the day i was born was not a day of sparkling stars and soft-spoken lullabies, of rose-colored memories and warm autumn hearts. time did not stand still, but instead slipped between shrill cries and bitter words. but i would not know; i was not there. i cannot remember my first breath, and i cannot remember what i saw the first time i opened my eyes. but perhaps i never really learned to breathe perhaps my eyes never opened after all.
when i turned five, i discovered the art of being alone.
i learned that there is no celebration song when you are twenty-three hundred miles from where you belong and your family has fluttered off into the sky. i was trapped at the foot of a stranger's bed, a salty ocean tide dripping down my face. though i had no candles to put out, i figured memories of a thirteen-year-old's cigarette smoke were substitute enough i wished california would fall into the sea so this desert would feel more home.
when i turned six, i discovered the art of finding peace.
i had left the choking dust storms for the place i had lived all along; this time, when the clock struck another year since my birth, i found myself carried away into some strange new innocence. i saw missing-tooth smiles through the eyes of rubbery blue balloons and crawled through tunnels much more beautiful than the claustrophobia i had fallen through all my sweet short life. and although my thoughts were still covered by the silver silk of childhood, i considered that the years to come may feel the same as this day. (but i also considered that i may be very wrong.)
when i turned eight, i discovered the art of dreaming.
i wished that i could see the future, because i did not know if my mind and body would ever fuse back together, if i would ever fall back into the now-foreign world from which i came. so, under banners of purple and green, i pretended to take my place at the table of supposedly familiar faces, and together we swore on half-eaten cake and melting ice cream that someday we would be beautiful. (it occurred to me that i was the only one who might be lying.)
when i turned ten, i discovered the art of breaking down.
they told me i did not deserve the gifts they had given, for i had turned their home into a battlefield i told them there was never any peace to begin with. and between the thoughts that i was yet another year farther from living and another year closer to dying, i let myself be shattered and broken. i hid from the clowns and thunderclouds and let the day pass me by, hoping this was how i would spend the rest of my life.
when i turned eleven, i discovered the art of giving up.
i spent the night seeking my purpose in the fallout of late-night radio i never found it. my mind was hazy with the knowledge that love does not exist i had watched it fall apart yet again today. the only gift i wanted to ask for was some sugar-coated serenity, but i figured that would not fit in a box and could not be tied down with the superficial bows i had thrown away years ago. so i covered my eyes with the thickest of blindfolds and sought to pin the tail on whatever i had left hanging upon the white-washed walls.
when i turned twelve, i discovered the art of being torn apart.
sardonic laughter filled hallways and school bells, lockers and classrooms, and waited for just a single tear of surrender and heartache. i was not celebrating another day since my birth, but rather the simplicity of hating and being hated. that night, i scribed a list of all the people i refused to love and tore it apart, then placed it in the smallest shoebox and wrapped it in golden ribbons. i wished i could be half as pretty i wished i could make myself something more than the tiny pieces i had made them.
when i turned fifteen, i discovered the art of losing control.
i watched the rain pour and the wind rush in haphazard circles until the light around me was overcome by black. i found myself lying on the hardwood floor, petrified by the dark, slowly peeling myself away and searching for something beneath the shell of my skin. i was alone and abandoned, a shivering five-year-old all over again. when the candles came, there were too many to extinguish with my own breath. i let it go and waited for the ticking of moments and years to pull me back together fifteen years of my life had passed; would finding my place in this world take fifteen more?
when i turned sixteen, i discovered the art of waking up.
i received a puzzle wrapped in scarlet lace that i still have not put together. it was a puzzle of ages and incidents, of the births and deaths before me, of disassembled bones and uneven heartbeats. i rode a roller coaster toward the sky and watched myself crash down to earth like a silver meteorite, like some kind of biological warfare that tipped the scales of my mind. i curled into songs of supernovas and satellites that brought me to life, and though the bitter taste of loss was coloring the days ahead, i swore i would do whatever it took to shatter the chaos and breathe again, because somewhere between disaster and disease, i had found God.
the day i turn seventeen will be the day i finally sew together the light and darkness i have known with the stitches of sunrise and twilight and maybe that will be the day that i am finally alive, that i am finally born.