Watching as the snow blankets the street in a thick coating of white, I think about the time you licked buttercream icing off my breasts as I stood stark still absorbing every delicious stroke and nibble. That tongue like candy, soft and then stiff, and your perfect teeth working me brutally until my nipples were hard as two succulent milky seeds. It’s too early and I’m already dreading the commute as my mind turns suddenly to railing about how people only want from you whatever you can give them to sedate their anxieties. A naked body dripping with need, a bottle, a scare, attention, stimulation, entertainment, praise, stories of horror and destruction, anything to get us off the mark and out of our rabid racing gerbil minds. He was a distraction I wanted slithering in my veins without relent, washing heavy and wet upon my mind, and every time I tried to shake the memory of the way he played my body until it was taut, I’d only end up more strung out, more deeply entangled in his sticky prismatic web. I don’t blame myself. He was quicksand disguised as decadence, the moment you laid eyes on him there was never a turning back. How easily we are molded, sculpted, trained, made into the likeness of someone else entirely. How willingly we turn ourselves in and turn ourselves over to anything that makes our stomachs flip, makes our faces light up with wonder as if observing the first freshly falling snow. Most people are maniacs and as the days go by they press their heads ever more closely into their little black phone screens telling stories about themselves which are true and not true, exaggerated and useless, and by the middle of the week I’m exhausted of all of their nonsense and mine as well. Come morning light the neighbors will be shoveling out their shiny SUVs as we all scuttle about to waste our lives away bent over at the altar of the almighty dollar. There are those who may judge my habits, my private obsessions, my dark cravings. But the truth is we are all distortions of some recklessly chosen version of ourselves grasping for a kind of perverted distraction. We are all trapped, all writhing, all talk, and not one of us sated.
The heavens open up and there comes a warm paper thin rain which collapses like a gentle fog against our faces as we walk an empty trail in the park along the river. Not the first time you and I have walked this crooked little path but perhaps the first time in such low hanging weather, you and I moving along like two silent clouds. There is a sweetness in the evening air as summer simmers into autumn and I can smell the seasons blending into one another, earth and water, leaves and decay. Mistakes and regrets hang suspended from the trees and I wait for you to mention any of it but the end of the day has you clipped at the tongue so I walk a little bit behind. You try to be the kind of person they want you to be but it’s hard because that allows so little room for anything else and what you really want is to feel something. Anything besides the numbness you can’t seem to shake which finds you in the darkness and slides itself around you so the days become nights become weeks where you aren’t sure what to say or who to say it to, but the words stay there in your throat all the time like a threat, like a dare to cross a great divide in mere seconds flat if you just had the nerve. Stopping in a clearing where a bench juts out farther toward the water, we take swigs from a bottle we brought along and light cigarettes while considering whether or not it’s worth an attempt to speak. Nothing much comes because when the weight of the world is everything you don’t know how to say the grayness sits between you and other people. I skip a stone across the moving surface of the water, and I remember the stone shaped like a heart someone else gave to me when we stayed in the mountains years ago, when the river and the sky and things between us were crystal clear. I’m in over my head. Drowning on dry land. And I know we can’t go back, and you know I don’t know how to move forward, so for now you look out across the shadowy landscape, watch the sun’s flames setting the woods on fire. My fingers are wrapped around my smoke, my heart is beating fast in my chest, and my thoughts are somewhere out over the horizon, soaked in warm rain falling one hundred thousand miles away.
I once read the eyes of a man who wanted me down on my knees in prayer but that’s not what he said. What he said was, The color of your lips burns in me like fire. There was a darkness in his taste which I knew instinctively how to touch, to grasp not with hands but with the rhythm of my breathing. There were desires swirling in his eyes, as he knew exactly what he wanted, and how to take it swiftly when granted the chance. In his deliberate movements, his elegant, torturous stare, there played the low music of seduction. There is a dance we play out as the days go by and we learn to trust ourselves a little more and everybody else a little less until we finally decide none of it matters in the end anyway so we might as well get on with whatever it is that makes our little melancholy hearts race. How ironic the way they act as though to be a writer means nothing at all but how much they’d have to say if you said all the things you want to say without looking first for permission. Having grown up in a religious household that will do it to you good, mess with your sense of shame, degradation, indignity. Nothing gives you a lust for misbehavior like being told all the naughty acts which will send you to hell for all eternity. The rain is coming down steady and cold in the darkness, just to listen to it sliding down the window pane is enough to make me pull up the blankets and shudder. Placing my fingers upon the warmth of myself I remember the first time I discovered the sweet secret urge and worked myself into discovering euphoria, finally breathing in quick ecstatic flutters like a brand new butterfly, sated all alone in awe and release. In joy and defiance I took myself over and over again. We are not so shameful as they would have us believe. We should not be as quiet as they hope we’ll be. Deep inside, you hold every single answer you seek, you just have to look where you have been told never to go. Open those hidden doors, realize all along you have held the golden key. What they are afraid of is not how beautiful you are but that you might somehow learn to believe in such beauty, to trust in your own hunger, your own naked desire. I think of the man with the eyes which flickered over my entire body before he took my jaw in his hand. How electric that made me feel, the effect so sharp with pleasure and pain it made me gasp for air.
As I’m sipping my coffee while flipping through magazines, you mention my birthday and I shrug. It’s on a Sunday this year, tomorrow in fact, so we decide on shopping in the village followed by dinner someplace nice with a view of the river we hope to live along one day. Last year I turned forty and the fact that one continues to have birthdays after that seems to have taken me by surprise this year for reasons I cannot explain both because that’s ridiculous and it makes perfect sense. All of this is only to say that much time has passed, many moons have spun across many a midnight sky since I was just a kid who didn’t know better and didn’t think to care about what would become of me in adulthood. As I stand in front of the mirror and toss my hair up in a messy bun, I see it in the hollow of my cheeks. I see it in the pain throbbing behind my sleepy eyes, still smudged with yesterday’s mascara. I’m still smoking and I’m still drinking and I’m still here and in a million ways none of that should be true. There is so much I have that I don’t deserve which should make me sick but mostly makes me numb. I skim through an article about the morbid state of the world which posits that we are very angry, and what we are actually angry at is existence itself and with no where else to go, we take that rage out on each other or turn it against ourselves. To be here is to be lost, to be alone and afraid and left as such until we can find or invent something to cling to that helps us sleep at night without falling into the depths of despair which lurk around each and every corner. To exist is a cruel trick and a breathtakingly beautiful gift, and that dichotomy alone turns us into our own little traps. We want out and we want in and we want what we cannot have and when we get what we want we decide we want something else entirely and start the whole insane cycle over again but we give it sexy names like ambition, drive, success. It is years ago and you and I are drinking vodka at the bar around the corner that we frequented because it was cheap, convenient, and dark. Fuck commitment, we said, Let’s just fuck. No strings, no promises, no cares, no anyone else in the world except you and I and our sin drenched bodies ticking like lust filled time bombs. Heels and handcuffs. Lipstick and collars and secrets we keep deep down inside that make us twitch. We want to be used. We want to drown each other and raise each other from the dead. We want to be brought to our knees and told exactly who and what and how to worship to be saved from the hell of having to decide on our own. We want to be wasted and tasted and make our pretty mark upon a disgraceful world and have something to say about everything, told we are exquisite and mysterious and devastating and special. Or maybe that’s just me. But perhaps you will indulge me, just for a day. Just for a day which falls exactly forty one years after the day I was first welcomed into this hysterical madness. It’s all absurd of course but for what it’s worth, on this cold winter day beneath a wild white confetti sky, I will smile and I will sigh and I will raise a glass to that.
We wander through life trying to find something we lost which we cannot name or even quite remember but we knew we felt its warmth once and it was all we needed. Human hands extend toward something inhuman, human hearts beat to the rhythm of a mysterious force. And for a moment I am kissing you beneath a crooked cloud of street lamps as my boots scratch the pavement cutting slits into the night air. There are bare trees and they are protruding in and out of the darkness which falls across your face. You are a shadow I reach for in the night when my humanity is so honest it hurts all over just to move, just to breathe. You took me to you. There was a touching and you were there as a whisper against an empty space. The morning light is a trouble I cannot shake, the unbearable dawn of a cold hard day which will not retreat. There is a heaviness rising in spite of its weight, it sinks in my chest as I stalk these interior halls. The sky opens its single eye to the turning of the planet, stillness, motion, chaos, disaster, kindness, anger, love. And we are alone upon a marble floor. Matchsticks scattered into the wind which moves beneath my feet. You are a figure in the back of my mind in the blood in my veins in a chair in a room smoking a cigarette. You watch as I unravel and place a finger to my lips. I love you but I can’t. And even though you never left I feel you leaving. And even though I misread the signs and believed in sickness over health, I meant it when I said your body reminds me of something I once curled up against. A phantom limb which vanished and I’ve not stopped searching since.
Choked with a particular kind of nausea brought on by accidentally reading very bad poetry on Instagram, I shut my laptop cursing myself for having fallen into a ridiculous rabbit hole on the interwebs once again. It all began innocently enough while reading some article about these women who write poetry together in a cabin in the woods somewhere in Iceland. Their names were exotic and I couldn’t pronounce a single one if I tried, but I admire their commitment to writing books of poems against what they call impostor syndrome and marvel at their ability and willingness to do so as a group. Would not be me, this is for certain. I write alone. I read and think alone. Other people crowd me even when they are across the room. Even as I sit here typing by myself I am crowded by the ones I’ve read and revere, the ones I’ve read and despise, those who have told me I’m good and those who tell me I’m not good enough by a long shot. They never say that kind of thing outright of course, they say it in their slanted eyes angled toward the floor as they smile too wide and shuffle their feet. These people will never understand and should be ignored and avoided at all costs. The best you can do is carve into yourself. Like those little bugs which bore into wood, you eat and eat and drill and drill into your tenderest places. Tiny holes. Thin focused nibbling but determined and relentless until you are all the way inside. There is a warmth within you which is the firelight of all the things you love and treasure and have made your own. Kept in secret from even the ones you love the most because there are intimacies which are yours and yours alone. The average person is terrified of such things, as well perhaps they should be. Intimacy with yourself is crushing and deadly, you walk a fine line between fascination and annihilation. As I watch these people who dare to call themselves poets trashing cyber space with their heartless, soulless, plastic drivel I feel a palpable mix of dread, fury, and desperation. We are pathetic creatures. We degrade and smear beautiful things with our own filth. We barely scratch the surface and yet declare ourselves experts, lovers, gods. There is a peculiar kind of sadness spreading its bluegray fingers throughout the world around us. It is pulling us under while we try to pretend it is raising us up. Peeling myself away from the laptop, I watch my reflection in the bedroom mirror as I brush my hair, remove my necklaces, and crawl under the covers. There are those of us who believe in something beyond this physical reality we call life. There are those who believe in God and those who believe in poetry, and I used to be someone who believed they were the same thing but now everything is up for grabs and the only thing for certain is I’m no good at writing in groups. So I shut the door, and shut it and shut it and shut it. For every one of us who upholds the truth there are those of us who debase and defile it at every turn. There is a voice which is many voices which is the terror of burrowing inside ourselves for fear of what we will find waiting for us there. And so, fake poets. And so, fake lives. And so, fake feelings. Fake distance and fake together. And so, another drink until you can finally fly away from this sinking ghost ship. We hate what we have become but can’t imagine any other way.
There is coffee and there is wine and in between it’s a lot of silliness we are forced into from birth, awaiting a death we can neither predict nor defend ourselves against even though we think we are invincible. I take my coffee strong and my wine dry and what happens in between is anybody’s guess. Mostly I blend in and collect a paycheck. I am punctual, reliable, quick, attentive, pleasant, compatible, and have an entire week’s wardrobe of black on black on black. There is the occasional red, but keeping things to perfectly fitted black suits everyone fine. After hair and makeup, I am dressed in one minute flat and out the door, and nothing blends in more perfectly in corporate America (and funerals, rather unironically) than black. Why am I telling you any of this? I’m not sure. Perhaps I shouldn’t be. I would normally prefer to share something more beautiful, erotic. This daily stuff is boring enough to slog through let alone share it with innocent people who just want to be entertained, but perhaps look closer. I’m any woman you meet on any given day in regular clothes with a regular job doing regular things to keep up in a world that would rather I didn’t, or couldn’t. I am also only a fraction of who I am underneath that glossy veneer all day long. My heart is the heart of a dreamer, someone who wants to escape all this and dive into a life full of art, writing, study, beauty, adventure. Passion. How we are told to follow it, to worship at its flighty feet. Most of that message is nonsense, of course, for passion in our dimly lit society translates to capitalism, to making a quick dollar by mass producing various methods of forcing other people to conform. Does everyone have the urge to indulge their true passions or just the rare ones who yearn for it constantly hoping each day for even just a little taste? The faces I see pass by unfazed by the things which torture my insides. Their eyes are frantic and boozy over things that don’t matter in the least. They do not see past the end of their nose and they see no reason why they should need to. I used to talk about this with people but I don’t recommend it. You know everyone will have an answer they cannot wait to deploy upon you to shut you up or drown you out. They will tell you exactly how it is and what to do without so much as batting an eyelash. There are those who will tell you not to dare and there are those who will tell you to just throw it all away in pursuit of something dramatic and there are those who will simply stare at you as though nothing has been said at all and none of these people will be right nor will they care what becomes of you in the end. But somewhere deep down inside that restless soul of yours you know as well as I do that even though you blend in, you are not the same. Even though you look polished, you’re a mess. Even though you are afraid, you want very badly to run very, very far away.
As is now the fashion, I have been keeping up with caring for an ever growing number of houseplants. This is not terribly interesting I understand but what is of considerable note is the fact that I have been able to nurture so many into lush abundant things without killing them, many pots full of beautiful ivy spilling about, tall tumbling ones, wide cascading ones, (kindly do not ask me to name them, I’m no botanist, mind you) all their elegant leaves bending gently toward the sun. Scarcely a sun to speak of these days which is to my delight. Give me darkness and throw in gray rain for good measure. Feed me dark poetry, dark words, dark moods. Turn down all the lights and make red shadows dance like ghosts underneath a winter moon. We do not touch, only the words we exchange between us vibrate with an energy, a current which attracts us to one another like a moth to a flame. You and I are a blinding heat and though I’ve tried to stay away something about you makes my heart come alive. We meet on a beach where it is cold and the midnight sky glitters with countless stars, the rich black velvet pierced over and over one million times. I want to like you but in all of your stories the women are just a pair of legs in black tights, portals through which you pass into a place where they no longer exist for anything but pleasure. I want to know what’s inside that mind of yours but I’m also afraid it’s nothing but the same old thing. A man’s desire for fame and power and accolades. Everybody wants to be a god but all the while they can’t get out of their own way. Something you say, or maybe it’s just the way you say it, makes me sigh and imagine us naked swimming out into the ocean waves like two carefree fools with nothing left to lose. But the world we live in has been ripping itself apart bit by bit for decades now and most of us are barely hanging on to decency by a thread so we snap selfies and drink rose wine and raise houseplants and declare ourselves original works of art in this maddening paper doll parade of one more just like the last. No one is interesting all the time, we are shiny at first and then we fade. But every once in a while you pull me close as we shiver and tremble in the wind, drinking whiskey to warm our frigid bones and kissing like the world will end, and that is the very last thing on our devious minds.
The electricity having gone out, the entire neighborhood is awash in darkness as the snow comes down turning everything to a thick blanket of white. Off in the distance, firetruck sirens are screaming which at the very least suggests that some part of the disturbance is being addressed. After lighting a half dozen candles, I pour another glass of white as I have already decided I’m done for the night and continue skimming through a collection of old photographs of Kate Moss. Tanned and toned and thin as a rail with wide, wild glittering eyes, she is smoking a cigarette while strolling through a grand marble hotel lobby somewhere in Europe. So young back then, impossibly exotic in her black eyeliner and nude silk spaghetti strap cocktail dress. I remember being a young thing and obsessed with her seemingly effortless combination of disheveled poise. Gloss and glamour and grit in random measure. She wasn’t everyone’s taste of course, but as for me I fell for all of it. I was scrawny but she made me feel good about it even when some ignorant adult would tell me to eat something, you look sick and in my head I was telling them to properly fuck off. There is something intoxicating about watching a beautiful creature even from a distance, even when time has erased what was once reality. I light a cigarette and a few more candles and stand to look out across the street, still dark as pitch, and quiet save for the frosty droplets splattering against the windowsill. My phone lights up with a message from a friend I’ve not heard from in quite some time. I used to think that he thought we maybe could have been a thing but it was never right or wrong enough to really make a move. Now we text in quiet moments when one of us needs to feel seen and heard, just for a little while, before again passing off into the ether. You would be surprised how that feeling sneaks up on you. It isn’t loneliness but it isn’t without a little bit of fear, either. Fear of the emptiness in the abyss which is a life not anchored to fulfilling other people’s expectations. He once described the way my writing made him feel and to be told of the affect my words could have was an aphrodisiac I hadn’t seen coming. Perhaps that is arrogance, perhaps that is humility, who’s to say. Writers are strange people, we give and we take all in the same keystroke. We create and we destroy and we don’t look back on any of it. What was it Ms. Moss used to say? Don’t complain, don’t explain. I do try not to complain and it has been years since I felt the need to explain myself to anyone. Life is too short and no one knows what they are doing for the most part in any case. We are transient, unpredictable things. Untethered. I text him back something which borders on flirting, but the truth is I’m just bored.
The rain was torrential, a universe in every drop which crashed against the slick pavement. Standing by the window in an upstairs spare room, I scan the dead landscape which slopes away from the old farmhouse into some brown grassy hills which eventually give way to a graveyard. I can barely make out the little headstones, small gray slats pointing up to a cold dark sky swollen with winter. He walks into the room and stands behind me, tells me he finds me fascinating, and sometimes that means more coming from a stranger than someone who knows you well enough to know if he means it or not. When you are new to the game of love you make mistakes and when you are no longer in love you mistake that, too. We are such fickle creatures, how can we be trusted with anything as delicate and breakable as another human’s heart. Though our conversations usually stimulate, I have no stories to tell you on this dreary sunless day, wet weather often leaves me muted and pale, I move deeper into myself slow like a shadow and my eyes turn away from the light. Breathing steadily in the darkness, the floorboards creak as he pulls my hair back and traces the curve of my neck with his long fingers. I am motionless with need for touch, my core smoldering for affection. I can feel his heartbeat in my veins, the quickness which catches in my chest causes tingling all over my body. He knows my silence, studies me closely for signs of obedience, willingness, reception. There is a calculation he makes and I can almost hear him ticking off boxes as he removes my shirt and takes hold of my breasts, kneading, pressing, pinching at the soft flesh. The heavens open up as the rain pounds heavy slashes against the window pane, I place a hand upon the fogged glass and close my eyes. His movements dictate my movements, his needs are the map of my instruction. In a world relentless with gratuitous destruction, I find it hard to explain the way his greed, his roughness soothes my rattled nerves. Why before him I open like fruit. With a kiss he takes me to the grave, my tears are prayers as he drinks from the sweetness of my ache. This beautiful suffering, beautiful death on a threadbare candlelit evening in a far away place, overlooking the ones who have gone before, never to know of pain or pleasure again. We are all heathens. We are all broken and seething. And at the end of it all, we are only strangers, to each other and ourselves.