i am that i am - Spencer Allder

November 22th, 2023

Just yesterday I was sitting in the car with my mother, my infamous mother, and we made glorious small talk as if the cracks in the canyon between us weren’t there. We covered them in ice. She didn’t comment on my new tattoo – I inwardly thanked her for it. I wouldn’t have been able to bite back with something clever anyway; I was busy thinking about all of the grief in my life that has left me alone with such an ache and a presence of myself. Sometimes, when I pay attention, it feels like there are two selves inside one body. We talk to each other. We laugh at each other’s jokes. We play, giggle, cry, and hold one another in anguish, just sitting with whatever emotion. I notice her there, the same way I pause to notice the breeze on my skin. Even when the air around me is still, there’s a presence of matter against the follicles on my arms, tickling the backs of my knees. When I say I want to feel like myself what I really mean is that I want to feel myself. Where do I live? In my stomach, throat, or ribs? In my feet, bare against the earth? I love to feel myself. Breathe myself in. Notice my soul, this other-but-same me, in the rise and fall of a chest shared with ancestral golden women. I know what I feel like. I know myself. And I’m proud to say this because I don’t think many people can.

Right before my last relationship ended – you know, the one where we promised each other the rest of our lives – she knew a couple days before I did what would happen. And I don’t often let her speak outside of myself but when I do it’s always true. She looked at me in the mirror, one hand flat to my chest and said, “Whatever happens, you’re not alone. I got you.” My mouth moved for her in that rare moment, her words became mine, and we looked at each other for a while. Sometimes it freaks me out to look in a mirror, into her eyes, for a long time. I can see my mother and her mother and her mother. I can zoom out to the big picture of my life in relation to all the women who came before me and will come after me. There’s someone there, reflected back at me, blinking, with a beating heart, and it can become unnerving. But I know that she always wants the best for me. She loves me like I’m the moon. She is my inner world. She’s psychic (I’m jealous.) She’s confident. She makes me a better version of myself. And when it’s just the two of us, oh boy, do we have a fun time. We celebrate each other. I don’t know if this is what self love is, but without her I would be quite lonely. And quite unsure of my place in this world.

- I am that I am, which is to say I am god

An undergraduate
feminist art & art history