I admit our friendship was a myth, a God I invented in light of our atheism. Nothing could break my faith. I was the car driving around the city with a 'Jesus Is Real' bumped sticker. I thought if I followed the rules we would last forever. 

What do I believe in anymore? 
Maybe our friendship was the God, but you were. 

Now I'm a woman losing faith she her prayers aren't answered, when her God seems to care for nothing. 

Now I'm just on my knees. 
Trying to let go. 
Still reaching out for something I don't believe in anymore. 


by Brittany Chavez

There's something about the ocean that just strips you of yourself. You become small, unimportant. In the face of that timeless tide you are nothing, and everything. Your life, your accomplishments are peeled away from you. And in this, peace. Your responsibilities are also lifted from your  shoulders. The waves come up and they go out, ceaselessly. The wind whips your face and the spray of the waves and the clouds beat against you. You lose yourself. Sometimes you have to lose yourself.

Sometimes I have to lose myself. Sometimes I have to let the wind whip my face, and I have to let myself be pulled out to sea and carried away in the undertow.

And after all this passes, when the tide goes back out, my feet are still planted on the shore in their leather boots. And I'm still there. The waves couldn't pull me away from my own mind. And I know in my bones that I'm everything, and nothing.

April 2013

by Brittany Chavez


Yes is the most beautiful word in the english language. 

Also your name.
Even though you share it with so many other men. 
When I type it into my phone, a whole list comes up,
I’m not kidding. 
(Four others? Five others?)
But still, 
I’m like a child attaching a new meaning to an old word. 
All the sudden it doesn’t mean what it did. 
It’s as if an apple isn’t called an apple anymore. 
It’s like the sky is actually the color green, 
Or the sun is actually named moon.

You still make me nervous. 
Like maybe you’ll just disappear in front of me. 
Become another name in my list of names. 
Just someone I have the contact info for, 
who I never call.
Who never calls me.
Who never touches me.

After you leave, 
the sky will still be green.
The moon will rise every morning and set every night.

Apples will never be red again
and the sweet taste of the fruit has vanished completely from my mind. 
I remember biting into one, a Lady Alice, 
if I try hard enough I can convince myself it tasted good.
I can think, apples are good. 
But the particular flavor is gone forever. 
You’re the only thing I taste anymore. 

March 2018

by Brittany Chavez

January 17, 2016 X

Yesterday Steele and I went on a date. We were going to a pizza place that's a potential wedding caterer. I put on the new Daughter album. We had gone over the river, we were merging back onto I-5, when we hit traffic. Dead stop. I was in a good mood, the traffic couldn't really affect it. I said all it meant was that we were in a car together, listening to music. I said it sounded like our entire relationship. 

We decided it must have been an accident, it was Sunday and we weren't moving at all. then the sirens came, and the ambulance, and we pulled over as best we could, all the cars parting so there was a blank avenue of space. I looked back, the girl in the car behind us was smoking and blowing the smoke out her window. More sirens came, and more cop cars. We said it must have been bad. We speculated. 

Finally, we started to move, the empty aisle in the highway closed up with moving cars again. We passed empty lanes on the left, a cop car, another cop car, a cop trying to light his flares. Then there were several cars parked, but no damage. We were looking for damage. Then, there in the road was a body bag. A white body bag zipped up with a body inside of it. Heart-stopping. 

We were grasping to understand. Where was the damage? At the front, leading the pack, there was a car with a head shaped hole in the windshield. There were groupings of people talking, not talking, with their hands moving and their hands still. the highway was clear in front of us. The dark night, an easy path. I felt like crying. we sped away, still trying to put it together. Steele said it looked like someone had tried to cross the highway. That they were there in the road and were hit. It was the only thing that made sense, unless we had missed something. 

We were far away now, back in our plan for the night. Trying to google for information, somehow tied to an event that didn't concern us at all. We waited an hour for two seats at the bar of the pizza place. Finally, Steele found a short post online—Pedestrian killed trying to cross I-5. A man in his 50s. There was the damage. The damage was an unnamed man in his 50s. The damage was zipped up in a body bag. 

It didn't concern us, but it did. We were just a tiny part in this thing that had happened. And it wouldn't splinter our lives like the man in the road or the person driving the car. (What could they do, nothing. Nothing.)

All we were meant to do was drive back on the night highways and speculate. All we were meant to do was say how strange it was, that this man could have no idea two random people would be talking about him, about his death. But still, can the image of a body bag on the highway ever leave you? 

Even you, the tiniest bit of it all, the spectator, the outsiders, speeding away in your borrowed safety. 

It's always there, heart-stopping. 

January 2016

by Brittany Chavez

You gave her your words, 
And then she gave them to me.

by Brittany Chavez

The Empty Ruin

This past weekend I went back to Colorado. I had a quiet hour to myself and took a walk to photograph the place I used to live. So here are some pieces of it covered in a Maytime snow. Here is a tiny sliver of it. There are things I can't commit to a photograph. The delicate crunching of ice atop a snowbank. The crisp air with it's shifting patterns and thick snowflakes. The way I chomp through the grass and the red gravel roads, past the no trespassing sign, down the makeshift steps to the river. The way I come upon my old hiding place to find it changed. It feels both smaller and bigger–a place I can't inhabit. 

When this was my home, I was growing and filled with desire, worry, sadness, and hate. So much hate. I feel small coming back to this shell of my former self--who was so flawed, but ultimately felt things much bigger, sometimes. I can't imagine such a flurry of emotions every fitting inside me now. (But I guess that's puberty for you.) Now I am much quieter in my ways. I am content and though my emotions take up less space, they run deeper. 

It's going home that throws me. Trying to fit back into that shell. Feeling small inside of it. My past is a huge empty cavern that used to be filled, and now I am a tiny frail wisp of a girl inside it. There are sweet things there–happy memories and places that I want to visit. Small things, like the familiar turn of the road, the sound of my darkened house, the view from the living room window. There are people too, the only points of gravity holding me there, my brother and my parents. But still every visit I'm just wandering this empty cavern, trying to fit inside it. Trying to take up the space, and failing. So what do you do? 

Overlay these empty spaces with the full ones. Try and try and try and try to remember. What it was like to be here, to be twelve, thirteen, fifteen, eighteen. Try to learn something from your boxes of old journals. To accept growth. To string lines from this life to the next. And as always, photograph the empty ruin. 

May 2014

by Brittany Chavez

There Is Always Tending To Be Done

Growing out of love is like a shell peeling off of you, I wrote on a speeding train. At first it encased you, I continued, it held you together, kept you alive. Then it starts to crack, it pulls away from your skin. And you weep and grieve convinced you need that armor. You clutch onto it so tightly it begins to crumble. And then at last, you outgrow it completely. It falls off of you, and your skin is tougher than you thought, and you are your own armor after all.

After my hand stopped scrawling, and I leaned back into the train seat, after I looked out the window to the speeding English landscape, I looked at Steele. On the opposite side of my messy unfiltered writing, I traced a line drawing of his slightly open mouth, his deep set eyes, his flop of hair.

I closed my notebook, trapping the words inside. That day I felt those words so deeply, but still I closed my book, moving the bookmark to the next empty page. I didn't want him to see. I didn't want him to know that, with that armor of love, we were crumbling too. The only thing that soothed me was the motion of the train. Movement was what I wanted, to run away.


That month we spent on trains. It suited me. Running away again and again and again. I craved that forward motion, and I feared returning home to the stillness. The path behind us was dotted with memories of hollow conversations, our emotional minefield. We left behind a slanted hotel room on the edge of France where in the dusk light I­ admitted some of the words hidden in my book. (I was careful never to say that I had fallen out of love, it seemed like jumping off the edge of a cliff I could never climb again.) There were several conversations in Italy and the south of France. At the time,  I remember feeling that they were healing, that we had covered new ground. Looking back all I remember are my tears, his tightly closed mouth, and the words, I don’t know, wound on repeat.

In Cassis,  we laid in our sun filled hotel room, pressed together head to toe. I can’t lose this, I wrote later in my little book. I can’t lose this voice singing to me. The eyelashes that brush my cheeks. The arms that wrap around me and pull me up. But right on the tails of these words would come pain, and more tears. The craving for even the smallest forward motion overwhelmed me, and I abandoned Steele on the bed to let the shower water pound over my head. I’m not here, I’m not here, I’m not here, I’m not here.


My earlier certainty from the speeding train was gone. I was consumed with the worst grief. Without that shell of love,  my skin was tender and exposed. I no longer knew if I was my own armor. I wasn’t standing tall. Every time he brushed my hand, or pulled me to him in the night, or rubbed my back and told me to breath deep through the tears, my raw skin would bleed again. In my notebook,  I drew myself as a tiny girl stuck between two mountains. Two impossible choices: staying, and leaving.

It wasn’t until that shower, my body racked with sobs, that it occurred to me I was crying as if Steele had been forcibly taken away. As if he were dying. And I realized, I didn't have to lose this—I wasn't losing it—I was giving it away—and I didn’t have to.

It wasn’t an admission of love. It wasn’t that I had pieced my shell back together. The tight knot in my stomach hadn’t untied completely. It was simply that I had decided to stay. That I had decided to fight.


There were still hard days after that. Afternoons where we didn’t know how to be around each other after all those tears. Days that we tried to pretend we were back to how we used to me. Hours spent asking back and forth, Are you okay?

After we returned home, to the stillness I had feared, to a new home and a new life, it happened slowly. It was like the houseplant I had bought and put in the corner of our new bedroom. The one that started dying before I could replant it. As long as it doesn’t die completely, I thought. I stopped holding my breath for the new growth. I stopped compulsively checking the dead brown shell at the top to see if there were any new leaves coming through.

As long as it doesn't die completely, I think, this love between us. We lived together, our bodies curled around each other at night, our raw flesh healed over. We made plans, we stopped pretending, because we had a new life to inhabit and it didn’t require our tear filled closed mouth discussions on the nature of love and change. It was a quiet life—filled with new sheets, and clouded skies, and on my part it was filled with the delicate nuzzling of the pale skin behind his ear—the skin that always smells of Steele soap.


And one day I awoke to find that I was encased in a new shell. Another layer of our love had grown up around me. Not the same shell, because you can't put the pieces of a broken armor together again. But a new one. In love, we’re always growing out of one shell and into another.

Our love is an old thing—this shell is something new. It’s not as if all our old sparks came back—not as if I hadn’t kissed him a million times. Not as if we hadn’t sat together on the bathroom floor of our old apartment—my body pushed against the door and my throat tight with sobs. No, this shell didn’t erase those things. It can’t make them new again. There are still the old problems and insecurities. There is still tending that needs to be done.

This shell will peel away from me one day. Perhaps it will crumble from a different touch. But when it does, when it falls to the ground, and my tissue paper skin is tested again, a new shell will grow up in its place. And I will always be encased in love.

February 2014

by Brittany Chavez

The Blue Sphere

This morning we awoke in the cool morning light of Lisbon, people still outside on the streets after a night of drinking. Our bodies were so silently and solidly on the bed in that apartment. My mind was gone up somewhere tinged with sleep and exhaustion. My eyes were dry and my chest felt tight and the only thing to do was focus on your eyelashes. But eventually I found myself on the balcony overlooking the street we've spent the last week on. I let my toes hang over the edge and I tried to see the su peeking around the buildings. Sometimes I don't know my own emotions. Sometimes I feel like I feel emotions that haven't been given a name. What is the title of this--this tightness of chest--this longing to commit every detail to perfect memory? 

And we left, the only hesitation brought about my final photograph--the light through our door. Down the stairs we went and then onto an impossible airport filled with so many proofs of so many places--that is to say, so many people. And finally, as if we had been waiting a month to simple feel the feeling of going home, we were in our seats and we were going home. We had that going home feeling about us. There was that tension that you get before takeoff--that feeling like maybe you'll never actually move anywhere--and then the pure release when the plane lifts off and everything reduces itself to an idea, a living map spread out beneath you. And time is paused and sped up and rewound and nothing exists. 

And this flight--over an ocean especially--you are, I am, I was, in a perfect blue sphere. A perfect blue sphere in which you could be flying over the sea or the sky, upside down. A blue sphere in which you are blissfully allowed to move forward and stand still. And what better feeling? What better feeling. You are going home and not going home all at the same time. You are here. You are in Lisbon. You are home. You are nothing. 

August 2013

by Brittany Chavez

I woke up in the morning, a strange dream on my lips. 'It's scary,' I said, but you pulled me to your chest. I cried. You told me it wasn't real, but it felt so real. And that's when I realized: I fear you leaving me, more so than I had previously thought. So much so that this fear I held in my heart, which exploded in my dream, refused to leave even after I woke. Here are the things I only admit to myself in private, on such occasions: I could survive you leaving me. I could. But I survive it as only half a person. I have given you half of myself. And so, to lose you, I fear, means to lose myself as well. 


by Brittany Chavez

Tonight I stepped outside and pushed off my bike. The crisp fall air had turned burning cold with the dark and it bit at my fingers with the wind. I rode along, the streets so empty, feeling like the whole world was just a place I imagined. I felt like all the things I know to be real weren't real at all. Like the only thing that existed was the shadow I pulled along with me, following me. My breath came out as fog and I hit all the potholes in the dark–I guess they existed even when I couldn't see them. 

And now I'm inside and I know I've lost all the things I thought I had on that bike ride. My breath still seems to be fog and my fingers are burned, but that shadow isn't following anymore. 

October 2013

by Brittany Chavez