Abstract

Miss Alone, Simone

Simone on Paper

Remember the day we met? I do, I do.

I met you the first night I ever danced. Did you know that?

It was a pitch-black club, the black made from nightmares and every mother’s greatest fear. I was standing in the thickest patch of it, right in the middle of the dance floor, with something in my system I didn’t know the name of—something no father would want to know his daughter was doing. I knew only one person in that bar, in the whole city, in the whole country. I didn’t have a cellphone. No one knew who I was, or where I was from.

This was freedom. Yin was biting down on yang and I stood in the center of my inner opposites, sipping the juice from the conflict, inhaling the fumes of the harmony.

It was then, that night, when I met you.
I wore tall boots and a neon orange tank top. My hair reached under my chest.

I was dancing—I burned, I twisted, it was mine, all mine, everything. I loved the infinity the black air made, I became friends with the bouncing, terrifying shadows, I became the bouncing, terrifying shadows, I adored every flashing light, I absorbed every flashing light, my body blended with every sound that came from the man who beat the drums in front of me. And it was electric, and I was the lightning, and the clouds, and the rain, and somehow—

In a quick moment I felt like the sun. And with all the power of a star blooming, I stopped. I felt something, something strange.

It was you. You were talking with someone behind the man with the drums. A man with a camera, you were speaking to a man with a camera. And I stopped and looked over, and you were talking, and you stopped, and looked back. And then I looked away, and you went back to talking, and you were mine.

Simone in Space

It was never going to end this time.

It was pure white. Everything was made of black. Everyone she knew and loved was gone, they were right there. Each person dead. She was vibrant, a sun. They were breathing. She wasn’t born yet.

Where am I?

No one answers.

No one answered.

No one was going to answer.

She was Time Traveling again. She lost everything she’d been building, all over again. She was going back to what she had built before, all over again.

She wrapped herself around whatever she had and felt the tornado of the world cut itself and lick itself with her clenched shut eyes; the need to vomit tugged hard in the opposite direction of the slow-motion spinning; the tunnel was opening in flashes and she wasn’t breathing; it was never going to end this time.

Water sprang from her eyes, waiting for it to be over; it was never going to end this time.

She felt a shove, she was floating in infinite views, she was being flipped through like a leaflet:

She was driving, singing with her hands out the window, grabbing clouds while another girl watched.

She was in a dark room, pushed up against a stone wall, shaking uncontrollably, while a little boy watched.

She was seated in a velvet arm chair, turning to watch a fire roar in the fireplace, while a young man held her shoulder.

She was at the top of a tower, screaming, alone.

She was pulling at a knotted, cream-colored phone cord from under a table. Mama!

She was pushing a metal cart with a small child in it. Mama!

She was in a box, Mama.

She was in a hammock, Mama.

She was in the air, Mama.

It was never going to stop this time.

And then it was over, and when she opened her eyes this time,

She was 24, very cold, and looking at leaves flying across the sky.

Simone in a Car

There are times when Simone is driving down the freeway, and for a brief moment there shifts a perspective where she sees through the back window, behind the form of the vehicle’s passenger seat, right in the sliver of vision where she can see a second of the crown of the driver’s head. And the shape is exactly his, and despite her knowing there is no way he’s driving a crusty maroon Honda, she still cranes her whole body around as she passes by, just to check.

Why can she not describe his head shape except for when she sees it?

Why is there no limit to the different make and models she can find him in? Why is she contorting her whole soul off the leather seat, through the window, straight into the beat up Toyota pick-up, the red Jeep Wrangler with the “Jurassic Park” logo tramp-stamped across the back, the blacked-out BMW that races forward at the stoplight?

Why does she look even though she know he won’t be there?

Simone in a Car II

She pressed the gas pedal down deeper and heard the engine rev as she shot faster along the highway. With the windows down her hair feels positively a-flame; she could feel small stings on her cheeks as strands of hair—like wildly squirming, hungry snakes— bit desperately at her hardened, staring eyes. But the strands were just too short to be any obstruction, this haircut made driving fast so much safer, so much easier. Toying with her mortality was a means of survival: the thrill kept the snakes in check.

The snakes. The ones in her hair, the ones on her insides. The ones that needed feeding so often. The little devils who coaxed her inner Eve to drive a little too fast, her inner Eve to find fault in Paradise.

She sighed and lifted her foot. The speedometer lowered to 70, the shortened snakes on her head calmed, and her smirk fell. She didn’t want to use her energy up on speeding smartly. She wanted to daydream and float. All her snakes deflated in unison as the car slowed to 60, her clear view of the highway giving way to the hazy image of Conrad’s face, months ago. . .

He drew his face a little farther back from the long kiss, cocking his head to the side ever-so slightly, as if the words he wanted to say were best delivered after literally rolling them around in his head first. He was a young man of the Intense breed: one who liked to hold your attention before saying anything. She found this type was usually a first-born boy of a family, a family who never faced a food or housing crisis, and whose shining characteristic was always his cleverness. This one’s current stare held an affection so soft, so pure, it signaled to her how much of a rouse this was, how unconscious his own performance was to him. And since she realized he wasn’t aware he was acting, Simone knew laughing would result in hurting and confusing him, and she wasn’t in the mood for revealing himself to himself—it is so taxing, such an undertaking, so much labor where there wasn’t enough love.

Simone chose to mirror his affections instead and join the play’s scene. Make a moment to remember, she thought, keeping her face straight, her eyes wide, and tiling her own head. Something sweet he could carry, to look at when he feels Loveless. She would add him to the honorary pocket full of treasures; the Moments of her own. This would be how she thanked him for his time.

It never fails to amuse her how unaware of themselves some people are. If, as a youth, one can commit a crime and get away with it, it grows with age until what was once a separate effort becomes a natural stretch in the morning; made all the easier when the crime itself is not labeled as a crime.  Acting in one’s daily life, one’s daily interactions, works this way; so easily accepted and forgiven, it seeps into even the most intimate moments of our lives. Every day men and women are actors—the difference being, hilariously, that men (and some women, too) are unaware of the exchange. Is that not largely the hilarity of this age? That women stopped pretending in unison, and men are shocked because they never realized all these women had been playing roles! She found so much comedy in this era. Women had acting talent inherited for generations because it was sewn into their survival. Many women know what she’s talking about when she shares this, and men do not; therein lies her proof.

She stares at Conrad with her head slightly tilted as she tries to literally roll around her own thoughts, too. I will, in full consciousness, sculpt his heart into a most magnificent Recollection. He’ll make a beautiful sculpture for my Memory’s museum; such a piece.  They’d talked online, they’d written letters, she’d driven miles and miles to see him several times. She’d done all the right things, but was tired of doing so; she watched his hazel eyes.

If he’d gotten to know Simone, he’d know she was always like this: always sincere. Always acting.

His brown spiraled into yellow, which spiraled into green, which hung into an abyss that—although a black dot— shined like a sun, illuminating his every intention. His eyes held an excitement clear as day, quivering as he searched and searched her own. But in all the openness what she saw most distinctly was the Irony: how hard he was trying not to show how he hoped for Forever. But she saw it, she saw all his plans. She saw in his eyes the future he was trying so hard to construct in secret. She realized she had to burn their house of his dreams down before he built too many rooms, and she didn’t have much time.

He’d just kissed her and the stillness that lingered afterwards carried an unexpected seriousness. But then again, she thought, when you put in the time to coax someone’s secrets out of them purely out of curiosity, maybe that’s what you get yourself into. He finally opened his mouth, never breaking eye contact, and asked “What are you thinking about?”

Caught, she stared back, unblinking, and told him the truth. “I’m writing.”

“Think I’ll read it one day?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Good.”

He smiled and kissed her again. She had a hunch Conrad thought she was writing something lovely, while in truth it was all rather tragic prose about his eye color cascading her down a black hole in her heart that echoed with earnestness to kick him out.

Her stomach filled with stones, aware that he was writing a whole different story in his head. He thought she was writing him into the picture…. when she was only etching his eyes onto the frame.

How often people think those are the same thing, Simone thought.

No, instead of writing a future together, she was conducting a quick mental inventory, so she wouldn’t forget the moment. So she would remember him for always. So she could move on, and learn a new life. Because once you already see how your life would be with someone, did you really need to play it out?

No, no, she thought. She was addicted to living, and would not be satisfied with just one. Conrad was great, but in his eyes, she read their future. It involved a lot of intense conversations, lots of hard kisses, lots of his animated story-telling, lots of beach days, lots of his careful explanations of science that fascinated her, lots of his patient listening to her wistful philosophies, lots of drunk fighting, lots of yelling, lots of sports, lots of good beer, lots of swapped playlists, lots of adventure injuries….

It was a wonderful relationship and it was, in that crash of a moment, already experienced in full.

His look told her it was time to Move On, and time for him to find his real One, too.

But that’s so hard to explain after a kiss that he believed delivered so much of himself.

Suddenly a honk came from behind her and she was back in her car, sitting at a green light two minutes from home, holding up traffic. She didn’t remember getting off the freeway, not at all, yet the single honk settled her straight into the world she’d longed to escape to all those months ago. A brief time-travel to remind her of her luck.

“SORRY!” She hollered back, throwing up the classic “my bad” gesture to nobody and everybody and bolted forward.

But the apology hung in the air, as if it was meant for someone other than the cars behind her.

As if for a boy, long ago, who never got one.

Simone on Paper

He

Is all wrapped up in blankets

Standing in the kitchen cooking breakfast

They

Do their laundry together and he

Pulls out a shirt and say “Do you know this shirt? This was the shirt I was wearing the night we first talked”

He said he was

Scared to say that he loved her, because they were moving so fast

He

Always brought her an extra water and

Holds her hand in front of his family and friends and strangers alike and

Says “I like how you think”

Says “I want you to know what I’m thinking. In fact, I need to think more, I’m running out of hidden thoughts”

He

Holds her hand while he drives and

Talks about sunsets and remember! how

He

Gave her pajama pants the first night she slept over

Gave her a toothbrush the first time she slept over

Spent forever on her porch talking

She

Kissed him on her porch while he was talking

He

Messages her good-sized messages and

They

Have compatible astrological signs but

He

Isn’t the one she met in the dark.

Simone in Therapy

[When Simone enters the office, Dr. Smadar Irez is in one of those swively computer chairs and looking at a screen displaying multiple documents, holding to her chest a Tupperware containing the lunch she’d packed for herself that morning, the lunch she’d had to skip in order to make a phone call. It had been the weekly phone call to Simone’s insurance company to bargain for her continued stay at the facility. It was very hard, Smadar would tell you, to convince an insurance company that an eating disorder is a mental disease, and therefore worthy of coverage. Smadar might tell you, but she won’t tell Simone. When Simone had asked in the past, she responded: “Let that be my work, Simone. You do yours.”]

[Simone notices the pasta salad, which makes her think many things at once. They are as follows:

-I’m was better than Smadar when I didn’t eat pasta salad

-I hate that they make me eat pasta salad

-I wish I was Smadar

-I hate myself for feeling better than Smadar

-I used to be perfect when I did not eat pasta salad

-Pasta salad is not bad for you

-Pasta salad is not bad for you

-Pasta salad is not bad for you

These thoughts, however, do not make it to Simone’s face; she gives a small, apologetic smile as if to say “Should I come back, or…?” and does not step the whole way into the room. Smadar covers her chewing with one hand and waves Simone in with the other; Simone glances quickly at the pasta salad on her way to the couch but shows no sign of internal distress. Smadar apologies simply—not overly, not underly (which Simone admires)— napkins her face simply—not covertly, but not conspicuously (which Simone admires)—  puts her screen in ‘sleep’ mode, and gets up. During this time, Simone sits down on the couch that she sits in every Wednesday at 12.45—the moment Process Group normally starts after lunch— and waits for Smadar to set herself in the armchair across from her. She wonders if Smadar really missed her lunch or timed her missing of lunch to test Simone with her pasta salad.]

[Simone sits and tries to recall that the world is not all about her, and that the problem is not the pasta salad, but rather her repressed needs, wants, desires, doubts, and fears projected onto the pasta salad.]

[Smadar grabs something from her desk and sits down, thanking Simone kindly for her patience].

 

Simone: I like your slinky.

Smadar: Thanks.

Simone: You know, I can’t remember the last time I saw a slinky in the store. It takes a child’s eyes, I think.

Smadar: I take to Amazon often.

Simone: Ah, yes.

[Simone pretends to play slinky with the piece of paper clasped in her hands, but it just pats flaccidly between her palms.  She’s unsure if Smadar understands she was trying to mimic her toy, but Simone is hesitant in telling her so. She’s aware that whatever comes out of her mouth at the beginning of the session goes on to define the therapy, and she don’t feel like taking about her need to be understood; they did that last week.]

[Smadar looks at the paper and smiles warmly.]

Smadar:  So you wrote the letter! Yay!

Simone: Yes.

Smadar: Would you like to read it out loud to me?

Simone: Um. Uh-huh.

Smadar: You don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Simone: Yes, I do.

Smadar: No, you don’t.

Simone: Really?

Smadar: Sure.

Simone: This feels like a test.

Smadar: Nobody’s testing you here. This is your space.

Simone: Ok.

Smadar: Ok.

[pause. Sounds of slinky. Sounds of paper patting slowly back and forth.]

            [The patting stops.]

Simone: I am currently experiencing feelings of anxiety about reading this letter out loud to you.

[The slinky noise does not stop.]

Smadar: And why is that?

Simone: I don’t like being scared of things.

Smadar: What are you scared of right now?

Simone: Saying their names.

Smadar: Why is saying their names scary?

Simone: Because they don’t deserve it.

Smadar: What don’t they deserve?
Simone: To be spoken of here. To be on my mind. In my space.

Smadar: But they are.

Simone: But they are.

Smadar: What do you want to talk about?

Simone: I want to talk about how I don’t want to read the letter.

Smadar: Okay.

Simone: No, wait, I don’t.

Smadar: Take a breath.

[Embarrassed, she breathes.]

Smadar: Take your time. You don’t have to do anything here. Not even read your letter.

Simone: Then why am I here?

Smadar: You tell me.

[She take a deep breathe.]

Simone: To grow. I’m going to read you this letter because I want to.

Smadar: Ok.

Simone: But I would like to acknowledge that it makes me uncomfortable as well.

Smadar: Alright.

Simone: Do you think I’m crazy?

Smadar: Do you want me to think you’re crazy?

Simone: I’m scared you think that I think too much.

Smadar: Why does it matter what I think?

Simone: Because I care about you.  I don’t care what other people think.

Smardar: What’s the difference?

Simone: Because you’ll be another person I’ve met who won’t think with me. And all I’ll have is books again.

Smadar: Who did you write your letter to?

Simone: I wrote to all the people who said they loved my body before they said they loved how I think.

[Simone begins to cry]

Smadar: What are you feeling right now?
Simone: I wrote to the person I love and the boys I can’t stand in same letter. It’s addressed to all of them.

Simone on Paper

These are some things that bring me pleasure.

Things covered in velvet. Being helped by someone with my name. Being helped by someone with the name of someone I love. The smell of gasoline. Ordering a beer I’ve never tried and finding out it’s amazing. Water after a run. Being left alone with my thoughts in public. Buildings covered in ivy. Satin.

Restaurants that aren’t too cold. A really good thrift store discovery. Receiving letters. People who speak English as a second language with me. Watching tv by myself in a hotel bed. Car heaters that work fast. People who don’t check their phone while they’re with me. Coffee served really hot.

Bottomless mimosas. When they have my shoe size in the back. Bartenders who are neither extremely talkative nor incredibly cold. Looking over and seeing you in my passenger seat, after months of not seeing you, after months of talking to that seat like it was you.

The word “toasty.”

Simone on a Date

Simone redownloaded the dating application she’d met Conrad on.

Her reasoning, she felt, was sound. Ryan was leaving for good soon, and she needed to stop driving out to the city in all her free time anyway. She needed local friends, desperately, and experience taught her that a relationship was the most instantaneous way to create an instant, faithful, and remarkably disposable circle. She needed such a group; she was starting to notice that she didn’t stay anywhere long.

But she wasn’t going to let her experience with Conrad go unused; Simone was going to be much more responsible about her adopting and orphaning of wonderful young men. She would maroon them on a better island than they started on, yes, this was the plan.

Rule One and Only: no excessive talking over the phone, no meeting of their families, no more letters. It hurts them more when it ends.

And yet Simone knew Jackson was a case the moment his profile came up. Finally she understood why some people wrote “You’re too cute to be on here, what’s the catch.” His profile could only have been perfected by the addition of a golden retriever. An image of him with Jessica Alba, an image of him in a white lab coat with his mother, and not a single selfie, just well-groomed, well-timed photos. Nothing shirtless, but one of him hiking a huge mountain.

She swiped right, 24 hours later, he must have too.

A quick exchange later, she was signing away her Saturday night to drinks at 10:30 at some place called Matchstick.

Motivated and calculated, that’s what he was. He had a pointed sense of humor she couldn’t figure out. She never felt like more of a wild child, explaining her adoration for live music and writing.

And she seemed to talk nonstop about herself, and he kept asking questions. It was tragic how she couldn’t seem to navigate back to him smoothly, and when he did fall into something about himself, she noticed how she’d cut it back to herself. She wasn’t sure if it was because she was overly caffeinated, overly excited, overly nervous, or drunk.

He paid. He walked her back to the car, but didn’t hold her hand. They ran into a friend of Jackson’s, who’s evening boat ride invitation he smoothly denied. He didn’t open the door for her, but he offered her his phone and said, “You play DJ.” It is there that they found the first thing of the night that they agreed totally on: the Killers. On the last note of “Read My Mind” Simone and Jackson were already back at his parent’s house, where he lived while he was in med school, where her car was parked.

The two got out, walked in front of his house, and almost expertly juggled confusion on his doorstep. It happened so quickly that she couldn’t tell you if the confusion came from him trying to stop her or read her, but a light hug and thank-you-goodbye became one quick kiss on the lips, followed by a second kiss where she said, “Since you like the Killers, I’ll take one for the road,” followed by one obligatorily lingering third one. And she’s not sure who turned away quicker.

And she said something like “Good luck with classes, with studying,” as she stooped into her car.

And he said something like “Thanks” as he stepped into his home.

And just like that, the date was over. He didn’t try to bring her back into the house, didn’t text her. They kindly didn’t match, not at all. Had anyone been marooned?

Ryan hasn’t even left yet. He still tells Simone that he loves her. Yesterday she fell asleep to him reading her some book she’d recommended to him, fell asleep to the feeling of being watched.

He has to go, too.

Simone on Paper

What the fuck?

Where are all the pens?

Where the fuck are my bobbypins?

Why the fuck won’t the printer work?

Let’s run away!

What was I thinking, trying

Someone who isn’t you again.

Fuck printers and pens.

Don’t panic, I’ll just

Get out as fast as I can and

Go dance

Fires and universes and stars,

I’ll come find you.

Let’s run away!

This is how:

I will run

And you will call

And I will shoot and

You will burn and

Then we!

I will bloom and you will…

I don’t know.

You’ll do (that’s what you always do)

Whatever you want and

THEN we’ll

Be

Undone

Let’s run away!

Let me first burn this all down,

And find the road to you

Under the ashes of this

World I made.

It’s nice, but I promise

Disposable!

Or is that wrong?

Where are the morals,

the bobbypins,

the printers that work,

the pens,

the strength to stay anywhere

you are not?

They all run from me!

Simone in the Dark

“Are you ready for this?” There was nothing earnest about it, nothing rushed. It was soft, it came out as a whisper, and his arms around her waist did not drop, nor did they squeeze her. Everything was open—the question, the two people, the moment. Everything save for his eyes, which the blackness of the room obscured, like a moving curtain that revealed only passing glimpses of each other’s bare skin.

But at his question the room froze. The air stopped, but she stirred.

It was something deep in her chest that moved, realizing that she’s never, despite all the sweet, gentle boys she’d been with in her past, been asked. And the room snapped silent because the walls knew he’d never asked before, not with any of the women he’d brought to the room before this. And his eyes widened slightly because he knew he’d never asked before, not with any of the women he’d been with before this.

And from that depth came a heat, and with that heat came her answer.

“Are you?”

If seen written on paper, her question would appear a coy response, a seductive coax. But with her nose hovering inches from his, her mouth inches from his, her whole body melted onto his, and the way she breathed the question instead of saying it, and his arms letting her choose, for the first time, whether she wanted to go or not, the question had no game, no sport about it. The question she’d just offered him him was a whispered gift that she had not planned to give, and she realized in that moment it’s because no man had ever given her the chance to.

And now something deep insid his chest moved, stirred by his own surprise and his own calm. And the room hung at the edge of it’s molding, positively swelling in suspense, as the black drapes of nighttime parted at the breeze of those two whispers, and she caught sight of his heart without catching when he moved the air, destroyed the space between them, and kissed her.

What grew was her fear, her confidence, her soul for the moment of equal victory. The terror bit her like a mosquito, stung like a bee; her lips withdrew, stunned by the shock—not of the kiss, but of what she had to ask next. From the humor of how simple and essential this Curiosity was to her core. She felt safe, for the first time in her life, to trust someone to answer her care honestly, to answer the most vulnerable question she held:

“Promise we’ll stay close?”

The room, which had turned to give them space, whipped around and showered on the anticipation. But The Moment fell gently, as the walls were no longer critics or instigators or victims of the intimacy, for they cared, too. They all cared.

He cared. And she knew it, felt it, was swallowed by it, and had no time to worry if she’d just trespassed too far on his vulnerability because he had already nodded the kind of nod that has no smile, that moves with the gravity of Truth, that arrives to nod only when there is no game left, absolutely none, and it was her turn to move the air, to let the distance between them destroy itself.

And without any grand declarations of love and without the sloppiness of hasty lust, two people learned what freedom felt like on the other side of an equal invitation.

And without overthinking it, and without thinking nothing of it, two people let go, and let things Matter completely, and yet not at all.

Simone in a Bar

She sat by the bar, trying to focus on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but the scratch paper triggered her, reached for her. ‘But I have nothing to write?’ It was a lie. She took to paper because she missed all the old bodies in her Recollection she’d use for company, needing none of them and all of them badly, just to talk to, to smile at, to encourage their dreams, to have their histories entertain her, to listen to her own, to slap silly.

She wanted to play, and she realized this only once she stared stringing words together on paper. She just wanted to play anything.

And she was hungry. Hungry for someone besides herselves to play games with.

But she was instead at a bar, joking with herself in prose, delving into how intuition and insanity are both the ingredients and the cake of Self Seclusion, and how ironic that the same recipe and reward could be given to Really Good Relationships with Other People.

But she ordered another beer, and another beer, and her sentences grew meaner and meaner, and when she finally felt brave enough to call, and hated herself enough to call, no one picked up, and everything was justified.

Simone in the Dark II

Tom speaks first.  “How can we connect so well, but then—”

“It’s just—”
“Not there.”

Simone shrugs, knowing why but not saying anything. If she sees him again, she’ll tell him exactly why.

Instead she says, “Pass the water?”

“It’s not cold,” he leans over his side of the bed and picks up his dark green bottle, “and that happens to be your fault.” She can’t see his face but she can hear the smile on it.
“I had no patience for your bathroom sink, it kept running hot.”

“The trick is to always to have patience for that bathroom sink.”
“I’ll practice patience while you go get us a colder version of your peasant sink water.”

“Our tap water is fit for kings, princess.”

She laughs into the thermos before taking a long sip and passes it back. He takes it, leans over, and sets it down with surprising softness back on the carpet, laying back down to resume the position they’d been sharing before. With their faces so close, she feels as if they’re two children staying up late during a sleepover. The last couple nights have felt just like this, passing secrets on the back of nighttime room darkness, their laughter sneaking through their covered hands.

  “Do you think everything happens for a reason?” he asks suddenly. She wonders for a brief moment where his question came from.

“I think everything is—” she starts.
“I know, you think it’s all—”

“— rather empty and meaningless.”

He’s silent for a moment. It takes up the whole room.

“I wasn’t expecting that.”

“You thought I was going to preach fate to you?” She smiles, even though he can’t see it in the dark.
“More or less.”

She shrugs, knowing he can feel it beside him. “I think things just happen, and we just respond to the things that happen with everything that we are.

“Oh?”

“I think a lot of humans take great comfort— and also feel great pain— in thinking there’s some Greater Thing that guides us. Nah, I think every second of our lives, even right now… it arrives empty. Meaningless.”

“This is shocking to me, somehow, from you.”

“Humans are meaning-making machines, Tom! We want there to be a reason why bad things happen. We want there to be a reason for good things to arrive. There’s a purity and simplicity to that. It’s easier to pass the responsibility off to Someone Else, or Something Else, when the world goes and gets too heavy.”

“This is sad to hear, kinda.”

“I used to think so, too. A System of Fate, destiny, is really good at keeping one hopeful. But you know what bothers me about being hopeful? It really confused my work ethic; hope is not a sound foundation for structure. And it caused me so much stress. Always meeting new people and thinking ‘I met this person for a reason.’ I meet so many fucking people, Tom. I simply can’t handle that much meaning.”
“I believe it.”

“And I think a huge part of progress in our lives lay in reflection. So I’d take adequate, absurdly sufficient, time out of my life and examine all the shit that’s happened to me, assembling the sum of all my events until they added up into an existence that made sense to me… but then the next thing would happen, and Boom! — the formula wouldn’t stick anymore.

So yeah, no, living a life where everything was ‘leading’ me to some tip-top point was tremendously overwhelming for me as opposed to soothing.

And Fate and Destiny held promises I couldn’t— not with all my brain or heart power— make sense of. Like, Fate stands for the idea that that when we lose certain people, The Big Picture had it coming, or whatever. People were telling me that it must have been Gina’s “time.” Gina’s time? No, dude.

I chewed on that for years, but never was satisfied. And see, I can eat up all the bullshit I want from my own store, but I can’t bring myself to sell it. That’s why people shop my brain, Tom, if you haven’t been able to put your finger on it— I always tell the truth. My truth, at least. Even right now, I’m not telling you how things are, I’m promising you that these are how things are to me.

Anyway, like, I could live half a life on ‘My sister died because it was her time,’ but could I— knowing it didn’t taste right in my mouth— bring myself to look at Celeste, who, like, has dad who committed suicide, and tell her ‘Oh, well, see, it was his time though’? Or watch Ryan’s mom slowly die from cancer and say, ‘Hey, but it’s a part of the Plan?’  If meaning is supposed to guide us into sense, why did these meanings just produce more confusing, stressful questions?”

“…”

“…”

“I’m really sorry about your sister. I don’t know if I ever told you.”

“That means a lot.”

There’s a silence between the two. Then:

“It was less hard coming to terms with the fact that it was really, truly an accident than all the comfort people tried to provide… but I wonder if, had someone delivered it to me like that, I really would have understood anyway.

It was awful to lose her, Tom. And the only thing that made all the anxiety go away? Empty and meaningless.”

“And seeing the world that way gave you understanding?”

“No, it gave me power. I think we all construct our own personal meanings and then follow them subconsciously. A black cat doesn’t mean something bad is going to happen, it means I choose that seeing a black cat means that something bad will happen. Which also means I can unchoose the omen, too. That stuff takes some work, but it all comes from practice. For instance, I choose to see a butterfly go by and remember how much she loved butterflies; I choose to think Gina sent it to comfort me. In the meantime, I choose not to see the—I don’t know—blades of grass. Or man in a red jacket, or whatever else is in the window. And what’s so beautiful, amusing, and even tragic is that of course I’d choose the butterfly to see in the window. The sum of ‘Simone’ chooses to have no choice about choosing the butterfly. And I like that, so I’ll keep it. To me, that’s more magic and comforting that Destiny.

What I’m getting at is there’s simply no other way for our bodies to follow, you know? So in a way, there’s no other way to be.”

“So you’re saying everything happens for a reason.”

“Yes.”

He laughed. “You came to the same conclusion, but you thought twice as hard about it.”

She hesitated before answering. “Yeah but see, I know what my decision is made from—I can break it down. That’s my power; I can dismantle what I’ve made. I find or reject the inspiration of anything, the moment I need to.”

“True, true.”

“What do you believe?”

“I believe I don’t think that much about it.”

A strange, half pause, then: “But I like that, I like that you think that much about things. It makes me more, more – I don’t know—aware?”

She stared up at the ceiling, “You think I think too much.”

“No, I—”

“You think I think too much!” She pushes, suddenly hurt. People were always saying she thought to much.

He didn’t move to comfort her. Neither moved at all.

“I love how you think,” he said, watching the ceiling.

Simone in the Future

She looked at her coffee, then up at him. “If there’s one thing I would have done differently, it would have been to have called you out on all your bullshit.”

“Like what?” he said.

“I can’t remember.”

“Bullshit you don’t.”

“Fine. You love me.” Simone laughed.
He laughed back. “Nope, but okay.”

She raised her eyebrows slightly. “You’ve always loved me.”

A smirk running along his lips, his eyebrows raised at their approaching verbal badminton. “A little cocky, aren’t we?”

“And you wish right now that you could tell me,” she practically sang it.

He rolled his eyes. “How classic Simone of you. How many hearts did you win over with this speech before? Or is it new?”

The bell above the diner door rang to indicate a renewed liveliness to the entrance, and a family of five bustled to create a flurry of motion behind the booth for the two to turn and judge. The children’s fighting, the mother’s hushing, the dead look in the over-weight father’s eyes were all opportunities for derailing the subject matter, but the Simone’s focus stayed on the person across from her.

She didn’t smile, but her eyes were too bright to not have a softly bubbling laughter stewing in her throat. Was it admiration or pity that made her eyes so bright like that? He wasn’t going to ask; she’d say something if it mattered. Like she always tried.

She spoke again, “And right now you’re trying to go back to our game, that witty game we played all those years ago, as if it could sidestep your truth somehow.

He laughed again, but this time it had undertones of annoyance. “My truth? For god sake, I was the one who asked you if you’d have done anything differently.” He shook his head in mock or real wonder, preparing his standard, familiar brand of sarcasm. “Oh how honorable of you, how noble. Going around sniffing for other people’s bullshit and then parading around with it like you’re some damn angel hanging around us mere mortals. God, S, I hate when you’re this way!”

His voice was raising, and the lifeless eyes of the Loud Family’s father now rolled between the nothing-in-particular and their booth. “And my greatest apologies, my sovereign! You think I loved you all that time?” He let out a laugh with a breathy, misleading note of exasperation that made it seem like they’d been talking about this for an hour, not a minute. “You’re so full of yourself,” he said finally.

“Always room for dessert,” she smiled.

“Yeah? Eat shit then.”

“You mean all this ‘bullshit’ I’m supposedly parading around?”

Jesus Christ,” he sighed again.

“Yes, mortal?” she joked.

“I wasn’t calling—whatever. And Jesus wasn’t an angel.”

“I did want to touch back on that comment of me being an angel.”

“Oh, girl, you’re the devil.”
O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again!”she sang.

“Your beloved Michael Aurelius?” he smirked.
“I was being Romeo.”

Why the Shakespeare? Why, Simone?”
“Ah, why not the Shakespeare!” She teased.

“I hate when you’re like this.”

“I was sewing the devil into our conversation about love. Shoot the structure, not the messenger.”

“Cut this shit out,” he said, throwing a napkin.

“But then what will I eat?” she joked.

“I’d say ‘starve’ but we all know that would get me in trouble.”

“Touché.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Let’s get boxes, I’m not hungry.”
“No, fuck, I’m sorry, look, li—”

“No, I pushed you, seriously let’s forg—”

He suddenly put his hands on the table, “Look, imagine me saying ‘I love you’ to someone who never said, ‘I love you’ to me! You know? Like what did you expect?”

“So you loved me!” she half-hollers, half-laughs.

He points at her, “So you loved me!” He was losing against her stubbornness, and the frustration of losing brought his fist down on the table — not hard, not at all, but enough to make the silverware sound the alarm. The waitress, noticing the raised voices too late and who’d been making her way over to re-fill their half-way empty coffee cups, attempted to make her steer away as smooth as possible. The Loud Family was being seated, but the father floated on lazy close-by, staring at Nothing-in-particular by the fake fiscus plant.

Simone just looked at him and shrugged, “Well, yes.”

He didn’t move to lift his fist from the laminate, chronically-slightly-sticky table. She continued, “And look. The second thing I would have done differently is… I would have said so.”

He frowned, hand still clenched and his eyes watching hers for any indication of sport, and said flatly, “Is there a third thing.”

She thought for a moment. “No.”

“You don’t have, like, I don’t know, some secret kid that’s mine or anything.”

“Nope.”

“You’re the type that would, you know.”

“Keep my children a secret?”

“Not tell the guy and raise it on your own.”

“Her name is Phoenix and she has your eyes.”

“You’re joking.”

“I’m joking.”

“Right.”

Was that relief or disappointment that made his eye muscles soft? She wasn’t going to ask; she was only going to talk about things that mattered. Like they always had.

“So what if I did,” his voice was angry, his dark eyes fearful. They knitted together on his face to hide his surprise. Surprise at himself for saying so. He shrugged in an admirable, pathetic act to save himself from looking like he cared.

She leaned over, slow enough so as not to surprise him further, and kissed him once. Like she was supposed to, all those years ago.

And he kissed back the Simone he knew and loved; the woman always sincere, always making a scene.

Simone in the Car III

I’m not a very good driver; yesterday I rear-ended a man in front of me. He was confused when, after we’d pulled over, I had to open up the back of my car to find my phone. “Oh,” said the man. He was overweight, no older than 35 but no younger than 31, and had watery green eyes that made me want to hug him or tell him my dreams. I’d later find out he worked in Burbank where he assisted in the design of computer games. “I thought you must have been on your phone. It’s just because, well, you know, that’s how accidents happen these days.”

Why did I just laugh and say I wasn’t paying attention?

Why couldn’t I say I was looking at the back of someone else’s head, sure that this time, it had to be you?

Why couldn’t I say I was watching the plane that was passing overhead like it carried memories of my future babies?

Because no one understands.

Simone on Paper

The truth is I keep trying to write you love poems. I keep trying to write you into stories without giving you a name. I keep trying to eliminate you from my stories.

And none of them work anymore. None of my poems, my stories, my fiction

And I—

Am starting to think

You aren’t my muse any longer,

Maybe I love You for real this time. I –

Am writing about You, after You,

Done! I—

Write for myself now.

Think for myself now.

I will put lovely words to paper for myself now.

And the rest, off the page, is finally,

Finally completely ours. I

Won’t keep you waiting,

Won’t run to you either, for I

Finally understand

More and less,

That I have

Not many lives but One,
With all the voices of my choosing.

So how about One life,

This One life,

With Me?

Simone in Company

Wear gloves, keep a hat on. Put on layers because that insulates warmth. My steps were light, long, and I wound my upper body into a tight knot like everyone else around me. I was 24 and very cold.

Yellow, dead leaves lept from their wooden diving boards for the performance of their lifetime, twirling through the air of their afterlife. I wondered, still contorted and in motion,  if humans worked the same way.

Maybe we were all leaves, I mused. Tossing this way and that, feeling the windy, unpredictable storms and pauses, and spring, summer, falls… and then, one moment after we die, we hang around as a coloring ghost, until we’re ready to dive, to twirl, to really give ourselves away to the air.

And we’re dead!

But we’re surrounded by life for the first time!

We’re really given yourself this time!

This is living! Our beautiful leaf family friends, still holding fast (and beautifully) on their branches don’t know!

And in the dive, dive, dive— which feels like infinity! Because its an explosion of perspectives, of feelings a leaf never could touch from its world planted on the ground—

The cold concrete slams onto our back, but it doesn’t hurt (we’re dead!) and we get to lay on our backs and gaze, for the first time, at the sky.

And we wash around the floor a while, enjoying the sensation of breaking apart (I can’t feel it, I’m dead) because as I break down.

I’m growing.

And as I walked with light, long steps, all knotted on top like all the stranger passerbys, I perhaps smiled with too much fondness at the leaves dancing out from the trees with the eastward gusts, watching them consume motion in explosive simplicity I almost wanted to applaud the way no one seemed to notice and despite all the advice I was given about insulating warmth…

I took off my left glove, slowed my pace and caught the next golden, soul fleeing for it’s sky.

It was too wet to crunch when I caught it—

Instead the small shape glued itself to the palm of my hand, kissing itself to me as a baby bird attached itself to the first bird it sees. It might have mistaken me for Heaven Forever, but I smiled to myself, whispered—for there is nothing softer than whispering in your thoughts— Welcome to heaven, isn’t it beautiful?

And dropped it off in the next breeze  to see more of it. I could not feel cold as I walked the rest of the way to railway station, I was too lost in daydreaming about the life of a leaf. I thought of nothing and no one else.

Uncategorized

The Ineffable and It’s Operator

“What I’m about to say… I’m not here, telling you this right now, because I expect you to say anything back, but I’m also aware that this isn’t just for me. This is something that has to be shared, shared with you.”

She took a deep breath.

“And by taking you through my mind this way, through these sentences,” and her eyes begin to well, “I’ll be able to lead you to my heart, and if I keep all my words slow and true enough, when we get there, I won’t need words anymore for you to see exactly what lies there for you.”

She takes another breath.

“Because what I have for you exists beyond words, it always has. It’s the best, scariest part of having met you. It’s all been scary—always happy to let you go, excited to see you live, but missing you so much when you leave. To have spent a life thinking heavily over everything, but not you, no  matter how many times people wanted me to overthink it by explaining it, I could only think deeply, deeply well of and for you.”

She takes a breath.

“And I may be crying now, I may be crying so hard right now,” She laughs through the tears that now decorate her skin in silent streams. “But this isn’t… this isn’t bad pain you’re seeing. It’s a consequence of cracking open the depth of my caring in front of you. This, this is caring— this is what caring for you looks like when it’s aware of itself and explores what it’s made of. And it’s not painful anymore, not when I stopped being scared of how I felt; I only just learned to stop and see how beautiful it existed, I finally got to sit in awe of how pure it was, all this time. And that’s how I got here.”

She took another breath.

“And I’m sharing this with you because whoever they are, whoever it is who chooses you back once you find them….”

She takes two slow breaths. Then:

“I want you to find someone, people, who deeply know, that with you, it’s not about caring after you; because you’re smart, you’re so terribly smart and wise— you can take care of yourself, and you’ll be stifled by someone who tries to do things for you, manage things for you.  And… and I need to keep stopping to breathe because I’m trying to give voice to an ache, I’m trying to translate a weighted dream into an audible hope.”

She takes a breath.

“I hope they remind you that you’re cared for, while you’re running around taking care of yourself; someone who knows just how to slip in and reflects back the gold you are, effortlessly, and ask for nothing in exchange. This is what you deserve. And I’m glad I finally got over my fear of looking like a complete fool, crying at you until my heart fell out, because you deserve to carry this around the rest of your life. Because it’s this that they’ll be made from, even if it doesn’t present itself this way.”

She takes a breath. Her face is streaked but soft, even strong.

“And if I’m doing this right then you’re not uncomfortable right now, because you know this isn’t a declaration, it’s a gift. But even if you are, I’m not worried…. you’ll call upon this later in the form of a memory, of someone who cared so deeply that they tried to turn what doesn’t exist in words into something you can hold, pocket, revisit:

The truth that you’re really that incredible, that I have never needed to list all the qualities of your worth to myself or anyone, no matter how much they’ve asked me to spell it out. That you change worlds, and I don’t need proof to know this, I am the proof, and you belong with people who can show you that. And I want you to have this love I’m giving to you, this love that asks for nothing in return, and I want you to go on and do incredible things knowing it’s there.

And that’s my heart and mind, delivered best I could.”

And she nodded at the rear-view mirror, hearing herself say it to someone else who was not there at all, and for a pause the extreme, enormous sadness washed over her and enveloped the entire vehicle.

But she twisted and asked her sadness for a sight of it’s seed, and at glimpsing the love that only wanted to be acknowledged, another truth took root, spurred by the sudden light. What if it wasn’t just meant for someone else, but was really a message to herself, from herself? Humans are so clever like that, she thought. And as she revisited the dialogue, she felt an inexpressible tenderness reaching from her for her.

The traffic did not let up for several more minutes, but neither did her tears, her laughter, nor the music she blared through her stereo system, which only amplified the harmony of her heartstrings, which had never played such a glow.

And she memorized the sound it made to play later, and she would go on to do so, and she’d play it for thousands of breaths she’d take afterwards, and it would go on to change many worlds, which sometimes needed words, but often did not.

Uncategorized

The Fog

**Author’s note: I recognize the difficult task my readers have of differentiating my fictional characters from my real ones, my fictional strifes from my real ones.  Rarely do I intercept your reading to clarify, as I believe that rescuing you from the ambiguity is equivalent to declaring you ruler and then taking all of your responsibilities; I believe I put these sentences in your hands so you can govern your own kingdom of thought, leaving your interpretations as company so you can admire or banish them.

And yet exceptions are some times to be made: I would like my real mother to be protected from being interpreted into this fictional one  and therefore will take one of my rare steps forward and address that the subjective “I” of this piece is not to be interpreted as Katrina’s.  This is a text taken from a larger fictional project.

Thank you**


 

It’s fog. All of it. It’s gotten into some of their eyes, you can tell. It has gotten into my mother’s eyes and I can see her trying to fight it, and I can see her giving up. She was never good at words, even before the fog, but it makes it so hard to ask for help. I have to watch it strange her soul slowly— first from the outside in, then from the inside out— and she can’t call for help. She just makes new noises out of her wonderful mouth, and they are wretched stray cats that only explain or cry or stare. And even though her eyes are so wide open they could swallow all your mountains it is all a lie, I have to watch it be a lie, because there is fog in her eyes, and her big bowls of blue actually don’t swallow anything but the steady hum of the television screen or sadness or extreme hysteria, all of which she never used to enjoy but since the fog came in, seems to be the only thing she will eat, so I think the bit of her that moves must like the texture of the sleep.

But it is not just my mother who has been taken over, it is everywhere. Everyone is either scared (like me) or numb (like me, too) or fighting back, with books and walks and suns and colors and very hard poems (like me, too). I am scared and numb, and I am fighting the fog.

I write this because I want to tell others out there that I see it, too.

And if you read this and do not know what I am talking about, it does not mean you have fog in your eyes, but it might mean that a little has seeped into your heart, because the fog is what stops you from understanding others who are speaking with their heart, even if you have to read it real-slow like or even out loud (like very hard poems).

That is because, with hearts (and very hard poems) you must hold it with the softest part of your palms, like a baby dove that has settled there with one-eye pecked out. Not all hearts (or very hard poems) can be understood in a moment, that is why they are so beautiful. That is what Love is made of, and everyone would know that.

But there is the fog.

I don’t always write like this, and I know it is not easy to read. My words may arrive like stale chips, and you would like the bag to end.

I know they are crunchy and strange and has an aftertaste is unsettling because it’s flavor is mild.

I don’t always write like this, but I have so many voices on the inside and we must let them all have a turn. They all say something that another one of our voices can’t, and it needs to be said if you want to fight back against the fog.

And if you don’t know that you have many voices inside of you, that you are made up of a collection of histories and minds and affections, it means that you too have let them become stray cats and you hardly notice them anymore. And they wander freely inside and outside of you, with big dead eyes that howl at people like me, but you don’t notice, because you think you have only one voice inside your one life.

Uncategorized

The Genesis of The Problem

Flower to a Stone: A Brief Dialogue on the Tools of Freedom and Truth 

There is a difference between destruction and de-construction, that being the ability to turn the material of tension and chaos into the fabric of profit and creation. In the attempt to destroy someone else’s argument, one forgoes the opportunity to deconstruct it, opting for personal domination over human triumph. If crushing an object is not the same as unraveling an object, is not the crushing of an idea as dissimilar from the unraveling of one? Therefore, if the crushing of someone else’s inherited or hand-crafted object is an act of violence, would not the tearing down of another’s inherited or hand-crafted value or prejudice be an act of violence, too? From this angle we glimpse a necessary mirror: the misinterpretation of another’s sharp defense of their idea for an act of stupidity or arrogance is for ourselves to be blind to the arrogance present in our mode of offense; this being usually an emotional reaction of equal or greater brutality and lacking the compassion we aim to create, as opposed to a conscious response of greater compassion and finer listening (which, I plan to reveal, are not the same but can be used synonymously to great public benefit).

And so an important equation thus arrives: what one will inevitability create is what one adds to the unavoidable chaos that preludes the creation. And since life can be regarded as a cycle of chaotic events, we can see that:

In order to have moments of peace comprised of compassion and love, one must add compassion and love the chaos that preludes the aspired peace.

How does one choose compassion—which is not the constant deliverance of warmth, but rather an active invitation to its access— when faced with a coldness fortified by centuries of exploited contexts? But how does one choose to deliver a response over a reaction in a political climate as heated as our current one?

It is by taking action in forgiveness, not making effort from remorse.

 

I have done so little

For you,

And you have done so little

For me, 

That we have good reason

Never to agree.

 

I, however,

Have such meagre

Power,

Clutching at a

Moment

While you control

An hour.

 

But your hour is

A stone

 

My moment is

A flower.

 

-Poet to a Bigot, by Langston Hughes

 

To meet a history of hurt with de-construction as opposed to destruction is to allow for violently opposing truths to unravel themselves to their delicate core: humanity.  To my awareness, the pathway of de-construction is composed of compassionate acts. Compassion is an advanced form of patience, an applied assurance of surrendering to the need to understand. The need to understand is dangerous, with compassion as it’s only cure.

And compassion, as witnessed, has no lasting influence on another if it has not been first used on the Self.  It can be examined this way:
If the changing of another’s mind first requires going through their experience with tender detachment and open light, then the inability to do so (reacting in anger, frustration, resistance) is an indicator that mistruths still reside hidden within the individual who is aiming at changing another; that is to say, there are lies still going on in this Self that have not been held compassionately, and yet hold an expectation of the Other to make changes to their truth. This is hypocritical, and therefore sewn in inherent dishonesty, and inevitably dooming progress to a subtle and certain limitation. And the world has influencers who move like this: those who consciously attempt to teach what they unconsciously refuse to learn. This is the greatest danger of all, and yet we are given a great gift against it:  the active recognition, the worthwhile process, of extending open light.

Uncategorized

Pages 7-10

Setting: 24 

I grow tired.

The question “Tired of what?” is trivial, dare I say stupid,  and I would lend it only to the inexperienced thinkers: I already know it does not matter so much as the feeling itself.  And yet what twenty-four-year-old of great wisdom is tired?  I cannot, then, be that wise— the wise see that there is a forward and a backward to energy; the wise have a most striking relationship to endurance this way, a mystifying absence of positive or negative connotations which functions to sustain itself even in exhaustion. Whereas the wise absorb an ache with a questionless curiosity, it is the young who remain baffled at each moan of the interior. But I am neither baffled by my tiredness nor unprovoked by it; where does that put me? En route, my mother would say. On the way.

A wise person doesn’t necessarily need to wonder why they are tired, why they are anything. At the core they simply are or they are not, and they move to either rest or action in consequence of the deciphered state (it’s this response, as opposed to reactivity, that separates them from a fool). I once met a very energetic old man who told me, “What few people understand is that I am not an old man, but a very tired boy.” So I correct myself here: I once met a very tired boy, aged seventy, who confirmed with words what I saw in his eyes—his mind and body were intrinsically linked, and absolutely separated. They informed each other, not commanded each other; it was neither good, nor bad, but was.

For me it is there, in moving into rest or action, where my essential confusion lies. I do neither of these things, and both; never, and always. I have confided to myself, and only ever her and paper, that this is likely due to the fact that I am always several ages at once.

Once, while simply riding a bike on a warm morning, I was 8 years old, 18 years old, and 80 all at the same time, and I knew this very deeply. One can always tell a deep feeling because the deeper it is, the less one needs to speak about it. When I feel Many Aged, I do not need to say anything—I become a bell, instead. I swing, to and fro, between all the truths that speak for themselves. We sing, all my Ages and I, but to ourselves. Why communicate what is already in conversation? We are a single stone, humming. We toll, counting down…

And up. And in. and out. It is remarkable to be with your Pasts, and Presents, and Futures. Did you know there are not one, two, and three versions of yourself? But an infinite amount, in all three directions. It is rare for me to tread across their meeting point, but when I do, it is peace.

We all enjoy the sun, though for different reasons; we all like wind, though only when we’re the one’s going fast enough to make it. Every Age of me enjoys the sound of engines, the white froth of waves, and the feeling of our arms holding things tight, and our legs pushing and letting, pushing and letting. I was 21 years old at the time, on that bike, laughing at the sunshine.

Pushing and letting. This is what life feels like to me.

I grow tired.

When I tell this to my mother she says it is because I catch meanings that are carried in and out of my surroundings—I see that no meaning is ever wrong, that some are better suited to certain situations, and that so many go unacknowledged. I catch meanings like an 8-year-old catches butterflies; I watch them, outside my grasp, like an 80-year-old watches from her seat on the porch. Both laugh, and sometimes, they both cry, at the butterflies.

My mother understands me very well, probably the best. She had a dream, months before I was born, that she was in a dark room with an old woman who sat in chair.  My mother has used the events of this dream to guide the way she raised me, this dream helping my mother believe in me when I tell her incredible things, for instance: how much I love, or how much I hurt, or the stories I have seen, manipulated, conducted, missed. It also helps my mother do incredible things when I do not believe in myself—like give me love or take away my hurt, or tell me stories about places I have not yet seen, manipulated, conducted, or yet missed. She retells me the stories of what I have done, and paints pictures of what I will.

My mother cares for me by watering my curiosity this way. I am a firm believer that someone on the brink of death, if made curious, will give Death a battle so fierce that Death will speak of nothing else. That he comes home from a long day’s work, sits down at the dinner table, and tells the stories of the lives he took—or almost took—  that day to Life, who spent all day cooking up more. And to me, I suppose, that is almost all we can ask for: an experience so profound that Life and Death repose amused by how we’ve run them. They are our parents, in a way, as damning and essential as our real ones;  I should like to entertain them, to learn from them, to respect them and recognize how I can and cannot play them.

It’s hard to punish the curious, if there’s nothing else I’ve learned in all my time here.

My mother understands that I insert metaphors into stories, and they appear as tangents. She never gets mad at me when I do that—I hope you don’t either.

I do not understand the language of animals very much, which I keep very secret, because so many people love animals. At best I like them bizarrely, generally, with favored exceptions. But the way some people look at puppies is the way I know I look at window frames with chipping paint. Or flowers in tin buckets outside the corner market, it being the battle front for soldier dew drops who refuse to surrender to afternoon. Or coats being put on quickly when dismounting a train, being stained at the bottom of zipper from a mysterious spill from a more mysterious jostle. Or slightly peeling stickers on lampposts, being little loved papers fleeing metal in slow-motion, the cite of tug-of-war between wind and Time.

I tell my mother it’s because I’m fond of Moments: those things of the Present that we make quickly, crumple and throw in the Past bin, and never return for. The half-used tissues of people’s seconds, which to me, compile to make the fabric of my days, the muscle of my motions. I am both Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster; creator and canvas of humanity’s spare parts.

I grow tired.

I use my energy to follow the wind around and collect these crinkled Moments—disposable to those who make them, but which are infinitely precious to me—and at the end of the day spread them out on the bed. I admire these— my new pets, these homeless meanings, my dear friends (for that is what they become once I’ve saved them) –- and I hold them, and I whisper how important they are, I remind them that they are loved, that they were essential to their master’s plan, that their master was just very focused, and that they were seen by me, they were seen by me. I pocket these orphaned details, I build them homes in my diaries, and I read and rewrite them over and over again until they are their deserved pedestal: they are loved by me.

I grow tired, I do not wish to die.

I have spoken with Death very often, and he is not the enemy. This could be because after I saw him once, I knew what he looked like. Once you know what something looks like, you know it when you see it next; Love is like that. And so the next time I saw him, I grabbed him and looked him straight in the eyes. I know Death, and he is not bad.

He enters like a parent: Sometimes invited, generally and horrifyingly not, and never without prerogative, though often undecipherable to the upset child. He found my father when I was thirteen, and I have spent many years searching through crumpled up memories to piece together a mosaic of meaning beautiful enough to make sense of it. It took up all my time.

I grow tired.

I made several masterpieces, and several bombs, with all the details of my life. I put myself in museums, in films, in glass boxes, and cages in my mind with the stories I made up out of the loss; it was taxing, the ceaseless reinventing. There were times when my life was so carefully constructed from them that I could not move forward, not at all.

It was necessary, then, to tear down and build. It kept me alive, the story-making. It was as frequent and it was passionate; no one could keep up, nor did I expect anyone to. This did not make it any less lonely.

I built silences so dense that not even a hum could get in, and ran miles into a body that I wouldn’t let a single person touch—I became invisible and crystal. The self-detonating was a spectacle that I invented everyone would enjoy: I was beautiful, suffering, and pitiable. In other words, society would absolutely gobble me up, masterpieces and bombs alike, some without caring the difference. Society is vicious, and yet it’s not the enemy. It took a long time to discover so,  but once I did, I looked it straight in the eyes. It’s funny, should I tell you what Society looks like? I will tell you: it is a mirror.

I grew tired.

It has been very important to realize that “what happened” is always different than “the story of what happened.” What happened was he was pouring concrete to make a street in the desert, and it was very hot out. He fell, his team members performed CPR for an hour, the helicopter finally arrived, and he was pronounced dead there.

He would have been very excited to be in a helicopter, so I know that if his body had any ounce of my dad left in it, curiosity would have stirred his heart back. Death had really taken him.

I grow tired, but I am not scared to die. The only regret in me is that I did not live long enough to put all my pieces together, to make the Great Mosaic. But hilariously enough, even that regret passes, because wisdom reminds me I only ever was, I only ever am, I only ever will be a Great Mosaic. I told Genevieve once, “We are merely the sum of the stories we tell ourselves.”

I am merely the stories I told myself. With the breath I was given, I spoke extensively about my family. About my incredible mother and my golden father. I spoke about my sisters, made of more pure beauty than fiction could dream to dress them in; how one would call them goddesses, but they were too compassionate and too unwilling to be worshipped. I have said it once, but I shall believe it until my name is breathed last (for we all live until our name dies)— my sisters are angels. And I loved them.

Why, you wonder, do I speak in the past tense? I do not know, I write with whomever inside me arrives. This is part of what tires me, confuses me—I am many ages at once, and sometimes, I am not even here while I am. The dimensions of the world I’ve been given are held up by soft, moldable walls; my soul seems structured as if it’s always ready to invite more floor in. I have moved mountains, and rebuilt interior terrains, just to make room for all the Lives.

I have built castles in the sky, but from my throne on each of them, I can recognize the conquest of myself was not without war. It was a Great War, one I hope to survive. There have been several peace treaties, which I signed with my angels besides me, where I promised to no longer torment myself from all the meanings I felt and saw in the world. The pressure of the Great Mosaic; it did hurt. It crushed me, and I sent troops of Love and Hate to occupy the empty spaces that sat between Rest and Action. Even still, even still, when I am away from my angels, when my mother does not daily save me, when my father’s gold doesn’t find me through sunshine on a warm morning’s bike ride….

I grow tired, but I want to live. I think I must rest. One big Rest. And then action. A very big Action.

“Will I always be so tired?” I ask my mother. “No, my love. I promise.”

It is only when I hear my mother’s voice do all my Ages sleep.

Uncategorized

In Elastic Company

 

“Yeah, I’d just never seen anyone do that before.”

“Do what? Take a book without asking?”

“Open it in the middle and just start to read.”

She closed the book and looked at him with the same, soft pressure she’d just been using to turn the pages. “But isn’t that how we meet each other? At a random page in the middle of our independent stories?”

She failed to acknowledge that any time you meet someone in the middle of their story, it was simultaneously new Page One: the birth child of two seperate paths, two individual and incomplete sums, converging into a budding origin story. She bit her tongue and bought him a coffee, choosing not to mention that she could one day tell their children how they began at this small odd table where she picked up his tattered, bound copy of essays by James Baldwin. How she’d begun to ruffle through it without asking, responding to his question of “You’re familiar with him?” by shrugging and smiling; how she just stood there reading until she suddenly sat down across from him, offering that when he arrived at page 161, he’d find himself at the foot at her new favorite passage.

“New favorite? Have you read all of him already?”

She laughed. “Do I need to read all of Baldwin to have a favorite?”

“I think I see what you’re getting at.”

“What’s your favorite ice cream.”

“I see what you’re getting at.”

“I’ll wait.”

He smiled and leaned forward slightly. “I’m a pistachio kinda guy.”

“So you like almond ice cream.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s got a surprising amount of almond flavoring.”

“Okay, but I like the green.”

“So you enjoy being tricked.”

He laughed and threw up his hands. “Who are you working for? Who sent you?”

“Do you know every ice cream in the world?”

“I’ve tried very, very many.”

“But every?”

“Many.”

“Not the same thing.”

“So you’re saying it can’t be my favorite.”

“On the contrary, I’m saying it can absolutely be your favorite. Favorite is a constant state of flux, and alters through experience expansion, mood shifts…”

“I enjoy tricks, you obviously enjoy tricking people–whatta pair.”

She leaned in. “People get ‘favorite’ wrong all the time. People interpret favorite as unchangeable, when really favorite means preference. Preference arrives wherever there is choice, and choice arrives wherever there are options.”

“Your point being…”

“For today, as of now, this page,” she looked down at the open book on the table, “is my favorite passage.” She smiled then added, “Did you know that you’re my favorite person in this place?”

“Besides the half-asleep barista, I’m the only one in this place.”

“Logic didn’t stop you from feeling flattered anyway.”

He was grinning, shaking his head.

“Logic doesn’t stop you from liking green, almond ice cream.”

He raised his hand, “Pistachio.”

“Gesundheit.”

She let the flirtation run away with itself, making no effort to return to our original conversation about why it is that no book actually starts at the beginning it introduces.

That stories don’t really follow the timelines they advertise. That the reader of this story only mildly questioned the tenses that shifted beneath them as the narrative wound on.

That the reader of this story may have already forgotten that they were dropped in the middle of dialogue, that the reader doesn’t even know if these two met in a library or a café or an airport. They don’t even know what time period this occurred. You, the reader, may not have yet developed the care to know whether or not these two get married.

The reader’s curiosity is so expansive, it allows anything at first. It’s only with time that we begin to resent the missing details.

Oh, to be so curious about people that you care about them without asking! To feel free having favorite parts of them without knowing all of them!

To make adjustments of character with experience. To allow ourselves to be tricked by lovely things, knowing the playwork of the constant, never-ending allusions at work.

Oh, to learn lessons from short passages, and quick people!

Let us learn something in five minutes without realizing we were thinking. Let us be tricked by lovely things to remember how beautifully curious and open we are.

———————–

Uncategorized

Sunday Outing

Wonder,

wonder

My heart does

roll

Through the archipelago–

 

Of lovers left

And strangers fought

And city streets

And buildings wrought

With rotten stores

And imported chips

And children rushing

With milk on lips;

Where fresh bread soars

Through the air as wind,

On the curve of babble

To all who’ve sinned;

Who’ve poked and prodded

Each peach in view,

Those who pricked and popped

A berry or two.

 

Wander,

Wander

My mind does

Go

 

Through this archipelago

 

Of flat-footed memories

And concrete rivers,

High-heeled futures

And butter-soft shivers,

Seconds baked together

In the market’s eye

We walk with peach scones

You and I.

 

Were we not just children?

Will be both grow old?

I ask you by each bite we take,

“Does staying make you cold?”

 

On this island of a moment

Unchased by cars and tagged by bags,

The sweat of Now is beading

And my fingernails sag.

 

Clutching at the weight

Of a map that won’t return,

The white tents fall behind us

And the sun begins to burn.