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Two Years Gone

I keep little notes in my phone of outfits I see on folks that look particularly nice. I write them down in a hurry.  Like this one:

  •   brown khaki jeans, white shirt, white nike runners with a blue swipe and gum soles

He was a student getting on the bus. Some people look nice in the easiest of ways, and he was one of them. I think he could wear anything and turn it into a note on my phone. Or this one:

  • worn black jeans, olive flats, beige sweater

I liked the way this girl walked around. She made her flats look cozy. She made her sweater look like it meant something to her. And:

  • dark blue dress, thin, light, with shiny mustard flats

Some folks have a confidence about them, and they radiate it right through the clothes wrapped around their body tight.

I ate eggs benedict on a sunday morning with avocado and black beans. I drank three mugs of coffee and scratched my ruffled hair and paid the tip. The lady who served us last time had a spiffy set of curls that bounced around and a sliver hoop in her nose that flickered under the diner lights. I spot her from afar, and she’s smiling all the same, just at a different booth.

We ordered a strawberry pancake and split it 70/30. It was too dry, so the syrup went on twice. The couple next to us kept threatening to leave: she stood up, fixed her shirt, crossed her arms, then sat down again. I’m no longer interested in keeping the black beans separate from the benedict so I throw it all together in some lazy casserole. It tastes good.

I think about the way people bond better over breakfast. I think about sweatpants and hangover teeth and the way lethargy makes your shoulders slouch. The way that stress won’t let you just sit down and take it easy for a minute. But breakfast at the diner doesn’t let you stress your shoulders up.

Across the glossy floor, at the table snug against the wall, I spot another note:

  • gray pants, light red shirt, white shoes

My head is down as I type it into my phone and the waitress snags the plates away. My arms fall over my belly and I grin. It’s good to eat. It’s good to be a human and eat a real nice meal. Two bright red credit cards hold down the receipt, keep it from floating off the table and onto the sticky floor.

I think about all the love I’ve shared over orange juice and waffles with whipped cream. I think about my heavy heart and the way the diners blend together. I feel it in my skeleton. Sometimes your smiling, naked cheeks, dimpled and full across the table shine right into my head, and I miss you. I miss all of you.

The sun blasts through the windows as we weave through the waiting crowd.

Into your apartment and onto the unmade sheets we wander. Our heads fall into the pillows and you toss your leg over onto me. Open your phone. Chuckle. I stare at the ceiling and wonder where the day will go. If our lazy will just keep moving through the moments. If we will lay here until monday. Your roommates aren’t home and the dusty air blankets the room. I play with your hair. You don’t notice.

There’s nothing to it, really. We’re just here, and it feels good.

Soon, I’ll be gone again, and I’ll leave you here, and I’ll do my best to remember all of this. I’ll make a note in my phone. The scent of your sweater nestled into my chest, the way it follows me home, all the way up the mountain and into my room. I’ll text you.

We’re awake, into the day. I notice you’re wearing the same thing you wore when we did this the first time:

  • black leggings, pink hoodie, canvas flats, big hair

I still see them now, two years gone, all those breakfasts.

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Ouroboros

When speaking to anyone, you must assume one of two things: the first is that their mother is dying, and the second is that they just made hot love.

When you assume these things, you will notice that is impossible to complain. I think we are being violent to our friends when we complain about anything to them, and even more so when we choose to be negative to those with whom we are less familiar.

Before you speak to your friends, consider the idea that their mother is dying.

Entertain this thought. Try to imagine what is living in their heart. Try to imagine tying your shoes in the morning, and losing the bunny knot, and erupting, because your mother, your mom, the one that taught you how to eat with a spoon, is not going to be around much longer. And you’ve known this for a while. It makes tying the bunny knot feel like an impossible task.

But you must tie your shoes, and make your coffee, and catch the bus, and go. So you push. And soon you receive a text saying:

“ugh, forgot my fucking lunch at home. kill me”

You bite your tongue. They don’t know, you think, don’t say anything. So you respond:

“mondays”

Such a fleeting, everyday, offhand and hyperbolized and unimportant comment. You know this, and yet somehow you feel worse. Your mother is dying, and kill me sticks to the gray tar lingering on your mind.

When you consider this, you will no longer want to yell at your friends. You will no longer want to complain about your exams, the traffic, the rain, the money on your credit card. You will likely not want to talk at all. You will see the weight they carry and try your best not to add to it.

What I’ve learned is that, no matter what, someone’s mother is dying, and most of the time they won’t tell you.

So you must assume.

You must also assume, in the fortunate event that their mother is in good shape, that your friend just made hot love. Today, he is quite jubilant, and is likely having one of those glowing, hopscotch, blue jay kind of mornings. Smiles and quick steps and holding doors.

You notice their bright yellow mood and squint your eyes through a mix of envy and disdain. How dare you prance about? My car broke down this morning, you sick fuck.

Like with a dying mother, this sick fuck is likely not going to tell you that he just got mega laid, either.

So you must assume.

And when you do this, you will again notice that the last thing that sick fuck wants to hear about is your shitty car battery. This is because his endorphins are raging through the roof on account of all the sweet, savory, sexy, sex he did this morning.

Soon, on account of all the complaining you haven’t been doing, you yourself will begin to notice the blue jays, the rain, the money on your credit card, your aging mother. You will see that you are desperately not unique in the face of a dying car battery. You will see that violence and death are indiscriminate, that traffic is an orgy, that you are now the one giving the exams.

You will see that all this, too, will happen to you (even the hot love).

And so, quite frankly, you shut the fuck up, make your coffee, and go.

It’s Monday.

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poem

Canary

In the desert, all wide-open,

and upside-down,

the yellow sun raked the sand.

and the six-toed ants

dug black holes into the crusty salt,

burrowing and dotting the earth with whiskers.

I saw in the glimpse of some hellbent mirage

the shape of your bellbottom hips

and sunday afternoon polka dot blouse,

the thought of it now bringing me cigarette tastebuds.

 

upside-down, I watched your vicious knees

bend to the sound of some distant trumpet horn,

your face snarled in a ragtime menace

your spine curved like a yellow fingernail

your hair ripping across the naked sky like a dragster on asphalt,

I could not breath, like coughing,

everywhere ashes coated my molar gums

and burned my thirsty eyes

and the terrific razor scream of that hellish brass

rattled through that big old place,

that big old empty space, that desert.

 

In the desert, all wide-open,

and upside-down,

the yellow sun raked the salty sand.

and the orange sky squints like cataracts

through that fingerpaint blur

to find your face sour like lemons

and cold with thick disdain.

as my knuckles hang like rope in howling winds

and echoes sing your body song

a dance atop the whiskers,

the ants swallowed in the tremors

the ants buried in their home.

 

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Musings

I’m a sucker for striped shirts and empty white hair.

There’s something strangely human about opening the door of your home and knowing if someone else is there. You know before they speak, or turn the faucet, or close the underwear drawer. As if they left their presence on the threshold.

All of us have friends who are mad at us. They get mad the moment we start to do what we want and cease to do what they want. Ultimately, it’s a matter of possession. We want to own our loved ones the same way we own our favorite jeans. We confuse what ‘trustworthy’ is; i.e. it is the jeans that are always there for you.

There is a girl who stands taller than she really is. It’s because she talks about bigger things. She orders an Apricot Blonde and her voice gets loud when the conversation becomes about dreams. About ambitions. People are surprised to learn she isn’t six feet. She acts like it, though, and it reminds me of the word ‘monumental’.

“Everybody’s crazy.  Nobody makes sense,” she says.

I don’t know how they did it, but Zeppelin found the human spirit and plastered it on a vinyl saucer.

The reason I run so much is because of a lady at a race. She held up a sign that said ‘One day, you will not be able to do this.‘ I think the same goes for coloring your hair and going on dates and drinking liquor in swimming pools. I feel like there’s not enough time. It makes me think about the word ‘urgency’.

Plump, red grapes are Earth’s way of saying ‘you deserve this.’  They remind me of globes.

The reason everything is such a mess is because:

a) we think we are right, or
b) we are okay with being wrong.

My roommate and I scrubbed our shower before I left for the summer. He said “you can’t clean anything without getting something else dirty.” This thought has haunted me since.

Remember that nobody is ever impressed by how much you hate something.

Sometimes Monday morning feels like throwing a party when you’re hungover. I imagine this is what the first ten years of having kids is like.

There is a tangible energy abuzz in the air of a night when seemingly everyone else is doing something, together, and you are witnessing it from afar, alone. Fridays and New Year’s Eve are notorious for providing this nagging sensation.

Sometimes you can just think of someone’s gigantic laugh and turn yourself hysterical. I encourage you to try. This is especially fun in places where tension thrives, like a room in the library or the DMV. You start giggling and it draws the glances of the miserable, which only elevates the stress, wheeling the hilarity round and round like a hurricane.

I think all things melancholy are born on Saturday afternoons.

Few skills are more magnetic than knowing how to tell a good story. Along the same lines, saying someone’s first name, mid-sentence, when the conversation is thick with good thoughts, is wildly arousing.

One of the best ways to ease your mother’s mind is to take good care of yourself. When you are doing well, and you are healthy, and you are happy, it is the same as saying “I love you, too.”

The best part of taking photos is that in the moment, everything is unexciting, and routine, and nothing is special. Yet, when you look again, years later, when sprawled across the carpet, real magic appears. A photographer is like an angel from your future who paints a life your memory forgot.

I have all these photos of the people I love. I like looking at them, and I like looking at you.

I wanna look at you again.

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Twenty-Six and Two

I run because of Key Lime yogurt.

I run because the world is loud.

I run because I can’t always be honest.

I like the way that running breaks the calloused mind. I like talking with the truth: the little voice hiding underneath the fluff of the everyday static. I like digging for the clarity. I’ve gone to running when stuck between the most difficult choices of my life. I like the way running always makes the harder choice.

I think running is preparing me, in some way, for the death of my mother.

I run because I’m a terribly average runner, with all due respect.

I run because its glamour is measured in streaks of salt across flushed cheeks and sore knees.

I like the way running is not an escape. I like the way running makes everything else feel like an escape.

I run because it’s sexy and raw and unkempt and in a mess.

I like that everywhere is somewhere to run. I like that I don’t have to pay anyone to go outside. I like running over crosswalks and under bridges and through the city wind.

I run because race bibs make me look stupid. I always think my bib is ten times bigger than everyone else’s, and that it’s slightly crooked, and that the safety pins will make permanent runs in the polyester.  I’m never right.

I like feeling light. I like the way a skeleton can stretch. I like gliding around downtown and putting music on. I like sweaty socks and bitter breath and watching it all pass by.

I run because running is a parasite. I run because it bites back. I think we all need something to shove. We crave the fight. I like running because it picks on me. I like the way a bad race can ruin a week. I like the motivation that haunts defeat.

I like that running is never enough: that it keeps me thirsty.

I like the way running makes water taste so goddam good.

I like running because I’m clumsy and lanky and have always been the ‘kid in glasses.’ I like that it’s real hard to run in glasses.

I run because we sit down too much. Because we eat poison. Because it fills the lungs with air, clearing the smoke. I like the way the body glows, afterwards, like heroin, or making love. I like when I finally catch my breath.

I run because of short shorts and tanned thighs and naked collarbones. I run because it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself for ten miles. I like running because runners are happy (because it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself for ten miles). I like runners because they’re happy (and they’re the kind of people you want to be). I like runners because they’re happy (and happiness is hot).

I run because it’s hard and good and relentless.

I like collapsing into bed. I like earning it. I like studying my splits and searching for hills and chipping off the seconds. I like the way running makes the seconds matter. I like eating bananas. I like pushing around the thick in my calves. I like thinking about running all day. I like being obsessed.

I like closing my eyes to the sting of sweat. I like opening my eyes and seeing purple flowers. I like the hellish infinity of a long, straight road. I like exhaling it out.

I like the way they look at all of us when we run together. I like the high fives from the dog-walkers. I like the couples holding hands. I like the city folk. I like their rubber necks.

I run because I can feel it all over.

I like the way it feels all over.

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Ode to the Crush

For it all began with a crush.

It was the little red notebook that she wrote in, leather-bound, filled to the crisp with tanned leaflets. It was the static of her bun stuck to the chair after the film while names spilled across the silver. It was the clumsy haste with which she peanut-buttered her english muffin, which crumbled into like a thousand crumbs all over the damn place, and then the way she cusped her palm and broomed them into a tiny pile, a tiny mountain of muffin crumbs.  It was the way the knife was glued to the saucer on account of all the peanut-buttering.

It was her sweet voice across the coffee shop:

“I called my brother today.”

The crush is ethereal and innocent. It is a buzz between strangers. It is the flickering romance in the nonchalance of the everyday. The crush is transient and mischievous and drunken whimsy. The crush has sane men falling in love with a pair of worn canvas shoes, falling in love with kneecaps peeking through ripped jeans and thin wrists and endearing ways to traverse a crosswalk. The crush has sane men falling in love with coffee drink orders and horn-rimmed glasses, and even sometimes the word ‘horn-rimmed’ because she wears them. Tortoise shell, horn-rimmed: poetry, to him.

And so then it takes its hold.

And we find ourselves hovering thumbs over keyboards, never knowing exactly what to say, or rather, trying our best to cleverly say “I think you’re so lovely,” butin other words. We stumble over nothing-words and drag our feet across the gravel paths that outline the city, a skyscraper shimmering in glassy puddles underfoot. We find ourselves grinning, looking down, bobbling along, juggling the exact moment to kiss the crown of her hair, a gentle nuzzle into her scent, and to keep walking. That that thought alone is enough to galvanize even the deadest of hearts.

The crush is jazz horns, maximum volume, swinging around in the strides of our steps. It is a collision of glances that lock, the gravity of two glances that do not let go of each other, like shark jaws, like tightrope, and you are wondering if they are thinking what you are thinking, essentially: looking into you is a symphony.

It is the seconds of those glances that feel, non-hyperbolically, like supernovae.

To the crush, my eternal muse, I dedicate this little riff. You keep the beat, my heart thump thump.

For all the lovers, I hope today you found the crush in your other, as you should every day. I hope it was some simplicity often overlooked; maybe they sneezed and you fell a little deeper into the love-tank.

And for all the singlets, never be sad. The crush is zooming about, making its rounds, thrice a day. Go play. Find something of smitten in all the strangers that bustle about this little planet.

Happy 14th.

 

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Mosquito

Are there moments for you, too, when you accidentally order hot coffee when what you meant to say was iced, but you only realize this exactly after the talkative barista has delivered, by hand, all that lava into the cardstock cylinder, all just a little too late? And you haven’t the heart to say “shoot, I meant iced” out loud, but you’ve certainly said it quite a few times since, in your head, as if it could freeze the cup before your first sip. And the credit card reader feels like doomsday.

And so you’ve accidentally just dissatisfied yourself in a wildly unique way, because your iced coffee was supposed to be a ‘to: me, from: me’ kind of treat, since you scratched a somewhat annoying ‘to-do’ off the proverbial list earlier in the day, and it felt like swatting a particularly obnoxious gnat out of thick air, doing that thing you had to do.

And then you must have a quick chat with yourself about gratitude, because this problem is mostly a non-problem, even though ice cubes would’ve really done the trick.

And do you also feel guilty for ignoring the beggars, knowing full well that you could help, but also cannot help in the way that would be of permanent good use? And ignoring them is likely the best you could do, yet in your head you think, rationally, “it is not my fault, it is not my fault” etc. as you pass them, feeling lucky for putting your headphones in just before you left the coffee shop, if only to save yourself a little bit of that guilt.

And yet, at the same time, you wish you could sit down and chat, and listen to their story. This fantasy occurs to you every single time you pass them on the street. But you must talk yourself out of it because “what if they never leave me alone? what if they don’t stop talking? what if they recognize me next week and need to talk again, or worse, what if they’re actually psychologically batshit, you know, the muttering and spitting type?” and so you just keep the music on and concentrate very hard on looking forward. You realize it’s very hard to not look at something that you’re telling yourself not to look at.

You arrive home and by now the coffee is lukewarm. You lament the $2.00 that you threw away, but remind yourself of ‘gratitude and the man with bugs in his teeth,’ all those conversations you had in your head just now on the bus. So you drink the coffee, begrudgingly. And the only way to redeem the hot vs. iced fiasco from earlier is to browse the web for bedsheets, since, again, you owe it to yourself. And so you buy bedsheets, knowing they aren’t what you wanted, but it feels correct to press ‘purchase.’

And the high of spending money is quickly eradicated by another gnat in the room, which is the paralysis of knowing you cannot afford to spend any more money. But it feels somewhat serene, later, checking your email and seeing an order confirmation for full-size argyle, thread count: a thousand. And you marvel at the technology of the world! You marvel at ‘order tracking’ and ‘write a review’ and the idea of a postman, an honest, hardworking postman, dressed head to toe in uniform, wearing a tragically endearing hat, delivering the sheets to your doorstep, with a smile, as the cogs of this system whir, humming, locked in place, spinning in your favor.

And slowly, this too, feels like hot vs. iced.

And so you sit in this chokehold of needing things that bring you more gnats.

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