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The first time I fell in love, I didn’t have the foresight to know that it would end up hurting. A lot. I just remember being thirteen years old and reveling in the fact that somebody wanted to go to homecoming with me, somebody wanted to walk around the football field with his hand in the pocket of my jacket and tell me I was beautiful.

We were both reservation born and bred. He had short hair and dark, penetrating eyes. The feeling he gave me was a lot like the process of a fawn lifting itself up, falling, and trying to lift itself again. I suppose he was my first love. When you’re in eighth grade and a dark-eyed boy looks at you like they can see right through you, it’s disarming. And unnerving. But addicting.

I loved him until I was eighteen years old. On the night of my high school graduation, something inside me snapped. Like a light switch that was flipped from light to dark. Or maybe from dark to light. He looked at me the way he always had, a slight, impish smirk on his face—but for some reason, it didn’t carry the mystery anymore. Maybe I was tired of mystery. I wanted something straight-forward. I thought I deserved it. I did.

But falling out of love is almost as painful as falling in. If Alice could reverse her trip down the rabbit hole and fall up backwards, that broken imagery may describe the heartbreak. It was like growing up, growing into myself.

It was something that had to happen. But I also felt like I was losing something integral to my being—his love. After a while, a very long time, I realized I couldn’t lose something that was never mine to begin with.

The Process of Becoming Nothing

I curled my toes into themselves
and crunched my ankles in half,
I slid my shoulders sharp together,
retracted my brain and my back.

Hooked tight to the end of fish line,
Lids shaking, I squeezed shut my eyes,
the irises trembled, loosened as jelly
and quickly became half their size.

I entwined my tongue into my mouth,
resolved not to speak one more word,
I snapped off my fingers, each one,
and fed them as crumbs for the birds.

I’d let go of all of myself,
my body, my heart, and my brain.
I’d give it away just to get you to stay
or to come back, as this Winter came.

Special Thanks:
Misty Lynn Ellingburg (Shoalwater Bay) is a student at Seattle Pacific University, majoring in English (concentration Literature) and minoring in Professional Writing. She has two brothers and two sisters--Brandt, Shana, Hope, and Hunter. Her mom, Lory, is a Tribal artist, and her dad, Todd, is becoming fluent in Salish, a local Tribal language. Her favorite Native writers are Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie. She even met Mr. Alexie in Seattle at a book reading where she got his autograph and a picture taken together.




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