They are like the tight laces of a corset, these lessons, cutting into your ribcage and squeezing the air from your lungs, taught to you by people and things that prefer you breathless—and so, unable to speak. Each tug of the ribbon wraps steel and bone tighter around your frame. Containing you. Small sips of air sucked through half-open lips are the only sign your heart still beats. Those and one delicious thought: a pair of scissors.
You could use the ones you have set aside for your embroidery. No bigger than the palm of your hand and engraved with bird’s wings. Silver and sharp. Stronger even than the metal jacket closing in on your pumping heart.
You give into your impulse. Wrap your hands around the cool silver of the thin blades. You are alone. No one can stop you. Slowly, carefully, you reach behind you for the knotted tongue at the base of your spine. You almost can’t slip the thin blades under the satin; the laces are so tightly pulled together. But you do it and feel the first lace pop loose of its eyelet.
There it goes—
—the temptation to search for the rotten fruit in a barrel full of blush stained snow apples. All you need to know is that you have an abundant crop—and faith in your ability to pick the best jewels from the orchard. You’ve been through enough harvests to know the difference between worm-softened cores and firm flesh.
The flash of disappointment when you see your imperfect body, alone, at night, freed from the corset’s confines. The puckered skin along your stomach—the shiny purplish lash along your arm—the bruised streaks where your ribcage pushed against the corset’s skeleton all day, every day—and others, so many others—aren’t scars. They are life lessons tattooed on your skin. Trophies from the risks you took, the jumps you made, even the moments when you knew it was best to retreat into yourself. The times you dared to live beyond the narrow path someone else decided you should walk.
More air in your lungs. You can feel your chest expand.
Enough for you to reach higher and cut through another lace—
—and there goes the bricks and mortar you once used to make a fortress for yourself. You called it a home, but the walls grew bigger and bigger until it felt like a tomb. A place to bury the pages of your stories. The ones that no one would read because they lacked the light that could spark them to life.
Let those bricks be reduced to rubble. Let your stories breathe like you can now. And find their own homes when you set them loose like birds to the sky. In their own time. In their own way. And remember that your real home is never behind tightly-cinched cloth-wrapped whalebones or mortared stone.
How long did it take you to remember that your home is in the earth and the sky? That the roots of trees and flowers will always be your welcome bed and the wind is there to sweep away the last cut ribbon from your cage.
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