We all have past lives, like when I thought my dad was a superhero for delivering pizza and how we all thought we could travel to the moon someday. Almost all the pictures of my time in New York are lost, locked into a world of Myspace never again to be resurrected. Lomo silky shots caught my face just right, half of me, the other half a mistake upside down, and I don’t want any of ours together, just mine.
There was a small apartment, cliff bars, the Met, American Museum of Natural History, and Al Rucker’s hand shaking mine. I visited schools in Connecticut, a phony Gilmore girl, and got lost in China Town. I asked to watch the Notebook because I thought I should, but I didn’t like it, nor did I like the feeling I got lying in bed crying, and he never knew, he just brought me string cheese and apple juice and fell asleep until dawn broke. There were subway rides in the morning and meeting his dad at a pub on the West Side, and that’s where the picture of me was taken. I just want that one.
But most importantly, I remember ordering Filet Minon because his dad told me I should, and I felt guilty for so many years, that expensive meal and a world of late night dinners in Manhattan with the breeze on my back while in Tennessee my mom was making pork chops and apple sauce. I thought of this steak while shampooing my hair years later, and I didn’t feel guilty this time because it didn’t happen in this dimension, this life, it was some other realm, when his parents were still together, when I wrote a novel called September Rain with naive little giggles. I just fell into one rich hole after the other, caught between like-minds but unlike past lives, not dissimilar to that fated string cheese.
The pictures I took were developed, physical copies, and they are extinct, except I think there’s a couple on Facebook. Pictures get lost like socks in the dryer, but even when something falls into the wormhole, it still happened, even if it wasn’t you who caused the losing.
I stood in the land of hot showers, my skin turning pink and warm, and I remembered the shame in worship songs confessing over and over, he loves me, he loves me. I would sing you instead, it felt more like prayer, and that steak was just months behind me. The reason this steak haunted me wasn’t because of anything bordering on vegan, not even close. I wasn’t even thinking those types of thoughts then, only how bodies worked. High-schoolers have so much guilt stored in their muscles, they can’t even move them unless they’re rocking back and forth on another.
And I love the human body, but I hate what’s on the inside. I like the shapes, but not the way it moves. I used to take my bathing suit off in pools, not a few years back, but in that other life, when my mom would call me a fish and my little fingers would turn to prunes so deep they would actually hurt in the drying.
The guilt behind the steak was the slab of meat with curly hair sitting in front of me saying, it’s okay, you deserve it. It was the number on the menu so close to three digits. It was the man in a suit, his father, and I had only seen my dad in a suit when he married my stepmom. I’m not even sure if it was a suit, then, him stepping into a cottage to say I do, or something like that.
I step out of steam, and I am no longer the girl who took off her bathing suit at crowded pools, hoping no one was looking. I am a graduated form, let’s just say, adult, and I do not think about places where hot water and hot meals are delicacies. I do not think of them because I cannot without wishing I was that little girl again, finding my way into a world that treats water like they treat their air. Trees no longer give us life—that was in some other dimension, when our parents were skyscrapers, not dandelions, as we all are, trying so hard to grow while everyone’s telling us, you’re only but a weed.