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the perfect euphony of his hands. a soft maestro charming her rusted harmonies and coiled melodies. she would open her mouth slightly and find reassurance in nursing from his pliant probing. his fingers could be everywhere. there was the conviction of his broad palm. she had heeded other conductors, other appendages, and in those moments her first instincts had been to fold in on herself, a flower that could not understand a moderate cold snap. this was different. the merest touch and the sea floor would inhale the dark ocean light followed by the swollen roil and churn of waves before giving way to a stranded calm on tranquil shores. the concept of death had frightened her since the first plucked strings of understanding as a child, but lying beside him, engulfed by him she could at last understand the allure of a body finally at rest, safe at harbor.
the lambent matrix of their flesh. the compulsion to detach and reattach. exploring various permutations, like trying to tally the infinite number of possible combinations among multiple categories one by one while purposefully renouncing a simpler mathematical formula. there was an integrity in taking things slowly. the sum alone could never be as compelling as the manipulation of the constituent integers by themselves. together they explored the depths of space and often found themselves lost among the stars light years from home stranded in exile plotting a course decided by chance rather than reason or a rudimentary understanding of astrophysics. having their head in the heavens their feet upon the shifting sands their hearts trapped somewhere in between gave the fleeting impression they could have it both ways.
the imagined sangfroid of her contentment. obeying his touch would conceal the words for which her ears would patiently await. he could not seem to arrive at a fully formed sentence. the words would sound right but the tone was off. his adam’s apple seemed a more honest indicator, often between gulps seen trying to block him from saying something it knew he could not honor. the words would rattle through the pipes but never quite escape without some manner of collateral damage. she had learned to save questions for moments when his eyes regained a specific opacity. his voice had a rough quality after he had polished off a quarrel of drinking, as if the sandpaper of his tongue was too coarse for words made of tissue. the hidden hinges of her heart needed the oiling of his calm reassurance but her mind was having such difficulty arriving at a translation that could soften the original glottal deception of his labile elocution.
the handsome debris of corrupted consonants and vain vowels. more like fondling the integrity of emotions. chaos taunts order. prolongs pretending. intermissions would involuntarily tame the monotony of his explanations for the compulsive bouts of abstinence. after days of smoking and drinking and gratifying they would need lulls to navigate the boundaries of their compromised rectitude as if the wastrel passage of time could help them regain control of their contumacious compunctions. the better to deny the various infections wrought by dancing to music designed by master composers meant to encourage mere mortals to confuse perception with sentiment. her paranoia was one such parasite. meanwhile, guardian angels continue to blow whistles of warning that regrettably remain one pitch higher than her ear can discern.
Say My Name
I got the most boring name in the world – John. Almost everyone I met got the same name, but at least they have a second name. John Michael, John Paul, John Vincent, John Everything. But me? I’m just plain ol’ John. But as if calling me John is the hardest thing, people would call me with different names. Johnny, Jon-Jon, Jay-Jay, Juan, J. Johnny Boy. It drives me crazy, hell yeah it makes me want to cut everyone’s throats – Johnny Boy, for pete’s sake? But I let the raging, grade school boy me get used with those nicknames up until I reached college. No one really knows my real name, they all thought that John is short for Johnny or that I have a second name. One time, my classmates all called me Mark, believing I’m John Mark.
I asked my mother why she didn’t come up with a much planned and thought of kind of name. She said my father’s name was John, but she’s not sure what came next after it. So, for sentimental reason, she named me John. How I hope I was able to meet my father and tell him how I feel like an accident. How I feel so nameless even if I have the name of half the population of the world. How I feel so incomplete with just a name – without knowing my father’s surname, without my own father, without knowing who I really am. When mother went with another guy she met in Hong Kong, she never went back here in the Philippines. She sent me a letter, apologizing for her need of love and promising me that she will still send me money. I wrote a letter back, saying “Don’t forget to ask the guy’s surname.”
I then met this girl and she calls me John. Just plain John. It was the first time I felt that somebody knew me for who I really am. It was during in our social dance class, and our trainer assigned her as my partner. She asked for my name and said “Nice meeting you, John.” with no other questions asked, with no suggestions for a nickname. We would eat lunch and walk up to the jeepney terminal together. We would tell stories about our childhood and our secrets about the professors we love to hate. A good company, that girl. One time, she invited me to have dinner over their house. She introduced me to her parents and to her brother. They seem to like me; they didn’t even asked awkward questions and threatened me with to stop hanging out with her. No, no confrontations like those. It might be because I seem very quiet and very reserved, that they didn’t see me as someone who might put their daughter into danger. I’m glad too that they allowed me to come to their house almost every day, without posing the question “Are you courting our daughter?”
Because I am sure as hell that I won’t.
One afternoon, when her parents were still at work, she told me that we should go to their house to “practice”. Being used with it, I went with her. When we reached their home, she said she’ll cook something for our merienda. I stayed by the living room, flicked through the channels and switched the TV off when I failed to see any interesting shows. I walked around the house and went outside to sit by the garden. Then I heard someone singing – a deep, solid voice of a man. It was her brother, sitting by the veranda, strumming his guitar, singing a song I’ve never heard before. He stopped when he noticed I was watching him and called me. I went beside him and asked what he was playing. He said it was a song he wrote. He scratched his head and smiled, saying it was the first time someone heard him singing the song he wrote. He continued singing and at the end of the song, he asked “You like this?”
I answered that I like this. This. And I fell in love with him, and now you can call me Joanna.
The astronomer never received guests anymore. Looking at his vein-wrinkled arms, the astronomer thought they looked brittle, as if sculpted from some corroding obelisk. His old friends, all scholars and townspeople, had already passed away. He remembered fondly their talks of leaving this country and returning home to retire. But everyone knew they had more people here than back home. People in the homeland don’t live as long as people here. So his friends were gone and even the astronomer’s daughter was off some place far away. She could even be in heaven for all he knew.
As for the astronomer himself, he never had much desire to travel or leave; he had the very depths of the sky to live in. And besides, his friends were here and he had his daughter. He used to look at her, radiating warmth between his bony arms, and think to himself, “Even I have a daughter;” he would think, “Even I.”
When she was young, the astronomer’s daughter would sometimes come and sit on his lap as he worked in his observatory. He would tell her about the stars and how each dot was like a sun. She asked him how come they’re so small, if they are suns. He told her they are very far away. In fact, he added, they are so far away that we may only be seeing their light. A star may be gone already but the light it radiated could still be traveling to here and giving an impression of life. So, then, his daughter asked, if we kept moving away from the star, could it live forever? And he told her, It might live longer but it would only grow smaller. He wondered if she had listened to him.
One clear autumn night, the astronomer let his daughter look into the telescope, and then, for some reason, that particular time, she wouldn’t let go of it. She told him the sky looked so beautiful and that she wanted to find some place just like it on earth. She looked intensely into the sky where some lights were dead and some alive but all still warmly bright. With the whole morning ahead of her, she said to her father the astronomer, “Please, don’t let the sun rise tomorrow.”
Sitting in his lonesome observatory, the astronomer thought of where his daughter might be and clasped his hands together. He joined his trembling arms and wished with all his might to hear her ask of him again, please make the night live forever.
Do You Trust Your Friends? (Part 1)
Quit ordered another round of drinks. Yes, the man’s name was Quit, which made him the angriest sonofabitch on this earth. It also made him one of the savviest, earning him the obscure title of Assistant Controller at the same place Flint worked. The two met at some point early after Quit’s arrival, from there an odd friendship developed and carried out a full year to this point: together at a bar, Quit was strung out from something he wouldn’t tell and Flint was in no mood to drink.
The drinks came and Quit turned to Flint with his glass raised, a thin smile on his stubbled face. Flint raised his glass, wishing Quit would just tell him what the hell was bothering him. This uncharacteristic behavior was a little unnerving and the alcohol wasn’t helping.
“You have to help me drop out of town.”
Flint lolled his head and knitted his brows, thinking this was a little too dramatic for him on a Monday night. He drained his glass and stifled a retch.
Quit continued. “I’m serious. Like, soon. Maybe next week, I think.”
“What happened?” Flint set the glass down.
“You know Vera, the girl that works in accounting?”
Yes, Flint knew her. She was very bawdy and lovely woman of thirty who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. They struck up a brief and confusing relationship that culminated with her leaving for another man. He never took it personal and through that they kept in touch. He just hoped she didn’t hook up with this crazy character named Quit.
“Yeah, things are bad.” His voice was shaky and he flagged the bartender.
“I didn’t know you two were an item.”
Quit chuckled. “You’re the only other person that knows.”
“OK, so what happened?” I couldn’t really care what happened between them, but I wouldn’t rule out things getting a little physical.
“Well, we were at her place.” The bartender arrived with another drink for Quit, which he rapidly knocked back and grunted. “Things were hot and heavy—we were all over each other—but then she gets cold.”
Flint rolled his eyes. “You didn’t, I take it?”
Quit shook his head. Flint wanted to smash the man’s head into the bar and get the hell out before he knew too much, but it was already too late to walk away from this one. He flagged the bartender.
“How bad is it?”
Flint gasped. “Is she pressing charges?”
“She hasn’t told anyone, I don’t think.”
“Are you going to surrender?” Flint didn’t need to ask. He knew Quit too well.
“Are you kidding?” Quit sputtered. “That shit’s, like, a felony, isn’t it?”
Flint got up from his stool and laid a couple of bills on the counter. The lousy sonofabitch looked lousier than Flint had ever seen before, with his long hair coming undone from the band keeping it back. The man’s eyes blindly searched the bar top in front of him. His mind was working on a way to get him out of this.
“I’ve got a trip coming up this weekend,” Flint said after putting his wallet away. “A not-on-the-map location in New England, all weekend. I get back Sunday, and if you haven’t decided to turn yourself in then I will. If you’re still around, that is.”
“You’d turn me in?” His eyes were wide with surprise. “But I thought we were cool.”
“I don’t dig on rape, Quit.”
“Neither do I!”
“You have until Sunday night.” Flint curtly saluted Quit and turned to leave the building.
At the time Flint got the call, he and Sara hadn’t been communicating. They weren’t in the throes of a fight or even mad at each other, but for whatever reason just stopped talking.
For Flint, it was the overwhelming suspicion Sara cheated on him. However many times was irrelevant Just (the thought of) once was enough to put his passion to sleep. He loved her beyond measure, and the night he got home late from a concert to find on Sara’s night stand the very pin he saw on one of her co-workers when they first met. At the time he thought the pin made him look like an uppity douchebag, but seeing it by itself on his nightstand made him want to upend the entire bedroom with rage. The next morning it was gone.
Three months passed. Flint never mentioned it and Sara never brought it up, though each day a wedge drove them further and further apart. And so fell apart the relationship until their time together was a hilarious dog-and-pony show—all smiles to the public, a rotting, black void between them.
It was on one of those countless nights spent not talking to each other Flint’s cell phone rang and displayed a number he didn’t recognize. Assuming it was some Hindu-accented telemarketer, he answered with the intent to give the bastard a piece of his mind.
“Take me off your damn call list, you hear me?” Flint found the most gravelly voice he could muster. “I want nothing!”
“It’s me, Vargas!” blurted a small voice on the other end. “Trujillo, remember?”
“Yeah, from college. It’s been a while.”
“A while” was the understatement of the year. Vargas Trujillo was a psychopath and a fiend in college, hosting parties Flint was sure had become legends spread across campuses nationwide. The bastard was obnoxious, and if you didn’t like it—go fuck yourself. He disappeared halfway through the final semester before graduation without a trace, and while there were some colorful stories about the reasons why, Flint was sure they didn’t come close to the truth.
“Yeah,” Vargas answered. “Been doing real good lately.”
“As opposed to… bad?”
“There were some hard years.” Vargas mumbled a reply. “Had a girlfriend, lost her, nearly starved to death in New York, clawed my way out of a hell of a shit hole.”
Flint paused. “That’s—I’m glad to hear it. Can I help you with something?”
“Yes you can.” Vargas’s voice was all smiles. “Are you doing anything this coming weekend?”
This couldn’t be anything other than a famous Vargas request. Even after ten years he sounded like the way a greasy coin stings the taste buds on the tongue.
“What do you need?”
“I got a place up here in Massachusetts, near the Berkshires, that could use some sprucing up.”
Flint was about to reply in the negative, unsure he wanted to spend any amount of time with someone he hadn’t seen in a decade and who he considered to be the king of party animals. But then there was Sara, blithely watching her TV show, sprawled on the sofa with an exquisite combination of humor and sadness on her face.
“Count me in,” Flint said at length. “I’ll need directions and times.”
I saw you on the street today and it was sad
The way I averited my gaze
the way I felt ugly
the way I could feel my face melting off my cheek bones onto the sidewalk
like candle wax.
I think about how different my life is now
how difficult it is for me to function how I impulsively use
food to fill voids inside of me
that I never
realized were there.
As I write I smell the stale of my body on my sheets, in my bed, under my fingernails, between my teeth. My broken down horemones that don’t produce that sweet smelling stuff that used to come from my pores and coat all the worst parts of me. Not anymore.
All that’s left is broken bottles empty wine boxes cigaret butts in the bottoms of used glasses strewn about my apartment. Lentils crusted in a bowl clean laundry has been in a pile on the empty half of my bed for weeks. I feel broken. As if I have forgotten how to be unbroken. But this is a lie.
You reflected the best parts of me and your secrets were so large they left mine in your shadow. I became an expert at pretending the only problems in life were the ones like yours; the ones that people don’t survive without scars. permanent damage to personality traits.
Your life made my problems feel small and insignificant in the wake of all your pain, all your razor sharp truths.
I saw you on the street today and I wanted to ask how you were holding up where you were living if you had been eating well if grandma donna was alive; all I could manage was to watch my face drip down my bones like candle wax and harden in droplets on the floor.
and painful like
trying to embrace
with closed eyes
while holding machetes.
The Astounding Mr. Ess (Prologue)
The first time I traveled through time was amazing.
I discovered two things that day. One, that time travel was possible. And two, it’s possible to change the past without affecting the future.
People think about time travel like it’s linear. They go from their point in time, to an earlier point, and if something changes back there, it changes where they came from. But the reality is, if something in the present is different when you get back, then it’s not the present; it’s a different present.
Some of this overlaps with the idea that there’s an infinite number of universes out there. That time you forgot to tie your shoe, and you tripped? There’s a universe where you never tripped, because you remembered to tie your shoe. That universe is so slightly different, but different nonetheless.
On the same note, there’s a theoretically infinite number of universes where you did, and didn’t remember to tie your shoe. For example, there’s a universe where you remember to tie your shoes, but forget to wear a jacket, and it rains. There’s a universe where you forget to tie your shoe, but you don’t trip until slightly later, when your crossing the street, and you get hit by a car. From there, there’s an infinite number of possibilities as to which bones were broken, whether or not you left there paralyzed from the waist down, and even that you don’t survive the impact at all.
So when you travel back in time, only to return to your own timeline, you haven’t really changed anything at all. Perhaps your actions in the past create a parallel universe, branching off from your own. Perhaps, by going into the past at all, you can only be in another universe’s past, and it’s been predetermined that you are to have been there, and changed something. I mean, you’re not supposed to be in the past, so just your being there is displacing some air, or leaves, doing something to change things just from being there, anyway. Equally likely, what if your time traveling is really only going sideways, to another universe, where the present there, is just like the past in your universe?
You get where I’m going with this? If not, you’ll catch up.
So like I said, the first time I traveled through time was amazing. But the second time? The second time destroyed me.
Lay down with me. Take my hand underneath the sheet that covers us both and never let me go. I will kiss each finger softly as I succumb into the abyss of blind love. Run your fingers through my hair and kiss my forehead. Kiss my lips and take my pain away. Hold my head as if you do not ever want to let me go. Pull me so close even air could not pass through. Be with me; whisper all the things I want to hear; lies or not, I don’t care. For once, let me be the fool; let me drown into this euphoric illusion. Pour everything in me—may it be love or lust; gentle and passionate. Please, let me believe before the rays of the sun seep through the drapes, that I was once loved by you. I promise to leave softly as you sleep peacefully on the bed we once, and never will share again.
I think it is the things just unseen that are the most beautiful.
Like songs that whisper to you across a conversation, the ones that you stop listening to the chatter for, and instead sit and stare intently at the sound to hear every other note. Somehow the music is more wonderful this way, sharp with the newness of mystery, and within the room you and it flirt coyly, shyly, hidden by the indifference of others.
Like dreams that you forget upon waking, and only remember days later, and by then you find the time has leant its confusion to the pictures, by then you find yourself unable to tell if it was a dream or some dim and disparate memory from the blur of childhood. And you enjoy the slightly disordered thoughts, the wavering uncertainty, it lends a tone of colour to your day, as if you aren’t quite sure that you’re still dreaming.
Like a waft of long hair that flickers above the crowd on a bright day, and its tendrils catch the light just perfectly, before settling down to serenity amongst the ruffled plumage of bobbing heads. You wonder if you should follow her, perhaps to tell her about the difference that she made to your day, or perhaps only to see her face, but something in you decides that it would be a bad idea. That it would ruin the majesty of the moment, as if finding that such hair grew from the head of a human would be a disappointment to you.
It is these moments that define the hidden beauty in our lives, the beauty that slides gently from our minds when we think of roses and sunsets and vivid green eyes. But I think that it is these moments that are the most beautiful.That they gain something magical from lack of human attention.
Letters to Imaginary Lovers
If you tell me you enjoy lying in bed with eyes half closed listening to the background noise of people going about there lives outside your window then I will love you.
If you tell me that you lie awake at night thinking, hoping, that you will dream of love and - just this once - you will remember it all when you wake then i will love you.
If you tell me you struggle to get out of bed each morning and once you have finally made it outside you long to be back inside the warmth of your covers then I will love you.
If you tell me of your days and nights.
Of the time you wept alone in the cinema and no one would look at you.
Of the time you swam naked at the beach and no one would look away.
Of the time you missed your parents so much you drove 400 miles in the middle of the night to see them.
Of the time when you had no food in the house and none of the local restaurants would deliver to you because of the mountain of trash in your garden.
Of the time you punched that guy standing behind you in the checkout line because he wouldn’t get off his phone or stop swearing at whoever was on the other end.
Of the time it rained for 10 days straight and the gutters got clogged.
Of the time the old lady next door lent you a ladder to climb up on your roof to clean the gutters and you slipped on the wet tiles.
Of the days you spent in hospital and no one came to visit you.
Tell me your story please and I will love you.
I know almost nothing of you.
If you don’t want to I understand,
I’ll love you all the same.
There are mornings like this that when I wake up, I immediately look for that familiar presence of my mother. I look for that soft and pricking voice covering the stairways at 9 while she was cleaning our home and lecturing me while I’m asleep. You see, I can always feel my mother’s eyes behind my back though I don’t know if she is just watching over me or watching me and waiting for me to do the wrong thing. But this morning, she was not here. It’s Saturday and my mother’s not here when I trotted down the stairs, there was no one. The doors are locked, there’s cold food on the table and no one’s home. Just me. These are the kinds of mornings that I get too afraid of myself because I know that the door of sadness has just been opened and it is just waiting for me to sulk in it. Funny, I thought there are just a few things that can scare me. Like clowns and dolls and a sea of people but here I am thinking that I am alone again in this dark and lonely place inside of me. There is just no manual on how to overcome these kinds of loneliness, there’s no manual on how to break free from these chains that always remind me that I should only love myself and live only for myself. I don’t want this feeling. I am just afraid. Afraid that even my family will get tired of me and leave me too. Just like everyone else.
14. I’d lost it a year earlier and had already moved on to the next, and the next after that. One day my mother was shopping when, an aisle over, the second girl I’d been with muttered to her friend, “That’s Fredrick’s mom…Yeah, yeah, he was the one I was with last summer, the one with the big dick.”
My mother called me into her bedroom and paraphrased what she’d heard. I nodded. She asked if that girl had been my first. I figured the shock was enough already without saying I’d been at it for a while, so I just nodded again and left.
I went into the basement to paint. I heard talking upstairs, then footsteps. The door to the basement opened and my father came down. He was clearly embarrassed. He was not a man to talk about things too much, especially when they were literally called the Talk. Staying on the stairs, already half-turned to go back up them, he said, “You know everything already, right?”
The old man let out a sigh of relief, barely holding back a proud smile. One of only a handful I can remember—he thought I was queer for the longest time—and said, “Okay, good; lemme know if you need any condoms.”
I nodded. He grinned, “And, uhh, what that girl said at the store. That runs in the family,” he said, puffing his chest slightly.
He quickly went back up the stairs and was gone. He never even made mention of the fact that I was in the middle of painting a naked woman covered in ink splatters.
Sherlock Holmes and the Fourth Wall
“Watson,” said Holmes, “I’ve uncovered something rather strange. My evidence has been pointing now for quite some time to the fact that we are fictional.”
I smiled, certain that he was having a joke at my expense. “Well, I know you haven’t always approved of the writing style in my reports of your exploits, but I think that’s going a bit far …”
“No, you misunderstand me. You are not the author of those stories, but the first person protagonist. We are fictional, Watson. Think about it. You must have noticed, as I have, how the details that I detect seem to fill in as I explain them, how inadequately described you are. There has never been a good opportunity for the author to describe you, because you are written in first person, and thus do not observe yourself. It’s quite obvious really. I don’t know why I didn’t spot it sooner.”
“Holmes, this is ridiculous. Even if it is true, which I doubt, what do you intend to do about it?”
“Why, find the author, of course.”
The cab came to a stop at El Camino Real and Avenida Granada, “How much?”, I asked. “It’ll be $15.64.”, he said. I handed him a twenty and stepped out of the cab. I could smell the Pacific as I stepped out, but I could also smell smoke and booze. I hadn’t had a drink in six months, not by choice, it was my first night back in the country. I’d seen things in the last few months that Stephen King wouldn’t dare dream about. I was a stranger in my own bar again, I hesitated through the threshold. Should I fall back into this so soon? My plane had just touched down hours ago. Yes.
I looked into the parking lot and saw her civic parked there with the same sticker on the rear window, a smiley face that read, “Have a nice day!”. I could hear the waves crashing onto the earth in the distance. I thought of the homecoming my battalion just had, and all of the families and loved ones waiting for them in tears. I thought of how I walked away alone and asked to borrow someone’s phone to call a cab and a hotel near my bar; how I checked into my room and took the longest hot shower of my life before I set out to get drunk and forget the last six months. This wasn’t my first rodeo, I had done this before.
I told myself that I had a goal on my first night back, I need to drink 16 drinks tonight, for those who died while I lived. I didn’t need sex, I didn’t need good food, or someone to love me, or hold me, or cry over my return. I needed to honor the memory of those that didn’t come back with me, and this was the best place to do it. She didn’t remember me or my usual drink even though I had been a steady customer for months.
So I drank, and no one remembered me, but I remembered, and I drank.
I woke up the next day underneath a San Clemente Pier to the train running by, and the Pacific waves crashing in on me.
I called a cab to take me back to the hotel room I hadn’t slept in. “How much?”, I asked. “$16.23”, he said. I swiped my card, and I took the second longest hot shower of my life. I smoked in the hotel room, because I didn’t give a fuck about the cleaning fee.
And I drank.
I haven’t stopped since.
Tout ce que j’ai sont des mémoires.
“You know, you remind me of someone.”
Do I? Do I remind you of your first-grade teacher, where you first experienced infatuation as having, that mesmerizing smile she has on her face, every morning when you greet her with your chocolately grin? Or maybe that pigtailed pixie-face girl you once shared your ice-cream with, one gloomy Tuesday afternoon? Do my eyes give away that memory of you when you first caught a glimpse of your first love walking by the school gate after class, when everything in puberty seems like your first bicycle ride, wobbly and unassumingly exciting? Does my smile make you remember that kiss you had in the rain with your best friend’s girlfriend, when you both laughed it off but felt both your hearts got stung? When I laugh, what sound would immediately get inside your heart’s ears? Is it pleasant enough to make you talk to me over and over again, Or is it one of those masochistic memories you keep hearing in your brain, whenever her laughter swallows your control? Do you see courage when I walk with my head held high? Or do you wish to see the scars I try to stay hidden from the world? Do you know the songs that best describe a beautiful weather to me, or that perfect lyrics that gets me going when I feel nothing to live for? Do you picture me, a good mother one day? Or would I be happy enough, contented enough, or maybe even just, be loved someday? Did you ever noticed, when you first saw me, that I cry before sleeping and wake up numb? Do my girly clothes make you think I have a good enough childhood, or maybe I just love lavish extravagance? If I was word, naked and bare, in front of you, what word am I? Should I believe in fate, when you strewn words out of your lips like movie lines? Should I make myself, bite that curiosity you wish to share with me, on nights we humans hunger, the word ‘comfort’? Do I save myself my own embarrassment, or just let our necessities fall in place, in your bed, in mine? Do I leave you open for a memory, or just another line to use for another girl?
‘Well, whoever she is, I bet she fell for that line, too.”
In the end, the only treasures we could ever take to death are memories.
it feels like you’ve been clenching your teeth for twenty-one years. grinding bone until they are dust settled in your lungs which every winter you cough up into pillars of smoke. chimney shafts of tissue and wet parts. in the springtime you once kissed a boy who the night before had walked for hours along the train tracks. he spoke to his mother for the first time in months and felt such love. your lips pressed against each other in a parting, a final goodbye. a first and last kiss because you needed to taste each other.
the first time you met he was holding a sign with the name of your city in dark marker on it. you wanted to kiss him among the bushes of rhododendrons in the tree park. you both buried your noses and smelled them, he had never seen them before. he spoke about a botany class and told you about the blossoms and asked if you knew what he was talking about. you said yes, your mother loves to garden. he plucked a soft petal off and pushed it into his mouth. he ate it with a gentle sweetness. he said it was his way of knowing a plant, by its taste. you wished to kiss him to feel the crushed flower between your mouths and embrace the earth with tongue.
you took him to a stream and he gave you a handful of trail mix. you laughed at the differences in how you ate. he in large handfuls going into his mouth while you separated your favorite pieces for last. then he cut mangoes into halves and you both ate them till your hands were sticky but you were so happy. and you both washed your hands in the stream, cool waters taking away the messy pieces on your skin.
when you stood up he said you looked gorgeous with the flowers behind your head on the tree. and setting sun lighting up your orchid hair, ablaze in halos. and you knew you had to have your mouths joined like one fighting animal, gasping for air—if not for the sanctity of such a moment. you walked down past a fountain dried up of water with cherubs grasping its pillar like a mother’s leg. you imagined each other tangled up like the branches and roots shooting from the ground to wrap among other vegetation. and you smiled softly as his warm arm pressed against yours, mere whispers of skins greeting.
the day you kissed, his lips had been on your cheek. and you pressed forward to meet his mouth in simple wonder of farewells. a homeless woman sang you love songs when you kissed that boy for the first and last time. he was going home and you knew that your words would stop meeting each other in late night conversations on the phone. laughter after breakfast. you had needed this time together and now it has passed. you had shared your favorite words together. numinous, ethereal, imminent. you shared your favorite shades of color: phthalo, cerulean, amaranth. your last words to him were next time I will take you to breakfast. and he smiled and agreed, though you both knew it would never come to be.
that is the simplest of loves. a love needed for a moment. just one kiss.
We weren’t given this world, we had to take it. We touched everything, claiming a land that didn’t belong to us because there was nowhere else to go. We tumbled down grassy fields behind locked gates and stuffed greedy handfuls of sky into our pockets. We ate ripe berries from bushes that calloused hands had planted — our hands were smooth. We picked roses from unwatched gardens, thorns and all, because we lived only for each other and the whole world was our garden. Selfish, but unashamed, free. There was nothing we couldn’t have. And we always wanted the things in places too narrow for our fingers to reach, tiny wooden ships in glass bottles.