is law & order: svu my favorite show?

(short answer: yes. 100 fucking %)

LONG ANSWER:

During every period of my life when I have been massively, capital-D DEPRESSED, Law & Order: SVU has been there for me. It started with all those weekend USA marathons. (You know the ones.) The first time I was super Not Okay, I couldn’t sleep in a bedroom– either at my college apartment or at my parents’ house. That felt too… normal. Like something I wasn’t worthy of anymore. So, I slept on the couch, any couch. When I’m DEPRESSED, I don’t really get ready for bed. My teeth go unbrushed, my face unwashed… but if the lights are already off and Stabler and Benson are solving a grisly crime… it’s just easier for sleep to come to me.

Because we’ve all already seen every episode, right? It’s not like SVU requires deep focus and attention. The show has been on since 1999 and, with absolutely all due respect to Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T, let’s be real: we’re only watching the Stabler seasons and we don’t really fuck with season one, so we’ve got just 11 perfect seasons of “especially heinous” crimes.

The comforting gift of the Depression Procedural is that it’s basically adult Scooby-Doo. The bad guy is never the first guy you meet, never the Super Obvious Suspect. It’s probably the guy who’s too cooperative, who gives up his DNA sample within the first 15 minutes, you know? And we’ve got a wise-cracking team of Good Guys and the best episodes are when they’re not just co-workers, but friends. I care about the hypothetical dream of Tutuola and Munch opening up a bar together as much as I care about any other nerd fandom headcanon.

(You show up for Benson and Stabler, but you stay for Tutuola and Munch.)

I’m massively Depressed now and, again, I spend most nights on the couch with SVU. Going to bed makes me sad, so I just don’t. The lights stay on, my dental hygiene fucking suffers, I rarely get changed into my pajamas… and I spend about 20 minutes trying to find an episode I don’t immediately, instantly recognize. (It’s gross to have a favorite SVU, you know what I mean?)

Going to bed makes me sad, because my dreams are vivid and hard lately and I do not want to give them anymore time than necessary, so I drown out the voices in my own head with those of Benson and Stabler.

Also… SVU is now sort of like a shorthand for how my loved ones take care of me. Sometimes I don’t want to talk, can’t bear to hear my own voice anymore… so, if I’m at my parents’ house and sunk into the couch, my folks know it’s time for an SVU marathon. My roommate now shares SVU and pizza with me on sad, lonely week nights.

My ideal Sunday is still a day on the couch with an SVU marathon. When the episodes just roll into each other, over and over and over again. When the familiar beats and exciting guest stars just wash over me. It’s like… if SVU can keep going all day, I guess so can I? I can make it through the week if I know I get to rest on Sunday.

Because sleep is not rest right now.

(i have been here before, i will be here again.)

Executive Producer

Dick Wolf

trying to explain (kind of like a poem)

(this is what it is, i think:)

my heart feels like there’s a crack in it.

(barf. sorry.)

i feel broken, do you know how that feels? do you know how it feels to believe there is something wrong with the very foundation of you? that this thing- this thing that hurts, that bites- goes all the way down to the mud, to the guts?

and i feel like i have to keep talking about it, even though i feel guilty for talking about it, i feel needy, i feel cowardly, i feel selfish, i feel disgusting- but i have to keep talking about it, because maybe i can eventually talk my way out of it. the therapy, the writing, the chattering… if i can just get. it. all. out. it can’t hurt anymore?

(tell me that’s how it works? lie to me. i don’t even care.)

i feel broken, do you know how that feels?

i hate myself, so: it is hard to accept your love. i feel as though i have tricked you. i feel like i have fed you falsehoods and here we are and i am already sorry.

because sometimes i feel like i am trying so very avidly to repair the crack and sometimes i think i pick at it on purpose, because what if it is the only beautiful thing about me? what if it is not a wound, but a revelation, do you know what i mean? what if the secrets contained within its depth are all that matter about me? maybe these are the only stories i have worth telling.

and i re-read that and i roll my eyes, even though it feels fucking true.

hello, my name is dani and i had my heart broken by a Liar once and i believed it was the only Good Story about me and i have shaved off the corners of my own sunshine because i believed it.

i do not grieve him. no, i mourn the re-contextualization of that story. i mourn breaking my own heart in order to finally heal.

he did not love me, so it is not a very Good Story, is it?

and it’s been over a decade later, but the fact is that the nightmares are happening now. the dreams back into all my past lives as i pick apart this present life and try to make some sense of the sort-of-boy standing in the wreckage he created.

and it’s been over a decade later, but i am crying now.

the difference, i think, is i am angry now. and i wish it were sexy, this anger i feel. but no, i’m wearing fucking sweatpants and i’m covered in french fry shambles. i am no prowling great-cat, but a vicious, vindictive hippo waiting at the bottom of my ranch dressing river and i will tear you to fucking pieces if you give me half a chance, fuck you.

they said grief would be seven stages. nobody said how long each stage would take. that pain and guilt would last me all my 20’s.

i saw you nearly two years ago. you bought me too many whiskey gingers to be appropriate and i do not recall whether or not if you apologized, only that i told you it was okay, that you were okay.

because i guess i am a liar too.

but i was drinking whiskey in my favorite room and i did not want to be just a Sad Story.

you will not define me. i will stop chipping at the crack one day. i will accept that i do not have to map each and every corner and edge of the crack to understand it.

i do not have to be an expert on my own pain.

also: fuck you.

blogging for when you need to stave off a nervous breakdown

(I know it’s late. I’ve just had Dr. Pepper this time, I promise.)

Tonight was going to be super cool.

Last month I bought not just a ticket, but a VIP TICKET to see Patton Oswalt- my favorite comedian- on a livestream show. How awesome, right?! The chance to see my favorite comic for the third time from the comfort of my own bedroom? The chance to be in a Zoom room with him and, like, talk to him? Wouldn’t that feel cool and fun and close to something like normal? Like before?

Like before.

My VIP Zoom is in forty minutes and I can’t stop crying. So, I’m here to try to calm down. I’m here to try to figure out why the fuck I am having such a strong emotional reaction to a livestream comedy show.

Because the show was fun! Patton told jokes and drank whiskey and took questions from the virtual audience and it was cool. It was a thing to do on a Saturday night. I poured the aforementioned Dr. Pepper and got cozy with my laptop to do this thing about which I’d been so excited.

And, again, Patton was excellent. But as the show went on, I couldn’t get Gonzo’s song out of my head:

This looks familiar
Vaguely familiar
Almost unreal yet
It’s too soon to feel yet

Close to my soul
And yet so far away
I’m going to go back there
Someday

I don’t know where the hell we are anymore. I am in my bedroom. This is where I go. My friend suggested to me that I go somewhere else for a few minutes while I’m having these panicked feelings and she’s right, but I don’t know where else to go.

I feel trapped only by the unknown of the future. Because, personally, I don’t want to go back to Before. Before was pain and sadness and shame and regret. And I’m not having a great time here in Now, though there are cool things like livestream comedy shows happening. So, there’s only Next. Next? Please? Grad school? Something? The chance to escape? The chance to start again? I need a re-do. I need a re-set.

I don’t know where There is, which I suppose is the point. But I have to go back.

the truth is not cowardice

CW for trauma and suicidal ideation. Go gently, good hearts.

I remember almost everything about the day I met the first person I ever loved.

It was my second or third rehearsal with the Georgia Renaissance Festival and I was sixteen and excited out of my mind to be PROFESSIONALLY ACTING and I was only just beginning to know everyone. I hadn’t met him yet when he walked into that upstairs room of the Little 5 Points Community Center. Everyone was so happy to see him. He commanded everyone’s joy and wonder so effortlessly and I remember being intrigued right away. I remember, that same night, doing an exercise wherein we gave each other long, flowery Shakespearean compliments and he was my partner. He went on and on about me– this strange child- and no one had ever spoken to me like that and I think all I’d ever wanted was for someone to speak to me like that and he ended his monologue with, “And thy lip is twitching. It is so adorable.” And his face fucking lit up over how cute I supposedly was. And, again, I don’t think I’d ever made someone’s face light up before. I can picture every nook and cranny of this man’s smiling face, almost sixteen years later.

(My lip does twitch when I am shy and nervous and in love. It makes performing Shakespeare super awkward, but I persist.)

I remember the shirt he was wearing and I remember how tall he was and I remember how, on the eve of my eighteenth birthday, he asked if he could hold me and I said “yes” and I felt beautiful and treasured and finally like someone out of a storybook. 

I still think about him a lot. I think about him because I loved him sincerely and deeply. I think about him because I still feel guilty for the way I behaved when he did actually call himself my boyfriend. I was greedy and jealous and immature. I think about how, now, I am the one in my 30s and how I teach children who are 16, 17, 18 years old and how I see that they are fucking children. How, no matter how adorable they might be, I would never steal their sunshine.

Perhaps this is giving him too much power, but my sunshine feels stolen. I am nearly 32 years old, nearly twice the age I was when we met, and I still think of him. I still think it was my fault. I still have nightmares. I still feel as though he was my one chance at a True Romantic Love Story and how I was too stupid to be good enough to see it through. 

I think about how sex has come to feel like something I have to do in order to convince someone to stay with me. I think about how sex makes me cry, because it makes me sad, because you taught it to me. I think about how I touch myself at night in a way that is not tender or sweet, but in a way that makes me think of punishment because I think perhaps I am supposed to be punished. Sex is supposed to hurt and therefore love is supposed to hurt. 

I don’t blame you for everything. That would be cowardly of me and I have been accused of cowardice enough. But you taught me a lot. You taught me how to be funny. You taught me how to drive a car. You taught me how to wield my sexuality like a weapon to eke out just another night, another hour. You made me tea the first time I wanted to die and you called me your best friend and I believed you. 

I think about you. I think about how you made me feel like love is something that is supposed to hurt. And that is a hard belief to overcome and I hate you for it. 

(I think I will always love you too and I hate myself for it.)

Telling your truth doesn’t make you a coward. Being honest about your pain doesn’t make you weak. This is how people know to help you. You deserve to be helped.

Fuck anyone who tells you otherwise.

12:32 after valentine’s day

12:32 am, and I do not know how to be awake at this hour and so I am sopping up the dragonberry rum with leftover potatoes and vegetarian gravy.

(There is also cheese and hot sauce, I am not a monster.)

33 minutes after Valentine’s Day and I am full and I am loved, I do believe, and I am also angry, because I have come to expect that love should feel like pain and I should not have to feel that way.

I have done a lot of careful work to not blame you. But in doing so, I have swallowed all the blame myself. I have done shots of shame over and over and over again, have licked the salt of grief from my own skin, my teeth have punctured this lime of self-hatred, and I do not hate you because I have spent all of that time hating myself.

12:35 after Valentine’s Day.

I don’t hate you even a little bit. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. I would get on a roof and scream it to the stars if I knew the right roof to climb. You would not hear me. You are done hearing me. You told me once we would always be in each other’s lives and I believed you and I have to shut my eyes closed tight at night to block out that sadness, that emptiness, that no-ness. We are not in each other’s lives. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

12:36.

Maybe I am a little drunk and treading less carefully than I would here, but fucking fuck. I thought for a long time that fairy tales only existed in the dark of night. That there is one small love that goes to the grocery store and talks absentmindedly about weekend plans, but oh, there is a Bigger Love that is life, that is art, that is creation itself, that could be everything. And I believed you too. And I carved out a certain chunk of myself in exchange for that belief, I made a sacrifice to that magnificent altar, and I have been afraid and ashamed ever since.

(I am still not mad at you, not really. Sometimes I really wish I was.)

12:40. (Sorry, I took a break to eat my potatoes.)

It is 41 minutes past Valentine’s Day and I am full of rum and potatoes and I will stride forward into starlight.

You have no power over me.

big kid, you are beautiful

CW: Internalized fatphobia ahead. Guard your hearts, you angel creature.

Long story short: I couldn’t go back to volunteering at the aquarium this morning because I don’t have any black pants that fit me anymore.

And it’s hard to not feel like some moral failure over that stupid fact. It’s hard not to feel like a letdown. It’s hard not to be disappointed and angry: at myself, at the concept of pants, etc.

Because I was going to do maybe the ONE THING I am truly good at this morning. I was going to stand in a wide open space and I was going to wave and smile at patrons and I was going to be all, “Yes, hello! Welcome to the aquarium! I’m truly psyched you are here, because this place is special and magical and you’re going to have a great day and you’re going to learn how to be a steward of our oceans and wildlife and that is important AF. Do you need to know where the bathrooms are? I fucking got you.”

(more or less)

I don’t feel good at anything right now. I feel like I am failing at existing within a body. I used to run and stretch and do bullshit like Downward Dog and I was close to strong. Really, I was just thin, so it felt like I had permission to fucking exist. To put on clothes and go out into the world. I spend about half of my days in my bathrobe currently just because I don’t want to deal with the shame inherent in getting dressed And that, my dudes, is some fatphobic nonsense and I hate that it is inside me.

When I realized my pants didn’t fit yesterday, I got really sad. I got sad and I went inside and I ate some potato salad from the farmer’s market. And then later I made these tasty spicy noodles and I ate them twice. And then I still ate a Mickey Mouse bar and I hate that I will maybe always feel like I have to confess my food choices to someone as if they are inherently a sin.

I don’t feel good at anything right now. I don’t feel excited, which used to be the main thing at which I excelled. That’s why I was so ready to be back at the aquarium this morning. It truly makes me feel alive to point people in the direction of sharks. It is the only thing for which I am qualified. I’m a loud goober who really wants you to know where the eels are.

If I can offer you a fact, a smile, a direction, maybe it doesn’t matter that the rest of my feels like a failure, you know? This thing has always felt so transactional and I am really tired.

I will still be smiley and good at knowing where sharks are when I acquire new pants that fit. (I’m gonna order some today, I promise.) And it will be okay if they are a number I haven’t encountered in a very long time. Maybe even ever. Our bodies are changing and beautiful and mine is capable of spilling my guts and pointing out sea turtles. I walked this morning to get a latte and that was pretty cool.

Pant size isn’t indicative of your worth, of your strength, of your heart. Fuck that fucking noise.

You’re so good. (I whisper it to you as I would whisper it to myself.)

Eat something tasty today, okay?

I GET KNOCKED DOWN

Y’all, sometimes I feel like all I do is apply for things. Jobs, grad schools, international theme park performance contracts… It’s like I’m always on the hunt, you know? 

Here’s the thing: I have two jobs already. I’m mildly financially secure. (I can pay my rent at least, you know?) I went to school once already and it was perfectly lovely. I have played cool Shakespeare roles and had my works produced and SOMETIMES I DO GET THE THINGS I APPLY FOR.

So, what am I still chasing?

There’s nothing better than opening a “Congratulations” e-mail, am I right? I keep applying to Good Omens fanzines, mostly because I need some type of validation while I wait about grad school acceptances.

(I might not get in. Breathe.)

(… I don’t always get into the zines either. It’s okay.)

I don’t know what it would be like to feel “content.” To look around, to look backwards, to consider all I have “accomplished” thus far and to decide… Okay! That’s super cool! High fives all around! Let’s crack open a Cherry Coke and feel GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES.

(Is that a thing people feel?! As opposed to this gnawing persistent hunger… Always want more, always do more, you are never enough, you are never finished.)

How do we grow with peace and grace? How do we “keep moving forward” without discounting everything we’ve already done?

This thing that rejected me last week was a big one. It would have been a Big Deal, at least financially. I could have gone to Disney World without feeling like the most irresponsible human being alive. 

(I’m still going to go to Disney World. I’m a whimsical fucking creature, okay? I NEED DOLE WHIP TO SURVIVE.)

That’s the trick about applying to stuff constantly: I am always braced for “NO.” “FUCK YOU, YOU AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH. YOU AREN’T WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR. WHY WOULD YOU EVER BE SO FOOLISH TO ASSUME OTHERWISE?!”

But, in the immortal words of Chumbawumba, we get knocked down, but…

We get up again.

So, here I sit in my faithful pink bathrobe, drinking coffee from my Galaxy’s Edge mug, listening to Fleetwood Mac, and… I’m okay. It’s okay.  

You’re okay too. 

Let’s have a great fucking day, okay?

i want to talk some more about rocketman

(Mostly because I need to not watch it for the nine billionth time right now. I need to go to bed. Sir Elton help me.)

I think what I like so much about Rocketman is how unapologetic it is in its earnestness. In its strange, campy, sparkly sincerity. When the vision of baby-Reggie asks rehab-Elton “When are you going to hug me?” near the end… Like, that moment shouldn’t work, right? It’s too on-the-nose, too obvious.

But I WEEP EVERY SINGLE TIME.

So, why? Why did I watch this movie two times in one day over Thanksgiving last year? Why was it the movie I asked my parents to watch on my 31st birthday? Why is it the movie I’m probably going to watch tomorrow night?

Honestly, I think I’m in it for the ending “Where Is He Now?” montage most of all.

When I applied to grad school (HAVE I BEEN ACCEPTED YET?), I wrote a lot about wanting very much to create more stories of queer joy in the world. I think part of my long, slow journey to accepting my own queerness came from feeling like being queer meant my life would automatically be some kind of great tragedy. Because that’s what I’d seen in the few movies and television shows that bothered representing queer people anyway, right? If I wanted to be happy, if I wanted to be “loved properly” as Rocketman puts it… I had to be straight.

So, I was. I thought. For 30 years. It just didn’t seem worth questioning.

(You introduced me to Elton. I am so sorry.)

In Rocketman, Elton gets called out for being gay and realizes he has to break up with his girlfriend with an “Oh, fuck.” And REG, I GET IT. Somebody else called me out about it before I recognized it myself, too. WE ARE THE SAME TEACH ME HOW TO DRESS PLEASE?

Anyway.

There’s a line in Rocketman about killing the person you were born to me in order to become the person you want to be. And my favorite time I’ve heard that line was when I was drunk on whiskey at Adam, Vinnie, and Jake’s house and Gabi wordlessly put her arms around me while I sobbed. I don’t have any specifically homicidal intentions against Danielle Elise, but she is not who I want to be. I want to be some sparkly, fabulous rock star, though my instrument is these nerd-words instead of a piano.

At the end of Rocketman, while “I’m Still Standing” plays on, we learn that Elton has stayed sober and is finally “loved properly.” And I watch that ending montage like a lullaby. Like a promise that we will be okay. That I will be okay. That we can make mistakes and we can be loud and large in our despair and our pain and that we can still be lovable at the end of it all. That we are not too inconvenient or burdensome to love.

(This movie fucking rules and I will not apologize.)

Being able to name who you are… finding love even when you feel you might not be able to stand it… fucking rocking a silk cravat in some of those earlier scenes… Rocketman really has become my gay fairy tale, my bedtime story during a time when I am so desperate to figure out who I am. Watching Elton figure out who he is gives me hope, makes me feel proud of this community to which I didn’t know I was allowed to belong.

Universe willing, I have a ticket to see Sir Elton in February of 2022 in Chicago. I can’t wait to see who Daniel Elton is by then. I hope he finds a silk cravat to wear to the concert.

I hope he sings along to “Tiny Dancer” in a voice that finally sounds like his.

a happy place

This afternoon, in Sunday DBT group, we were asked again to close our eyes and go to “our happy place.”

For the past however many weeks, I have ended up at the exact same place. (Except for a cry-worthy disaster during Week One, but we don’t need to get into that.) And that Exact Same Place was good. It’s one of my favorite places and I’m looking forward to going there again.

But, as I was breathing and counting to five today, a song swept into my head. A piece of the score for Finding Nemo and suddenly everything was blue and sunlit and wibbly and you were there.

My eyes are closed and the therapist is asking questions:

What can you see?

Well, honestly, Finding Nemo led me to The Living Seas at Epcot (WHAT A BIG SURPRISE DANI). So, I see animals. I see fish and stingrays and even a dolphin maybe. I see other excited, happy Disney-goers. I always like seeing what people decide to wear to Disney World. How someone chooses to express themself at the Happiest Place on Earth. I wonder what you would wear. I think I see the back of your head (I’m a gentleman, you go first) as we get into our little Clamobile.

What do you hear?

This probably isn’t precisely what I would hear, but dammit, it’s MY HAPPY PLACE AND I GET TO DECIDE. I hear that lovely piece of the Finding Nemo score again, I hear the chatter of guests around me– excited about the ride, already planning which pavilion of the World Showcase they’ll visit for lunch. I think I hear you absolutely losing your mind over the lyrics to Finding Nemo: the Musical. I think you are probably leaning forward against the lap bar of the Clamobile and pointing out each movie character excitedly. I think I hear myself grinning.

What do you smell?

This one’s always harder. I guess I smell that attraction industrial cleaner? (Not super romantic, I know.) And I think I smell sunshine coming off of you, where you have been touched by the Orlando sky but also where it just emanates from you. Day Star.

What can you taste?

You’ve probably already put this together, but I’m a little bit of an over planning control freak, so I had really specific, enthusiastic plans for our breakfast before we got into line for the Living Seas. So, I think I can taste lingering coffee and chocolate croissant on my breath from spending the morning in France, looking out over the water together.

What can you touch?

Your hand is warm in mine and not just because it’s probably 90-something degrees outside. Your hand is warm in mine because, again, forgive my repetition, you are sunshine. You are enthusiasm overflowing, you are stars worth wishing on.

I’m still nervous, but it strikes me that I did not invent you for this sun-dappled mental happy place.

You were just there.

I wish you were here.

star tours feels or: a super secret sneak peek AT SOMETHING COOL

The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood—not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was—and always will be. – Michael Eisner, May 1 1989

Two terribly significant things- at least to me- happened in May of 1989. 30 days apart, Disney’s MGM Studios theme park opened to the public and Danielle Elise Herd was born into the world. Both fixated on the Golden Age of Hollywood, built on high highs and low lows, sun-drunk on a charade of fanciness baked into the hot Orlando asphalt… Today known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it is unexpectedly my favorite place to be in the entire world. My theme park twin. My darling of darlings. 

Hollywood Studios and I have something else in common, even more than our eventual need to rebrand, to re-create ourselves: We fucking love STAR WARS.

Star Wars.

I mean, is there anything better? Is there any greater feeling in the entire corporeal world than that hitch breath of wonder, of promise between “A Long Time Ago in A Galaxy Far, Far Away” and… STAR WARS? 

Funnily enough, I did not fall in love with Star Wars first in a cinema or even in a living room. I was not born to nerds. My mother had seen the original trilogy and enjoyed them well enough while my athletic father couldn’t pick Chewbacca out of a line-up. So, I wasn’t introduced to that vast world at first via VHS tape. No, instead my sporty little family- Mom, Dad, my little brother Matt, and myself- visited Disney World. And it was there, amid the Muppets and the ice cream cones and the Great Movie Ride (my original favorite), that Matt and I had our minds thoroughly and completely blown apart. 

(I met Captain Rex before I met Luke Skywalker, which, again, feels significant.)

Star Tours, originally opening at Disneyland in 1987 and then at Disney World in 1989, lit a spark in my brother and I. We didn’t know where we were or who we were with- had never heard of Endor or met C-3P0 before- but we felt that undeniable Star Wars promise for the very first time and we were hungry for more. When we returned from that trip, Matt was gifted the original trilogy for his birthday and I was more than happy to watch those tapes with him over and over again, transfixed by the film-nerd seriousness of those old Leonard Maltin introductions.

But also… Star Wars didn’t feel like it was supposed to be for me. I was a little girl and I liked Disney princesses and stuffed animals and picture books. I didn’t seem to have an obvious place in this world of laser swords and action figures, right?

I still watched Return of the Jedi over and over and swooned over Luke Skywalker’s bravery. With all due respect to a certain Little Mermaid, I wanted to be a part of that world. 

But, besides my supposed gender identity, I mean… Star Wars was over, right? Star Wars belonged to nerdy cis men who had come of age in the 1970’s and I was lucky that I had gotten to experience at all, whether in my family’s living room or on Star Tours.  

What’s it like to love a thing you feel you can never really, truly have?

Stay tuned for more… And May the Force Be With You.

on a tuesday evening: a self-portrait

Bitten down, chipped teal nails, shaking slightly (always) against the keys, against the Spotify app, against the mug of cocoa. (with the big marshmallows)

A set of long Muppet-arms, patchy and dry, because I do not fucking understand how to appropriately moisturize.

(A foul mouth, apparently. Fuck. Fucking fucking fuck. It’s just a satisfying angry string of consonants, okay?)

(A foul mouth, precisely, damp with the aforementioned cocoa. I made it with milk, because I am not so far gone yet. The marshmallow catches on my upper lip and fuck.)

Two wobbly blue-grey eyes, eternally set off by fetching purple circles. I look like a damn Tim Burton character. Tonight: highlighted by red. Dry, wrung out.

Sigh. Fuck, sure, okay: two breasts. Bigger than I’d like, not that I like them at all. Fucking hanging beneath this pajama top, which is some persnickety bullshit, if you ask me. I do my best to mush them away during the day, but it’s just us at night, so why fight?

A stomach that bears ample evidence of that time I was accused of “eye fucking all the pastries at Trader Joe’s.” There are fresh stretchmarks there, sort of red-violet stripes. It isn’t that I gave up. That isn’t how bellies grow. That isn’t how anything works.

A face. Those tired, worried eyes. A huge mouth. (I cannot shut it ever. You know that.) Some fresh acne, which I hope is the testosterone working, but maybe I’m just an oily mess.

The legs of which I think I am finally proud. They have carried me to the London Zoo, to the Museum of Natural History, to countless bus stops and interviews and auditions and afternoons walking around the park. They have carried me across stages. They have quaked and trembled while I told the world. While I told them everything.

(I will always tell you everything. I don’t know how to stop, but maybe I don’t want to stop? Maybe I don’t want to get “better,” because if I’m not a needy ball of guts, if I stand on my own, maybe your work here will be done and I already miss you, don’t you see?)

This heart. This heart that feels bigger than my ribs. This heart that feels like it is seeping out of me, leaking out of its container and dripping on to the kitchen floor like that time in middle school when Carman and I tried to make homemade bath bombs but substituted corn syrup for corn starch THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

I listened to too many sad songs tonight and this is how I have arrived here. I was fine until I was sobbing and I suppose that’s just how it goes sometimes.

For unless they see the sky
But they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light

I cannot see the sky tonight, Sir Elton, Mr. Bernie. Forgive me.

I thank the Lord for the people I have found

And so I do. From the bottom of my leaky, ruined heart.

then you say “go slow”

(I can’t.)

Lying in my bed, I hear the clock tick and think of you
Caught up in circles
Confusion is nothing new

I feel sometimes like I am running out of things to say:

(Hello again. My name is Dani, still, I think. You can also call me Daniel. I love Star Wars and I write Good Omens fanfiction and I do have bipolar II disorder, yes, but it’s okay. I am okay. I need you to believe me that I am okay.)

But I still want to come here. I still want to say something. I don’t want to stop.

(There’s nowhere else to go.)

What did you have for breakfast? (I am stalling, I know.) I made banana bread muffins last night, because, like all of us, I am bullshit at actually eating bananas in a timely fashion. So, I scarfed down a muffin this morning and I’m drinking my rapidly cooling coffee. It’s nice coffee. I got it from the Internet.

I feel like a stain. I am afraid to reach out and touch anyone anymore. I feel like I will just leave them sticky and worse for the exchange, you know? I feel like an emotion-bull in a china shop. I am too loud, too big, too messy. I will knock over your nicest plates and I will catch a glimpse of my monster-self in your mirror and I will run, because I just cannot contend with the reality of myself.

(I’m sorry about the plates.)

How many chances do we get? Because I am trying for this Big New One, you know. This grad school thing. I am trying to start over. I am trying to open the door to Playwriting 101 on that first day with fingers that do not tremble or wobble. I am trying to drive myself to Iowa, Rhode Island, New York, Illinois with a cat and a record player in the backseat.

Here is what happens: I wake up, increasingly achy and creaky (being 31 is dumb), and I put on my pink bathrobe to hide my body and I go fix some coffee and I let the caffeine and the hope wash through my veins and I just start APPLYING TO THINGS. I hunt for jobs, for programs, for grad school, for anyway to change. For any tangible thing willing to scoop me up and offer, “Yes, we will remake you. We will make you better. We will offer you structure and, in exchange, you will become who you are supposed to be.”

What would that be like?

(What’s your story? What’s your deal?)

After my picture fades and darkness has
Turned to gray
Watching through windows
You’re wondering if I’m okay

I mean… No. Not really no. Unraveling trauma is hard no matter how long it takes you to call something trauma. I blamed myself for Something for a decade and I am only now undoing that language in my brain and it is going to take some time and I am going to be not-okay for a minute longer. And I hate it. I feel guilt and shame. My programming still suggests that it was all My Fault. Maybe parts of it were. These things are messy and gross.

Hello again. My name is Dani. (Definitely Dani this time.) I am sad a lot. It’s just a thing. I’m working on it. (Always, I am.) I think sometimes I come here because I always feel like I need to explain it. Because maybe I didn’t explain it well enough in the past and I regret that a lot. I never want to keep a secret again. It hurts my stomach.

The narrative in my head says, “You ruined your own life. You don’t get another chance. You were bad and wrong, and that’s why you will always feel this way. You will always feel this way. It will always hurt.”

But I still wake up and sip at this now-cold coffee (it’s from the Internet, so I’m not throwing it away). So, there must be some healthy skepticism still, right? I haven’t totally given in to what my brain says.

But it hurts all the way down to my bones and sometimes I just want to tell someone that. I don’t mean to be dramatic or to make you worry. I just want to tell the truth.

If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time

(I will sure try. I promise that much.)