By Kait Mauro

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Curl into yourself, avoid going
outside because you hate the cold.
Spend your mornings in thrift stores
hunting for old paintings and model ships
to nest into your new apartment. Run away
to North Carolina to see the boy you’ve decided
you love. Run away to Pittsburgh,
then New York City over New Years
to see this same boy. Get an inch long splinter
in the back of your thigh sliding
across a wooden bench in Brooklyn.
In March realize it’s still there.
Stay restless. Stay sad. Grow suicide plans
inside of your suicide plants, like
ivy climbing around a trellis.

Get a job again, finally. Spend all of your
afternoons listening to the ramblings
of an autistic boy — retellings of cartoon
scripts. Keep going to the job even on the days
when you would rather do anything else. Keep
taking the medications the kind doctor prescribed.
Stay stubborn. Make new plans. Apply to three universities —
on both coasts and in between. Plan to be happy.
Call your mom on the phone out of boredom
every single day. Grow plants in your apartment —
start tomato seeds, strawberry plants, African violets,
oregano, basil, cilantro, winter savory. Plan to cook
with the herb leaves but never do.

Try to stay put. ‘Only a few more months’ will become
your mantra. Watch your skin turn from white white to
gold white. Watch the purple fade from your hair.
Grow your hair long to teach yourself about patience,
cut it all off to teach yourself about letting go.
Plan a roadtrip home. Be filled with excitement and dread.
Try dreadlocks. Buy a great dane and have him for a week
before you sell him again. Try to understand the late-night
anxiety. Try new pills to quell it. Expect something
but get nothing. Go to the woods in the early morning
to avoid the Saint Louis summer heat.

Feel the snakes in your ribcage as your plans,
your new life, approaches. Give away books, plants
and clothes in preparation for the move. Write about
all that has happened. Photograph yourself naked
in the woods among the orange and red leaves. Try
to learn to see yourself as a natural thing. Try not to
start a new diet. Finally learn to cook with the herb
leaves you’ve been growing all year. Try to learn
to feed yourself, the mathematics you never learned
while you weren’t going to high school, basic French,
to say yes to the things you want and no to the things
you hate. This will be harder than it seems. Try
to quit smoking again. Remember that you love reading.
Make it through four novels in one week.
Realize you haven’t seen anyone except the children
you babysit in nine days.

– Kait Mauro