Chapter One.

That boy--though never he may know it--will forever be tethered in my memory beside the moment I rediscovered Loveliness knocking at the door.

Him & all the parts of him. The bright blue high top sneakers. The backpack wedged between his knees. The Red Bull poking out the netted side pocket and the straw jutted in where lips normally purse the sugared sweet. The curls of his black hair pulled back into a ponytail. The dark in his eyes. The ear buds in.

Sitting across from me on a Manhattan-bound 4 train, our Stranger status fell away with toes tapping & lips whispering the lyrics humming into each of our own hearts.

We smiled at each other once.

It was enough to tie him close.

Chapter Two.

A canceled coffee date on Friday morning left the grounds of my day planner barren for the morning hours. As if it had been the plan all week long, I swiped my metro card and headed for the Uptown 4 train, shuffled onto the subway and waited for the buildings & bricking of the Bronx to flood the windows.

I moved away from the Bronx a year-and-a-half ago--bellies of my suitcases packed tight with knits & wellies--feeling like a failure. Feeling like depression got the better of me, like she won.

I moved away thinking that one of the street vendors of the souvenir shops might think to mail me a t-shirt that read, "I Lost my Loveliness in New York City," with a note that scribbled in chalkie Sharpie, "Don't come back. You failed, girl."

That's how it felt. And so I didn't go back. Not to visit. Not to say hello. Thinking stepping on that concrete once again would just remind me that I was never good enough to gain back the Loveliness. That the delicate word that I'd long stapled to tea parties & porcelain dolls could never again be applied to such a ramshackled mess as me. A girl tattered with tears & heartbreak & self hatred could never, ever know a thing of Loveliness. It would never be hers, it would never be hers.

Chapter Three.

Loveliness. I've struggled with it. Like sand that pours through the cracks in the fingers & hands sunk deep in the sandbox, she has escaped me time & time & time again. Just a word--and yet she means something true to me. That I could be worthy. That I could deserve to be standing here today. That me-- my beauty, my voice, the thoughts in my head & the prayers in my folded fingers--might mean something.

That they be delicate. That they be the kind of things that make me matter in this world.

Loveliness. I thought I had lost her. That I'd never get her back. That she'd forever be the kind of word used in melodies & symphonies, sonnets & serenades. But never me.

And I'm learning a hard, swallow-your-spit kind of lesson these days: things don't disappear into the air just because we don't talk of them no longer. Memories don't turn to dust. Old feelings don't retire to rocking chairs in nursing homes in Alabama until their little limbs need oxygen and they turn blue in polka-dotted nightgowns.

Life has never thought to operate in that manner.

We've only just convinced ourselves that if we don't talk about something, if we keep the matter bolted closed, if we just forget it for a little while longer-- then it will be gone. Gone with the wind. Gone for good.

The memory always floods back. Be it a song, a conversation, a quote within a book, a feeling... The issue always unfolds again. We are always reminded eventually, somehow & someway, of the pockets full of pain we've carried and the tears we used to cry, hoping that they might be released and we might be relieved.

We always reach a point where it is time to drop down to both knees and somehow uncover the art of picking up pieces. The art of revisiting.

To finally relearn. & finally discover & rediscover & rerediscover all that we once were before the Hard Time swept in with a handsome grin and a nightmarish lullaby ready to sweep us off the stage like Clara in the Nutcracker.

Chapter Four.

I went back to the Bronx Friday morning.  Fear swelled & heart tender, I went back.

I saw familiar faces. We laughed in too tiny of rooms. I made jokes about my student loans and how I felt like each new one made me feel like a mother just finding out that she had another child in this world. They missed me. I saw it in their eyes. They asked me why it took so long. I said I had some weaving out of junk to do.

They smiled. Saw a new person in me.

I walked away feeling whole. Unshakeable. Like parts of the past weren't hidden chapters any longer. Like I'd picked up pieces. Like I was strong enough for my memories.

Chapter Five.

"I feel lovely just the way that I am," the song trickled up through my ear buds. "Yes, I, I feel lovely just the way that I am."

The boy across from me beat his heel against the subway floor. He kept glancing upward.

I feel lovely, I thought to tell him. The boy across from me with the blue high tops and black hair pulled back into a ponytail. Just like this. Just like this. I feel lovely.

My past is perfect. The darkness is cleared. All the sadness that broke me & all the depression that swept me clean made me who I am. Stronger. Ready. Lovely-- like the first one to ever know the word. Lovely--like it were a living room that we could lounge in for days & days, sipping lemonade & laughing from the belly & thinking to never leave. Lovely, just like that, I thought to tell him.

We never spoke. I formed no sentences. He heard every word.

We smiled at each other once.

It was enough to tie him close.

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