What No One Tells You

A fallen, yellow leaf lays on a rock, ice melting around it. The photo appears in black and white with a V-shaped center section in bright, water-colors.

Your body grows and grows. You somehow get the foreign thing out, the thing that is yours and also, where did it come from?

There’s no way to know until it’s too late.

They tell you it’s hard. They say you don’t know until it happens to you. I’m telling you because no one else will. The truth is that they need need need need need. It’s relentlessness, the need. I wasn’t prepared.

They say it will change your life. What they mean is you will never be the same. Fucking hell. They don’t tell you the whole truth. And why would they? They’re drowning. They’re sad all the time. They’re nothing, they’re ghosts.

Do you remember the person you were? Being responsible for only your own body, your own breath? One night stands, sweating lovers, slipping away in the night?

I see a ledge, steep rocks on a cliff and dizziness looking down. I wonder about slipping. How would it feel, free? Like love rushing up to meet me?

I am here to tell you that when I wake up I die, and I put on a perfect mother mask, and I fetch breakfast and socks and backpacks, and cheery-eyed I send them to school. Need need need need need. I wake up and die and I make lunch, run the vacuum, click out a grocery order, zombie-drive to the lot, find a spot, park between lines, and wait for someone to bring it out. Thanks so much. Do you have any paper coupons? I have slips of paper but they don’t save me anything. Paper can’t save me now.

What no one tells you is that you’ll dream about death like a lover, dream of the escape, of the nothingness, the quiet mouth of an empty grave. How peaceful to feel the dirt shoveled on. Oh praise! Oh, warm heavy earth blanket! How wholesome to think of worms and maggots and fungi singing through your flesh.

I wake up and die and remember it’s trash day recycling day picture day field trip day farmers’ market day birthday Saturday. Need need need need need. I wake up and die knowing need is constant and collapsing us all into two dimensions, need is dragging me down to the dirt and putting her mouth on my mouth.

If anyone told me, would I have understood?

Jessica Bates

Jessica Bates lives in middle Tennessee, and lately she enjoys studying abolition and witchery. She’s a 7-year member of The Paper State Writing Club, and she’s working to open a magical brick and mortar children’s bookstore in Nolensville with one of her best friends. Find her on IG @_jessicabates and Twitter @seejesswrite.

Header photograph by Deborah Hughes
Header artwork by Jordan Keller-Wilson

2 thoughts on “What No One Tells You

  1. I keep coming back to this and re-reading because it’s just so good. “I have slips of paper but they don’t save me anything. Paper can’t save me now.” gets me every time. Thanks for writing this!

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