I see green eyes with flecks of yellow and slate. I always thought they were blue.
My hair is parted differently now, sweeping across my forehead and framing my cheekbones. It’s short, just down to my shoulders.
It’s never been this short. And it’s growing in darker, the color of ash. Almost brown, except for the few strips of white and gold that fall on my collarbone and cover the base of my spine.
My skin is tinted with a delicate orange glow. Soft and punctuated by freckles, layered with the faint scent of vanilla and coconut, I cover my chilled skin with a slouchy gray sweater.
I look down at my hands, then at the tattoos on my wrists. I never thought I’d get a tattoo. I never thought I’d want one. Or three for that matter.
I’ve noticed lately that my voice is deeper now, fuller and more intentional than it was a few years ago. I speak more slowly—a controlled, unquestioning cadence carries my words through my lips.
I take a breath. A deep one. I close my eyes and let that breath fill my lungs, all the way. I hold it there, feeling my heartbeat, feeling my pulse in my ears. And then I let it go, all the way. Slowly, my chest collapses. I am empty.
I’ve been living in this body for twenty-one years, wearing it every single day. Yet I’ve never noticed how unassumingly beautiful it is.
I inhale again, but not all the way. I let it go.
The way my face twists when I laugh.
The way my eyebrows rise and fall when I’m talking, fluctuating with excitement, question and concern.
The way I squint at people when they tell me stories, when I’m really listening.
The way my head tilts to the side when I want to know more.
One day it wants to stay wrapped up in a blanket on the couch. The next it wants to run eight miles in the snow. It tells me when it’s had enough, and it tells me when it wants more. It’s as indecisive as I am.
It loves being touched. Not just by people, but by the cold ground beneath my bare feet when I take off my socks at night. And by the surge of scalding water pouring over me when I step into the shower. And by the wind sweeping across my face when I open my door to walk outside in the morning. And by the sun beating down on my thighs and on my left cheek as I drive down the highway.
It’s restless. Almost as restless as my mind, or as my heart. It’s stubborn in that sense, in that it refuses to stop chasing whatever it is that it wants.
And it’s sensitive. To everything. To coffee, to wine, to sugar. To sound, to taste, to touch.
It doesn’t take direction well. It has a mind of its own, but I like that. I like that it won’t take any of my sh*t.
It challenges me. It’s strong and resilient and flexible.
It’s ticklish, it’s bruised, and it’s sore.
Author: Leah Howard
Apprentice Editor: Karolina Krawczyk-Sharma / Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Image: Author’s own & Francisca Ulloa/Flickr