Ramona Lee Pérez

c r e a t i v e  n o n - f i c t i o n

PTSD Love Story

Stingy, calculating, I dole out small bits, fearing that I’m too much for anyone to love. Getting down to the bottom of my heart, I can’t show up as less than all of myself, even when I want to hide ragged seams splitting from too much wear. But I am exhausted from feeling that my story is too big, too heavy, too bold to hold.


Despite everything piled atop my head, like papers ungraded, dishes that refuse to wash themselves, bill collectors calling on automatic dial, legal forms on a deadline waiting to suck me dry of words, or perhaps because of it all - I sing glory, spread my wings, and leap from the rooftop to the stars. Let’s climb on the jungle gym, swing through the trees, playing each day into the sky, then go home to curl contentedly like milk-fed cats into each other’s arms, into each other’s hearts.


I do not want to be falling in love with you, yet I do, which brings me to the nitty-gritty funk of wondering about my reflection in your eyes. Do you really want to go through with this? I do, though I am terrified down to the warm marrow of my bones, wanting to tear my heart open and offer it to you on a bed of wildflowers and sweetgrass sprinkled with stardust. I am terrified, and that’s okay, but I won’t stay waiting forever. No way will I settle for less than the radical beauty of my best self. But how delicious life can be next to you.


So what do you say, lover? Did you know that when you asked for some pictures to draw me by, it kicked up every issue in my shit-stained book? Have you figured out that every time I go silent-scared, little girl lips trembling, I am eight years old after grandpa finished violating every corner of my soul or daddy had bloodied the sheets with me? I’ve been waiting to speak all this and more but didn’t want to drown you in a river of tears. Now I got words rolling outta my soul like swords gleaming and butterflies on fire. The fairy tale is over.


How will it look between us when the clock strikes the hour of truth? What will you build with those beautiful kind hands flecked with paint and tenderness? Will you keep hands in your pockets and leave empty-hearted as I shut the door behind you? Or will we go deep and far in the shadows, then get up to do the laundry? If this is a game of pretty it up or hide under the covers, I’m done. Life is too short to waste a minute when I have lightning at my fingertips and the power to shake the world with words. But I imagined you holding my hand before we ever danced and can’t help but hope the last time hasn’t already passed for finding each other in the light of each new day.


How will it be in the dark times? Summer is easy, sharing all that juicy sweetness, salty water beading on hot skin. How will it be when there is blood in your spit and we have to collect shit in buckets, waiting for the doctor to call? What does it all mean to you? When times are bad, I hold faith close like an old blanket, or my favorite pair of socks. Never give up, never give in. It’s all I have when I’m low. Tell me, lover, can I believe in you?


I still have a collection of fantasies about us, like leaving my son for the day to knock down gopher holes as we escape to the ancient forest to make love inside a hollow tree. Or the one where I land that great new job and a sweet little house, with your workshop ‘round back and the garden in-between where we can sleep under the stars. Or even more practical, when my divorce is finally final, I can put you on my insurance and insist that you get the best care around.

What’ll we do when tomorrow comes? Will you be free to make this real between us? How will the chips fall when I want you by my side? There is too much on the line, too much in my heart to keep it locked away. I shouldn’t have to, especially when curled up in my own bed, that place you find so comfortable and hard to leave. When you’re here, I neglect lesson plans, mail, and dirty underwear. I can’t keep dropping the ball on my life just because you have the keys to my heart.


Something has to change, I hope not the locks. I would miss your hair askew in the kitchen, body relaxed in the sun, eyes wide with delight at me, which, to tell the truth, I’ve been missing since the onset of winter and worry. This fate is too much for one woman to bear. I need to know that you are on my side, but I keep turning around and no one is there. What’s up with that? Aside from words not spoken when it was time, where’ve you been? You could ask the same of me, but I never heard you say it. Did I miss something? Or have you always been halfway to somewhere else?


What do you need to make life sing? Am I in your story? Truth won’t wait for brighter tomorrows. Love is now, then I shut out the light to wonder if I’ll be sleeping alone, or in the sweetness of your arms wrapped around my heart.


A scholar, bruja, and differently-abled queer Xicana mama, Ramona Lee Pérez holds a doctorate in sociocultural anthropology and teaches Latino history, food studies, and feminist anthropology. Their works are published in Bookends, Chaleur, Food & Foodways, Hispanecdotes, Junto, Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk, Snapdragon, Silver Needle, Swimming with Elephants, Uncomfortable Revolution, and the edited volumes Gastropolis and Let’s Talk About It. Their latest writings address social and psychological transgressions for recovering from trauma. Follow them at https://wildwomanista.com/ and on Twitter @wild_womanista.