You talk to yourself when you think you're alone (April 2015)
by Alice Pleasance Liddell

Q: He says he loves me and he does lots of nice things for me, but he also constantly puts me down, makes me feel ugly and stupid. Iím confused and donít know what to do. ĖPruitt, WI

This one time someone said my mouth was strawberry-ice-cream-pink and another time someone said my tongue tasted too good and you know that still makes me cringe, makes me crawl under rocks, makes me sleep with all the lights on. I donít get love but I know itís not supposed to put your head in the toilet.

Q: Iím 17 years old and my boyfriend is 29. My parents donít know about it, but my friends all say itís weird and creepy. I donít think it is, but sometimes I wonder. Is this age gap too huge? Ė Kayla, AL

Once, when I was fifteen and he was a certain age, he was an artist and we met when he was selling his portrayals of the city on the sidewalk, he explained his painting and I laughed and he said that was his aim, to make people laugh, we exchanged numbers and his apartment was small and he hid needles under his bed until I found out what his arms really looked like and asked and he let me, he was my first love (maybe, he made things slow and made me nauseous and sleepy, he held my veins with enough tenderness to make me believe him when his mouth was on my ear), he introduced me to his friends and my parents kicked me out when they found his presents in my bag, and one that he hid inside of me, they made me get rid of everything and then they got rid of me, I slept next to his bones until the first black-eyed morning and the wrist-pin, I didn't care about the twice-my-age but I did care about the twice-my-size, I had to go back home and his warning, his love is gonna last forever, but that doesn't mean I still read his letters, doesn't mean that I keep his painting hanging on my wall (I'm a liar, I keep it there, there are a lot of love stories I still haven't told you yet but I want to, I'm just scared you won't want to put your mouth on skin that saw so much filth and cheap glitter and blood and insect wings and handprints that turned into tattoos).

Q: My wife and I have been married for two years, and sheís talking about having kids. I want them too, eventually, but I still feel like itís too soon for us. I donít feel ready. Iím 31 and sheís 29, weíre still young and I want to enjoy life while we can. Our financial situation is also unstable, we still both have a some student debt to pay off. Is she jumping the gun? Ė Samson, VT

Sunrays! crayons and sandboxes!, scraped knees! temper tantrums and sprinkles, quiet voices and choirs, rabid fascination - what could possibly be more wonderful than a mind that is clear as spider-silk, clasping at the world, understanding everything in ways we just can't anymore, all the questions and desires, the starshine in their eyes, everything for the first time, ice cream for dinner and no fear in holding hands, in saying 'I love you', unaware of shame and guilt and aspirations and bad credit and real failure; they want to know what the world is and I want to show them that it is kind, it's good, it deserves to be loved because they deserve to be loved, and there is always someone who will love them. Thereís no gun there, itís just your own fear Ė youíve got to reach backwards and hold your hand, youíre ready and you know it.

Q: Iíve been living a polyamorous lifestyle for a few years now. At first, it was a lot of fun, and I met some amazing people and had some crazy experiences. But now, Iím getting bored. I never thought Iíd feel this way. Something is missing. I donít quite feel ready to settle down yet, but is it time for me to make a change? Ė Benjamin, Toronto

Itís just that no body shocks you anymore, you're so bored with those glaze-eyed babydolls, you've started eating them like candy and no matter how nicely ornamented they all end up tasting the same, they don't crush under your teeth like ice they're all cold porridge, they wear brass tiaras, you clench against the rusted hinges of their jaws; you are so bored, aren't you?

Q: Ever since my husband left me, I havenít felt the same. Nothing bad happened between us, the love just wasnít there anymore. It was a joint decision and we both felt it was for the best. We donít have kids, so it wasnít too complicated. But, even though I donít think I love him anymore, I still miss him every day. Waking up alone is strange. This is the most painful thing Iíve ever gone through and I donít think I can come out the other end. Iím 37 years old and after 19 years of marriage, I feel like Iím starting my life again. Iím completely lost and depressed and donít know how to keep going. Ė Bharat, NY

Remember what once made you happy, somewhere far away you are still happy, keep it alive, keep the record spinning, keep the world bright - the sun hangs on your string and it's heavy but don't drop it. Remember when you were small and free and solitary, when they hurt you and you woke in white light new every day. Try to become small again. Think of the world on a map hanging on the wall. Or when you were beneath words. Or when you saw nothing, heard nothing. Understand that your life is not a line but a ring. If you remember a sparrow outside your window or the white butterflies or the waves made in the wheatfields, rest assured you will find it all again.

Q: My friend has been acting really reckless lately. Iím not sure, but I think something bad happened, but she wouldnít say what every time I ask. Now sheís completely different, hanging out with bad people, sleeping around. We go to a really strict Catholic high school in a small conservative town and Iím worried about her reputation. Should I confront her about it or just let her do whatever she wants? Ė James, OH

I know what sheís doing. I know the letters sheís writing, I wrote them too. Sheís full of apologies and sheíll tell you soon enough. Like, I'm sorry I asked you into the bathroom, and the light flickered strangely, the cocaine on my tongue, the mark I made on your collarbone and the mark I never got to leave on your heart, you were helpless and I said goodbye in a callous way that wasn't meant for you, I was angry at someone else, I mistook your voice for his, it was too loud that night and if you called after me I'm sorry I walked away, I still think of you and how you held me like it was real, wow. If you notice her hanging on deathís arm like she loves it, then take her aside and tell her you love her because I know you do. Otherwise, let her come to you. If I could come around, anyone can.

Q: Sometimes I get really upset when people donít pay attention to me and I feel like hurting myself. Not seriously, just so that someone will notice me. Is this really wrong? I feel like I canít help it, like no one will notice me otherwise. Ė Kate, AK

Don't dangle swords over any head but your own; if you're hungry for death then swallow it whole and don't share the plate with the others, you better lick it clean, you better be quiet about your demons because they are violently contagious. Thatís what white rooms and nurses are for. Donít be scared, and donít take any pills that donít turn your world kaleidoscopic. Listen, if you need the pain, just tear your heart open, it will burn and blind and become a sun and then everyone will stare at you like you always wanted.

Q: A few weeks ago, I was sexually assaulted by my boyfriend. I didnít go to the police at the time because I was scared and ashamed and confused. Yesterday, I told my best friend. She told me I was stupid not to go to the cops, that I should have reported him. I feel so guilty now. Should I tell the authorities what happened? Ė Tate, Manitoba

Your secrets are yours and if the only place the arrows land is in your hurting then fuck the others who want to pull them out for you, it's not their wound, don't let them lick it, extract the poison when YOU are damn well ready and not when masked doctors frown with concern at your body on their table, hands covered in latex so they can't even feel how things burn, what the fuck do they know. Next time he tries anything I want you to run outside, look up, and find me. I am the moon, and my roots sink down to hell. I will snuff the life out of anyone else who lays a hand on you, I swear to god. You're safe.

Q: I love shows like the Walking Dead because I constantly daydream about the world ending. I secretly pray for a disaster or nuclear war, or something. Is this crazy? Am I a bad person? Ė Julie, TN

Anything as big as that feels like a jaw unhinging to swallow me, us whole and disasters always make everybody instant lovers, instant friends, everybody ends up holding hands, what could be better than world peace?

Q: Recently, I was cleaning out the apartment when I found an engagement ring hidden in the medicine cabinet, in a bottle of expired aspirin. Iíve been living with my boyfriend for six months now, and before moving in, we only dated for a year. Things have moved really fast for us, and it felt right, but now Iím a little freaked out. I wasnít expecting this. Should I confront him? Ė Danai, CA

Youíre loaded with a future, you should let him pull the trigger if you love him. Simple as that.