by Cassie

The first day of thirty-six looks like this:

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It looks like 174.4 lbs, twenty pounds heavier than the first day I was thirty-five, but it also looks like no more calories counted, like moving my body when I want to in the ways that feel good to me, like feeling the hard expanse of my thighs after a long run and the pull in my calves when I stretch down to the ground. It looks like eating meat again for the first time in a decade, feeling strong and content and full, like not craving sugar anymore and sleeping better at night, and it looks like pastures and henhouses, like eggs with real butter, like eating as meditation and muse. It looks like a two-babies-belly, seven years apart, expanding out into the universe then shrinking back into a soft sky of wrinkled stars. It looks like linebacker shoulders that can carry the weight of the world on them whenever it’s my turn to hold it there, and it looks like knees gone slightly to seed that still support me when I kneel in supplication to the spaces I’ve created to exist in.

It looks like hands that hold a hundred tales, each scar a punctuation, and it looks like birthing hips that know the kind of divine writhing change bodies can make when they meet, and it looks like arms that have held books and babies and a grown man’s sweet head to my breast. It looks like the gentle cup of collarbone, catching light and shadow, and it looks like flesh that responds to the warmth of a hand, rising and falling and rising again with the expert kneading born of a dozen years spent studying each other. It looks like stretchmarks and birthmarks and my first silver hair, and it looks like the ghost of my father’s smile on my lips. It looks like eyes tired from reading until 2 a.m., from middle of the night nursing sessions, from an old mattress and a flat pillow and from insisting on sleeping with some part of me touching some part of him. It looks like new tattoos and old tattoos and the retelling of stories through the medium of my skin.

It looks like hair I’m growing out and hair I haven’t shaved and it looks like fine lines in the pink light of early morning. It looks like lessons learned and bridges burned and old dead dreams, and it looks like new beginnings and reimagined purpose and the seeds of something bigger planted way down deep in a fertile heart. It looks like invisible wings made up of feathers of loss, a solemn cloak of sad memories that lies against me, even in August, and it looks like the kind of loneliness every one of us knows intimately, the kind of alone that sits right in the tailbone, and it looks like learning to love your own company before you drive yourself and everyone around you crazy. It looks like lines of poetry, and it looks like an unfinished novel, and it looks like a late summer heat wave, like dust motes glowing golden in a silent kitchen that smells of toast and tea. It looks like my mother’s relief and redefining faith, like finding that Sunday morning feeling on a Friday night, and it looks like letting go, and letting go, and letting go. It looks like saying no, and finding ways to live wide open but a little closed off, and it looks the way the word “grace” sounds when you speak it out loud.

It looks like a woman.
It looks like a mother.
It looks like a friend.

It looks like me.