Dear Children Playing in the Fountains at Millennium Park, Chicago, IL, August 2010:

The thing is, I don’t want to intimate what I learned about myself that day. It’s uncomfortable, as I was, standing there, heavily, observing you at the fountains, the people, my racingheartrunninghead, on the periphery of the crowd. But it was important. That public space. You, flinging your bodies, half-naked, against slabs of liquid-smooth black stone. It’s easier not to talk about it. My own vulnerability makes me shy.

Because the thing is, all the outfits of words that I can assemble don’t feel good. They are clunky. I felt clunky. I was a doofy 20-year-old, half brain-dead from consistent rumination – my body, its size, its shape, its feeling heavy and unbeautiful. If my skin could speak it would weep. It would tell you about the girl I was. It would tell you that I was afraid to be touched.

The thing is, I write a lot of letters, but, I’m not comfortable being so naked here, on this page, the way you all were careless and unassuming, running through fountains, bare-chested with water-slicked heads. Scorching sun, sweltering heat. You had the right idea. Chicago had been steeping in a heat-wave, 98 degrees, humidity like Vaseline. It was hot that stings, hot that lingers – like desire, not erasable, unyielding, encompassing.

The thing is, I was so pre-occupied with the young man standing next to me with whom I had been intimate with and wanted to be intimate with and was afraid to act intimate with because we were in that public space, because he had reduced my feelings about him to a crush, because that didn’t feel quite right when he said it, but I didn’t know the difference, didn’t recognize the compromise. I only saw the proximity of our bodies and so, your nakedness made me think about my naked body, which made me think of his naked body, of desire, and all I wanted was to consume his flesh: tongue, lips, breath to breath, head, hair, back, waist, hips, hands.

The thing is, those things cannot baptize a young woman. I stood next to him, stiff and stilted.

The thing is desire is carnal knowledge. I was afraid to listen. Your innocence kept you deaf from the doubt I created. I shoved my hands deeper into my pockets, rolled my ankles outward, clung to my clothing. I was ashamed of my own shame and the weight of myself and that feeling – as oppressive as the heat.

The thing is, what about dalliance? Should I have, could I have, why didn’t I let attraction invigorate me?

The thing is, I thought I had to be an adult, that desire had to look a certain way.

The thing is, I thought I had to hide it away.

You guys were just playing around. A boy laid face down with fluttering arms, made angel wings, sent ripples across the ground. A girl with blonde-curly pigtails marched up to him, bent over and pulled at his leg. He sat up at 60 degrees and fought back. That was innocence. They were strangers to one another.

The thing is, I thought that there was this convention of adulthood or something that said that being naked, that undressing in front of strangers or a lover was for private spaces. That was a public space. Temper tantrums don’t solve anything. Sharing is encouraged. So what about sharing our bodies? It was your innocence, the beauty of that thing and me forgetting that there is a child inside of me that stopped me from sliding off my shoes, dropping my shorts, unwrapping myself from the armor of my clothing and laying down on the stones. I thought my skin was too pale, my skin was too stretched, the sight would have been too much for youthful eyes.

The thing is I have changed. My insides rearranged, all those intangible aspects like the concept of self and the soul. The thing is the vessel that is our body is fixed. Like our nature.

The thing is, my body is mine. The depth of the pool of my own personal intimacy, its boundaries, who I share it with, how to play in it, is mine to define. My sex is mine to satiate my flesh. The thing is, I wanted to lay down and baptized myself.

When did I learn to hide my body from the world?

One thought on “Letter to a Stranger

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