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I Thought Love Was a Country

This was the way of a country.

This piece is part of the Love Letters notebook, which features art by Ali El-Chaer.

A fantasy room to fold my fears in. Floors to match these flat eyes. Walls to match 
these slant palms.

I placed myself in the middle. Humming a red anthem: if the door is in the back, keep
an eye on it. If the door is over the heart, it must be bricked in. 

Last June, instead of calling back the man who named me unreal in front of a jewelry
store, I tightened the lines around my feet. Balled up in my territory. Lonelier than a

There was certainty in a closed room. The certainty that I closed it. 

Safety. What else is the reason?

Still, I shift from one foot to the other.  

Every evening my organ growing thorny like a throne. Every evening the same man
coming to me in a dream, mouthing, “Anchi gn kebad sew nesh.” 

This was the way of a country. 

The inside staying spare and red. The massacre metaphorical. The metaphor merely

My twelve-year-old body stationed in a corner. My father and mother in a misfiring

How the delusion could’ve started then.

With my head against the wall. The bricks layering weight between me and the rest of
the world.

A quick internet search would diagnose this as avoidant. 

How many years till a man reaches out with full eyes and even palms and I don’t tell him
to stay beyond the lines?

There is still so much to say. 

Sorry about my stiff feet, sorry about this clumsy cell I call haven and how I greet 
with teeth when asked to be let in. 

My sister says, “So much of a country is control and here you are still playing king.” 

Another date where I hold a stranger’s hand by a corner store, make another promise 
of opening my borders with a kiss. It means, There there. It means, My bad, I have to

Funny, the way proximity graduates into a placeholder for tenderness. 

How my father and mother have yet to look at each other, really look at each other, 
even as they roll back the covers, climb into bed, and lay flat on their backs with their
shoulders touching. 

There has to be more than this. 

This desire, a scratch at the door. This needing to be held.

I’m tired of making sense of my box. Whatever draws the lines, I bring. Whatever lays
the bricks to the ceiling, I bring.

Here are the red walls and the red flooring. 

To put it simply: it takes a revolution to bring the ruin of rooms. 

And it takes my sister’s patient arms for me to begin with my own feet. This step means
open and this one means release.

For once, let there be destruction and let it be waged right. 

What remains of my country under my feet. What terrifies looking me right in the eye.