The third one is of a giant woman riding a giant leopard, with giant hair billowing around her head. Behind her is an eagle, swooping toward her, talons outstretched.
It isn’t attacking her. That’s what some people think.
She isn’t supposed to be me.
“She looks like you!” says a lady in the locker room.
“You don’t look like her,” my friend tells me.
“Cool,” I say. “That’s not what it’s supposed to be anyway. They aren’t supposed to exist. You don’t have leopards and bald eagles organically in the same place. The world wasn’t made for that. But my body was. And she isn’t real, but she exists anyway, and maybe that’s powerful.”
I can now pull myself up if I subtract 80 pounds. Last week it was 90, the week before that it was 110. I don’t know what’s changing. Most days I’m too tired to really work out, now that my day has been extended.
“I hope you’re making more money than Oprah, with how busy you are,” says the only other Congolese person in Flatbush.
“Je travaille plus pour l’humanité que pour l’argent,” je lui répond, but I’m not even sure if that holds. It sort of does. I’m happy not to have immediate financial worries, but I’m also terrified of getting cancer, or getting locked out, or breaking technology, or losing health insurance and having to pay for birth control again. So when it comes down to it, there are more lucrative things I could be doing if I believed in a future after four years.
I also wish I hadn’t picked this month to go back on bc. I wish I could know the reasons behind how I’m feeling at this moment. If it’s the administration, my own mental health, the changes in hormones, or the anniversary.
“I should apologize. I know I haven’t been a good friend, and I was supposed to make it up to you tonight, and I came so late we almost missed the concert,” she tells me on the train. “You must hate me. I bet you’re thinking, ‘Oh, this fucking bitch!’”
I don’t use that word. I look down and see the leopard’s paw poking out.
“I didn’t expect to see you out last night, even though I invited you,” I tell her, slowly. “So when you showed up, it was beautiful and amazing. I was so happy to see you because it was such a surprise. But tonight, when I needed you, and you knew I needed you, you sort of let me down. And it feels like things work so much better when I expect nothing from you, because then it can always be nice. But I don’t think I can count on you anymore.”
They ride away.
Five days later, the friendship is over. Apparently telling her the truth about my feelings was uncalled for. It’s wrong to say that I can’t count on her, she tells me, but I shouldn’t have expectations for her either. So, you agree with what I was saying? What? Oh…yeah. Whatever, it still shouldn’t have been said. She doesn’t need that in her life right now.
“What you have to understand,” he explains later, “Is that people want the truth but not really. You are a no hold bars kind of lady, but not everyone can handle that.”
“What I am JUST realizing,” I say, “Is that people really aren’t honest, but I always assume they are. I operate under the assumption that everyone is being 95% straightforward with their thoughts and feelings, just as I am. But everyone else just assumes I’m like them. So when I’m being honest and up front, they think I’m being shady and hiding things still. And if what I’m saying bluntly is harsh, they assume I’m much nastier underneath.”
“…Yeah, actually,” he agrees.
“But honestly, I think I’ll keep the vice,” I tell him. “I’m trying to spend as much time in reality as possible, and I don’t need already-toxic people dragging me away for their own sakes.”
It’s only ever been the most negative, the most toxic, the ones who stole the majority of my energy, who haven’t been able to handle my honesty. Who have left. The toxic ones, and you.
Were you toxic, Edward?
I don’t think so. I definitely think you unleashed a swath of demons into my life, I know The Man used you as a gateway, and too much of my energy got tied up into yours. But I’ve let it go. Or I’m still letting it go, and it gets better all the time, and I can feel myself getting harder. I just have to remind myself of that during this time of year.
But you definitely didn’t like my honesty, either. You didn’t like that I saw parts of you and pulled them to the surface.
Your sexuality. Your body negativity. Eating disorder. Drug problems.
So you lied to me, a lot. And in the end, I believed you, because I wanted to. And it was so much worse when a jogger ran into the dead truth on the morning train tracks.
2016 was about being conscious of energy. 2017 is being mindful of time. Where is my time going, what am I doing with it, who am I spending it on, and Is It Being Wasted? I don’t have time to waste on people who will steal my energy. I don’t have time to waste with lies. I only have time for the truth, for understanding, for enlightenment, and for advancement. Shadows, go away.
Edward, come back.
I’m just kidding. I know you can’t.