Straight No Chaser

Spreading my fingers out over the keyboard, I feel certain this is where I belong even if it doesn’t come out right. I’ve cracked a window open and the air coming in smells like the slightest touch of spring. It dares me to imagine warmer weather moving closer and I almost do.

It’s that time in winter when you are desperate for even just a lick of spring. The trees are dead and the sky is cold in a way that numbs your heart and hardens your skin.

And yet something inside will not loosen its hold around the hope that we just may come through unscathed, alive.

It is, of course, too late for that. Some winters leave scars.

How do you destroy a world? First you lie about it. Then you convince everyone, including yourself, that the lie is the truth. You take reality by the hair and force her face into the dirt. You value money more than people and some people more than others.

We try to live in the space between terror and trust. Our hands tremble when we touch. We reach for a pill, we reach for a gun, but the threat is invisible and it’s found its way inside. It has already multiplied and cannot be undone.

He used to stroke my ego and I used to like it. Told me how beautiful I was, how he could gaze into my eyes for all eternity and stay inside my body forever. For a while I tucked my entire being underneath the promise of that.

But beauty fades and he faded even faster, into the nothingness that is the randomness of a brief encounter with a stranger.

We grasp at straws while praying for wings. We can’t shake the feeling that everything we ever wanted is just around the corner if only we could figure out which corner. But the whispers are only the wind. We circle the block, around and around again.

Our eyes scan the white upon frozen white of winter across the endless hills as we gnash our teeth against the indifference of the cold.

Even still, not everything we wish for is warm. Not everything that’s warm intends to bring us back to life.

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Photo by Yohann LIBOT

So Good It Hurts

The sex was so good I’m pretty sure I saw actual stars glistening all around us, shooting and exploding into the darkness. I could feel the heavenly rush of chemicals coursing through my entire body, sending me into a kind of delicious euphoric shock that was waves upon waves of pure pleasure.

Not a bad start on a rainy Sunday morning, as I crawl out from under his slumbering body, pull on my sweats and head down for coffee.

I used to tell myself I could only write under circumstances of extreme, or at least sufficient, melancholy. But ever since I discovered his talent for delivering multiple orgasms, I’ve changed my perspective on the whole situation.

They wouldn’t have you believe it but a writer can write from a place of sweet, sweet pleasure. Or at least I can, which is news to me. Eventually it will all dissipate, of course. And I’ve not told him this because it’d surely collapse his spectacular hard on, but even in my most ecstatic state there is a deep feeling of loss inside of me that just will not let me go.

Ever since I can remember, I have carried an uncanny sense of everything slipping away. It is as though my soul is a thing which dwells just below the surface all the time, and it is watching me as I crumble, minute to minute. Skin cell by skin cell, the life within me is being shed.

We fall into lust and disregard the danger of forgetting that when push comes to shove, we are on our own. This kind of thinking does not make me a hit at parties. This kind of thinking is the kind you tuck inside your tight ass jeans and wrestle with in the silence of your own solitude.

The trouble is that solitude is all there is. You are the only one inside yourself all day, all night. The difference for an artist is that we dive into that abyss instead of trying to bury it by filling it with unimportant shit. We can’t help it.

We want to get to the bottom of it because we know that that abyss is who we are. We know, too, that there is no bottom. This presents a kind of problem we desire to solve and not solve. We want to know the end and we want the end to never come.

When you crave the emptiness they think they are trying to save you from, you learn to become two different people all the time. The one who pretends to understand them, and the one who swears to god you never ever will.

The coffee has kicked in and my fingers are flying across the keys as I punch down some philosophical bullshit just to get the chaos out of my head and onto the page. The writing is the only sacred space. I don’t need self help and I don’t need yoga and I don’t need church. What I need is a life centered around the one thing that doesn’t flinch.

 

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Photo by Rachel Coyne

Swallow It Down

The pavement is as dry as my mouth inside the long hallway of my bleak emotions. I think back to a time before time meant to me what it means to me now.

Before I realized my life was in my own hands. Before I knew no one was coming to save me and there was no way out of this alive.

I’m tracing a heart into the fogged back window of our old blue Chevy. I can’t be more than twelve years old, my torn up jeans hanging from my lanky frame. My fingernails are long and painted cotton candy pink. J + A in the center of the heart shape, with an arrow piercing right through it.

You want nothing more than a kiss then. Dancing in the darkness of the musty gymnasium. Stairway to Heaven, grape soda and Skittles. Your heart throbbing in your chest, smoke, sweat, and the anticipation of something you don’t even understand yet. But you want it. You just know you want it and you want it so bad.

We learn to crave dark things. We learn there are some desires we should not speak about to anyone but our diaries. We learn to drown for years and years without making a sound.

As the rain begins to really come down, I forget my day dreaming and remember my own skin. I hear the crunch of my boots on the ground as I make my way through the long winding streets toward the life I have built on a hill in the distance.

The dark heavy storm clouds gather in close circles and I look up at the thickness of the falling globes of water. I sense the pleasure of the feeling of swirling chaos, an atmosphere alive and electric with the change of season.

All we ask is redemption from who we became before we knew it could have all been different.

I open my mouth and swallow the weather. I have been thirsty for so long.

 

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Photo by Jasmin Schreiber

Might Delete This Later

I used to have this professor back in college the other kids would call ‘tough but fair.’ You know the type. Stoic. Snide. Red slashes all over your precious prose jabbed with some kind of confusing comment in the margins like, “Allison, DESCRIPTION!”

I thought he was just an asshole but no one asked my thoughts nor did any of it matter when it came time for him to grade our papers so I guess it’s better left in the past. Suffice it to say that in general, a male teacher was ‘tough but fair’ and a female teacher was an ‘arrogant bitch’ but truth be told there was no difference between the two except probably in salary but don’t get me started.

Have you ever wanted to erase your past and simply start over fresh? Like an Instagram grid just delete, delete, delete. Maybe that’s why the young kids, whatever they call themselves or don’t, their posts only last a few seconds, a few days at most. It all just disappears. The ridiculous smiles, the bad, the sad, the wasted, along with the beautiful. Fading, fading, all into nothingness as though none of it is real. Or if it is, it’s only real in the moment and then it’s anybody’s guess, anybody’s game.

Fumbling in my cluttered bag for a cigarette, I accidentally set off my car alarm which startles only me because the parking lot is nearly empty and fully deserted. No one smokes anymore, not like they used to back in the day. As I watch a large dark cloud move in over the factory buildings, the cold wind picks up and shoves my long strawberry hair into my mouth.

There is always something pushing back against us even as we try our best to make our way in a world which would soon enough take us or leave us just the same.

But in the pit of my stomach, I know I still believe in something I cannot name. And even after all these years I can’t decide if that makes me silly or if that makes me strong.

 

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Photo by Mathilde Langevin

 

 

Train Wreck Fantasy

She equates randomness with fate and fate with her lack of inhibitions when she hits the bottle and breaks free of her mind.

In the back of her heart are the lucid dreams of the little girl she once was before the world took away every fantasy and held it hostage behind smoked glass ever since.

There are some skies you can’t touch, not because you can’t fly but because your wings have been clipped together and the singular beat just isn’t enough to get you off the ground.

She can’t understand what living is for if your heart’s not racing or your soul isn’t pulsing its infinite cosmic currents like lightning across the darkened night. What is enough for other people never feels like enough for her but she can’t explain why.

Maybe she’s a glutton for punishment. Maybe she’s a freak.

When he ties her hands behind her back she feels like an angel come to rescue him from his demons, and demons there are many. They want love just like anybody else but somehow it all got twisted. Pain morphed into pleasure and pleasure blossomed into an exquisite kind of euphoric suffering.

There is a plane on which they are not opposites and not the same. A space where the two become one orgasmic experience.

She feeds on his distortions. He strokes her where the aching won’t stop until her tears fall like a fire which baptizes them both.

Did you think there was such a thing as a sinner, or a saint? Did you think you could decide which was which? Did you think you weren’t the sinner and the sin?

Her mouth is not for kissing but for absolution. When he covers her eyes her body screams and comes alive. He toys with her senses. Makes her wait.

Did you want to talk about love? Did you want to find out how much more there could be to this life beyond your wildest imagination?

When he emerges from inside the darkness she is blind to everything but the feelings which hang suspended in the air around her like puppet strings, like the taut silent strings of a most elegant instrument. An intricate web of static sensation. Everything is a high so long as it is uncertain. Unattained.

He will circle until the heat nearly buckles her knees. He will manipulate until she gasps when she tries to breathe.

There are some skies only he can help her touch.

Sometimes only imprisonment can finally set you free.

 

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Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk

Dead Center

Flip a coin. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Or something like that.

At the center of each of my questions are even more questions which makes you crazy but secretly I hope it keeps you close. If I have more questions, how can you leave me unanswered?

Besides, I like your answers and the way you put so much thought into crafting them. You are arrogant, selfish, maddening. But there’s something about the way your voice simmers like an electric current vibrating across my chest that I crave with everything I’m made of.

It crackles and snaps me awake to a part of myself which for too long has lay lifeless at the bottom of a deep dark abyss. When I look into your beautiful eyes I can’t tell if I need you inside me or need you to walk away and never come back.

You like to start shit you don’t bother to finish. You talk a good game but when it’s time to put out you disappear like a mist that dissipates across the cool surface of a lake at dawn in the last rays of summer.

At the center of you there are no questions, only a myth. 

The illusion of permanence. The illusion of desire fulfilled. 

These things are not real. These things are not safe.

In your mind, you imagine me giving myself to you completely. You spit out the bones and drown in what delights you which is mostly the flesh. 

Only the flesh. 

People are savage inside, and dirty. Like animals. Affectionate, primal, hungry. But not as loyal. That’s the tricky part.

As you brush your hand against my hand but do not take it in yours, I catch your eye and my breath catches tight in my throat.

The dead cold dampness of the middle of the day hangs around me like a wet tee shirt, and makes me shiver from head to toe.

 

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Photo by Soroush Karimi

 
 
 

Sometimes the Darkness Helps

We build our temples up to the sky hoping it will save us but we don’t know why or what from until it’s too late to do anything about in any case.

As I wind my way along Main Street, my boots crunch against the snowy sidewalk and my eyes follow the structures of the mansions on either side of the narrowing road. A lot of money buys a lot of pretty real estate. What’s that saying? He who dies with the most toys? Still dies.

One of the biggest places has a bunch of flags flying from their many ornate balconies. Some shit about patriotism and conspiracy theory somehow making so such sense to them they have to fly banners and announce to the world that they mean to come fuck it all up.

So much privilege. So much angst.

Wealth is a kind of blindness. A way to see and not see. A selection, a distraction. I have met people like this. Eyes and smiles all glazed over with the palpable fear and panic which courses through their jittery veins.

I take the last drag of my cigarette and toss it into a snow bank where it glows, then burns out in a flash of frozen winter air.

Somewhere across this town and on the border of the next, a guy with a lot of problems stands on the edge of a bridge which over looks a wide rushing river, churning its icy currents down toward a massive waterfall. He stares into the whirling darkness of its bottomless depths and wonders if he will ever be free.

If freedom is a thing you have to take for yourself in the best way you know how even if it isn’t in this life. Maybe there is a next. Maybe to leap is to fly and to fly is to escape. Second chances. Second looks. Second guesses.

As a plow truck shoves dirty snow into a pile against the corner where the coffee shop hums with fragrant activity, I watch the blinking traffic lights and stare off into the distance in the direction of the white church steeple high up in the hills, covered in bare black trees and worn out gray winter snow.

So many heroes, so many saviors, so many false gods.

The atmosphere, for the rich and the poor, the young and old and somewhere lost in between, is heavy.

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Photo by Mitchell Hollander

Before You Lose It All

Gun metal gray shadows slope along the snow covered roofs of the houses standing stark against the cold blue of the winter sky.  The entirety of the years gone by curls into a clear crystal ball and slides itself down into a frozen spike of sheer thick ice, slowly dripping from the slant of an old wooden doorway hidden away off the street.

Time melting into place before suddenly breaking off and shattering into a million pieces against the pavement. A million tiny globular tears glistening like jewels in the frigid white February sun.

He hates this time of year because the bitter cold keeps him from plunging into the ocean, but we still walk this beach anyway, all bundled like two Eskimos, sipping on this or that to keep warm.

I read somewhere that the warmth you feel from alcohol is deceiving and can get you killed in extreme cold. The alcohol draws the blood into your extremities and heats them up instead of protecting the vital organs which need the heat to keep you alive. Neither here nor there at the moment I guess, but if you ever find yourself facing down a case of hypothermia, ditch the bottle is what I’m telling you they would tell you.

Life can be cruel. It can scream and chase and gnaw at you despite all your best efforts to keep the hurt at bay. Life can push you to your limits and then stomp on your neck all the same with little care for even the slightest choke of your mortal struggle.

But for now at least, there is he and I and the endless ocean tides crashing against this thunderous, deserted beach. The sand, the water, our hearts and our shadows stretching out endlessly before us.

As I look up at the too bright sky, I can see the sun and the moon suspended there together which seems eerie and strange like they shouldn’t occupy the same sky even though they always do.  It occurs to me it’s kind of sweet and kind of stupid how we spend our whole lives trying to compartmentalize the universe – past, present, future, good, bad, beginning, end, middle – when the truth is it’s all there all the time, staring back at you all at once.

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Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra

Untouchable

You’re afraid you’re losing it all to them.

To the young. To the rich. To the beautiful.

It happens so fast you are shocked by the jerk of the rug being yanked out from under you. When did the crumbling begin? When did the circles ring your eyes like saucers.

Like a punch in the face of the pale precious moon who orbits your shy little life. Lets her dark eye seep all over you. Lights up against the fears you try to escape in the dark. Lights them up like a mute scream in a dream in which the ground races beneath your feet but you can’t move.

You could be nicer and quit ruining things for everybody else, you know. You could sit quietly and do as they ask of you and do as you are told to do, so they wouldn’t have to waste so much time keeping you in line. Inside the lines.

But you know something they don’t know and never can and never will. You know the fire in your bones burns from a place they don’t believe in even when you show them the scars.

You know the possibilities because you have been mapping your own desires your entire life. It scares you, the things you know about yourself. The things you hide that you wish you didn’t.

It was never about youth and it was never about beauty. It was always about pain and your endurance of it. Your craving for it. Your running from it. Your conversations with it. Inviting it in. Kicking it out. Chasing after it again.

It was always about the way you were stronger than they ever had to be.

It was always about the freedom to say the thing you need to say. To write the perverse, the meaningful, the crushing gasp of the truth they would not see.

You are losing it all at the hands of a time gone by that you can never get back. You are losing your grip on the things they told you to hold most dear. And the letting go feels just fine. And you laugh at the gods in the face of the sky as you drift higher and higher out of the body they stitched you into when you were small.

It was never about them; always about you. You as ageless, you as timeless, you as endless. You as some kind of impenetrable thing which can never be touched and never be held on to.

It was always about the way you can only be you and nobody else, and how that devastates and gratifies you all at once.

In the deep wells of your ancient soul, you know this.

Since the beginning of time, you always knew.

 

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Photo by Hugo Tasca

 

Twitch

What she saw before is gone now, replaced by gray dishes in a gray sink beneath a gray window beneath the clouded winter sky. The kind of sight which is a presence all its own, with its own weight and skin and intention.

Steady. Slow. Melancholy.

Life is for the ignorant and death is for the curious.

She has become the circumstance and the story. Her mind floating in the middle of no beginning and an uncertain ever-ebbing end.

All day she smiles and tries to blend in. Whittle away at the space she takes up.

The thought of rejection scares her to bits but the thought of solitude is her only comfort. Wanting to be alone and not alone is an exhausting mind-stretched space to inhabit so she opens a bottle to drown out the ricocheting pressure of the need to make any kind of decision one way or another.

In or out. Yes or no. Forward or back.

Truth or dare.

They tell her a hobby would help or maybe a man but she isn’t sure what help is supposed to actually mean so she picks up some arty shit at the craft place up the street and stares at it until finally shoving it all under the bed, lighting a cigarette and staring off into the gray distance.

Never minding the gray dishes in the gray sink.

She doesn’t want to draw this feeling. She doesn’t want to paint the terrible.

Writing is the only thing worth anything to her but that’s the problem right there: writing isn’t like anything else and it isn’t a hobby.

It’s everything real and sacred and true and it is the only thing that can save her because it has to.

It has to.

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Photo by Victoria Volkova