| never (adverb) | /ʒamɛ/

Coming home each summer is strange; it’s like re-entering a parallel reality to which I have no access during the other eleven months of the year. Once at home, I find myself trying to reintegrate into a community of normal people who live normal lives. People who own more than a desk lamp and live in spacious homes with other normal people who they may or may not love.

And this summer was so especially difficult. I found myself confused, asking the universe and its so-called divine Power, “Why, why me? Why this? Why now?” And my unique situation only compounded my incredible loneliness, for who among me could attest to the specific brutalities of a meandering life? I had to watch as loved ones eyed me with pity, as they shook their heads in disbelief. Is hardship so rare that it warrants disgust?

I’m thinking of one particular occasion during which I was trying to justify a terrible thing I had done. I was sobbing, drunk, and my friend simply squinted her eyes and nodded. As if to say, “It’s your fault. All of it. Look at how you live.” In that moment, I knew that she could never comprehend what I was trying to explain. Our lives were so very different, and no length of time or verbose explication could truly force her to understand. I felt small, because I realized, that despite being a close friend, I was so very foreign to her.

My hardships would never be hers. She would never understand what it felt like to be torn between two countries or to have handed over her humanity to numerous, undeserving people. To be so lonely that you allow yourself to be manipulated and abused, because emotional pain is still better than being alone. To have an overwhelming desire to shock and betray, because you foolishly believe that attention is synonymous with love. To approach, curiously, the fringes of your own sanity, because flawed and strange was so infinitely better than being a normal person with a normal life, a person who owns more than a desk lamp and lives in a spacious home with other normal people they may or may not love.

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| alive (feminine adjective) | /vivɑ̃t/

Being alone defies social norms. From a young age, there is instilled in us a certain fear of solitude, because it is the terrible breeder of loneliness. That fear crystallizes within us until we are certain we cannot survive without the validation of another human being.

Further, solitude may be yet another gift reserved for men. As a woman, there are definitely risks in setting out on your own, risks that no man will ever have to consider. For example, men cannot comprehend that cold, instinctual fear a woman harbors as she walks home alone at night, even if it’s a street she’s walked a million times before.

But despite all of this, I urge you to go. Be brave, and the universe will open itself to you.

On Sunday evening, I set off for my second solo voyage to Kraków, Poland. During my trip, I spent many hours sitting at the outdoor cafes on the Rynek Glówny, sipping mulled wine, or coffee, or beer, and eavesdropping on what conversations I could comprehend. I was much less self-conscious than I was during my first solo trip, so I had no qualms about walking into a restaurant and asking for a table for one. The most liberating thing I’ve learned as an adult is this: despite what American millenials have been told, no one gives a shit about you. No one minds that you’re sitting alone, because they simply don’t care. So why should you?

It’s also much easier to blend into your surroundings if you’re alone. Unless you welcome unnecessary attention, most people won’t assume you’re a tourist. For example, a couple once approached me while I was sitting at a cafe talking on the phone to my dad. Once I finished my conversation, they approached and asked if I was a local, if I knew of any great bars, why my English was so excellent. I quickly offered my muddled explanation of why an American found herself alone in Poland in October. In any case, I knew the surrounding area quite well and told them to go to the vodka bar down the street.

When I travel alone, I do miss sharing my experiences with a companion. After all, what’s better than laughing and chatting over beer and a hot meal in a strange place? But I had decided that this trip was mine. After a traumatic summer that shorn me of my humanity, this trip was a reminder that I was still living. As I savored homemade pierogies in a warm pierogarnia, it was a reminder that I could still experience joy. As I walked the graveled streets of Auschwitz at dawn, it was a reminder that I could still feel unbearable sadness.

I am alive. I am well. And isn’t it lovely to be so?

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| volatile (gender neutral adjective) | /lynatik/

I rode the backs of giants. Appalachia,
take me home.
The steep ascent
          decline, a darkness
so profound.

How I
miss the days
from    ashes

If this is what
well-being is,
I’d rather
in the blaze.

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| immigrant (feminine noun) | /imigʀe/

My palms
the sacrifices I’ve made
for a country that
my embrace.

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| legacy (masculine noun) | /eʀitaʒ/

outside the vacuum and,
God! How the world spun so
swiftly and
magnificently without
me in it.

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| world (masculine noun) | /mɔ̃d/

I am sorry I couldn’t hold the world for you;
I have not the strength of Atlas,
and the weight of it bruised
my shoulders and rolled
15      my
20            spine

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| to die (verb) | /muʀiʀ/

Have you ever mourned the loss of someone living? Have you ever bent before a sadness whose power brought you to your knees?

They ask if I believe in God. I say, “I bow before my sadness, and its invigorating madness; its presence holds more power than an idol ever could.”

I do not kneel before an altar, but before the page, finding more comfort in words than I ever could in worship. I read, and I weep. And this corner of my room embraces me like the arms of a mother as my mind churns and churns and churns. How will I ever find the words? Brown-eyed Narcissus, why do you write? Because I can no longer listen to those voices in the middle of the night, asking me to review my life’s regrets and questioning all the loyalties that I’ve kept.

Do I dare? Oh, do I dare to taste the moonshine on my lips? And everyday I wake and sigh. And, yes, I do admit I am surprised to feel the sunlight on my thighs. Such a sorrow should not exist unless it’s teaching me to die.

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