Guest Post: Stained by Jordan Abbruzzese

“Oh God. Do I have brown all over the back of my pants?” I spun around clumsily, my supervisor’s eyes wide. I had just torn into some chocolate from the jar at reception’s desk and dropped some on my new office chair. Minutes later, the heat from my legs melted the treat, staining my chair and the back of the only nice pair of dress pants I owned. The soft ones that flared and looked nicely with heels. My only other pairs were tight and had pleather down the sides. Each time I wore them I felt like I was auditioning for a role in Rock of Ages.

She laughed uncomfortably. “Uh, yes. There is definitely some chocolate on the back. I think you can wipe it off.” So, not only did it look like I had questionable brown streaks on the seat of my pants, but my brand-new chair was also stained. I ran to the kitchen and wiped the seat furiously with a wet paper towel, leaving small clinging pieces of white behind, and ultimately making the mess worse. It was going to have to stay. A reminder that I was 24 years old and unable to properly eat a Snickers bar.

Historically, I’ve always been a bit of a “spiller.” I drip taco fillings on shirts, slosh water over sides of plastic cups, and have gotten grease from Big Macs on favorite dresses more than once. I try to be proactive, eating my lunches with the grace of a tight-rope walker, but I’m inevitably a mess-maker.

In the fall, I threw a Halloween party resulting with me dropping a whole glass of red punch on the cream-colored carpet. I sat on my couch and cried, in my Elvira costume, while simultaneously eating pizza rolls and yelling at my roommate that he was a contrarian for disliking the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Honestly, I was more of a mess than the juice on the floor, but there it was, staring at me like a sad pool of fake blood. Thankfully, all that remains now is a light, pink stain that is only visible when the light comes through our windows the right way on the opposite wall.

The sink in my bathroom has gradually turned a light brown from rinsing out tea cups each morning before I go to work. The Irish Breakfast Blend coats the sides and washes down the drain, leaving behind tan, glistening porcelain. I’m sure it can easily be cleaned, but I leave it. It’s physical evidence that I am getting out of bed in the morning and (somewhat) functioning.

But what are these marks, if not stories or a memory? Some stains may be good, like church window palms after painting walls in your new home. Slobber crusting on your shoulder while holding a sleeping baby. Black plum lips following a night of laughing and sipping red wine.

And of course, others are bad. Bleach crawling up the arms of a recently washed shirt. Your puppy’s paw prints trailing over a white tile floor, or coffee spreading across important papers that you should have filed away, but left out regardless.

Then are the stains we can’t see. Emotional stains. Watercolor impressions left by a stranger who holds a door open amidst a busy crowd, or a maroon splotch warm inside your chest from someone you love. Dark gray stains, traveling underneath your skin from a bitter memory, or a place of pain. Black dirt behind fingernails and clouded eyes that won’t go away no matter how much you scrub yourself raw. They’re still there.

In the same way that we become stained, we leave marks on others. A soft brush swept across a heart, or a finger-painted gut. Whether on accident or purposeful, we leave traces of ourselves everywhere we go. And if there is an inevitable residue from our actions, then what do we leave behind? What do your stains look like?

I write to create an impression, hoping my words stick to readers like burrs in hair that should have been pulled back. And what is that, if not spilling a little bit of Halloween punch on a light carpet? To do something grand, you have to risk leaving a mess.

So go and color the world that is often too dark to see anything else. Imprint words on sidewalks and sculpt clouds into shapes of love and understanding. Speak in poem and scribble your song on too-perfect walls with crayons. Force us to feel. For we are here to stain. To leave something behind.

Don’t be afraid to cause commotion. Create passionately and don’t always clean up your mistakes, but push them into the landscape. We exist with pencils, clay, nimble fingers, and chocolate-stained dress pants. We are unapologetic, we are space, and we are color that the world so desperately needs. Making splashes and treading cracked mud imprints on the hushed mouths of those around us.

Put your stains out there. Let them soak and burn. And don’t ever wash them away.

 

Jordan AbbruzzeseJordan Abbruzzese graduated with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Music from Otterbein University in 2015. Currently, she works as a Content & Communications Coordinator for a non-profit in Central Ohio. Previously, she has published works with Beautiful Minds Magazine, Stigma-Fighters, and other online and print literary magazines. Jordan is a lover of Space Westerns, tabletop RPGs, and anything with sprinkles. Find out more by following her blog at hedgehogfiles.com.

You can read Jordan’s poetry in Black Fox Issue 14.

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