I once went to a party in a glass house. Round, overlooking night-stretched Los Angeles hillsides, a fishbowl on a precipice. One shove too far and the whole thing would tumble, shatter, splashing its depths and creatures out into the unruly pitch-dark. 

He was an awful kisser: he thought he was a dentist, tried to scrape the scruff from your mouth, unrelenting, tongue all over your teeth. Still, you wanted to be the kind of person that likes such roughness. This greasy Cheeto-y mouth that swarmed yours—you wanted, terribly, to enjoy it. So you sat still and sweetened the moment with pinprick thoughts of another person's mouth, someone you've never kissed, never will. When he pulled away, how defiant and satiated he looked, like he'd kissed the indifference out of you. You smiled, turned your head, tried to watch the movie playing in front of you, but streaks of self-disgust lingered in your brain like some fogged-up windshield and you could not clear yourself of them. 

High school parties deserve epics, odes, hymns: each is a confined poetry in itself, a twisty-turvy sweetness mixed with boredom, profundity stitched from drunkenness and teenagehood. In high school you take what you can get, cannot afford selectivity or pretense. You gorge on what is most available to you. Your heart fumbles with the mundane until everything becomes important, glazed in melodrama, because what can you live on if not hyperbole? At sixteen, seventeen, none of it feels like exaggeration, because it’s not—you live submerged, overfilled, unregulated in feeling. Your life throbs like a burst blood vessel; how sunken you feel treading through the deep end of growing up. Growing up, which is a misnomer—growing zigzags and plummets, scoffs at linearity altogether. Growing up except that it doesn’t ever end. 

All those surfaces I broke, and you never budged.

I lay with my legs dangling off the edge of the couch, head pressed into a throw pillow, the face of the world smeared over from all the tequila I drank, like runny mascara blotching the skin of a heartbroken girl. My reddened face, my matted too-flat bangs, my decadent pomegranate lip-gloss. And then—watery, quaking eyes. I watched the softer parts of nighttime, bristling bad rap like honey thrumming through the veins of the living room. Bodies. Teenage laughter, teenage faces, teenage sounds. It took me so long to hear them. 

Then: him. Sitting too close, waists touching. His words too gentle. For a moment, you dissolved—his face inches from mine, and all of my longing for you backed into a corner, like a finicky puppy finally leashed. For a moment I didn’t think about you at all, because there he was, close, real, flustered. But: kissing boys disembodies me. Kissing anyone but you estranges me from myself. My imagery, concocted in exhaustion, lathered in tenderness, of how touching should feel. How it is not what I want it to be. What do I want, then. The satiation of a void. Filling of a gap. These cliffs that stand across from each other, arms wrapped around a precipice. No one can get in, no one can hurl themselves deep enough for me to feel whole. Not you, especially not you. You have no interest in trying. 

This was supposed to be epistolary and then it wasn’t. Writing to you, I spill over, outwards, make a stain of myself. Writing to you I contain no secrets, no biting irony or reliable eloquence. So instead I’m writing about you, because I know the difference now. Here I am still myself, here I arrange the scenes and control the lighting and sew the words into dazzling scenery. Here you exist as mine, as someone I can hold like a peach pit in the core of my mind. Here I think I can see you fully, for once. Here you do not slip out of reach. 

From Pablo Neruda: “So I wait for you like / a lonely house, / till you will see me again / and live in me./ Till then my windows ache.”

In Paris I thought I’d put on a wool scarf and blood-dark lipstick and that would be that. I would forget the past four years, slip into adulthood like zipping on a new dress, an unsparing little black dress at that. I’d step from one dressing room to another without tripping. Instead, the lipstick dried too fast and my scarf dampened with sweat from late-afternoon metro rides pressed into people’s backs. I also thought I’d stop thinking the same thoughts, that I’d stop loving the same people. But no. Paris was a heart transplant, really: carve out the heart and place it in another body, and it’s still the same heart. 

My windows still ache. They house ephemera of tenderness rather than the thing itself: journal entries, bracelets, the small tendrils of attention you gave me (books, mostly), greasy photographs of us taped to the inside of my closet. If we speak of houses rather than anything in the neighborhood of love, can we talk? Our conversations could be about everything but. That house of yours eclipses mine by a long shot, not calling for attention but getting it anyway in hordes: you are assembled from silky drapery and kitschy charming teapots and family photographs lined up on the mantle, covered in finger-smudges because everyone always wants to look at you as a child. You hold just enough, you may be disheveled but it is in a pleasant, cozy way. I am a hoarder’s fantasy, on the other hand, over-cluttered with things I stopped needing long ago, if I ever needed them at all. I am all torn-up baby blankets and mountains of overread books and unwashed coffee cups and period-blood stains in the carpet that I couldn’t wash out and little bloated shrines of filthy clothes smelling of me. You, almond-scented warm bedrooms with sparse belongings; you keep yourself containable. I sweep my messes under the bed, nothing really leaves me, nothing really gets clean. 

The language of desire cannot be written very well, at least not by a nineteen-year-old girl afraid of her own. I cannot dismiss history’s place in this, denying and suppressing and chiding female hunger as it did, does, but still, some piece of this fear is just me. Neruda again, then: “We need to sit on the rim of the well of darkness and fish for fallen light with patience.” How few small scuttering creatures of light exist in my head, but you are—were (?)—one of them. Pricked from the darkness like the blush of tepid light from a house’s windows, how it spills onto the street at night and seduces me, tells me to peek in for just a moment. I looked too long and too hard at you, and now the dark has your outline moving about it at all times. 

You liked to watch people smoke instead of joining in. You fiddled with your phone or cuticles, leaned against a chair or wall and disappeared. You didn’t dance, you couldn’t loosen your body the way everyone else could, you couldn’t unfold like that. You itched at your pimples or cracked your knuckles and you relinquished caring, caring about enchanting or engaging anyone: you didn’t stop yourself from unapproachability. You so liked to disparage these parties in a slinky voice, eyebrows raised and lip curved upwards, wanting to widen the space between you and them. 

What you didn’t know: there is no normal, so stop trying to hoist yourself above it. 

Or maybe: I can write desire, I can write it like this: the gush of a plum torn from its skin, a sweet-sour pulp unclothed. Who better to write this language of desire than a nineteen-year-old girl, really, when the dialect we accept burst from the brains of (white) men. Let me tell you, my wanting tends to resent itself. My desire cringes at its own ferocity. We have not been told to look at it directly, to run our fingers over its sharpest peaks. We have been told to look away and yank the shutters closed, to board up the walls of our hunger and nail it shut. Because of you, though, I might be failing. I might be climbing my way back into the heart of this cragged, misshapen love: once I finally look my desire in the eyes, though, maybe I won’t see you. Maybe I’ll see me. 


SOFIA SEARS is a writer and activist from Los Angeles. She writes about everything from female rage to the zine culture of Los Angeles to the importance of fandoms to queer teenagers. She is a passionate advocate for reinventing the literary canon and using literature to inform, channel, and individualize (and intersectionalize) our politics and feminism. She is Editor-in-Chief of a print and digital zine dedicated to the intersections of feminism and literature. You can find her work at femmestories.com.