty?
every time you spoke for hours
       about the aesthetics of life and love
what was that if not intelligence?
all the things you’ve said to me
so blindly self-deprecating
and it hurts when you believe it;
you took that to the end

you were born a shooting star but never shot
never streamed across the northern skies in your private colors
and will the world know why?
you chased a dream you never saw
       the dream of being yourself, of being happy
and for once,
       if you could have been happy for once
would you still have left me?

if I could hear your voice again,
would I follow you home?

the dream you left behind

trampling through fields of dead roses,
       with a mournful serenade gracing your ears
you hold your head up high, gazing at me
       locks of your brown hair falling to the ground one by one
       tracing our shattered destiny on the maps of time
I didn’t know what I was leaving behind.

the shadows of your fingers entwined in mine,
I still remember
       the words you said to me that day
       the strength of your loving embrace
but you knew, I knew, I had nothing left to give
       and so you walked away without looking back
knowing that I was just waiting to die.

breaking the endless lines with your bare hands,
       to the soundtrack of a selfless hero
you climbed the walls we had built together
       and tore through the eternal night that was nothing but an illusion
              nothing more, nothing less than a single night’s dream
       the dream I could never see
the dream you left behind for me.

before that night was over

the night I tried to show you the way
the crescent moon pierced the sky like a farmer’s blade
and as the wind tore down the willow trees behind us
you gazed into my face and cried
still believing that there could have been another way
another way for you to stay
to ground yourself against my flat chest
and never have to break that first-year promise
but I watched the air before you burst into flames
reflected back to me in your stormy eyes
and before the night was over
before the moon and wind and stars had won
you released my hand and let me go.

brainwash

waiting for the end, we walk
parallel to the edge
as if we were just walking along the shore
basking in the glow of who we used to be
we try to love and end up in tears
we try to live and they kill us
before we can kill each other, they
grasp our hands and we cover our ears
we jump off and they catch us
they promise the light at the end of the tunnel
but when we get there we realize it’s death
throttled by the dreams of people who believed
we used to believe, we used to dream, but
it was never enough to say we loved each other
because they didn’t want us to mean it
they wanted us to become the liars they were
waiting to catch us in the act they forbid, they
claimed we were going to live and still, they
stabbed you in the back while we embraced
and I couldn’t even cry a single tear for you
they already had me in their death grip
so I lied and said I never loved you
I lied and said I wanted to live
and now I walk alone
parallel to the edge
just waiting for the end.

demon/s in the mirror

“someday” was a promise I’ll never see
because she, you, I lied to me
this demon in the mirror spiraling out of control
neon pink fringes bursting from our heart
I won’t let you win, I’ll die
to see this tragic farce all the way to the end
when the rain flows upward and he shatters his guitar,
drunk against my bloody face
determined to do everything it takes to make it
I will win, you’ll live
even if it was never meant to be, I don’t believe
drowning you in endless seas of love-blind fantasies
because this mind of mine was never mine
except to blow up on a heart-held trigger
except to walk the line between life and death,
pretending to be sane enough to hold your hand.
don’t lie to me again. 

reciprocity

don’t give up on me, you said
but you gave up on me

and it was never enough

the old days were so simple
coloring books and pinky-promises on the playground
afternoon naps and carefree hugs
and kisses I don’t remember
we walked hand-in-hand through the days, silently
our faces written with love we never understood

why can’t we go back?

to a time when giving up meant nothing
even if there was nothing to give up on?

you sang me the song of your future
but I never had a future
not even with myself, I thought
the days were too easy but I couldn’t get out of bed
the work was too simple but I couldn’t stop crying
and eventually you walked out
you gave up on me

I thought promises worked both ways
but I was never worth the other side of it anyway.

blown-glass trains and fleeting dreams

gazing into a sea of blackness
I fall asleep to the sound of falling rain
the city quiet except for the midnight train
still suspended in my blown-glass dream

again I hear your soothing voice
but my restful sleep is fleeting
we can’t spare a chance at meeting
only now can I turn back time

yet in the rain we are both blind
reaching out vainly for your hand
it disintegrates to fine storm sand
I will wait on the tracks until that day

caught together in this moment
as the spirits’ tears come flood the streets
as the seasons change in rhythmic beats
I hear your words again

this goodbye is not forever…
we will meet again.

Enough For Me And You

breathing quietly beside you,
       I gazed up at my own dark sky –
so different from yours
       even though our dreams were the same
       even though the promises we exchanged
              had been knowingly impossible… 
if I could have understood then
       what it feels like to love someone
       who can’t love you back…
that day the seas rose and fell
that day the sky split open
       and shattered our silent dreams into a million pieces,
              glass shards we grasped in our hands despite the pain
you asked me for a reason –
       and I blurted out so many
       but it’s only now that I realize what the right answer was.
“I don’t need a reason,” I should have said.
“Isn’t ‘I love you’ enough?”

Nocturne of a Dreamer

sitting at the edge of dawn,
waiting for who knows how long
the first bird shares her siren song
       and we –
in this intangible moment we
       go off into infinity
stepping into the unknown that is our life.

as though we could have stopped them,
       and made this place our own
as though we could have met them,
       and bent our fates anew
we chase each dawn from night to day,
each following our own loving way –
       then searching for the words to say,
words that might still change the world someday.

reaching into open arms, we gaze
       at these reflections of our own blind eyes
       at our opposite horizon lines
and we say, “we will not go.”
we say “this is not the end.”

because here, the sun is rising –
       hear, the sun is rising –
and today
with nothing else to do
       and no other path to take
we follow it into eternity.

Love Letters to the World We Made (VII)

Previous: VI


If only I could remember you.

If only I had not been so self-absorbed in my depression. If only I had noticed the hundred clues you left behind. If only I had known then… if only. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand up as you whisper into my ear. All I have left are the drawings, the paintings, the stories you made for me – and the memories I cannot recover. Jagged fragments of a time long gone.

I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently, if only those nameless days had come to be.

You speak into the phone slowly, hesitantly, embarrassed. You tell your story as I reconstruct mine. You admit with a life-changing, world-altering, unfamiliar phrase, “I was in love with you,” and I can’t help but think: this wasn’t what I was asking for.

It’s not fair to ask for it now.

I just want to remember what it felt like when we held hands. I want to remember what it felt like when you kissed me. I want to remember what it felt like to be loved, even if I didn’t realize it. But none of that will come back to me anymore. I know I can’t spend my life chasing my shadow – but sometimes moving forward means coming to terms with what you’ve left behind.

I just want to remember you.

I want to know why it is that today, when I write, when I watch these movies, when I flip through old things I have saved, I can’t help but think of you. I want to know why the absence of so many memories, so many emotions, leaves me in tears. I want to know why, out of all the people, you found me – me, who was depressed and damaged and broken, me, who was never worth your time – why you found me worthy enough to save.

Most of all, I want to know why I didn’t give that love back to you. Now, the waves wash in against my feet and I refuse to write your name, I refuse to let you go. But I don’t know what there is left to hold onto. I don’t know if I’m reaching for something that isn’t there, trying to hold onto the shadowy traces of a hand that, having been offered without reciprocation for too long, already pulled away. You say you still think of me. You say I was your first. And I still think of you, too – but I don’t remember you, and this contradiction leaves me in anguish. It keeps me up at night, tossing and turning as the moon cycles through the darkness. I close my eyes and it makes me want to cry.

Growing up in this world, we aren’t taught to deal with contradictions. But when I think about it, my entire life has been one continuous series of both-and relationships, and I can’t, or won’t, come to terms with it. I can’t, or won’t, learn to survive it. I can’t, or won’t, but I will always come back to you.

“If only I could remember,” I say, and you reply gently, “I have to go.”

I have to go – but I will always come back to you.


Next:

Love Letters to the World We Made (VI)

Previous: V


We are going to make it.

You may not believe me now, but we will. I know that we will because every time, every year, we come back to each other. Every year, we live our separate lives in a shifting, reflective parallel, and this parallel is of the kind that only people like us can see – people like us meaning the artists and the authors, the full-hearted queer and quiet spirits, all the sensitive, tragic, broken-but-not people who, even after all they have suffered, still find ways to live and love, still find ways to make it. “I’m not one of them,” you say. “I’m not enough.” But you will always be enough to me.

It doesn’t have to be that we don’t talk except for the random nights you call me on the verge of tears, desperate for help, desperate for advice and validation and love. It doesn’t have to be that our only interactions take place on the wrong side of the railing, on the firelit edge of a bridge. It doesn’t have to be that some people must live their lives this way. But in this world, this is how we live.

I lean against the railing and call out your name, and the beauty in your heart rages up within your words, fired in the kiln of pen and paper. Every time, you take your suffering and you pour out love. You might not recognize that it’s love, because we are trained to think that love must take a direct object – but love cannot be limited. I trace the scars on your arm and your stomach and you turn them into delicate masterpieces worthy of an art gallery. I brush away your tears and you capture them in sails of broken glass. I soothe the pain in your voice and you use it to heal my heart – and every time, every time, I can only think: it doesn’t have to be this way.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but this is how it is. And we are going to make it.

Always, we make-believe like children that our meeting was coincidence. We pretend that the intersection of our lives, the parallel nature of our highways, was never meant to be. We say that it could have gone any another way, and while it’s true that our histories could have been different, it can’t be denied that our parents, our goddesses, our hearts, lifted us up onto a tandem bike and set us free.

I don’t know how to ride a bike. And, I think, neither do you. But together we are going to make it.

One of these days, I promise to myself, I will take you to the ocean. As the sun sets above the sea, as the waves crawl in to graze your feet, as our shadows embrace in the glowing golden light, I will show you how beautiful life can be. I will show you that it doesn’t have to be this way. And when you lay your head against my chest and start to cry, I will cry with you – and then we will keep pedaling, riding on our separate but parallel highways, headed towards a future that we cannot see, but one we are both determined to meet. If it takes all my life, if it takes all of your life, if it takes the world –

It’s still okay.

All that matters is love. And we are going to make it.


Next: VII

An Open Letter To My Valentines

I love you all. Please, for one moment, hear me out.

I want to tell you why I am so exhausted, why I am always crying, why my answer to your “what’s wrong?” somehow always became “you won’t understand.” Because I love you, and I don’t want you to misunderstand that. I don’t want you to feel like I’m just building a wall between us. I don’t want you to think that I don’t care anymore, because I do. I care a lot. I have always cared more than anyone knew. But it’s hard to keep caring so much when the world is determined to burn all of the bridges I have built by hand, reducing them to ashes before my very eyes to leave me alone in the same old prison I was born within – the prison that once kept me safe, and now daily rips my soul apart.

“You won’t understand” is not a wall. Don’t feel like you have to climb it because there is nothing there to climb. You might fall off the edge and drown if you try, so please don’t try. I won’t let you do that to yourself.

No, “you won’t understand” is a bridge, and it might not seem like it at first, but I have spent a very long time building this bridge so I would appreciate it if you would accept all the effort that went into it and just use it as it was made to be used. No climbing. Just walk across, nice and easy, and we can chat on the other side.

I am exhausted, I am crying, I am replying with “you won’t understand” because you won’t understand what it means to me to walk through this world every day and get bombarded with people, words, and images that are all lies. You won’t understand what I mean when I say I cannot remember three critical years of my life because I was so depressed and suicidal, because I hated everything so much that those memories have been locked away in a treasure chest and buried on some remote island, with the key thrown who knows where. You won’t understand why when we’re at a Valentine’s Day event I suddenly can’t breathe.

You won’t understand what it means to me to be surrounded by people who are all being normal girls and normal guys in normal relationships, people who are surrounded by movies and TV shows and books and authorities that all congratulate them for being who they’re supposed to be. You won’t understand what it means to have to search for validation, because all of this validation is given to you and you probably don’t give it a second thought. You won’t understand what it means to want to feel normal, to want to be normal, because you already are. And apparently, I’m not.

You won’t understand what it means for me to be always on guard, to be constantly gauging other people’s words and actions and reactions, to be terrified of being open and yet desperately craving that openness. You won’t understand what it means to sit straight-faced as family members prod you about relationships that you’re supposed to be having but aren’t. You won’t understand what it means for me to love you when you can’t love me back.

You won’t understand what I mean when I say that all I want is for someone to hug me, to hold me close and tell me that I’m normal, that I’m worth it, that everything’s going to be okay – even if it’s not going to be okay, because for a lot of people like me this world makes damn sure it will never be okay, but I want someone to lie to me anyway. You won’t understand what I mean when I say I’m craving human connection, when I just want someone to look after me and meet my gaze and hold my hand during my darkest hours. You won’t understand what it means when I say I want to borrow someone’s chest to cry but I can’t because there is no one there, and even if somebody were there we would always have to stay at least an arm’s-length apart or else the world would find a new way to drown us, together, in some warped kind of man-made tragedy.

I build bridges because I’m terrified of drowning. You realize that, don’t you?

You won’t understand why I choke up when you say that you’re willing to burn bridges as you stand on them for a life you’d rather live. Because what life is there that I’d rather live? I can’t think about a life I’d rather live because I’m struggling to get through the one life I actually have, the one life in which I was born on the cold floor of a prison cell, with mountains of handicaps I never wanted, oceans of tragedy I never asked for – and don’t come back to me with “that’s just life” because it’s not. It was never meant to be this way. People made my life this way.

You ask me what I mean by that, and here’s my answer. “That’s just life” is not enough because it does not encompass mass rape and forced sterilization and genocide, it does not include world wars and environmental devastation and the shootings of schoolchildren, it does not explain countless people being harassed and beat up and murdered because they weren’t “normal.” “That’s just life” does not hold space for our bodies. And it does not validate our silent suicides.

Why won’t you understand that?

I’m going to stop telling you that I’m okay when I’m not. Because I am tired of lying to you, but I am also tired of lying to myself. When you ask after me I am going to tell you the truth, which starts with “no, I’m not okay,” and I will explain why, but I won’t make the mistake of assuming you will understand. I will show you the bridge I have built which constitutes this phrase, “you won’t understand,” and I will walk all the way across it without looking to see if you are following behind me. Whether you follow me or not is your choice – and if you choose not to, that’s not on me anymore.

This is my life, my love, my tragedy. These are my words, “you won’t understand.” If they don’t mean anything to you, that’s okay, because they are mine. But whatever your reaction to this non-understanding may be, you will not stop me building these bridges until I die. You can ignore them, you can walk across them, you can help me build them, or you can burn them as I stand on them. But as long as I live this one fragile life, as long as I suffer these man-made tragedies you throw at me, I will continue to build bridges between us. You won’t always understand – but that’s okay.

I love you so much. Your life is worth it.

Kohaku Toran