1. I’m going to tell you now I’m a bit harder to love than most. It’s because I grew up with ghosts at my home and fallen debris. I turned myself into an armor of steel so I would be protected from slashes and whips and people like you who might break me.
2. Sometimes I would need you to cut through my barriers and reach me. Sometimes I would need you to knock on my door when it’s closed. Sometimes I would need you to love me a little bit louder.
3. Dear Stranger, I’m going to tell you now that if you are here to stay, I would ask too much.
4. I have a mixed up relationship with my depression, dearest. It comes and it goes and sometimes it takes over and I can’t control it. I would need you to hold my hair and keep my head up when I vomit my life all over the sink.
5. I won’t ask you to tell me that things are going to be okay, because I have enough wisdom to know that they won’t always be. I won’t ask you to hold my hand and tell me to turn over to self love, because I don’t have any.
6. Self love is a blanket I cover myself in when I go to sleep at night, occasionally with punctured holes and flaws whenever my thoughts have taken over or when someone throws hurtful words at me. Self love is a luxury I couldn’t afford, not when I spent this long drowning in too much loathing.
7. Dear Stranger, I am not alright. I’ll be okay on some days and I would laugh at your jokes and hug you tight and kiss your lips. I’ll believe in a parallel world where my life isn’t taken over by a lonely sky. I’ll fumble my way through crossroads and horizons, just so I could meet you halfway. I won’t leave you alone and I’ll try harder to get to you, it’ll only take time for me to get there day by day. I would ask for you to be extra patient with me and careful, as I don’t know what I’m doing.
8. I kept all the butterflies in my stomach in a jar hidden somewhere in my closet. I would need them at nights when I’m tangled up in your sheets and need to feel something.
9. This would be a burden, but I ask you to keep me away from my family.
10. Dear Stranger, for all of this, I am sorry. I just need you to love me.
by Cariza Opana
featuring artwork from Aubrey Llamas