White fluffy clouds move across the sky over Damrak.

Don’t forget about me.

When I close my eyes I see those words sputter from the mouth of a young girl standing free.

She’s standing still and screaming, but there’s barely any sound.

It’s so faint. It gets lost in the wind barreling down a dark, desolate street in Siena.

Three AM and all alone.

She knew I’d forget about her, as she pummeled her small fists into the stone ground – looking for blood and looking for life.

She knew exactly what I was going to do, and she couldn’t bear it.

So she filed her nails on the cobblestone and said goodbye.

I’m on a plane to Amsterdam, and I’m ready to tell my story of the past three and a half years since I left Siena.

That girl was me.

January, 2014

I woke up at two in the afternoon with a poisonous mucus dripping from my nose down the back of my throat, and I stared up at the clean lines where the walls met the cottage cheese ceiling.

I imagined myself in some European city sitting and writing at a cafe, feeling in love.

Still staring up I thought that the lines where the wall met the ceiling were anything but clean. How could they be when beneath them was a dirty girl who hated herself, lying next to someone who didn’t want her anymore? 

The afternoon sun streaming through the blinds mocked me. Its brightness was loud like a choir of insipid, screaming children you just wish would shut the fuck up.

Shut up! SHUT UP.

I sat up in bed and looked outside at the sun’s rays dancing on the rare, new-fallen snow. Something that should have been so beautiful felt twisted and weird and wrong.

I began to cry; my smoke-filled lungs heaving, gasping for air.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” said the boy in bed next to me, awakened by my violent sobs.

I used to know him so well.

“I don’t know,” I whimpered. “I’m just so depressed.”

In the back of my mind a voice whispered, “you knew this would happen.”

He held me for a while, tears streaming down my face. Then eventually I mustered the strength to walk home, where I got back into bed and prayed for the evil black serpent to stop constricting so tightly around my mind.

That day, I might as well have been dead.

That day was just one of so many more time past and time future.

November 2015

QUIET! QUIET! Quiet the mind.

I sit alone and drink my wine.

All I see is the color blue, as the dust and ashes fall from the roof.

Numb. Make me numb. So I don’t have to feel what I’ve destroyed.

Numb. Make me numb. So I don’t have to face what you destroyed.

Burn it all.

Those ashes, ashes, they all fall down.

September 28, 2016

I’m thinking of you as I sit here at an Irish pub in Amsterdam.

The flavor of Guinness and peppermint cigarettes reminds me of the way I loved you.

Inhale the smoke, and it all feels quiet.

Three and a half years ago you would have been sitting across from me smiling into my laughing eyes.

Though I’ve grown cold to those memories over the years, right now I embrace them. It feels like only moments ago we loved each other in beautiful European cities, when the days felt like they would last forever. 

September 29, 2016

Every time I think I’m fine, the serpent comes back to constrict my mind.

Over the past three years, happiness has been like a quick glass of wine that I ducked into a bar for in the middle of a storm.

Fuck the serpent for making it so my happiness decided to go.

Fuck my father for making it so the serpent has a breeding ground to thrive and grow.

Somewhere in it all

My father went back to the bottle time and time again, and I drank and smoked the pain away.

I hid it, stuffed it down until it had no where else to go.

The serpent ate my pain for dinner and vomitted it back up into my soul.

The poisonous sludge saturated my flesh and protruded in oily spirals from my face.

Alcohol. Blood. Tears. Relief?

“Relief? You Don’t deserve that,” the serpent said.

Somewhere further along

Many men came and went, usually inebriated in the middle of the night. And the men I loved I threw away, subconsciously staving off what I’d come to know as inevitable pain.

The men I loved got red-haired sexy girlfriends who did things like post kissing photos on Facebook, captioned things like “I’m the luckiest girl in the world!”

I looked away and cried silently, wishing those girls were me.

All I want is to climb out my window, play in the sunlight, dance, whistle and be free.

March, 2014

From my acid-washed dreams I awoke to you on top of me, but I didn’t know yet who you were.

I thought maybe you were my best friend at the time, my subconscious wanting that to be true.

But as I ran my hand down your chest and felt a thick bed of hair I knew you weren’t him.

I knew who you were, and suddenly everything hurt and fear constricted my throat.

How could this be happening to me?

You moaned my name into my ear lustfully, as if I was supposed to  moan back with the same horny desire, but I couldn’t make a sound.

I couldn’t move.

What made you think you could do this to me?

After a few minutes I finally managed to whisper a few words:

“I’m sore. Please stop.”


And he finally did.

I rolled over onto my side, tears streaming down my face. He had told me I could sleep in his bed… I didn’t expect him to rape me.

Now I’ll never be the same.

I woke up hours later to the faint light of dawn. Still stripped of my pajamas, I sat up as silently as I could so as not to wake the sorry excuse for a human being still sleeping next to me.

I reached down to grab my plaid, fleece sleeping pants from the floor.

I don’t know how they got there.

The motion moved the bed and he woke.

“Hey,” he said… sleepily, dreamily, as if he was waking up next to a girlfriend after a night of making love.

Funny that the only things I felt through the night were pure and utter hatred, disrespect, and cruelty.

I hastily tied the bow at the front of my waistband and slipped my man-sized shirt over my head.

“Hey,” I said back, unfeeling.

Looking out the window for a moment before leaving the room I thought to myself exactly this:

“Everyone loves you. So what am I supposed to do.”

Then I got up and left silently, and tried to forget.

October 1, 2016

If you ever need to be healed, try walking through the streets of Amsterdam with a slight buzz at sunset in early fall.

Stop for a minute or two to watch the fluffy white clouds move past the sun over Damrak.

This should do the trick.

I stand and watch the clouds move like the color blue and dust in the sunshine. I stop, breathe and remember. I taste the red wine and cigarettes.

“You can’t forget me when I’m not here,” the sun said.

“I know this now,” I said to the sun. “I’m sorry I forgot before.”

May, 2016

My father getting cancer this past Christmas was the icing on the ugliest cake that took years to bake.

Guess someone left the oven on though because that cake burned to dust along with everything else in one big fire come spring.

I rushed home from work to find my house charred.

Dry wall fell in pieces with loud bangs as I cautiously stepped inside the bedroom I had longed for all day.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Water fell from the ceiling beams that should have been hidden by a ceiling no longer there.

I stared up, and it all felt clean.

Everything was gone, and it felt so clean.

June, 2016

I stopped looking back after the fire. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t live another minute as someone not at least trying to be OK.

So the summer before my 24th birthday I finally fucking tried.

I cried in the rose garden and I laid in the sand. I submerged myself in the river and I ran.

And my father picked up a bottle of vodka again, and again.

The first time I did everything I could to make him stop. I tried harder than I ever had before in the past 10 years. For a moment, I foolishly believed I fixed him.

But again, I was wrong.

Fixing someone is impossible to do. So when he drank again weeks later I said “fuck it,” and got back to fixing me.

And I went to Amsterdam.

October 2, 2016

After a week in Amsterdam I sit here by the window sill, sun peeking delicately through the rain clouds; a gentle reminder: “I’m still here.”

I leave tomorrow, but I won’t go back. I’m not going back to hating myself and all of the things you and you and you did to me – all of the things I did to myself – all of the things the black serpent made me believe.

As the few rays of daylight kiss my face, I remember what it is I love about myself:

I don’t stop. I won’t quit. I keep going until I get where I want to be, no matter how long it takes. And along the way I make people laugh, and I take risks and I feel. I feel everything. And I love.

I’m sorry I forgot those true, simple facts however many years ago.

For some reason, I needed to come to Amsterdam to remember.


Loving myself means loving all the bad parts too.

All the sad history I’ve written here in this fragmented essay is also the story of my strength.

Loving myself means acceptance – acceptance of time past, time present and time future (whatever that may be).

It’s a small, quiet room.

Acceptance: My life won’t always be red wine and cigarettes, invigorating sex in European cities, sunshine paired with a salty ocean breeze, and the color blue. Neither will it always be black serpents that eat anxiety for breakfast and your father’s shortcomings for dinner.

I don’t know what else life will bring, but what I do know is that I’ll always be me.

And P.S., there’s always time to breathe.


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