I am the kind of woman who looks at love from every angle.
Who writes about it, puts it in her mouth, holds it up to her nose and rolls it in her hands. I can tell you the way that parted lips feel against bare skin, or the way that the moon reaches out of the sky and highlights your breath as it leaves your mouth in the middle of the night in the middle of February. I can even write detailed accounts about the way the air smelt when I met you, but I cannot for the life of me fall victim to it.
I can write hundreds of poems about the dimple above your left cheek, about the scar above your right eye, about the way that your words melt together when you’re tired, but I cannot for the life of me fall victim to that either.
There is a certain vulnerability that I lack, a certain openness that extends past mere honesty to the center of oneself where one is true and bare and ready for whatever may come. I watch myself walking tightropes thinner than hairs across beds of possibility because loving and losing and hurting has hardened something in me to stone, something I have searched for but have yet to uncover.
A friend tells me during a coffee date that it is fear. I hold my breath. She says it so matter-of-factly, “You’re just scared, Key.”
I shake my head and bring my cup of tea to my mouth to give me time to think.
I have always been fearless, it is part of my charm. A woman who is honest despite consequences, a martyr for healing and growth. And yet there is, there has always been, the underpinning of the I am not afraid mask. (Am I?)
Am I so comfortable in my hurt that I have allowed it to fossilize and harden the parts of my heart necessary to return to love uncemented by bitterness and regret?
Is it fear of being out of control, encircled by risk? Because to be scared, to have fear, is implicit in dependency. I am not sure that I have ever needed anyone really, except for God.
I tell myself this, as thoughts of fear accompanied by love manifest into a Giant that I pretend not to see. I do not want to be a woman who is scared, who cannot do something as simple as be vulnerable because it is wrapped up in some sort of bullshit psychology of childhood exclusion or love gone awry.My friend laughs. She says the first step to overcoming your problem is admitting that you have one.
I often find myself jealous of her. She is capable of the kind of love that leaves you dizzy. She loves with everything, every piece of herself, every fiber of her being.
She has lived through train wrecks of love, but still she returns to it only to be lost in it again.
I am too embarrassed to ask her how she remains so soft after everything, how she can be a mountain of undoing one day and enamored and disgustingly in love the next.
“Where do you leave your head when you love?” I want to ask her. “Which parts do you cut away to remain as tender as you do?”
Because I can write stories and poems about gut wrenching, flowering love, but somehow I am cursed. I cannot feel love even when it is in front of me. Even when it is there willingly and waiting to be had.
Once I finish my tea, unable to hide any longer, I smile and say, “Hi, my name is Key. I am incredibly self destructive when it comes to love.”
She waits for me to continue.
“Hi. My name is Key and…I have a fear of being vulnerable.”
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Key Ballah is a Toronto-based writer and Hip Hop enthusiast. She is the author of the poetry collection, ‘Preparing My Daughter For Rain‘, she melts faith, love and her experiences of being a woman of colour navigating the western world in her writing. She believes in empowering the brown girl to reclaim her selves and her body, by connecting and healing collectively, over borders, oceans and time zones, through story telling and poetry. She is currently working on a new project due out this fall.