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I want to write a letter to my Grandma and Grandpa Shay. My sister and brother help me write, “Dear Grandma and Grandpa.” I have pigtails and carry a stuffed unicorn with a star where its third eye should be. Sarah and Seth help me write the word, “Love.” I run my lips over that star. I scratch glyph after glyph into stationary and show Seth and Sarah and they say, “Look you wrote the word, ‘Cow.’” I look and read a word for the first time in my life. Cow.
I start keeping a journal in first grade. I love Jack [Redacted]. I hate New Kids on the Block. I love Paula Abdul. When I am a child reading and writing become my existence. When I read I enter fully into another world, so that nothing can reach me. When I write I explore the universe, in my small and meaningful way. There is no way I could know.
When I am twenty-one I am throwing away all my most embarrassing journals when my friend Anna Leely comes over and says, “Katy Shay, what are you doing?” And I explain to her: These journals hold all the secrets of my youth. They detail how [Redacted] was my first kiss and how his mouth was like mushy mushroom soup, or how I was in love with my girl friend [Redacted], or how I lost my virginity to [Redacted] and how I cut my arms with his sister’s razor and how I tried to kill myself and what all of the kids in the hospital were like and how they had real problems and I was just existentially ill. These journal prove that I was young once and now I am twenty-one and I don’t want to think about these things. I want to move forward. Anna Leely says, “You will regret this. I’ll take them for you.” And so, all wrapped up in a white garbage bag, we walk my written universe out to her car. She opens her trunk and I place them inside. In the years that follow I imagine them lining her bookshelf. I wonder if she read them. I wonder if she hated me. I wonder is she loved me, in the way we love young people for their earnest and tender nature. Two years ago, an email confession from Anna: “Katy, I’m so sorry, but I need to let you know, I threw away those journals.” I’m older now. I say, “Anna, it’s fine. I still love you” and now I imagine them somewhere in a landfill, somewhere underneath dirty diapers and banana peels. It really is fine.
In my early to mid twenties I write myself in and out of existence.
In: (January 2005) This winter is a fight. A fight against grey days that never seem to end. A fight against a room that always feels too cold. I’m fighting against mounting anxieties and worries that people will just leave you. But at least I’m not fighting for my life. There is certainly something to be said for that. Out: (August 2010) …I feel lost, scared, wandering around the same room, in the same house, in the same neighborhood, in the same city, in the same state, country, hemisphere, world, galaxy, universe… In: (November 2005) I love the silence of my own thoughts. I love removing myself…so that I realize why I am who I am. And what I care about and what I want. Right now my hands are so dry and I am happy to simply wake up tomorrow…My life is beautiful, my heart is beautiful, my mind is beautiful, my writing is beautiful…Out: (February 2005): I’m nauseated. Jesus, I feel awful. I had a crazy breakdown at work with lots of crying and I am so sad. So sad. But fuck, I’m hurt, hurting, hurtest. Killed inside. Want to leave everywhere forever.
I vacillate: I want to live and I want to die. I don’t know what I want and I know all that I want. I hold the whole universe deep in my belly and then I let it go.
Now. I stand back and reach out across our universe. I say, “Love,” I say, “Leely,” I say, “[Redacted].” I say, “In” and I say, “Out.” I say, “Cow.” The universe circles in on itself. I’m still reaching.