“The Valley of I Hate Myself” by Kirsten Smith

After a few years of You can have me if you don’t hurt me
and You can kiss me if you promise to leave soon,
I pack my stuff and head south.
I drive past the ranch style homes of I like to watch it burn
and the freakish dust bowl of If I can’t have you no one will,
and into the valley of I hate myself.
Forget the bad weather and the dead weight of ghosts,
the plus sides make themselves immediately clear:
if you plant something, it is almost certain to grow,
if you want to live off the land, there is plenty of it.
Every night the moon is full
and the torrid hum of people having fun—
well, it just isn’t there.

As far as neighbors go, they’re far from nosy.
They stop to say hello only if you’re armed or bleeding.
They aren’t interested in the feel-good moments of
I think I might come clean or
I know I can fix what I once so carelessly broke.
They only want the good stuff—
the cheating on the husbands, the booze, the drugs,
the solemn way you broke everyone’s hearts, mostly your own.
They like to hear about all that time you wasted
when you could have been Making Something of Your Damn Life.

Guilt is the religion of choice here
and every Sunday, the pews are full of people
who’ve come to sing the songs of Kurt Cobain or Karen Carpenter.
The stores are stocked full of meat and cheese and alcohol
and the meth labs are clean and unionized.
The coke dealers are so well-liked
one of them ran for mayor and won.
It’s no wonder people never take day trips
to the nearby town of Everything’s coming up roses
or attempt to try the new Chinese place in Life’s what you make it.

But the highlight of it all has to be the walks I take at night.
I stroll past the recycling center of self-loathing
and the dumping ground for dreams that die hard,
and head onto Main Street, stopping
to look in the window of the local pawn shop.
There’s a guitar and a typewriter and a gold heart locket on a chain,
a trinket to remind us that the thing in our chests
can’t possibly be as empty as it feels.
A few other people pass by, people who were lonely in life
and now are here together
and we share tight small smiles
some of which might even be read as I love you.

Kirsten Smith (@KiwiLovesYou), via The Awl