tonight, i am thirteen. i’ve just discovered the euphoric bending of reality that consuming alcohol induces and i am beaming with a warmth that radiates in my belly. i watch the world tilt and shift like the glitter in a kaleidoscope as i glide my way through a slanted hallway and out to the front yard. i let the kids jump on my back and wrestle me to the springy canvas surface of the trampoline. we all lay on our backs in a row, packed tight as sardines, and watch the stars dance in front of our noses. i am drunk for the first time, and i am invincible.
tonight, i am fourteen. i sit in my teal bedroom, alone under the glow of a dark blue (or was it purple?) light and i am violently crying. i am home alone and drinking some sort of clear alcohol like it’s water. rumors by fleetwood mac is playing loudly enough to drown out the drinking and the crying and for the first time, i can physically feel my heart breaking out of my chest. who could possibly break it to this child that this time would not be anywhere near the last?
tonight, i am fifteen. i’m curled up in a ball on my white bed in my white room. my lamp is set to the exact color of berry blue jell-o, and i can’t remember if i’m actually high or if that’s just how it feels to talk to you when i’m fifteen. we talk about strawberry moons and favorite bands and what we would name imaginary future children and i say that i never want kids and you say that you think you’ll make a great dad one day and i think you will too and you say that maybe, just maybe, i’ll change my mind one day. yes, i think i must have been high.
tonight, i am sixteen. i am drinking tequila with juice. mom left me alone in a house on the sand, a house with two stories and a giant couch upstairs and a purple bedroom downstairs. there’s always at least twenty bottles of wine in the rack on the wall of the kitchen, and a costco-sized bottle of tequila in the cupboard that is so large that she never takes notice of how much is gone. i am sixteen, and i am waiting for the love of my life to come fill my empty house with laughter and smoke and warmth. we lay, bleary and faded, blurred into one with the sheets of my bed, hands under shirts and jackets, too scared to do anything more. i am sixteen, and i am reveling in what i will soon learn can only be described as young, innocent love.
tonight, i am seventeen. i have melted myself into the plushy grey fabric of my first adult house’s couch, and i am flooded with love for our future. you talk of living in blue houses on forested hills far away from the world. i talk of swinging our arms together over the lights of the city and kissing under street lamps like a hollywood picture. you tell me you love me, and i say, “for how long?” you never say forever. you never even say for a little while. you never say it again.
tonight, i am eighteen. my bedroom is yellow and my kitchen is missing a stove and my house is almost empty. you’re the first person i share my room with, my bed with. i drink sangria and you drink beer and i make the exception of smoking from a pen that turns your chest into a bundle of clouds that i float on like a feather. i fall into you. i take my makeup off in the mirror as you drape your arms over my shoulders, my perfect shadow. we brush our teeth for the first time together. i go to bed with you and wake up to you. there had never been so much warmth in a house as the night we first slept together.
tonight, i am nineteen. i lay alone in a forest of souls longing for their own paths to follow. i suppose i am one. our heads rest only a mile from each other, yet we do not speak. saying anything in front of you, your friends, my strangers, feels like standing naked in town square. i feel matured in my exhaustion and young in my impatience. i can no longer spend my life waiting in the dry rot. i will roll myself in mud. i will rip the skin from my knees. i will make enough noise to wake the whole neighborhood. i will scrape out enough space for myself in this moss and muck to make myself a home. i will bury myself deep enough to finally be at rest.
tonight, i am twenty. i do not know what love is is, but i know what it tastes like. the last two decades worth of: loose tobacco, golden liquors, homemade birthday cakes, stray hairs that tangle the words in your mouth, strawberries that grow sweeter the longer they’re left out to rot. it tastes like the last two decades minced and pulverized into something i can swallow.
and after these years of loving and unloving, i am turning over in my hands the self that’s been molded. i count out my youth in the small crescents that have been dug into my surface, left by the fingernails of past love lessons. i am not disappointed nor am i ashamed of the patterns this life and these loves have carved on this self that i am growing. i have no desire to be smoothed out.
Constantly on the move and constantly moving through different styles and rejections of her writing, Sav is just another twenty one year old trying to take in the world around her as best she can, and keep herself and her snake son, Leo, afloat, on her own terms.
image: Kelsey Zimmerman is a writer and artist from Michigan currently living in Iowa. Her work is published or forthcoming in Nurture: A Literary Journal, Ghost City Review, Unlost Journal, and The Indianapolis Review.