Everybody wants to own a piece of you and all you want to do is break away. For just a moment, you stop the work you are doing at the computer on the dark mahogany desk and instead gaze out the large office window which overlooks a park. The clouds rolling out high above are pillowy ribs of charcoals, grays, and whites in a pattern which repeats itself for miles off into the distance. Through a hazy fog, you can just about make out the faint city skyline, barely visible set back against the wide mouth of the river. How many times you have joined him- tanned skin and light eyes shining- in his fast boat running up and down that river in the high heat of summer all the way through to the chill of the first of autumn’s early evening sunsets. All those carefree days of swimsuits, sunscreen, cold white wine, and stealing to the cabin below, making love all afternoon. As your mind wraps around the warmth of days gone by, you take a sip of coffee and wonder where all the time went, wonder where it’s all going. Last night you had a dream of dying but it wasn’t you, it was your mother who had passed. But here she was standing right next to you, so real, so very real, she seemed. Her high cheekbones soft in the light as she spoke, lips parting and closing slowly, exaggerated, around words without sound. What is she telling you? Now that she knows what none of us do: all about the end of time, that there really is an end to all this. Waiting. A man you know only vaguely but dislike immediately asks you if you are ‘looking for inspiration’ as he finds you staring out upon the world. You tell him the view is so beautiful this time of year and he just laughs a dismissive little laugh, glances blankly at you then at the carpet, never looks out the window, and walks away. The rusted yellow tree line in the park across the street is stark and bright against the muted blue of a darkening sky. There is so much beauty out there, you know because you’ve seen it, dancing in glittering sparks of golden light on the water. Coffee rings turning cold in the bottom of your cup, you sit back down to work at your computer on the deep mahogany desk. Everything has changed and everything has stayed the same and even those with everything, if they can bear the truth, will tell you it’s never quite enough.
I tell you I hate you but that’s only because you turn me on and pushing you away is a good way to ensure you stick around, if only for the game. There are black birds circling in a winter white sky as gray swaths of thin clouds move swiftly in the opposite direction. Something invisible but razor sharp in the atmosphere plays with my body like ten thousand tiny hot pin pricks, an energy live as electric wires and I can taste the heat in my mouth. There are moving cars and street lights streaking haphazardly across the wet blacktop as I remember the first time we gave in to our darkest temptations, like two predators with nothing left to sink our teeth into except each other. I like the way you look at me when you know what you want and how you want it and won’t put up with anything less. The chaos swirling in your hungry eyes is the only sight in this frightening world that calms the fear which claws inside me all the time. As you grasp the back of my neck, I feel the cruelty of the ages slide off of me along with my tee shirt and torn up jeans. All the mental brutality of living which I carry around with me all day, kneading it constantly between my fingers and my shoulder blades, falls like meat off the bone. I’m so much more tired than I let on, I’ve been fighting my whole life it seems, to get out of my own head, to spit in the face of convention and crawl away from the terrible of gray cinder block walls and coffee stained hallways that snake through the dead buildings in this miserable city. The pain in you, that’s what I want to taste the most because it’s the only way to know this feeling is genuine. The way that you make me ache all over splits me open, and I need that in ways only you can understand. You like that when I come to you I’m willing, so you can work my body until it is worn waif thin. When we merge, we kiss until our bones beg for relief. Sex is death is a way to erase each other and disappear. Let me break you, baby, let me break you slow. There is a cigarette burning in smoky silence on the nightstand and a hole in my heart where love should be but I prefer a little emptiness. What is love anyway but a vanishing, a marked figure stalking in shadows. There is a fence around the walls which guard my heart for protection. In the fading evening light, I pull on your beat-up cotton shirt, and arrange some flowers in a vase while sipping on the whiskey warming in your glass. Every fleck of dust is my breath suspended, every creak in the floor boards is a lover who has walked away. As you are gazing out the window which overlooks an empty tree lined street, I place my hand on your stomach. We are no fairy tale, you and I, this I have always known. But just for a time, when this life gets under my skin, when I don’t know what I believe in or if standing at the gate I’m looking outside or in, I lay my head in your hands and let you pretend to call me home.
As my eyes darken and the storm erupts inside my veins, you mistake my anger for passion, slide your hands around my hips and press me to you hard. My mind is a lightning rod of electric visions, none of them tender. To be alive at all in times like this is to exist inside a caricature of cruelty, the outside world has become a pornography of brutal harm. Women and children fleeing for their very survival in the desert, chased into madness by the callus greed of the rich and powerful men who own everything but most importantly they own the power to kill. Kill us. Destroy all of the things we worship and believe in as we scramble to understand what is even happening when it’s all happening too fast. You grab a fistful of my hair and firmly tug while kissing the soft skin of my exposed neck and in one deep exhale I try to imagine what it must feel like to die. To be on the other side of destruction, free of the fear. Do we still feel affection even after we cross over? Do we still know all the same things we know now but are they somehow neatly tied together in such a way that it all makes sense? You don’t ask yourself any of these things that I obsess over with near relentless hyper attention which may be why there are times when you can get yourself off while all I can do is roll with it through the numbness. Who deserves pleasure, who deserves pain. Who deserves more of one or the other. As I drive to work with headlights peering through the hollow darkness down the same old road, I pass a deer on the side of the highway, headless. In the split second when I notice it I see only its wide stump of bloodied insides, then its beautiful young body limp, lifeless. We have been told there are too many deer and it’s a problem and it’s a shame. We have been told a lot of things are not as they seem. Violence is not violence, truth is not truth. What you see is not what you see. But who hits a deer with a car in such a way that the head comes clean off – and then disappears? A static voice on the radio speaks of the most recent catastrophic event on the other side of the globe. Hand grenades and the smiles on the laughing faces of the enemy. War is not war. Death is not death. Life is not life and this one’s not mine. I sip my coffee, and drive.
As I tighten my mouth around a smooth cigarette, you are telling me things I already don’t care to know about. Something about the guy at work who never has his shit together and always manages to drag you into the mired mess with him because that is what people who are clueless do, grab onto everything helpful around them and drown it out. Meanwhile I, on the other hand, feel something of a smug triumph because I have managed to hold down a day job that doesn’t come home with me. All the useless drivel is left where it belongs: inside the gray and dying walls of a building which corrals hundreds of people for the better part of their days, the majority of their squirmy eyeless lives. Taking a long sip of wine, I attempt to change the subject and talk about moving because I am terrified of a future together which is devoid of adventure, but the truth is I love our house with a bone-deep kind of love I have never known in a place ever before. It’s just a split level house in a no-name town, but over the years we have carved ourselves into it so deeply that I can’t imagine being anywhere else let alone leaving this place behind. The way it feels like living in a park when I wake up to the sunlight falling through the trees and streaming through our open bedroom windows. The logs on the fireplace in the dead of winter as snow piles up against the back patio. It’s a home now, one that stays inside of you even when you go away for a while so that it is always calling you back. I think sometimes I talk to you about home because I don’t know how to talk to you about writing, how much it means to me, how much I need it. To have a home like this is a beautiful trap not unlike writing. There is a wandering loneliness in writing which is oddly seductive, it keeps you writhing around in its web until it kills you or makes a meal of you or both. But if I don’t write, I can feel the sickness crawling up underneath my skin, the sad panic at not being able to find the words. For all the romance they will offer you about being a writer, it’s nothing short of an affliction really to have a relentless desire to retreat alone to a room and be with the dead quiet so that you can close your mind to everything except the most immediate sensations and thoughts. It’s still dark outside as I type, there is a cat crying loudly down the street. The sound is so crushingly hollow with pain and desperation it makes my insides ache with both affection and disgust. For as long as I can remember I have had myself convinced that I am a writer who can only write in the very early mornings before the rest of the world realizes anything is even happening. It’s not true of course, a real writer can write at any hour and we are always writing no matter where we are at any given time. We are just especially good at fooling ourselves, at backing ourselves into corners in our lives and in our stories. The only way to claw out of ourselves is to dive into ourselves. Maybe that’s why I love the home we have built together so much. No matter how far off I need to wander I always seem to wind up coming back. The cat is screaming now— hasn’t let up. And high above the idle moon watches, glowing from a vast cold distance.
It’s another day gone by and the winds are picking up as the seasons turn darker and colder every time the sun sinks down into the ether. I check my phone too much, compulsively now I don’t even try to stop myself- sure the world is going to end any minute but of course it won’t be that sudden. The avalanche of atrocities and terror and greed will continue long past when we deserve to even be here at all. It’s hard to think about anything else when you are so rattled with existential dread and yet there are still the temporary pleasurable escapes: poetry, music, erotica, writing, wine. Women’s drinking is on the rise here in the States and I’ve about a million fine guesses why but at the moment I’m just trying to survive being human staring alternately at screens glowing dumbly as we bomb and kill and torture each other with no end in sight. I’m torn between raging and laughing because still they look for heroes, still they hope and pray and pretend someone else will save us from the evil we let pour vainly through ourselves. The arrogance of that kind of ignorance infuriates me and then leaves me numb. Because the state of current affairs is such that I don’t know anymore if I give zero fucks or all the fucks. Because commercials for lingerie, whiter teeth, and spa vacations are the only things breaking up the never ending psychotic reel of cruelty. Because as this particularly ordinary evening turns to purple clouds in a graveyard sky, in my veins there runs a story I am unable to find the words to tell, and page after page this life which I cannot ever seem to master, cannot ever seem to wrap my fingers around to hold on tight, slides silently passively by.
A soft thin rain mists along the neighborhood as I stare into the dull white sky from the upstairs window of my writing room. A touch of October wind on my bare shoulders, I’m snuggled in thick blankets while curled up on the couch with my laptop, skimming over the events of the day as I breathe deeply and decompress. The gray fade of afternoon, the steady sound of the falling rain, low lights and a few glowing candles tucked among my houseplants. Never could I ever understand why people don’t adore this weather. I’d take it every day of the week and twice on Sunday along with the chill in the air, a chunky sweater, leather boots, and cinnamon in my coffee. Drifting off into the fog which is now settling upon the high tree tops, my mind stumbles upon the hazy decades-old memory of sitting outside at a late night bonfire, watching the flickering light lick at the spicy night air. Tight jeans, cigarettes and cheap beer, and a boy I wanted who wanted me, too. He was tall and rugged and shy but for his height which towered over all of us. I would have given him everything but he had a girlfriend he was very loyal to which I did think was sweet but also a waste of a perfectly beautiful hungry youth. When you are young you don’t know anything except what you want and when you find something you want you think only about how to get it. Nothing else matters, everything is a crushing pursuit, everything is a chase, a challenge, a dare. You don’t ever think about what could be on the other side, what happens after you actually get everything you want. That boy is a man now, lost most of his thick wavy chestnut hair, packed on a sizable gut, and had three or four kids. He’s some kind of security guard someplace out in the sticks. I wonder if the girl he loved so hard then still loves him, I wonder if he still loves her and has been faithful all this time. I wonder what the loyalty awards you after all the regular years spent not chasing, not turned on or moved by anything you long for that’s just out of reach. V-neck sweaters bought with coupons and Christmas parties at the homes of other people who are also parents and also resigned to the madness of the middle of their ebbing lives. Is there more than that? Does there have to be? I’m the last to know. My only child is all grown up, twenty-one and gorgeous in all the ways you’d want for a child you raised into a man. My home is tranquil and full of books. I have filled my life with writing and thoughts and research and reading. And I’m here in my upstairs room listening to the birds calling for each other through the sifting autumn rain feeling like I have already lived a thousand lives. None more sweet than this, cherishing the sound of the clicking of the keyboard as I type quietly alone in a room of my own.
It’s sort of like being in a cage but plush with trimmings and cash. The tunnel you live in which is a train which takes you from station to station and back again. Shower. Coffee. Lipstick. Heels. Office. Home. Writing desk with nothing to say except how do I get out of here. How did I end up here. Here are the lies which allow the bars of the cage to begin setting into place: money and safety above all else. Money to keep you safe and images to make them feel safe. The bars are invisible but if you push too hard you can feel them because they are firm and hard underneath your skin (not only must you abide by them, you must carry their weight as well). When you feel them holding you in, forcing you back, you feel a sensation which has two opposing sides: anguish and gratitude. It is the spirit which experiences the anguish, the ripe sadness of never being allowed to express herself, for the spirit is all colors but the air in the cage is colorless. It is the part of you which has been domesticated which experiences the gratitude but always a split second after the anguish. You know that this is because the anguish is your first instinct, that which you feel without being told or taught, your very soul crying out, and the gratitude is the part that was strictly hammered into you in order to keep you hesitant, fearful, jumpy and afraid. You should be grateful you have a job. You should be grateful somebody loves you. You should be grateful you have a roof over your head. You should be grateful you have it so good. You should be grateful you are still kind of pretty, you know, to age is to disappear. You should be grateful. You should be, so you are. At least enough to keep you from talking about the anguish, from giving in to the ache, from focusing on it and listening to it and giving it any of your attention. How you want to love on your ache. To caress and stroke and kiss sweetly that part of you which is wilderness, unexplored, pristine with glittering liquid want. To feel into it with everything you are and everything you wish for just one day you could be. There is a part of you which is quiet and yet is always screaming. She is red with rage and wrecked with sweat as she rattles the chains in your mind as you smile and offer your “Good evening”s on your way out of the ceiling high glass-plated office doors. On the street a pink tangerine sunset gently greets you and you can smell the soft warmth of early autumn drifting on the fading light. Heads down and silently marching, no one else seems to notice. It’s sort of like being in a cage, the tunnel you live in which is a train which takes you from station to station and back again. Office. Traffic. Home. Tee shirt. Wine. Writing desk with nothing to say except there is always the screaming and never a stop on the train for that kind of station.
We create because we are afraid. And we would much rather not be. We drink because we are coming apart all across the kitchen floor in slivers, anxiety in liquid pools at the center of our drowning. Chattering teeth, shaky hands. We are unsteady as we pretend to make dinner we pretend to build a house around a home which is part of the display. And the vines of crimson panic growing along the empty afternoon walls of my disordered mind remind me that nothing matters in the end. We had tried out the various sins: pride, greed, lust, gluttony. We had tried the gym and Facebook and little beads around the wrist, big rocks upon the finger. We had tried, we had really tried. But the devil finds a way inside and once you stop trying so hard her poison tastes just fine. Novocaine and bloody gums. If you looked like me, honey, you’d be alright. You could be famous on the internet and curl up in the heat of happy empowerment as you watch your ratings rise. Tits and ass and injections, a painted face and a Mastercard. Come on, baby, for a price I’ll let you be my savior, leave you sick by the pallid light of dawn but I’ll get you through the night. Red shiny apple rotten to the core but you know… nobody else wants you anymore. And I’m here to help and you could make something of yourself. It’s easy. It’s some beautiful kind of hell out there but it’s all the same, you could go anywhere, you could have gone anywhere. And we try and we try and we try. But the wasteland promotes itself. Smile for me, sweetness. There’s nothing emptiness won’t buy.
This restlessness eats all the way to my fingertips. Because of the anxiousness I can’t seem to figure out what to do with the feeling so I pull out the laptop and start typing without a single thing to say. There is a layer of something so deep and murky under the skin I feel as though a dark and unforgiving ocean walks the earth inside of me. Childhood memories of crisp fall evenings walking the concrete sidewalks of my old neighborhood. Before there were cell phones, before there was so much fear in everything I touched. The thin tension in the air between my small body and the only slightly larger body of the boy I wanted to kiss but never did. His curly hair and my bright blue eyes. Days of knee socks and growing into an awkward quiet creature. The years have gone by and some have been kind but some have been crueler than I can bear to recall. Regret, panic, destruction. Red lipstick and dimly lit bars and strangers who turn you on. A hungry girl grows into a reckless woman, but you like that and so do they so you mistake desperation for power. You live a life that becomes only a memory but also continues to loop inside, turns the stomach, clutches at your breast at night. How much time. What have I done with any of it. What do I have left to do but write, but write, but what. For who. Why? And as the black morning sky peels itself open like a weary eyelid from the ending of the night, you think you know. Because the soul needs something to worship. Hungry girl. You need an obsession that will tear you open. Something to rail against and submit to. You need devotion in your life to stay alive.
He lights my cigarette as we duck underneath an overhang on the front patio, as the rain overflows the gutters along the roof line and slams into the concrete in torrents. It’s a Friday night and the summer sun has been oppressive all day. The rush of the rain feels heavenly, the now cooling earth smells of the faint sweetness of musty dissipating heat. As I take the first drag and let the smoke fill my tender lungs, I’m speaking obsessively about the ways in which the world will end. How it’s already been stripped of so much of its dignity that whatever tragedies happen almost feel well deserved. Why are we are so good at destroying ourselves. Each other. We stand by. It’s not the things we say it’s the things we don’t say. Out loud. It’s what we swallow hoping it will stay deep down inside where it can never hurt anyone but ourselves, as if we were gods, saviors. Humans once or twice removed. We watch the cars driving by slowly on the street next to the house, the glow of their headlights reflecting jagged lines into the wet darkness. Searching. You agree with all the things I say but you don’t see the point in my saying them. I can’t help it, these thoughts have no where else to go. I need to get them out of me. I guess I’m just trying to reach my hands out into the blackness of a terrible nightmare and fumble for something to grab onto, something to stop my head from spinning in this deathly spiral of dread. Something to steady me and make me feel like I’m not alone and even if it’s not all just a bad dream, it’ll be okay. We will be okay. If you are lost, you don’t have to be able to see all the way home. You just have to be able to see a few feet in front of you, one step at a time, and you’ll get there.