Evening ritual, 1993

1994 Evening Ritual photo USE0001

After supper most nights

I go downstairs to the small bathroom.

First I look in the mirror

remembering all the frustrations and unfairness

and all my mistakes and sins.

I look for imperfections on my face,

squeezing until I draw blood.

I feel triumphant

getting rid of what’s wrong

and even destroying what’s okay.

In my Sassy magazine

a girl wrote a question to the editor—

“Is something wrong with me

if I enjoy picking on my face?”

I shivered while I read, thrilled

that someone else knows the feeling.

The editor called it “picot”

and urged her to get professional help.

But the classmates I know who received counseling

are treated like they carry hydrogen bombs.

I already feel strange enough.

When I turn off the light

and use the toilet as a seat

listening to the same cassettes in order:

James Taylor, Don McLean,

and I save the best for last:

R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.”

This song helps me hold on

when I want so badly

to let go forever.

Even though I feel so very alone

I know at least one person,

the writer of this song,

exactly understands my pain.

Finally I turn on the light

and use my handheld mirror

to take comfort in my hair,

twirling the curls around my fingers

and petting its softness.

My great-grandma had the same curls.

When I visit her she takes my hair in her weathered hands

and treasures it like something precious.

It’s the one part of me

I know is beautiful.

When it’s time for bed

I hide my puffy red eyes

under my hair’s dark curtain

and I climb the steps

pretending nothing is wrong.



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