September 30, 2021
Four months ago, my partner and I broke up.
We were together for six years. We met during our first year in graduate school. We clung to each other like lost children. We had sex the first time we kissed. Twenty-four hours later, they told me I was the one. I was the one for years. The one who got lost in a department store in New Jersey. The one who was bullied for being Asian. The one with the traumatic memories. The one who almost made their mother faint with their difficultness.
I shared all these sentences. They strung them around their neck like pearls. We made sangria and slept together locked in my twin bed.
Three months ago, my partner killed themselves.
*Ex-partner. It still takes some getting used to. I blamed myself. I left the sodium nitrate in the file cabinet they inherited. Before we parted, they were so confident. They also found someone else. Another “the one.” Someone who could be a better “one” than me.
Their mother texted me the morning she found out they were not going to make it. After visiting them in the hospital, I tried to drown myself in the bathtub. My mother fisted me up to the surface with my hair. Like a newborn fish, I gulped and shuddered.
Two years ago, my partner cheated on me.
Twice. Three times if I count the time before their death. They kissed two friends and hit on a random girl in a bar. That night, I picked myself apart in the mirror. I plucked strands from my scalp like I did in the sixth grade, when my mother found bald spots while she slid in barrettes. I refused to go to therapy then. I wish my parents hadn’t listened.
Three years ago, my partner proposed to me.
I was crying at their side.
I wish a voice in my head had said,
this is what a trauma bond looks like.
They laid down on their gurney
and wrapped me in an invisible ring.
I have lived in that ring since.
Four months later, my partner is a memory.
They are the neverending dust on photo albums.
The dandelion seed sprouting from the cracks.
The bees that go on, laboring
in their honey.
I have broken
I will take
I have been thinking about lotuses. It is a flower that sprouts from layers of mud. As it blooms, it rises above the water, pink, yellow, and white.
Working on one’s mental illness is like growing a lotus. Our roots, memories, and wounds are buried in mud. Sometimes, we suffocate from the mud’s pressure. Other times, we can brush it off, ready to reach the surface.
Whether you are still a seed, sapling, bud, or flower in full bloom, you are working through the mud. And that is beautiful.
MT Vallarta is a poet and the 2021-2023 Guarini Dean’s Pre-to-Postdoctoral Fellow in Asian American Studies at Dartmouth College. A Kundiman Fellow and Pushcart Prize nominee, they are the author of the microchapbook, The Science of Flowers (Blanket Sea). Their work has been published in Nat. Brut, Apogee Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine, and others. They live in White River Junction, VT.