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Addie Tsai


First, cut your hair. And when you shed threads of your previous self, shed also those who didn’t honor you, and with that, the need to please abusers and narcissists, pathological, and merciless. Leave them on the cutting room floor. Go to therapy. When you dress in the morning, take a long look at the subject in the reflecting glass before you. Carve a new self out of the possible subjects that take form in your wardrobe, one disinterested in any other lens than the one your eyes peer out of. Buy yourself French tulips and watch them start over, just as you do, winding and bending their way through a new container, their hair also cut, like yours. Soak in lavender salts. Write it out, even when it feels inappropriate. Especially when it does. When you go to therapy, which you know that you must, bring yourself into the room. Bring tear-stained cheekbones, gaping rage, wounded heart. Become bedfellows with boundaries. Do not listen to those who respond to a start over with envy, or discomfort at what your start over may force them to confront. You know more than anyone else the collateral damage. To start over: casualties, all cells of dead skin left in your wake. In order to start over, you must envision yourself as a new babe in the woods. Gradually accumulate the blocks of sounds and meaning to construct a new language, a new speech, a new body for that mouth’s work. Travel to a land where no one knows your name or your face, your body an undiscovered jewel. Inhale the assurance of anonymity. Walk deep into a forest, a forest you have never known, a forest no one can intrude upon. Take a seat between roots and current, accompanied only by those who know something of starting over, a bird with a new skin, a toad learning a new song. Hold out your hands. Clasp between them your deadened locks, your wounded villains, the perception of your frauds and exposures. If you’re feeling generous, bury them beneath the roots of a tree which provides you comfort. If you’re feeling vengeful, drown them in the rivers. They know a thing or two of renewal. Cradle the sufferer and the suffered that lies within you, like a child left swaddled in a wicker basket sailing in a river visited by no one. Fill the basket with the hair filings of the self you no longer recognize. Burn it.


Addie Tsai is a writer and artist who lives in Houston, Texas. Her writing and art has been published in Banango Street, The Offing, The Collagist, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. She is the Nonfiction Editor at The Grief Diaries, and Senior Associate Editor in Poetry at The Flexible Persona.


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