when my closet held my heart
I love you,
I have always loved you.
For keeping me safe, for allowing me to hide during the tremblings and seizings of my world, holding on to your frame during the quakes. Even though sometimes, it felt as though I was beating my fists against your door to open it; even though sometimes, it felt as though I was shoving my shoulder against it in order to keep everything shut.
And although it wasn’t your own, although I had carried it in with me when I arrived, swaddled in the twelfth page of an old free newspaper — you took that parcel from my hands, unwrapped my unwanted heart, and gave it the peaceful home I never would. I had ripped it, bleeding, from my chest, covering my ears to hide from the pounding of my tell-tale heart; you comforted its cries, and you made sure it never missed a beat.
Ours was a relationship of convenience, a dedication to pragmatism before each other. To you, I gave what I guarded closest to my chest, what hid behind my pursed lips, furled on the curled tip of my tongue.
You got the parts of me no one else had ever seen; but that I do not think they ever wanted.
To me, you gave time, quiet, a still space to hide and store what I could not use today, for tomorrow. There was no love lost between us, but that was exactly the point — I could have grown old, could have, perhaps, maybe-even-almost loved to grow old keeping my love hidden in your crevices. I would have trusted you to hold it forever. My own flesh and blood, you cradled my heart and warmed it for me as it lay abandoned and unwanted in your cloister of dust; you nestled it in the darkness as I fixed my gaze and walked away, too scared to speak my secrets into existence; too scared to bring my insides into the sunlight.
You were kinder to my secrets than I ever was. Time and time again, I denied their existence in front of even impolite company. I treated my secrets, shames, loves, as illegitimate children, the likes of whom I could not and would not claim, for fear of losing everything.
What I left unacknowledged, I left to you.
And now, I realize I left you with the best parts of me. I carved them out of myself, and I am lucky enough that you held my torn pieces while I heaved my ragged breaths alone.
I distrust the gaze of others, but if closets had eyes, I think ours would have locked.
You would have seen me small, shedding tears, the first time I showed up at your door, just a child, fearing love, trembling due to lack thereof; if closets had arms, you would have embraced me. You would have held my hands and waltzed with me; if you had lips you would have kissed the fissures on my heart as I left it crying in your cradle, you would have spoken, told me to learn to lead even when all I wanted to do was follow.
Because if closets were truly capable of humanity, I would have kept my distance, for I know what humans are capable of.
Yet our relationship of convenience protected me. Your empty void was a fierce entity itself, my heart’s first protector, first home — and for that, I think we will both always beat a little for you.
After all that time, after I slowly began to emerge from the shadows, heart in tow in my tentative hand; even long after it became clear that your walls would never again make us a comfortable home, I couldn’t say ‘I love you.’
I think that we had all accepted that the functioning of my heart was impaired, that cruel indifferences had compounded and created an unhealable wound. Nevertheless, I still bandaged it, kept it clean, fed it. I tried speaking to it softly; tried to suck out the venom I had bitten into it. I still apologized, promised to never leave another part of me in the darkness, to never again shame how its pulse quickened, to never again blame it for why. We negotiated a truce as my heart grew inside me, we grew closer, we grew familiar for the first time.
When my eyes saw my love for the first time out of the darkness, basking on a Saturday afternoon; I knew, then, that I was changed. I felt my heart babble, coo, reach for her hands.
When my arms found their way gently wrapped around their body rather than clutching myself, I knew that my heart was healing, walking towards her, taking unsteady, purposeful steps.
I knew I had found myself in a reality I once thought impossible; that the world you told me I could one day invent was suddenly falling into my lap.
When our lips finally drew closer, when I kissed their temple, and hairline, the palm of their hand and the tip of their nose; my lips slowly parted and whispered my heart’s first words, softly but distinctly, to the human lying in my bed; my eyes were closed while my young heart watched me blush, made me flush with reddening blood. Later that night, I closed my darkening eyes. I painted her image on the back of my lids in watercolor so vivid it flooded me; it made my heart palpitate. That night I tended to it without you. I woke up, took a breath of air, and for a second I murmured those first words into my heart.
You’ve never heard those words before, have you?
I’ve heard people disparage you, liken you to a prison, talk of your still air stifling, your darkness occluding any lightness in this world. They say that no one should have to live in you, with you, they send me condolences when they learn I placed my heart and soul within you for years; they do not know, perhaps, that it was only within your confines that I first showed my face.
Only in your darkness did I ever paint a picture of the person I might be outside, if only I dared to step out of the shadows. Behind your door, I could confess my sins without penance; standing, not kneeling, on your sacred ground.
Your stale air carried my breath as I spoke, the lack of wind ensured my voice did not warble, in the closet there was no hesitation. Maybe no one could hear me, but no one could hurt me for truths they did not hear —
You kept me safe,
kept my heart safe,
kept the door closed but unlocked,
so that one day when we left,
I could feel the warmth of love, of pride; without burning, searing pain.
They do not know, perhaps, that once upon a time, you held my heart
with more love and compassion than I could bear.
You are a part of me now;
despite your inherent emptiness,
you are not my tragedy, you are full of nothing but love.
I pray our paths will not again cross. Yet if one day I pass your door,
I will not stop,
but I will whisper ‘I love you.’
I will think fondly of your dusty, stoic embrace.
While I will be holding my love’s hand, while I will not be reaching
for you anymore as we walk away;
my heart will still brim wide for you that day, as much as my proud,
Edited by Yumna Elhdari
Find Mari (they/ella) on Instagram at @la._.mari._.nicole
Find Yumna Elhdari (she/her) on Instagram at @yumnael