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by Crystal Torres on July 16, 2017

I have never looked like the images that were sold to me as beautiful
My curves are so full, they have curves of their own
When I was younger
my lovers tried to hold me
while I tried to hold in my belly
keep the lights low
get under the covers
Please, don’t touch me there,
where I’m soft
I tried to be a fantasy
though I’m not sure who’s fantasy I was
I wore uncomfortable clothes
over more uncomfortable underclothes
I’m older
Now, I wear clothes I can move in
My curves are giving in slowly to gravity’s seduction
I will never be shaped like the girl I was
let alone the shapes I tried to be
This face has been places
it has lines like a map
written by the Mojave sunshine
If I smile big enough you might see where the treasure’s hidden
I have no tolerance for lovers
I can’t trust to see me
with my curves rolling
Please, touch me there
where I am soft
My body is strong
alive, electric
hungry for touch
Know me as I am
with nothing hidden

It has been years now since I’ve had a lover to see me naked. In some ways, I think it is this very solitude that has been good for me. I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin without anyone else to use as a mirror. My body and I have gone from enemies, to an uneasy truce, to a comfortable alliance. Now we take care of each other. I wake up without pain most days. I try to give my body rest and nourishment and hydration. In exchange, it gives me energy and hard work, and I’m really trying to make more time for my body and I to play too. I enjoy having a body. I enjoy having this body.

In my lonely years, I wrote obsessively about kisses. My lips still yearn. The thing is it was hard to imagine what came after kisses. In the movies, the leading man and the leading lady finally kiss and either the screen fades to black or they start taking off clothes, exposing more physical perfection with each layer removed. I have never looked like that with my clothes off. Bodies like mine aren’t shown naked on screen, unless they’re the punchline.

For years I tried to punish my body into being smaller. I refused to feed it, to touch it, to love it. I tried to starve myself into something very small. I just kept getting bigger. My head hurt, my body ached, my skin was dry and flaky. I was a mess and I couldn’t keep the weight off. I’d always gain back any losses and then some. 

I’m still struggling with healthy habits. I’d live on sweet coffee drinks if that were an option. I want to be productive at least twenty hours a day but, apparently, I need sleep and I don’t understand why salad greens have to be a thing, but I’m trying. I’m trying to take care of my body and it may not show in my dress size, but I don’t have a headache today. I didn’t have a headache yesterday, either. Waking up without a headache has stopped being an event. It’s just a thing now. I feel healthy. Healthy feels sexy.

Here I am with all of this health and freedom and I can do what I want. I’m realizing that what I want may not always be this solitary. Maybe I could take a lover, I mean, after the weeds are whacked and I’ve caught up on my chores, and I’ll probably change my mind once the fall semester starts and I’m busy with schoolwork, and I don’t talk to strangers and my friends already know how strange I am. It’s not bloody likely, I admit. Still, it’s possible.

Pondering that possibility reminded me that if I had a lover, they would probably see me naked. I kinda want to issue disclaimers. Like, you know it’s the bra that holds these things up like that, contents may settle when cage-free. There are parts of me as blinding as moonlight reflecting off fresh snow and all of me is soft. Soft in good ways, ‘cause now that I’m not afraid to eat anything with a fat content I’ve stopped being a scaly, lizard person, but also, I’m squishy.

I’m still a little bit afraid that I’ll get to that point where someone and I are taking off our clothes for the first time and they won’t like what they’ve unwrapped. I felt that way even when I was younger/smaller, though. The thing is, when I look back on my sexual past. There isn’t anyone who I think I would have liked better if they’d been a different weight, or if they hadn’t had stretchmarks, or birthmarks, or scars. There are a handful I wish had been kinder, more patient, more honest. Still, not a single one who’s body I would change. It wasn’t a friggin’ bathing suit competition. It still isn’t. I loved them, and their bodies, as they were. I loved exploring ways to give them pleasure. I loved the pleasure their bodies gave me.

So yeah, it’s been years, and at the rate I’m going, it might be a few more. It’s just, I’m getting to really like living in this body. Finally. And maybe if the stars align, and I catch up on work and home and stuff, and I shut up long enough to let somebody get close enough to kiss me, it might not be the end of the world to let somebody see me naked. There are a lot of fun things I want to do with this body. Falling in love might be one of them. That’s all.



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Major Possibilities

by Crystal Torres on June 9, 2017

My instructor is like a recruiter for some strange academic cult. I am not the first person to get a few weeks into one of her classes and seriously consider switching my major. She’s in love with her field and, for a moment, so was I. This past semester I was taking linguistic anthropology, which is, of course, taught by an anthropologist. I am, however, a linguistics major.

People used to suggest that I should be an English major. I read, I write, I seem to enjoy the language. English classes suck the joy out everything. I don’t want to diagram and I don’t want to analyze. I want to understand. I approach language like a poet, twisting my sentences passionately enough to wring emotions out of seemingly dry words. This is not what English majors do.

I know that I am a linguistics major. I don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up though. Ultimately, I want to live a fascinating life and write all about it, but I’ve yet to see that in the classifieds. I want to love and be loved, but too much of that is beyond my control to put on a goals list. These are great motivators, but they’re kinda useless as career goals. The thing about linguistics is it touches on everything I love.

Interpersonal relationships are absolutely impacted by linguistics. When I used to volunteer with grieving children we used language in deliberate ways. We don’t say that someone committed suicide, crimes are committed. Someone died by suicide. We don’t say that we lost someone. Lost people should be looked for, and hopefully found. We say that someone died. Linguistics are important to that work. Language, and paralanguage, are how humans communicate with each other. I want to do that.

Creative writing is a crap major for someone who needs to make a living. It’s still something that appeals to me, with all the sparkle of a child’s dream of a candy store. I can’t afford that major, but linguistics will help me as a writer.

One of my favorite things in my first career was implementing speech therapy with the developmentally disabled adults in my care. I learned, and taught, a number of ASL signs. I encouraged the use of key words with deliberate repetition. I even talked to the speech therapist about what it takes to become a speech therapist, which was college, which was not for me at that time. Still, I remain oddly passionate about speech pathology. I had received speech therapy as a kid, for a stammer and a lisp. I made up a speech therapy protocol for my son when I decided that he was too old to keep using Y sounds as a substitute for L sounds. It was fun and it worked. Linguistics helps towards that career path.

Linguists also get to work on movies. In rare instances they are key consultants on films like, Arrival. More commonly, they help with accents. I don’t know enough about that career to gush, but it’s still kinda cool. I loved being an extra, getting that fly on a wall view to the huge collaboration that goes into even a small piece of storytelling on screen. It’s fun that linguistics has a tie in to that world, too.

I like the idea of teaching English as a foreign language and getting to travel the world, experiencing how people live and communicate in their cultures, not just how tourist traps come in slightly different flavors, but really getting to participate in different communities. That has appealed to me the most.

Last night was the last night of my linguistic anthropology class. Some of us, who prefer writing, turned in term papers. Others gave final presentations. I enjoyed them all, but I was most struck by the presentation on Chinese written language (she did not specify which which Chinese language, so I will just refer to it as broadly as she did) that was given by a Chinese woman, roughly my age, who has been living in the United States for five years now. 

She talked about strong Sapir-Worf. She introduced us to her full name. Her family name is written as a representation of a great warrior, his weapon beside him, his horse underneath him. This is her proud lineage. This is who she is from.

Her next name is written with water, for a specific river in a specific valley, with a specific geography and a specific history filled with battles and heroes. That is her second name. This is where she is from.

Her personal name has a literal translation, to a thing of beauty, the same way a name like Rose does in English. More importantly though it has specific virtues associated with it. When her parents gave her that name it was a way of bestowing her with their wishes for all that she could be. This name is who she might be. 

Now, in America, she doesn’t paint her name in three squares, each telling a story. She spells it out in letters and it becomes just sound. She forgets the meaning of her names, who she is from, where she is from, who she was supposed to be.

Chinese poetry is painting. The scenery and the words are painted together on the same page, with the same brush, the same ink. Words and images are not separate the way she learned Chinese.

Now, years later, children in China are learning to think phonetically. There are standard spellings for Chinese words in western letters, there are corresponding phonetic characters. These exist on Chinese computer keyboards for quickly composing easily translated documents.

She did not learn to think phonetically, to separate the sound of the word from the story, the way that Chinese children do now, the way that western children have always. 

She struggles with English with it’s complicated, arbitrary sounds. For five years she has been trying very hard to learn English, not as an academic accomplishment, but for survival. She needs to know the language she is submersed in.

Her grades are good in all of her classes, but English. She works hard as student. She still feels lost in the language. She can translate one word literally for another, but she cannot make English words mean what Chinese words mean beyond the surface. She took linguistic anthropology to learn how to learn language. She still doesn’t know how to learn English, how to think in a western language, with a western framing. 

I have never wanted so badly to take even half of my ability to read and write and speak and understand English and just lift it out of my mind and pour it into someone else’s. I, who once dangled backwards off the top of a castle, with a little old man, not nearly strong enough to prevent my falling, holding onto my ankles, so I could kiss the Blarney stone and be imbued with the gift of gab, would have given up all of my eloquence and poetry, to give her what she needs for her autonomy and security. I wish I knew how to give her my language.

Fortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I don’t have to give up any portion of my language to share it with others. I don’t know exactly how it does work, how adults, long past the ages of prime language acquisition, can be taught to think and speak in a language that isn’t just a different set of sounds for the same objects, but a different culture, a different way of thinking, a different set of perceived possibilities.

I’m hoping that being a linguistics major means that I’ll find out though. Maybe I’ll teach English as a second language. I think what I want to be when I grow up is someone who can help other people understand and communicate better. I want to be a story teller, a teacher, a confidante, a translator, a tool-giver, a linguist.



Poem- A Girl Shouldn’t Expect

May 12, 2017
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“Looking good,” he says leaning out over the rolled down window It doesn’t make me feel pretty I don’t look back Don’t engage Just keep walking Don’t let them see me listening Usually the car keeps going Just keep going Sometimes it turns around Another round “Hey baby, where you going in such a hurry?” […]

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Some Days

May 4, 2017

I lay the pillows in a vertical line in my bed. It gives me something to cuddle up against, but the pillows cannot hold me, squeeze me tight, convince me that everything will be okay when I’ve had another fitful sleep broken up by nightmares. Sometimes I’d give anything for a big hug and a […]

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Just Take the Compliment

April 25, 2017

I was unexpectedly rattled by a post made by a friend of friends yesterday. I think I might have met the guy that one time, or maybe that was a different guy. It wasn’t who said the thing that made it rattling. There was a specific venom in his status update: “I have been hit […]

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Poem- Divided

March 13, 2017
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My father crossed the border into Alta California He was not sent He did not bring drugs He did not bring crime He was not a rapist Build the Wall Not far from my home protesters shouted hatred at busses filled with children–whose fathers like mine were Mexican citizens Protesters compared them to stray dogs […]

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Poem- The Last Day

November 18, 2016
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Tomorrow, I’ll clear the marigolds from the mantle and take down your poetry and know that I have grieved but I have not died Today is the last day that I will ask what-if hold my half of conversations that cannot be answered allow myself to live in the past Today is the last day […]

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Tea and Sympathy

August 2, 2016
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In today’s adventures of Crystal the Wonderklutz, I made myself a cup of tea. I made myself a cup of tea because I was woken up this morning to the sound of a ceramic bowl crashing off of my mantle into more pieces than I care to count. I’m borrowing a couple of cats right […]

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This is the House That Love Built

July 31, 2016
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I am okay. Today, I am okay in that there’s nothing particularly wrong. Some days, I am okay, in that the things that are wrong will not destroy me. Other days, I am okay, because I have to be, because to admit to anything else would loosen my grip on the shore and let the […]

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Poem- All I Ever Wanted

June 24, 2016
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All I ever wanted was to love and be loved Until I was married, then I yearned for kindness a safe place to grow to be I fought my way free to this falling Now I’m extending like a hand that no one else is shaking aching for an embrace to bury myself six feet […]

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