A meta-subjective love letter, inspired by Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. Enjoy!
A meta-subjective love letter, inspired by Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. Enjoy!
He was cute and kind and funny. I fell for him fast.
Once I loved a boy. He was young like me, clueless like me. He had a way with words, this boy. Back then, before I knew forever was temporary, I didn’t know things like those don’t last forever. I didn’t know to shield my heart.
I loved a boy and he loved me. There were rain songs and secret stories. And adventures, lots of them.
Once I loved a boy and he loved me. We had a good time, him and me. It was not my first love, nor my biggest, but it was my deepest.
It went on for some time, then one day the boy went away. He had his reasons. He left without much explanation, with a quiet unsmiling goodbye. He left me grasping at the retreating tendrils of forever, my heart gaping.
Once I loved a boy and he left without kissing me goodbye.
It took me forever to get over him.
One thing I learned from this boy: The only cure for love is to love again. And again. Again.
When last I loved I was a bird
Ruffled and old-boned
Pinned between gust and thrust
Alit upon an ancient continuum
Finding a window agape
Draped in azure voile
The room within aglow
In expansive rapture
Barreling over the event horizon,
One fleeting instant of silence
Unaware the impending disruption
Oh! Love travels faster than light
Beyond the sash
Light and night transposed
In the haze, clarity
Alas! It was a mere antechamber of infinity
Husk against feather
Grist against filament
A reconstruction of the avian
That old brutality of fusion
Flung upward, flapping
Into the laughter of a cold blue sky
Ah, how nothingness burns!
The inevitable surrender to gravity
Downy smash on new grass
Earth, my oldest friend
Flattened, I am new again!
The attending Silence
Broken by my tentative rustle
So reticent to fly again, since last I loved.
My sister’s been dead to me for years, but last fall she decided to finally make it official. Funny, it wasn’t the decades of abusing crack and heroin that did her in after all. She slipped in the shower, broke her ribs, and came down with pneumonia in the hospital. (Like mother, like daughter, if you know the story.)
I was ready for the call; hell, I waited for it for, what — 23 years. Still, it hurt to hear my sweet niece tell me that her mom had died. The funeral was outside, graveside, underneath gnarled trees shedding fiery leaves on a glimmering fall day. It was painfully beautiful. There was a rabbi, a gaggle of old relatives, and a surprising number of more recent friends. My niece, Sarah, and her fiancé, Dan. Kim’s third child, Zack, with his adoptive family. An old black guy who sat in front, pouring his eyes out. Me, Geoff, and the kids, wide-eyed to be at their first funeral, for an aunt they barely even knew they had. A fresh hole in the family plot and a coffin on rollers.
Kim’s cousin Randi did the eulogy. She called me Chrissy. She talked about growing up with Kim in Baltimore, about the art projects she and Kim used to do with my mom. About sleepovers at their bubbie’s house, when Kim taught her to French kiss using pillows. She made us laugh, which I didn’t expect to do.
If I had done the eulogy, I’d have probably told the story of how Kim pierced my ears with a sewing needle when I was nine, overtop of her kitchen sink. I would have told how she dyed my hair blonde when I was eleven, and how it took me two agonizing years to grow it out. She was the one who taught me to shave my legs, the one who’d come get me for sister time and take me shmying at the secondhand shops, the one who’d ask me about my crushes, the one who’d always encourage me to be bold. I would have reflected on the good bits – how probably more than anyone else in my life before or since, Kim taught me to experiment with this life of mine. To try and see.
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I would have talked about how heartbroken I was at sixteen, the day Kim came to tell my mom and me that she had just done heroin with her new boyfriend. The day we begged her to stay, but she left anyway. Forever. I wouldn’t have lied, like her cousin Randi did, and said that Kim was a good mom. She wasn’t. She bailed, to gradually worsening degrees, on all four of her kids. On all of us. Including herself.
I’m glad that I didn’t do the eulogy. I needed time to let myself feel, and it took me awhile. Now that I’ve had a few months, I’d like to go back and visit Kim’s grave. I’d talk to her, let her know that I’m glad to finally know where she is after all these years. I’d tell her I’m sorry that I shut her out. I’d tell her I wish we’d had the chance to turn things around while she was alive. I’d tell her I’ve missed her all this time. That I forgive her. That I love her still, despite everything.
They leave the picture window open for the honey light. She endures his torment, fingers in her folds, there, and there, there again, almost painful. Even after so long, she loves his attention. She moans for his concerted effort. A volcano rises under his fingertips and she writhes with the eruption. Through the window a flock takes flight off the water. Here one instant, gone the next. Forever.
After, they lay intertwined, saying the things they say until she rises, naked, for water. The man through the window jolts her and the shock charges the track of her recent orgasm. He’s in a shirt and tie, older than he looks, older than her. She lets out a silent “Oh” and lifts her lighter instead of the water. She pulls a cigarette from the pack and slips it between her smiling lips as she steps to the window. The lighter waivers in her hand, the phone in his does not. (Ah, a video, then.) She takes a drag, holds the heat in a moment, exhales. She walks through the cloud back to bed.
Tiny peck on the dome, seismic butt wiggle. Skitter, swing, release.
Lucky persimmon shot like hot lava down the slick alley.
Her shriek shrill over the clatter of pins.
“Yeah, Trixie baby.” Damn, he loved his wife’s strike.
He was up.
A true story in 52 words for the Shapeshifting 13 over at Grammar Ghoul Press.
Have I ever mentioned Matt, my hair stylist? He’s been cutting my hair for almost ten years. Aside from working magic with scissors, he’s intuitive. We have these great conversations that always go deeper, like there’s a trapdoor under his styling chair and he can just push a button and flip me down into his own personal underworld. He’s into reiki and healing stones, self-improvement and energy drinks. Sometimes he’s a little out there, but every single time I get out of his chair, I leave feeling more like myself on the outside and the inside.
Matt’s salon closed in January. He promised to get in touch when he found a new salon, but in the meantime, I decided to try out this cute little place near the coffee shop where I write. It’s got bookcases and art on the walls, and it’s adorable. I was psyched.
But everything went wrong: The stylist ran late, really late. She had bedraggled brown, shoulder-length hair and she wore an outfit that should have sent me running. She hesitated to start cutting my hair, then got carried away and cut it too short. She mumbled incoherent cutting rules to herself as she worked, Swedish chef–fashion. She took cell phone calls while I was in her chair. I left feeling glad to get away.
My haircut wasn’t truly horrible, but when I looked in the mirror I could see the new stylist’s unkempt hair sort of superimposed over mine like a hologram. It’s freaky, but it’s almost as if she spilled some of herself out onto my hair.
Fast forward three weeks. Time has worked wonders. I can look in the mirror without seeing her and I can almost pull my hair back into a ponytail again. And it turns out that Matt found a new space just down the street. But I’m still wondering whether this happens in all of our relationships. Do we hijack each other and glom on our own preferences, just to further our own interests? Or do we adopt each other’s traits without even realizing it? And if so, what happens to our true selves in the process?
Can you tell I’m still reeling from a shocking citique?
I’m late to the game. The basketball court is gloomy, almost dark. You’re already there, alone, slunk against the wall on the top row of a worn set of wooden bleachers, a beer bottle in your hand even though it’s a school game.
I sit with my kids at the far end of the bleachers and keep my eyes on the court. The space between us is empty. You and I feel each other’s presence but don’t acknowledge it.
It’s warm and I’m squirmy, unfocused. You get up to leave before the game ends, come over, and take two of my fingers with your bottle hand. You could be sharing your beer but you’re not; the bottle is a decoy. You look at my fingers – index and middle, with a potent mix of joy, concern, and regret. It’s an intense look, but then it passes, replaced by a grin at the kids. You leave me holding your beer.
I met a guy at a party last weekend, at a writing conference in Michigan. He was hot, but don’t worry, he’s married with kids, and plus, he’s a pastor. Still, I was attracted to him, in that way that I can’t explain except to say that we didn’t arrive together, but within minutes, we were. We met over a table of stickers with adjectives on them, where we decorated our name tags with descriptions of our writing. He chose dark, I chose twisted. Five minutes into our conversation, he told me how he watched his ex-fiancée spiral into drug addiction in L.A.
Here’s what’s bugging me. There I was, at a party, excited to be mingling with a room full of writers, ready for anything to happen. Five minutes in, almost without any effort, a hot guy opened up to me about what was probably the most difficult experience of his life. It could have been just what I’d hoped for, a deep connection. But in the moment, I thought only about a dear friend of mine who lost her husband to the underworld of drugs. Still a connection, but without any emotional risk of my own. I don’t think I even mentioned my friend. In the moment, I laughed and made a joke. To make him feel better, I thought.
In the moment, I forgot all about my own, very similar story, about how my big sister went on crack when I was sixteen. Standing next to that guy at the party, Kim never even crossed my mind. It was like I couldn’t access my own memories, or worse, like I didn’t even know the memories existed.
The guy and I chatted for a bit, then we drifted apart. The next morning, he sat several rows ahead of me in the auditorium. The collar of his sport coat was sticking up, and I imagined folding it down for him. We bumped into each other before lunch, and he almost but didn’t quite ask me to eat with him.
That’s it. We didn’t get a chance to talk again. He cut out of the conference early; I saw him walk out of the auditorium but didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t think much of it until my drive home. In the privacy of the car, my memories came rushing back to me: the time I begged Kim to stay with us (she left anyway, and never came back), the insomnia that plagued me through my twenties (lying awake at night, wondering if she was dead), that feeling of utter helplessness (at the pain of losing someone I loved).
When I think of Kim, all these years later, I’m left still asking the same questions I asked back when I was little, long before she became a crack addict. How can someone whom you’ve poured your love into choose to waste that love, and instead head down a path to ruin?
Now I realize that we all make mistakes. We go through life on the surface, moment by moment, sometimes without access to our deepest memories. We choose what makes us feel good instead of what helps us grow. We miss connections that might make all the difference in our lives, simply because we don’t risk our emotions.
I haven’t spoken to Kim since our mom died almost a decade ago. Yesterday, she popped up on Facebook and asked to tag a photo of mine. It was a shock to see her, but I said yes.
Two posts in one week, guys. This is huge!
A month ago I started taking my six-year old to a therapist. He’s shy, and with the onset of first grade, he was talking less than ever. Pretty much his only means of communicating with his new teacher was by whispering into her ear.
When the threat of no recess (hers) and even the offer of a new LEGO set (mine) only seemed to make Gabe more anxious, I complained to another mom, who came to the rescue with a therapist recommendation. This isn’t the first time I’ve weighed the possibility of taking one of the kids to a therapist. In the past I’ve always decided against it, thinking that paying too much attention to the problem would only make it worse. This time, though, Gabe seemed genuinely fraught about going to school, so I called the therapist and Gabe and I have been visiting once a week since.
This week his therapist began with some art therapy. She handed Gabe a sheet of paper and a box of markers, and asked him to draw his worry as if it were an animal or a monster.
Gabe started to draw right away. He drew a devil engulfed in multicolored flames, and even before he finished it I was almost crying. “This is a worry demon,” he whispered into my ear. “He talks to me. He tells me he hates me, he’s stronger than me, and he’ll beat me up if I talk at school.”
I nodded, trying to figure out the questions that would help more than harm. While I was choosing my words, the therapist asked Gabe to draw a weapon that he could use against the worry demon. He turned to another page and drew a red and blue rocket. “This is a worry blaster,” he whispered triumphantly. “Whenever I talk, it blasts the worry demon into ashes and he DIES,” he explained into my ear. “The worry demon’s flames set off the rocket,” he finished, clearly proud of putting the demon’s flames to good use.
Gabe is only six years old. He and the other kids have had a relatively calm childhood so far, and play fighting with his sister and brother is his only actual daily torment. Yet, still, Gabe is living with a demon inside him. He, thankfully, has no idea that mental illness runs rampant on both sides of his family: schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and dissociative personality disorder, to name a few. No, thankfully, he has no clue that demons are a thing beyond television and Halloween. Hopefully I can protect him from that harsh reality for a very long time.
Yet something about the way he dove into his drawing, so sure of his worry demon, just breaks my heart. Something about the worry rocket, fueled by his demon’s flames, strikes me as uncanny.
The human mind is a mysterious place.
It’s been awhile since I posted something personal, I know. This demon thing has really gotten to me.