Tomorrow I will be twenty and it doesn’t matter in all the usual ways birthdays don’t matter. I don’t know what your twenties are supposed to be about, but I have learned to leave the party early. I will be home by eight and I will leave my muddy shoes at the door. I will tenderly wash my own hair and take myself to bed.
I think this is the path I have walked, lately. I think I’ve gotten better at holding my own hand. All this time happiness has been slowly slowly falling on my shoulders and I have been thinking “When this is done I will be happy. In two months I will be happy”, and I was a little wrong to think that. I’ve been hoping for some strange state of bliss, and no life. But there’s something I’ve been watering and it’s growing and this well has not dried up yet. Sometimes if I’m really quiet I can hear the wind singing I remember sleeping in the valleys and the olive branches I remember. I read fruit peels and find a map of the sun’s surface. The apples in my fridge are bruised and their skin says I remember the pillow-soft grass I remember.
I’ve been walking a lot and every walk I go on gets me closer to this place where I meet myself again as a tree and it is winter but the ends of my branches like to dance and rustle. I will get there on a clear night. I will sit down and sleep against the trunk. I will wake up when spring comes. I will meet myself again in another season of my heart.
When writing this I want to tell you: My parents’ house used to have this huge mandarin tree. It got sick, black spots all over its wrinkled skin, but the fruit was always orange and bright. Kids used to ring the door for fruit whenever the branches started looking heavy. They inexpertly tried to heal it, but when it would not grow better quickly they gave up and cut it down, and put tiles over the place it used to grow. And I want to tell you: I do not know how to mourn for that tree and the blue walls that used to grow around it and its black spots and the roots they spent a week unearthing. I do not know how to mourn for a time where I did not care about the tree. I want to tell you this and I do not know how much of me I can give you before it feels like ripping flesh off my bones and leaving you to chew it.
I want to say: I’m turning twenty and I am still nursing the eleven-year-old sitting quietly inside, I am mothering my past loneliness the same way I cherish this brand-new loneliness. I want to tell you: every time I read the Little Prince again I grieve all over for the child I have to let go of. I’m doing my best not to let exhaustion wash all the wonder off of me. I run my hands in the river where dreams and laughter whisper and the silver water says I remember the star I fell down from I remember. I’m doing my best to lay that child down tenderly and not walk away with bitterness weighing on my arms. I’m doing my best.
If you see me walking away after burying this small body it’s okay. I am just planting myself. I am gathering heavy handfuls of soil around me and from it green things will grow in the spring.