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.
Sipping coffee in the pitch darkness of morning, I’m sitting in my writing room staring at a stack of old laptops which are tucked on the bottom of a bookshelf which is full of paperback copies of my book of poetry, Luminae. Those laptops. It’s impossible to say just how many tired words about old thoughts they contain. How many photographs of a younger self, a more ambitious, lighthearted woman. Beaches, bikinis, cold white wine and cigarettes in bars when that was still something you could get away with. Moments of hope, mischief, and inspiration now collapsed inside a few black boxes sunk deep into the sea of many years ago. I’m not sure I’ll ever dive back into any of them, I mean who can remember all those old passwords and security codes and besides, what is there to see? What use would it be now? A girl moves on just to stay sane, lets go just to hold on to the best parts of what she can still believe in. Entire lifetimes discarded. Sometimes I think I write today just to make it to tomorrow. I scroll by the perfect faces on a screen and I wonder if they are trying to capture a self they wish they could know but don’t quite, a glimpse of happiness before they inevitably fade to nothing. There is a feeling stirred into the cooling coffee in the bottom of my cup, there is a fear which is thin like porcelain. It is fragile and rings high through the autumn wind in the trees as I sit alone by the yellowing light of a lamp on this gray couch. It is the sensation of time sliding away from me, time unnoticed and as soon forgotten. It is a life divided into parts, trapped inside a stack of black boxes in the dust of a girl gone by. A woman on edge, by herself with her selves inside of a room.
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.
Looking into your eyes as you hold my gaze I feel weak but also some kind of holy, which is a rare feeling for me, especially these days. There is a strength between us no one else can see but we know it because we can feel it coursing through our worn out veins, a sudden injection of life where once there was only numbness. This is the way we take flight without moving a muscle, this is how we pray without making a single sound. Everything you are is hunger I somehow think will satisfy my own. To lust is to feed at the mouth of emptiness, a futile beg to be filled. It is hopeless, it is its own reward and punishment. It is ten minutes to six in the morning and all is dark outside and in. My stomach is sick and I’m nervous as fuck for reasons I cannot name. Perhaps it’s the dreams about something so beautiful that refuses to exist in this harsh reality of a life lived mostly to fulfill other people’s fantasies. High heels and tight lips. A scream and a promise and a mistake. Fear turns into a game. Who wears it best, who hides it best. Where does the hurt go, what about the pain, where does the aching go if I turn my face away. Secrets and the way my eyes have hollowed out almost completely over the years. When did it all fall apart or was it never really pulled together. How is it that there comes a time when you actually believe that without a mirror there is nothing left to see.
Dark thoughts of bad behavior flicker in your mind along with fire flies trapped in jam jars in the hands of a mischievous child. We have been cut down to less than we are worth, it happens without our being aware of it. Hacks. Con artists. Scammers. One night stands. Old boyfriends, some you’ll never forget because every time your hear their name your heart pinches just a little bit with the pain of the recollection of lusty nights and tender love slashed apart at once. All you’ve lived through just to get through it and never ask for anything more ever again but to breathe without the ache in your chest. Google will finish your sentences for you if you aren’t sure what to say. I guess there’s nothing sacred left in this place if we are now reduced to prerecorded catch phrases, we hardly need brains anymore let alone writers, who would want to try to understand any of this sterile madness. The rich get richer and fast, baby. Faster than you can count your anxiety ridden self luckier than most but still fearful of losing it all in the blink of an eye. Pouring cold white wine into my favorite thin stemmed glass I think about how addiction runs in my family but only the ones who play it safe seem to die ahead of their time. It’s a cool afternoon in early autumn and the leaves are just barely changing from green to orange in the fading late day sunlight. If I told you I wanted to radically change this game called love, what would you say? If I told you this wasn’t enough even though it’s already more than I’m afraid I deserve, would you turn against me on a dime? Or would you find it in your heart to understand that I’m only human and humans are such complicated creatures to begin with, what do you expect? I have cravings just like everybody else. Some aren’t socially palatable but what of that? What of them— the ones who demand you live up to their polite expectations so they can feel like they have a handle on a world that is turning to dust right in front of their very eyes. I think of a writer I used to admire who could take words out of thin air and assemble them just so, and use them to do whatever he wanted with you. Without even laying a hand on you he could touch you, gut you, cut you, get you off. Have you any idea how hard it is to find writers like that anymore? We stumble, we search. Whiskey bottles in hotel rooms by the hour and chipped white wedding chapels on sweet green hills far away from here. As the tangerine sun sets behind a purple autumn sky, the liars and the cheaters hold in their hands every shiny broken thing they ever wanted. Are you jealous or disgusted or both? Sometimes the darkness wins. And the world has never felt so hungry. so empty. so angry wet and alive.
Just outside my window the neighbors are fighting in their driveway about something I can’t quite discern. She is speaking in a tone somewhere between mildly annoyed and thoroughly pissed off as he is talking so loudly over her that neither one can hear anything the other is going on about. I am too worn out from a long day at the office to listen to one more useless word of drivel. I pull the window down tight reluctantly because I usually like the smooth evening air sifting in as I write my thoughts into the abyss, the soothing sounds of crickets and low hush of the traffic moving steady along the highway. These moments are so rare for me though I try everything I can to expand the time I have to myself. You steal pockets of time, that is the only way. Steal irreverently from a world which expects you to give everything away endlessly for nothing. As the clouds move in and rain begins to splatter against the windowpane, the substance of this life feels very far away from me. If all we ever truly are is alone, what do people hold onto? How many of us sit quietly in small rooms afraid of our own minds, terrified of what it truly means to love someone else when we don’t even know how to love ourselves. When the words don’t come it is hard for me to think, it is hard for me to feel connected to anything when the words fail me. You cannot foresee the dry spells either, you can write like a motherfucker for weeks at a time and then suddenly not one decent (or even indecent) thing occurs to you to say. The more clever ones, they just walk away- do something else with their stolen slivers of time, something that makes common sense to common people. Not me. I sit until my stomach cramps and my head pounds. I come back to the blank page over and over like an insatiable lover. It drives me absolutely mad when the words don’t show. But for some ridiculous reason, after thirty odd years of this aching melancholic obsession, I always do.
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.
This quiet is enough to split my mind into a thousand tiny shards of panic, come sit with me. Tell me, if you were someone else, and I were someone else, and somehow we freed ourselves of this disaster of a life where the truth is a game and everybody plays along but no one ever wins, would you go back to being who you were as a younger version of yourself? Try to do it differently? Or would you be yourself, now, only less fraught, less distracted, less afraid of what they think of you. If no one else were around, would you touch me and know I was really here with you, trying to help you see the beauty of your eyes as they look into mine with the heave of a swollen ocean, wide open, trapped inside a dilapidated warehouse. Shattered glass windows lining the floors of your aching soul. Aren’t you tired? No, I mean, tired of it all? The days circling decayed meat like buzzards as the pale sky stretches its empty arms out for endless miles over the dull barren landscape. As for me, I find my situation hard to put into words, which is strange as I usually think of myself as being somewhat good with words. But the funny thing is the closer you get to the heart of the thing the more deftly it eludes you. To be a writer- at least the kind I seem to be, there are infinite kinds- it’s sort of like a chase. There’s a cat and there’s a mouse and you’re both. I want to capture and kill as much as I want to run like hell and then hide behind the wall. Does that make any sense at all? To you? Are there things you chase even if only in your mind? Dreams you have about once again being your own, taking what you want and spitting out the rest. The world be damned, you answer only to yourself. Place your hands in my hands, feel the pulse in my wrist. Because this is it, beautiful. There’s no way out and no way back and you and I both know we are so very, very far from home. Heartbeat to heartbeat, body to body, a tear for a tear for every kiss you shouldn’t suck slowly out of me. But as the shadows slide down over the mad sweet sweat of another blistering day, you just can’t help yourself. The soft taste of you is damaged, familiar, poetic. You see, I know the trouble with those who’ve a way with words. We chase the things that we should run from.