He has never been fond of them, the way they crawl under his skin,
haunting him, invisible but there,
right within his bloodflow, passing through every inch of his body
and his heart, ripping,
all he could taste is the bitter iron of despair. It makes him hurt
in ways never known; the longing for all the things he had lost, or
rather, let himself lose. Precious cargo at the bottom of the sea.
II. But sitting on the shore, moon alight
on the waves in silver crests, wind in his face with the rage of
dying summer, he can not help but pull at the scars, pull them open
until he’s bleeding with wonder: Has he chosen wisely? Or is he just
a sailor abandoning course at the siren’s call, never realizing his
mistake until it is far too late? His shadow is deep crimson at his
heels, dripping with the evidence of sins he could not scrub off no
matter how much he scrubbed with brine and trembling fingers. It
spews forth images, a steady haunting, his own personal hell; acts of
a life far away from salvation.
III. The old boat, moored to the pier
beside the house, a spiderweb of knots and rope tangled around its
single mast. Autumn seized the gulf with rusty fingers, decaying
breath giving rise to waves more cruel than usual. It was like
Umberlee herself rose from the depths to touch briny fingers to the
dark bellies of stormclouds. The view had a strange beauty, he had
found, longing rolling through his chest like thunder, leaving
aftershocks in his heart that no prayer could soothe. He wished she
would take him with her, down, down, until light and life seemed like
It’s some lazy afternoon in the summer. One of those in-between months, between seasons, between obligations. Andrew and Neil had slept in, went for a run, and now they’re strewn across the couch for a day full of absolutely nothing. Savoring the quiet days, alone in their apartment.
Andrew’s leaning against one arm of the couch, pretending to read. He has his legs stretched out in front of him, the bottoms of his feet resting lightly against Neil, where he sits at the other end with a cat in his lap. And then suddenly, there’s the second cat, slinking along the back of the couch, right up to Neil’s face, licking his cheek and rubbing its nose against him: Give me attention.
Andrew says, “Your cat thinks it’s a dog.”
Andrew’s still as wary of the cats as they are of him, hence Neil as the only current recipient of affection. Andrew neither likes nor dislikes them; they haven’t been around long enough for him to have formed an opinion. He likes to claim he can’t tell the difference between the two. (He can.)
“Our cat,” Neil says. “And I’d say he thinks he’s you.”
So Andrew regards the cat nuzzling Neil’s face. He does not do this. Okay, no that’s not true, he knows he does, but to a far less nauseating degree, and not nearly enough for the cat to be mimicking the behavior. Andrew had not, however, thought Neil had noticed.
Neil turns and reaches a hand up to pet the cat, to scratch between its ears, leans to maybe kiss the top of its head as it starts to purr.
This is when Andrew realizes that he might have a problem: the occasional (uncontrollable) urge to press his face to Neil’s face, specifically, the side of his face, and maybe, while doing so, lay a kiss somewhere in the vicinity of his cheek.
But right now, instead, he is glaring at a cat.
“Are you jealous?” Neil asks.
Andrew doesn’t think such nonsense warrants a response, but, steadily, and with malice, “Of your cat?”
Andrew says nothing.
“If you are, you have my permission to do something about it.”
Andrew drags his gaze from the cat back to Neil’s face. “I have your permission to get rid of the cats?”
“No, I was thinking something we’d both enjoy.” A challenge as well as an invitation.
Andrew stares at Neil (and cats) for another full minute before tossing his book and crossing the couch, kneeling over Neil, and pressing their foreheads together. But that’s it. He can feel Neil’s breath on his lips, can see Neil’s smile in his eyes as they stare at each other awkwardly from this too-close distance. Distance that’s begging to be closed, and Andrew can think of all sorts of directions in which he could take Neil’s permission.
But he takes none of them. For one, he wasn’t actually gunning for this, at the moment. Also, there’s still a cat sleeping in Neil’s lap between them, and another clawing at his shoulder.
So Andrew sighs and slides his head around the side of Neil’s and brushes his lips across his cheekbone. Not a kiss. Kind of a kiss. Another too long moment before he pushes himself up from the couch, leaving Neil alone with his cats while he goes to make coffee.
Andrew may have a problem, but he’ll admit to nothing. This is yet another bad habit he’ll have to kick, though unlike the rest, there’s technically nothing destructive about this one, and as such he doubts Neil cares this time; selfish reasons. Some bad habits never hurt anyone, and after what has actually been years of this, Andrew is pretty sure there’s no going back.
(this has been part three in the unofficial cheek kissing series.) (that cat needs chill. but so does andrew.)
1. sometimes the only thing in your way is you (move).
2. you should know this by now: people will always surprise you. you are never the only one - ever. there is someone who feels the same as you (about anything, about everything), someone who will be there when you call at 2 am. people will surprise you - let them.
3. sad truth: you will blink and the moment will be gone. so you can choose: document or be in (or both, but you’ve never been great at multitasking). either way, don’t forget to live.
4. there is always hope.
5. some days are harder than others; some weeks, some months. that’s just the way it is. but you will have family, and friends, and God, and kind strangers, and good books, and sunrises, and thunderstorms - it will be hard, but you will be okay.
6. okay is enough. it will sometimes feel like you need to be doing more than okay, better than okay. but sometimes just okay is enough (sometimes it has to be).
7. leave nice, selfless, comments on people’s social media posts; strangers and friends alike. it will make your heart warm and light, and i guarantee, no matter who they are, it will make their day.
8. simple math: if you give everything and receive nothing you will be empty. so darling, use your words wisely. some people deserve paragraphs; essays, handwritten letters, poems in which the title bears only their name. but others, the ones who take and do not give, the ones that use and use and use, they barely deserve a sentence - do not waste your ink on them.
9. your daydreams are never reality. (there will be days when they come very close)
10. change is inevitable. find a way to deal with it (dance in the dark, dance in broad daylight, cry until you have emptied your soul. scream your curses against the universe, sing about the lonely that is eating you from the inside out - SING. make mixtapes full of songs that still mean something, write letters you actually send, close your eyes and pretend), do whatever you have to do. deal with it (safely. please be kind to yourself and stay safe).
11. drink water. oh man, drink so much water.
12. don’t be so afraid to love. the mixtape you gave your friends gave you, in return, text messages that said “i cried, thank you,” requests for music recommendations, and more text messages that said the things you have been waiting years to hear. don’t be scared to love, because the people you love? they love you too.
13. not everything is meant to be poetry.
14. talk to people. don’t let regret pile up only to find out it was all a misunderstanding.
15. you have a voice, a beautiful voice. you have things to say, and you have the means to say them. fear is overrated; you have a voice - use it.
16. you are alive. you are full of LOVE; you have in you the beauty that makes up sunrises, and sunsets, and mid-day shadows, and autumn leaves, and fields of wildflowers, and blurry pictures. you are alive, dear, you are proof that empty can be full, that hopeless can be turned hopeful. all the light that a full moon exists to reflect is carried within you; you hold a world of possibilities. breathe in and let the air shock your lungs; don’t ever forget, don’t ever forget - you are alive, and you are enough.