The Lesson

Many friends of mine are highly intelligent.

they talk of having to ‘hide’ their intelligence as children, to avoid scaring others

I did not fit in either, but for much different reasons

a contradiction, most who spoke to me believed me to be very bright

but the lore of the highly verbal is just that. An ability to talk circles around people

sometimes the brain is empty behind the Rocky Horror Picture Show mouth.

Unlike my very smart friends, who excelled and won prizes

and knew uncannily how to do things before being taught, even welding, and that was

hard

unlike my first boyfriend who made all A’s whilst watching The Incredible Hulk

unlike my second boyfriend who made all A’s whilst masturbating to Farrah Fawcett

the only way I was ever on top was if I climbed, brick by brick.

I learned early on, not to compete

why would you compete if you NEVER win? If you’re always the slow poke, the last picked on a team, the one who has to ask again and again, the friend who can’t

get the gist of it and stays home reading comics.

Usually the most competitive are those who are naturally good at something and thus, recognize the taste of success

I learned slowly and badly, I couldn’t; knit, use chopsticks, play Atari well, do wheelies, skateboard or boogieboard, or vault over the box without

often falling

I had more ‘not good at that’ checked boxes than ‘excels’ and that never changed.

Some say, if you fail, keep trying, but eventually, if you fail enough sometimes you turn into

something else

a kid who is angry for other reasons too and has found a home in building that anger into a straw man

a kid who is fed up of coming last, of repeated failures and shame in sometimes still wetting the bed

being told you are an idiot over and over again tends to sink in

so I became a rebel.

If someone said; You failed that. I would laugh. Literally take joy in it.

FUCK YOU I would shout and run to the park and drink from whatever bottle was handy or climb whatever tree was nearest

I learned, you could get more positive attention from dancing and putting your hands down boys pants than

making an effort to fail.

Part of me knew it was wrong, I didn’t like boys, so why was I spending any time with them?

They didn’t like me over much either, I was; too short, too flat chested, not enough flippin enthusiasm

damn right.

Then I belonged nowhere

except under the hot lights of the dance floor, shaking out my grief or in a tree house pretending I was anyone but me

I ran so many times away from pain / I began to know the tune and hum it

in a weak moment I would return and feel-up a boy

for 3 minutes of false love

and in that wet, sticky repulsion

hate myself ever more.

sometimes even the child falling off the deep-end can see it coming

but nobody else could; they thought I was just badly behaved / didn’t ask why / didn’t try to intervene

I crashed and burned on the rocks multiple times, like a bad sky diving bird searching for her nest

wanting in one moment to excel, the next to set fire to

everything that rubbed my nose in it.

I absorbed failure like a nicotine patch

I inhaled it like cheap speed on a dirty toilet seat

when I lifted my legs to the ceiling and turned my head away

from the thrashing

the fuck you’s sounded really hollow

drugs weren’t enough to sake

my premature emptiness.

Of course, people are over-fond of

blaming the victim and saying; ‘you have choices’

which is partially true and partially bullshit, as we all know

deep down

it takes a village

or maybe just one person

to lift you to the light and when you’re 14

and saturated in pain without knife sharp enough

to exorcise darkness

it’s hard to grab on and ask someone to intervene.

When you came into my life

my first love, the one I lost everything to

including my shadows and a little cocktail sliver of self-hate

I didn’t know then, what an impact you would make

meteorite girl

I lost my virginity in your hands and

forgot the ammonia of boys and how they’d beg

to go all the way and almost want to pay you if they had

more than a penny and dirty underwear on offer

leaving you feeling worthless and slutty and defiled and violated even if

you kissed while crossing your own legs the entire time.

In your arms I realized my own skin, the honey softness

of your touch, a new language.

You were, the girlfriend of my best friend

you loved him, you loved me (on weekends when he was away)

I was your little secret and you stripped me one by one

of all my petty rebellions

until I stood before you naked and shivering

telling me; Get your shit together, because nobody

is going to do it for you and you don’t want to be

working in High Street Stores at 40 nor do you

want to squander all your talent on

cheap cider and horny empty-eyed souls.

I laughed then, I remember it, day losing light

your face looked older, wiser, molded by shadow

I wanted to press myself to your breasts and find

that special sound you made when I delved deeper.

But you took my chin and forced me to meet your eyes

a deep blue like the bottom of my grandmother’s swimming

pool where I learned to drown

It isn’t fair, you said, it isn’t right, and it isn’t your fault

but it is your responsibility

defy them. Even if you can’t beat them, even if you can’t

ever be as good as them, defy their expectations of you

make something of yourself anyway, and for those who

things come easy, realize you are twice as strong

for matching their ease with your effort.

I admired you more than anyone I’d ever met

not just for the shape of your curls and the way you stood

short and yet louder than anyone in the room

I admired your tenacity and how you had a really dumb side

that you could laugh at and we’d sit in your friends bar

underage (me) barely old enough (you) and I could

never get enough of watching your lips move and wishing

they could be pressed against mine til eternity.

When you left me for the boyfriend you always knew you’d keep

because I was a phase in your life and you were my everything

I didn’t hate you for it. I felt the terrible absence of your

hand in mine and how life without you was colorless and

drab like someone had sucked out all the joy and left only

skeletons of memory.

But I was young, I picked myself up and tried again

the first time in years, putting aside my acting out and anger

the rebellions, resentment at having so many

impediments and not being one of the golden ones for whom

everything came naturally.

I worked so hard I ended up succeeding, but that success

never made me happy the way you hoped it would.

I still felt a fraud

I still knew, if I didn’t work twice as hard as everyone else I would never

be their equal

I knew deep down my short-comings were

who I really was and that being ordinary is never something we aspire to.

It did feel good to fight back

against things people liked to say in cruel moments

about how I would never amount to anything, how I wasn’t half

the intelligent person they’d thought I’d grow up to be

I proved them wrong.

I did not gain confidence in myself because I knew the truth

sometimes you can tap dance so fast, people start to believe

the tune you are humming, but it’s just a magic trick

and you’re as ordinary and bog-standard as

chips in newspaper and clothes on a line.

Did I want to be remarkable? Special? Unique? Gifted?

Hell yeah.

Accepting that you’re ordinary, especially when you were never told

you mattered

is absolutely ego crushing

but I remembered how you laughed at yourself

and didn’t let it stop you

how you might have felt the fear and done it anyway

I took an incomplete leaf out of your book

one that I keep til this day, pressed against my bosom

remembering that people come into your life for a reason

sometimes that’s why they have to leave

for the lesson is rarely learned

without loss.

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38 thoughts on “The Lesson

  1. “The best revenge is to live well.” – Oscar Wilde

    and

    Competition, I never learned it.
    Only child compete with whom,
    The Parents? Impossible!
    For their attention? Who with?
    More often, learn to avoid
    Too much supervision
    No siblings to teach the importance.
    All the toys were mine,
    All the snacks, mine.
    Come school, no joy in
    A winning team, or grief
    At a loosing one, only seeing
    A kind of madness
    A kind of Zen, to play a game
    Indifferent to the win or loose
    And so, truly play
    Even the game called “love”

  2. By god, girl that was phenomenal, do you have any soul left to bare? I wish I had an ounce of your capacity to delve that deep, I hope someone loves you more than life, you so deserve it!

  3. Thank you so much! I fear writing out my truths but then again, I was always told, a writer must, and so, and so, and so. It’s people like you who make it worthwhile, to know it did not fall on deaf ears, that it was somewhat appreciated. That for me is everything. SO THANK YOU Charlie because you permit me able to be brave.

  4. Which is HILARIOUS as I have long (long) (did I mention long?) thought YOU (yes you) to be among the very brightest, most inspirational and tenacious, intelligent women I have had the fortune to know (never enough). I truly would, if asked, put you in that short-list of brightest beings and how funny that neither of us can do some of those things. It helped for me to discover I had Dyscalculia, though nothing undoes a life time of put downs, at least we can write about it, at least we can laugh at ourselves. I truly believe laughter saves us. You have one of the best senses of humor of anyone I know, and moreover, I adore your creative soul and depths. So whatever it is that made you, make more I say! Fortunately you did ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you – just for reading this long winded return to confessional – by your fellow poor chop stick user xo

  5. I meant to ask you – if you would consider reviewing the Anthology when it comes out? I know you may say, but I’m a man how can I review a poetry anthology of lesbian poems but I think you are EXCELLENT at interpreting poetry. It would not have to be long. I could send you the book by PDF when I’m finished completing it. Would you consider that? It’s totally okay if not xo But thought I would ask ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. This story swept me away like a tidal wave. Your words are so beautifully raw, full of pure uncut emotion. My heart raced through the entire piece and I canโ€™t help but wonder how many readers felt the way I did โ€“ that I could feel so many fragments of myself in your words. Thank you for sharing something that makes me feel so much all at once. Youโ€™re truly gifted.

  7. Yes! The poetry of love, requited or otherwise, is the poetry of love (Or, as the case may be, or lust.) no matter the gender combinations. Besides, I sometimes think men should read more lesbian poetry. It might teach them things that would make them better lovers.

  8. Phew, amazing to read! Well done.
    Iโ€™m so glad your first love spoke such truth to you, & jolted you into the beauty and power you truly deserve ๐ŸŒˆ

  9. This seems to be one of the most revealing posts I’ve read of yours, and the amount of self insight and raw honesty reveals to me this one thing – you are you gifted (even if it is such a dark raw and painful gift most of the time).. and this resonates on so many levels with me. Thanks so much for sharing it so openly.

  10. It was an odd sensation reading it, because although some of the details were completely different, that feeling of being on the outside of something ‘normal’ was very strong. Maybe all kids and adolescents just yearn to be part of the pack. Wanting to be different, and individual, comes with a sort of maturity. I was a bright kid and cleverness was valued in our society, so it got me through not having the nerve to do things, ride a bike, (hated swimming), climbing (scared of heights) doing anything at all remotely dangerous, being in unfamiliar situations, doing things or going places I’d never been before, standing up for myself. I had a good school, good family and good community, otherwise I’d probably be neurotic at least now. And we all knew how to laugh ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Agreed. It is a sign of maturity to be comfortable in your own skin. Doesn’t surprise me you were a bright kid, you still are ๐Ÿ˜‰ Humor is surely, every intelligent person’s saving grace!

  12. Dearest Ekaterina, Thank you SO much for these uplifting words. They mean so much to me. I had been suffering quite a bad period of not being able to write very much and to feel that something I did write, as honestly as I did, touched someone, well it’s everything I could ever wish for as a writer. Thank you.
    I really appreciate you taking the time to say this to me and let me know, as well as your kindness. It was a very honest outpouring and I was afraid of the candor and possible impact. Even if only you felt this way, it means I did something right. Thank you again so much for your kindness. Everyone needs someone like you in their life to keep them going. I wish the same for you always.

  13. Hello My Friend, it’s been a while since I wrote something as revealing. I think you and I bonded over things we both wrote that were very revealing back a few years ago, but since then I have had a bad writers block and wasn’t really able to write a lot the way I used to. I envy you for your ability to always be able to write and to do so with truth and integrity. It is one reason I admire you so much. Thank you – I will take the compliment, for having a dark gift is better than no gift! And it is very encouraging. Thank you for being such a supportive friend to me, it means everything.

  14. Just emailed you back btw xo I think men should read more lesbian poetry! ha ha ha you gave me such a giggle over that one! (But I agree for the reasons stated!)

  15. Well this response means the world to me. And when things are blocked maybe something deeper is going on. I always admire the way you express deeper truths indirectly but oh so powerfully. And I am so grateful to know you and call you friend. โค

  16. Someone further up in this thread referred to you as gifted. It’s soooooo true! Beautifully done, Candice! These lines, in particular, grabbed me in this poem…
    I knew deep down my short-comings were
    who I really was and that being ordinary is never something we aspire to.
    โค

  17. Definitely you are so right. I get blocked with how much pain I feel sometimes so I just can’t write. But that’s why I admire you because when you are in the midst of it you don’t stop. THAT is a true writer.

  18. Aww that’s so kind because I think your poems are far better than mine, isn’t it funny or strange. I get blocked too believe it or not but I do try and write through though even though the critic tells me it may not be fit for consumption…. xoox

  19. I think we’re biased about each other and can’t always see the value of our own work. I know we are both a little self-depricating (well okay, a lot!) but somehow we survived this long so we must be doing something right! I think the critics would feel your work WAS good enough for consumption. I hope when we next do another Anthology you will consider submitting. I will remind you when it comes up.

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