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Sometimes it feels like the universe is yelling at me. I know that sounds like a really selfish thing to say because in a world full of 7.6 billion people, it seems improbable that the universe would care about me specifically. There are some things in life that are just a little too coincidental to be anything but the universe trying to communicate with me. In these moments, my body acts as a vessel for a cosmic intervention. I feel it stirring in my blood, goosebumps forming mountain ranges, my hairs rising as if kissed by static.

My head and my heart are in constant competition. My head, like my body, is full of fear. My heart, I’m pretty sure, is just full of goo. Of course, my anatomical heart is busy pumping blood and keeping me alive, which is nice and all, but my romantic heart, in all its gooey glory, is working overtime. My head doesn’t stand a chance against it.

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My goo-filled mess of a heart is the first to hear the universe, touching something inside of me with a frequency only my heart can hear. When the universe raises its voice, it reminds me of my smallness. It does this on a daily basis. It tells me, you are a small speck of light swimming in a cosmic ocean, except less of an ocean and more of an infinite abyss, so great your earthly brain can’t even grasp it.

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Whenever my brain tells me that I feel trapped inside of my skin, I find it comforting to think about space. I think about how one day my skin won’t be my skin anymore. My freckled, fuzzy skin. Kissed by the sun, loved by the light, touched by lovers and strangers and everyone in between. When the stranger had sex with my earthly body full of resistance and rum, my heart poured out every last drop of love it had left in it as a last defense, the same way I had emptied the coffee cups we filled with rum and coke the night before. My heart said, maybe this will save you. My brain said, you have no idea what you’re up against here.

A therapist told me that the first step to healing was to hold my own body, feel it underneath my hands and say, “this is mine,” over and over again until my brain could believe it. I touched and grasped, stretched and squished, held and caressed.

this is mine
this is mine
this is mine

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I stayed away from anyone who might touch my body, shied away from strangers, collapsed beneath the hands of lovers, and instead felt the weight of my own hands pressed against my body. I poured every ounce of love I had lost back into myself, until rape became less of a trauma—an event that happened to my skin, my organs, and worst of all, my poor, overworked heart—and instead, just a word I knew intimately a lifetime ago.

When I touch my body now, it is an act of making love to myself. I play connect the dots with my freckles. I see the same stars in my arms that I do in the night sky. Looking at the expanse of darkness dotted with light stretched over my head feels like looking in a mirror. A reflection of myself so familiar I want to reach out and touch it, just to make sure it’s real. I want to kiss the sky. I want to say over and over again: this is mine, this is mine, this is mine.

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The universe touches me on the shoulder, whispering this time, softly in my ear. Tells me my body is only a loan. Says that one day I will have to return it. I kiss my body. Feel the skin, soft and warm underneath my lips. I kiss the universe, as intimately and passionately as I would a lover, and reply, I know. I say, I will take good care of it.

I turn to my body and say, I know you are not mine to keep, but I will love you like you are, until I have to return you back to the stars.

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Essay and photography by Kiele Twaroski

Kiele Twarowski is a 21 year old visual artist and writer from Chicago. She is a self-proclaimed “avalanche of feel it all,” after a line in an Andrea Gibson poem. She believes in the powers of love and light and their ability to transcend that which we have words for. Letting these forces fuel her need to create, along with an eager curiosity and search for connection, she captures and writes of the mystical qualities found in the softest moments of the human experience. With a sort of desperation to hold onto moments of tenderness, Kiele lets her emotions guide her way, as the presence of yearning weaves its way through her work. Both her writing and visual works depict her desire to reach something unnamed and unattainable, a feeling that can’t be communicated through spoken language alone.

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