Monthly Archives: December 2011

Sometimes I think about all of the alternate worlds

There are the childhood ones. There is the one where I learned four languages, the one where I saw the lake retract from the shore until the land ached for rain, the one where I was stolen by fairies and replaced with a changeling and everyone liked her just a little more than me.

There are the ones where I die. There is the one where I lost my balance and fell into a well, the one where the wolves devoured me, the one where I slip.

There are the ones where I think things worked out. The one where I wake up and don’t know you, the one where I don’t believe in ghosts, the one where the scars on my hands don’t exist.

There are the ones where I am someone else. The one where I talk a little louder, the one where I don’t like words quite as much, the one where there is a joke which doesn’t make me laugh and laugh.

There are the ones where what I feel about you is not the same. The one where I got into that other class, the one where I never stayed up late to see you, the one where I looked away. I have nightmares about all of the alternate worlds, but these most of all.

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Most days I love you (and you and you)

The way you  often use all caps in messages and it makes me think you are shouting but I like it because it is like you JUST need to say something right exactly then and the way you write and it’s like how I wish I could and everything you tell me makes me think I’m not alone.

Glow in the dark galaxies spread across your ceiling and we were ten and turned the lights out so we could see the stars glow green and I imagined that we would always be like this, shoulders touching, content in silence, and we still are.

The way we talked about ghosts and you thought that no one was listening and so you said you believed in them but not like ghosts in the way that most people do. You said that you thought they must be more like echoes and were still bouncing around, back and forth just hoping to be heard.

The time you made me laugh so hard I cried. Or any of the times you made me happier just by being there. Or the way that I sometimes say your name and it makes my brain feel tingly in the way that taking a hot bath with peppermint salts feels to my skin and it’s also like the way that a breeze through tall grass always makes me think of home.

Your laugh which makes me laugh, makes me happy, makes me feel like I’m still young enough to believe in everything.

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We Asked Questions to Slow the Bleeding

Do you ever think about going away? And if you do does it hurt in that certain cool way of the moment when you first jump into the lake and your skin is so hot that the cold shocks you, makes you gasp?

And do you ever think about who the people are who you’d save if there was a zombie apocalypse? Are they still the same people you would have saved ten years ago? Five? Last year?

And do you ever remember the things which frightened you as a child and then laugh? And, if you do, do you then feel sad wishing that they were still the only things that scared you?

Sometimes do you dream of cities that don’t exist? Are they the cities which you wish you could find a secret way to? Do you ever imagine that there is an alternate world where you live in these cities and you’re someone else? Someone who takes more chances and believes in more things?

Do you ever try to remember the exact taste of maple cream sodas by the lake? And when you can’t does it make you feel like you’re losing things slowly? And that eventually you won’t remember who it is that you love and where it was that you first met them and why does everything now taste as flavorless as the sheets of rice paper which were wrapped around that chewy pink candy you had loved so much as a child?

And do you occasionally start laughing at the most random of things? And do you find that you can’t stop, not until your sides ache and you’re breathless?

And do you believe in only five things fully? And, if so, do you never tell anyone because you’re afraid that if you say it to the wrong person then you’ll stop believing?

Sometimes do you wish that you were someone else? Not someone completely different, just someone who was more willing to jump into the lake?

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Things Kept as Secrets

I am writing about fairy tales again.  About the way that words fell from mouths and turned into gems. Except that one time with the snakes and the way that everything was nothing and I’m thinking about the way that falling in fairy tales never meant the same thing that it does to me. There is the fall, the crash, the hit.

There is this game I used to play as a child where I would try to imagine the most impossible scenarios that I could and then imagine how I would feel. I imagined that I had been trapped underwater for 300 years. I thought I’d probably grow tired of the deep and the blue and the endless.

My favorite magic trick is the one I’ve never seen done right. The one where a girl walks up to the mirror and steps inside it, like it’s a door, like it’s just exactly the same as going home.

I like the curve of your jaw line and the way that sometimes you don’t seem to know what to do with your hands as you’re talking.

I was scared by just three things, really, as a child. And I don’t tell anyone who I don’t love what those three things are. I’m afraid of being afraid still.

I used to believe in everything but that went away for years. Sometimes, now, I’ll suddenly believe in something. The feel of believing finally returns like heat rushing back to cold fingertips after being outside in the winter for too long.

I’m afraid of falling, of the crash and the hit. But, sometimes, I imagine impossible scenarios and believe in them.

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Like Ice Becomes Water Becomes Ice

(I hate second person, but as a writing exercise, I decided to attempt it!)

Like Ice Becomes Water Becomes Ice

The cold is what you first noticed. It’s different than any cold that you’ve ever felt; it seeps into your bones and plays behind your eyes with images of crystals and your breath in the air and that one night that you spent outside camping as a kid where you saw the stars through the mesh windows of your tent and everything felt like it was about to begin.

You remember every experience of cold that you have ever felt; they stretch out and around you all at the same moment as if time is a tunnel and you are the train that is passing through it but you never did understand those maps of routes and so you don’t quite know where it is that you are supposed to stop.

One image becomes brighter and more tangible to your senses and right away you wish that it were any other. You are remembering the way that it felt in the river the year that you jumped off the bridge in one surprisingly graceful arc and the water hit you like concrete and no one thought that you would make it. Someone, whose face you almost half knew, pulled you out and out and three weeks later when you walked out of the hospital you suddenly felt that everything had stopped changing.

This is the way it feels. This is the way it feels.

It had been one of those gloriously uncomplicated days. The kind where you opened your eyes and you wanted to start laughing. Everything was going to be fine. You danced to the kitchen and made pancakes in shapes that slid off the pan with golden edges and she giggled at you and drenched them in the sweet autumn taste of maple syrup. Everything changes for the better.

You dropped her off at the gates and gave her an exaggerated wink. You watched her every step as she walked away from you. Back at your home you made a cup of coffee. You poured in the milk and watched it spread out in shapes and swirls that made you think back to watching clouds as a child when you laid on the front lawn and imagined a life lived in the sky full of princesses and castles and dragons that could be defeated by following the rules and being kind to strangers who would whisper secret warnings in your ear.

You wrote a careful grocery list on a scrap of flower patterned stationary: the roses are red. The phone rang as you were leaving the house and you let it go. You heard it ringing and ringing and stop.

It doesn’t bother you until later when you are feeling the cold spreading everywhere and your mind is rapid firing through every random thought and you fall back to the memory of that ringing phone and who it might have been and how you might have stopped and taken that extra minute. Years ago you would have answered on the first ring hoping to hear the voice that you had longed for. That was years ago. Ringing and ringing and then it stops.

You had been so close to being at the store. You were going to pick up candles for her birthday cake that you would bake tomorrow. It was going to be chocolate with whipped cream and strawberries; strawberries even though they were out of season but you knew how much she loved them. Her smile outlined in strawberry juice. You were going to get trick candles; the kind that won’t go out even as you blow and blow and waste away your breath on them. That was the kind of joke that you knew that she would love and you can hear her laugh which sounds like the chimes that hung on your porch the summer before everything became weighted with the pressure of something different. You remember that myth about souls and feathers but not what it was supposed to mean. The wind would blow and blow and the chimes would sound so soft and that is how you could always tell when it was going to be a perfect day.

It is the light on. The house on the corner; the one that you have passed so many times before without noticing, it has a green porch light. It is December and it has been so cold but without any real snow. It’s not going to be a white Christmas. You know that she’ll be disappointed. You wish that there was a way to make everything that she wanted come true. It is the light on and you are just driving onto the bridge; you see the light and you smile halfway to some memory. It is in the moment between the light and the memory that you hit the ice that you never saw.

The cold is unreal. It is yesterday and tomorrow and everything undone; snowflakes on your tongue when you were six, the car stalling in the dark that night, and the water as it filled your lungs. The cold is changing. This is the way it feels. This is the way it feels. Ringing and ringing and then it stops. The sound of ice. The sound of chimes. And it stops.

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You Beat Until You Break

*Note to my two readers: I was cleaning out my saved files of writing and came across this flash fiction like story(?) from 5 or so years ago.

So, I wait. I wait for it to upload. I wait for the numbers to change on my inbox. I refresh every few seconds. I wait for the phone to ring. I see a number I don’t know and let it go to voicemail. I dial voicemail and the message is a mistake, a wrong number, a false start. I wait to get new texts. I check each new one and they are always from the same group of people. I hit reply or I hit delete or I pause and wonder over one that was sent randomly or by mistake. I got one that asked if I was going to the party. I got one that asked if I was alright. I got one that had number signs forming a heart. I hit delete. Delete. Delete. I wait for the letter in the mail, but who sends letters anymore. It’s just bills and catalogues and bills. I wait for class to be over. I watch the clock tick in slow-mo. I wait for the push back of the chair and the vault to the air outside. I wait for work to end. I spin in my chair and I answer the phone. Ring. Pick-up. Sound cheerful. Answer questions. Be polite. Hang-up. Ring and repeat. I wait for the water to boil. I wait for the pasta to cook. I wait for the news to come on. I watch the headlines carefully. I watch every news story. I look into every picture of every crowd. I wait for the day to get over. I wait for the clock to hit eleven. I wait to fall into bed. I wait to fall asleep. I never fall asleep until I don’t think I will be able to sleep. I wait for the dreams to get over with. I wait for the next day to start. I wait for it to start over again. Be polite. Repeat.

A list of things I lost the year I was eight. I lost a 25 cents bouncy ball from Piggly Wiggly. It was a brilliantly off shade of red with silver sparkles in it. I threw it high up into the air above the basketball court. I wanted a big bounce. I don’t remember it coming back down. I lost a piece of blue sea glass I found at the beach. I don’t remember where. I think it fell through a hole in my pocket. I lost a story that I wrote. I lost—

There are sounds we keep. The sound of a glass breaking and the way that our feet avoided the shards in a sort of dance without elegance. The sound of waves cracking against the stones. The sound of voices at the top of the overlook. The sound of laughing at the back of the movie theater. The sound behind those songs that you picked out for me, the summer that we stayed apart. The sound of that mix CD put on a continuous loop, so that every time it ends it starts. The sound of the phone ringing in the house before I went in. The sound like it was coming from a television show and I could reach out through the screen and pick it up. The sound of lasagna sizzling as it comes out of the oven. The sound of rain, the kind of rain that falls and twists, crawling down the window panes, and glancing down your face. The sound of champagne that you only hear if you put your ear to the glass and listen. The sound of fists against my chest until there was only the crack of
silence.

Here are the photographs of the trip up the river that we took that summer. I have one of the road with the cool name that you thought was ridiculous and I thought was perfect. I never wrote that poem about it like I wanted to, though. There’s one of the overlook. It was awesome. You could see the water for so long that it turned into the sky. If I have five perfect moments, that was one of them. I took the photo, but it doesn’t really capture what I saw. I never was meant to be a photographer.

I found your notebook in a box. I didn’t read it. The words were smudged. I told you not to write in pencil. You wrote in pencil because you couldn’t stand the idea of your words being permanent. What an idiot.

Lemon pudding so tart that it shocks, but there is whipped cream on top which cuts the sour and smoothes the taste buds. Naan bread with onions and mixed seeds, topped with hot onion chutney.

There are shelves and shelves of books which line the walls, occasionally I will run my fingers over the spines. I will feel the pages of the books and I will imagine the stories that might be unfolding within them.

There is a list of things I meant to tell you. A list of numbers and names on the fridge, people I meant to call. A list of things I thought that I would miss and a list of things that I do miss. I keep some of the lists in a box. I keep the box on a shelf in the closet, near the top, and almost out of reach. I don’t read those lists.

The water looks unsettling today, like there are things that circle just below the surface. Step right in and up to your knees.

E-mails and phone rings and lists to keep you up. A box of photographs, food, and books that you will reread. Music pours from the speakers. Voices echo down the hall, a conversation that bounces back to where it started. You will wait up for me, you will watch the clock as each minute ticks by, and you will understand how silence enfolds you in its embrace only before it breaks.

So, I wait. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

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A List of Things I Meant To Tell You; But That Probably Wouldn’t Change Anything

I could meet you again twenty years from now and you will look the same; my memory will age you so that I always know you anywhere. After we first met I used to have dreams about you, always walking ahead of me and turning around corners just out of my sight. The truth is that I used to think that was some kind of sign. The truth is that I used to think that I was a piece of salt that refused to melt. The truth is I never finish puzzles because at a certain point I always lose interest. The truth is that I always say that I lost the pieces.

I drink more coffee than I should because of you and now my heart beats a little too fast. I always have trouble falling asleep. I dream sometimes of cities that don’t exist and they are places where I might find you if I could find them on a map. I’ve never been across an ocean. I’ve never learned a language; not really, not completely. I’ve never given myself over to anything completely. Sometimes I wake up and you’re not there and I think that I’m a ghost. I used to be scared of ghosts. I used to be scared of what I thought I couldn’t see. Now, I’m scared of what I know I can’t see. There are some things we never see coming.

I think that you’re like the last line of a song I can’t stop singing. You’re the stained glass window of my childhood home. You’re the story I told so many times that my tongue reformed with the shape of you. I’ve never wanted anything so much. I always wanted to believe that I didn’t need anything. The first time I said your name it warmed my mouth like hot chocolate.

I can be stupid. I don’t admit to my failings. I think I saw the end of the world once; there were pictures of people with ash on their skin. I used to have the habit of leaning back in chairs and staring at lights until I imagined that I could see the face of God. I stopped believing in everything when I realized I didn’t want to believe in anything that I could lose.

You’re the one thing I kept meaning to believe in. Now I miss you more than sleep, more than the sky, even more than sound; I would give up every song I’ve ever sung along to, the waves crashing on the lake that lulled me to sleep one summer, the chorusing peeper frogs, the wind through the field where I ran as a child.

I miss you. I’m sorry. I keep hoping that, maybe, in twenty years you’ll recognize me first.

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