Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Declaration of Independence

Sometimes you just need to tell people who you are in order to remind yourself.

I, Megan Gates, being of sound mind and body, do declare myself to be me in the face of you.

Let me be messy and moody and seamlessly emotional. Let me be restless in my own skin and wake up searching. Find me laying late at night under the stars and let it not be a question what I'm doing there. Understand me without explanation or justification. Let me take up painting and singing and dreaming, even when I'm not good at them. Watch me believe in ghosts and not so much in religion. Let me have the foulest curse words and don't wonder why I can't take your calls during West Wing. See me through the fleeting crushes and the constant turmoil and eclectic happiness of one love. Let me not feel foolish for refusing to see boundaries. Sit with me while I reveal profound moments in days and relationships and sit longer still while I appreciate them. Appreciate them with me. Love my lack of self-control and my financial instability. Don't look at me funny when I cry in theaters and during presidential debates. Find my bad driving record endearing. Forgive me for falling in love with everyone I meet. Understand it when I say it’s one of my best qualities. Don't discount my quiet insecurities and my loud stubbornness. Let me withhold and disclose at arbitrary moments. Learn to love the fact that I always have one drink too many. Don’t tell me it’s silly to always want my bare feet in the grass. Practice with me the language of candor and of passion and of sincerity and depth that I've learned over the years. Embrace my inability to give up without a fight. Laugh with me at the same dirty jokes. Accept my interest in things unjust and causes controversial. Look past my penchant for daydreaming and my proclivity for obsessing over the little details. Stand with me, staring in awe at the vastness of the universe and feel with me the energy of all things connected. Then grab my hand when it gets dizzy and overwhelming. Let me have my hereditary insomnia and love of cuddling on couches two small for the two of us. Give me my poetry, cookbooks with dog-eared pages and scribbled in art history books. Question with me when I wonder about the hows, whens and whys. And then know why I must live a life so inquisitive. Remember that introverted and aloof are not terminal states of me. Forget weeks when it feels like they are. Let you not ruin my love for sappy, romantic gestures and the notion I carry that love can still be breathtaking.

And above all...let me be. Me.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Musician

Music emanates from you like heat from a sidewalk in July. It's curious and brilliant to watch, wanting so much to understand the process, but wanting more to uphold its mystery. If you were a walk you would be a swagger, aloof and seductive. I scamper quickly behind, sheepishly dodging in and out of alleys, hopelessly catching up from a distance. I am the hurried two-step beside you, the small feet of a child keeping up with a father's giant strides. I know nothing of myself anymore, though I know that what I am is incomplete. Your gaze is abstract, preoccupied. Oftentimes I wonder if you have every really seen me, even though I know you're the only one who possibly could. 

If your world were a library, I'd tell you I lost my library card, then would sneak inside when you looked away. I would spend hours as a clandestine observer; shelving and unshelving volumes of you, devouring your thoughts, the flash of your smile, your dreams. I'd become an expert on the way you take your coffee. You walk and I follow intrigued, gathering the music notes that you leave behind in your footsteps.

When the feeling comes to me, it’s fierce and exacting—it moves crowds to get to me. I try to push it back, but it’s aggressive, forcing my pen to the paper; I must get black on white. When it comes, it bursts through me like a fist through glass, smashing me to tiny bits. I only let the moment overtake me fleetingly, any more than that would make it real. I am an expert on its truth. 

The aftershocks are lasting though and that’s what really slays me. The feeling you give me resonates, a low bellow through the cavern of my body, vibrating my limbs. I feel it for hours. 

You have become the muse I thought I lost though, showing up unexpectedly, unsolicited. A word from you renders me cleverless and fills my face with sudden red. At that moment I am a single silly stroke upon a blank canvas, a dandelion among roses. 

I am knocked to the cement and remain there, breathless. You have facilitated the unbecoming of me.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Confessions of a So-Called Love Junkie

It’s time once again to confess your secrets. Secrets you wear only for yourself in the mirror in dim light behind curtains. Secrets of things inherent, things unsaid. Guilts and sins and dare-I-say betrayals. They dangle next to my heart like a tarnished silver locket I can never take off, begging deep apologies that I won’t give.

Your words make no sense to me anymore. Those intrepid strokes on a silly and impressionable heart are now laughable. They are nothing but ethereal dust marks on an old highway of my memory.

You scrambled my insides and casually walked away while I gasped and stared at my reflection in the mirror, trying to recognize myself, trying to catch my breath. I’ve checked the mirror for weeks now and continue to gaze back as a stranger. It’s unkind to leave me this way; nothing of myself but bits of a moment I was part of for a while.

So consider this my first confession. I've found you.

But I've been unkind. Careless. I've stood under eaves of unfamiliar houses listening to the low music inside, desperately wanting to go in. I have woken up with strangers, but none stranger than myself. I have spoken in tongues and crawled in the mud. I've wrestled with my own conscience and purposefully let it win. I refuse to see things in black and white. I've dared, kissed, pushed the limits, crushed a cigarette into the ground and left with him. I've been begged, pleaded and sold. I've given up on you, lost you, found you, lost you and then watched you walk into the room and disappear into the light of atoms. I've seen through you so many times its embarrassing. I've smashed berries on my lips and pretended I was a May Queen. You've been my lover in my dreams, meeting me under purpled rain clouds and in dark corners of blues clubs. I have satiated lusts with one hushed word whispered with heat on my neck. I've returned gazes and rejected my closeted fears. I've pick pocketed emotions and stolen tears from you in giant sacks. I have a criminal record two days long. I've suffered your politics with a cracked, feigned smile and have seen you sway back and forth, like a tire swing crossing a line in the sand. I haven't always been honest. I've held back tomes of sentences meant for you, pushed them from my lips down into my toes until they twitched and yearned and forced me to run. I painted the walls of my heart in a glossy black after you left for the first time. Added a new coat each time you left after that. And though the paint is starting to chip again, I am too tired to touch it up.

Forgive me father for I have sinned. It's been sixteen months, nine days, and twelve hours since my last confession.

I confess. I’ve lost you.

I've shrunken your memory down to a dime-sized dollop--an agreeable spoonful so it's easier to swallow. Lately I've been wandering around my apartment thinking "these spaces used to be cozier", only it's not that the spaces have grown bigger, it's just that there is one less ghost haunting its halls. I have so many regrets that I've started collecting the inked up scraps of paper that litter my bedroom, bathroom, purse, car, and have laid them to rest in a shiny pink jar atop my writing desk. Yesterday, my regrets pulled me out of the shower to scribble another thought. Dripping wet I scurried from my bathroom to my bedroom to file it away. By the time I returned, I'd thought of another. There will always be dusky plumes of old desire. At quiet moments in my day I whisper kind words into the air to make others more forgiving of you. Of me. Of the fall of us. I've stolen memories from you, rationing them like scraps of food that will never satiate. I stash them in my closet along with bent photos and ticket stubs from a dusty, criminal past. I've spent the last three weeks with my headphones on, shouting out foreign phrases and sounds, trying to teach myself the language of courage. Only, it comes out in broken words and no one can understand me. Your memory flashes in my mind simultaneously with the beat of my heart. I've spent hours at my kitchen table doing breathing exercises to slow its pace. Now I only think of you sixty-five times per minute. I find myself staring down at my palms, splotched with that familiar, fresh black paint I’ve spent all afternoon trying to rub off. I am considering sending you my language tapes. Perhaps they'll do you some good where I have failed.

And although I confess all of this to you now, I know for sure you won't hear it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

On the Origin of Species

Have you ever had your heart broken, I mean really broken?

It changes you.

It evolves you into a strange amoebic version of yourself.

For a while the soft parts of you are still forming again and you unsurprisingly prefer the solitude of your own sad petri dish to the lively confines of man. And for an even longer while, you think you might really have to stand at that shore forever; never to again grow legs and join the human race.

Pretty soon you begin to embrace this primate version of yourself. You relearn the sound of your own voice, stretch your new skin, venture outside the hollow of your empty heart, squinting your eyes at the brightness of life. You begin collecting the unrecognizable bits left from the rubble of your last razed relationship, picking each piece up, rolling it between your fingers, trying to determine if this dusty shard was actually your optimism or your self-confidence. In the end it doesn’t really matter, tagging the relics of the past to the open exhibits of the future is pointless.

I think small, irrelevant parts remain from the you that was you before him, or her. But for the most part if we get really lucky, I think we are brand new chapters in the giant book of our evolutionary history.

For me, the chapters are still writing themselves. I kind of hope it is always this way.

I think I've shed the layers of the me I used to be and in return have emerged as something completely different. Each layer molting off over time, exposing a new, softer layer than the one before it. I guess I've become more forgiving of myself during this whole process.

It's made me more forgiving of other people, too.

I've shed my angel wings for more undelicate things, embracing the rock over roll parts of myself, giving away the poetry over prose parts to alley dumpsters and dirty street gutters.

Like stripping off rain soaked clothes in the middle of a storm, I've become lighter, freer, shivering in my new, thinner skin.

But it's better this way, I think.

I'm more exposed than I've ever been and for once in my life, I don't think that makes me more vulnerable.

This is a happy feeling.

I'm living a life independent of other people's happiness, no longer tethered to another person's smile in order to turn up the corners of my own.

There have been moments of crisis, doubt, phases of indifference. I've sat on the edge of candid conversations that didn't turn out the way I thought. Relationships have bloomed and withered in instants as long as lifetimes.

And with them, each layer came off. Wet rags flung to the ground.

So here's to the new me, baptized by the eighty-seventh turn of the calendar page. I’ve finally gone from monkey to man.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chicago, A Love Letter

There are some nights when I'm driving back into the city from here or there that just take my breath away. Last night was no exception.

One second you're mundanely checking your text messages and then the feeling just hits you. How beautiful this city is with it's hulking, neon-luminous skyline, the twinkling lights of the Sears Tower hiding amidst the swirling clouds of spring. Errant jazz music creeps out onto Lake Shore Drive from somewhere in Millennium Park and right there, right then it is the perfect sound for the moment. The city is both breathtaking and stoic, a meadow of steel and brick. It’s no extraordinary day by any means, but my breath catches for a moment in the back of my throat. I have found an old flame to love again.

There is a certain sanctity to driving alone in a dark car, the lights of a city you have known all your life, intimately reflecting in your windshield. Bars of light flash across your face in the rearview mirror as you pass each street light along the way. The street signs follow above to the crash of cymbals or the deep rolling dum, dum, dum of the bass. Ashland. Lincoln. Sheffield. Halsted. Faster with the crescendo of the music. Even the gaudy blinking signs of liquor stores and gyros joints are beautiful, blurring by one after another, streaking my car window with colorful ambient light.

Chicago is a lonely city. Unlike other cities, there are still places you can discover that have been virtually untouched; still spaces that the warmth of bodies has yet to fill. At night, the city dims and sighs, heaving people into its streets. The skyline becomes alive with dancing lights. From above, it is a firefly ballet, soft and intricate. The stone and mortar of day are less intimidating bathed in moonlight and the city becomes suddenly comfortable and welcoming. The side streets are checkered with shadowed and lit squares; the electric light from inside houses mingling with the light of stars. The earth under the paved drives and piers has a history. You can feel that There is energy in that.

And all at once that feeling I had as a little girl, the one that lays dormant somewhere inside me, along with all the wonder and imagination and belief that anything is possible, resurfaces.

On nights like these, it's hard not to feel happy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I know I am a leaky vessel, but do I want to know it every day? This morning I stumble out of bed in my rumpled yellow t-shirt, the hands of sleep still covering my eyes, begging me to guess who. The floor is cold and my feet are bare. My spaghetti arms hang loosely at my sides, not yet ready to function and as I pad to the bathroom I stub my big toe on the door frame. My humanity reveals itself today in the form of pain. I frown and rub my toe furiously and I know what kind of day today will be.

Today will take its time, each frame flickering forward slowly, like a movie set in slow motion. Sometimes a giant imaginary finger will push pause at specific moments that serve to remind me of myself. The smile of a passing stranger in a red coat. The minute before I finish the last page of the book I’ve been reading for weeks. A laughing voice on the other end of the phone. A package from the mailman. The stubbed big toe.

And these things make me leak. They are the tiny eyelet holes that expose what’s inside me. I cannot hide my happiness or helplessness or fear or remorse or joy. They pierce through the holes of these things like sunlight through lace.

No one knows that I am thirty-two years old and am still scared of the dark. When I get home at night I sprint up the stairs and when I swing the heavy door open I am breathless and safe. I am human because I am afraid. This too, I cannot hide.

Sometimes when I am lying in bed and those minutes hit me when I am just on the verge of sleep, I recall those moments, those pauses in my day when I am revealed. Sighing, I wonder how this ship will ever sail with so many holes in it?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Confessions of an Insomniac

I literally haven't slept in four days. The night before last I laid in my bed and watched the hands go around my clock.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Six hours later I threw the sheets off my bed in a fury, got out of bed, grabbed my pillows and flung them against the back door; wasting all the precious energy I had saved up to fight consciousness.
After that I curled up in the middle of my bare bed and stared deep into the folds of clothes in my closet. The darkness made me see things that weren't there.

Twenty minutes later I sat up and shuffled toward my alarm clock on the far wall, straining to see the time. My heart dropped.

5:30 a.m.

I got in bed almost eight hours ago.

Nothing helps. I have no clear cut symptoms that would classify my sleeplessness. No stress, no anxiety. No thoughts that won't go away. Except one.


Just beyond my reach.

Without sleep the more vibrant layers of my personality flake off like snake skin. I'm exposed as dull and listless. This is a horrible feeling.

I don't look people in the eye. I'm shiftless and exhausted.

I can't even explain what this is like. I can't even explain what this is like and all I ever do is explain. What it is like. To be me.

But I can't find her lately when I stare deep into that closet at night. Can't find her through the messed up things my mind makes me see at moments of dawn, the morning light hanging, dripping from the corners of my ceiling.

I can't find her. Maybe I'm not there.