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?”
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
Is all wrapped up in blankets
Standing in the kitchen cooking breakfast
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
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”
Holds her hand while he drives and
Talks about sunsets and remember! how
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
Kissed him on her porch while he was talking
Messages her good-sized messages and
Have compatible astrological signs but
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.
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!
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: This feels like a test.
Smadar: Nobody’s testing you here. This is your space.
[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.
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.
Simone: But I would like to acknowledge that it makes me uncomfortable as well.
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
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
I will bloom and you will…
I don’t know.
You’ll do (that’s what you always do)
Whatever you want and
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
Or is that wrong?
Where are the morals,
the printers that work,
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.
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—”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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 grey-ish 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; he knew he’d find out.
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 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.
“Never full, always room for dessert,” she smiled.
“Yeah? How about you go eat shit then.”
“You mean so we can both be full of shit?”
“Jesus Christ,” he sighed again.
“Jesus wasn’t an angel.”
“Good, I did want to return to 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?”
“I was being Romeo.”
“Why the Shakespeare? Why always Shakespeare when we fight, Simone?”
“Ah, why not the Shakespeare!”
“I hate when you’re like this.”
“Shoot the structure, not the messenger, I was just sewing the devil into our conversation about love.”
“Cut this love 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.” Her face cleared instantly of humor, her smile gone before he saw it drop.
“I think we’d better not talk about this.”
“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?”
“See, you loved me!”
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, like a ghost of a real man, staring at Nothing-in-particular by the fake fiscus plant.
Simone just looked at her dinner date and shrugged, “Well, yes.”
He didn’t move to lift his fist from the laminate table, as if the diner’s chronic stickiness had actually won over a limb after a lifetime of kissing after the skin of every guest. 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.”
“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.”
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
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,
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
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,
Simone in Company
She was 24 and very cold. Wear gloves, keep a hat on. Put on layers because that insulates warmth. Her steps were light, long, and she wound her upper body into a tight knot like everyone else around her.
Yellow, dead leaves lept from their wooden diving boards for the performance of their lifetime, twirling through the air of their afterlife. She wondered, still contorted and in motion, if humans worked the same way.
Maybe we were all leaves, she 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!
This is living! 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 on one branch—
The cold concrete slams us onto our back, but it doesn’t hurt (we’re dead! but not!) 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 (because we’re dead! but not?) because as a leaf
it’s also G R O W I N G
And as Simone walked with light, long steps, all knotted on top like all the stranger passerbys, she perhaps smiled with too much fondness at the leaves dancing out from the trees with the eastward gusts, watching them consume motion in such explosive simplicity she broke out in applause.
Instead she took off her left glove, slowing her pace, and caught the next golden soul fleeing for it’s sky.
It was too wet to crunch when she caught it—
Instead the small shape glued itself to the palm of her hand, kissing itself to Simone like a baby animal takes to it’s mother. It might have mistaken Simone for Heaven Forever.
So she smiled and 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. She could not feel cold as she walked the rest of the way to railway station, as she was too lost in daydreaming about the life of a leaf. She thought of nothing and no one else, and found herself at home there.