A springtime breeze slides in through my open window and it makes perfect sense to me even though it is still the dead of winter. The ground is the kind of mud that is so thick it makes a sucking sound when you trudge through in your rubber-soled boots. The fog was so dense yesterday I couldn’t see two feet in front of my face. The warm currents turning to a haunting white vapor as they met with the snow still cold and clinging, but slipping away, on the gray winter landscape. Wet train tracks. A bridge to nowhere as if suspended in thin air. A time of transition. A time of – what was the word from Eat, Pray, Love? Attraversiamo….. we cross over. An end which is a beginning. A risk which is somehow reckless and not at all reckless.
I pull a tarot card which confirms my wildest hopes for renewal. Artistic. Sensual. Grounded in the earth. The waters of my own emotions, gentle and placid, red and violent, in turns. We find ways to abandon ourselves. But something inside is always calling us back. The battle is as real as the pink streaks of light at dawn, the calamity of night against day. The pain and the danger, too. We were made for it, though. Built and designed for all of it. Distorted as this culture is. Twisted. Fucked up as its norms and pressures and false gods may be, we come from someplace so far beyond this world that there is no place we can point to. No star we can promise or claim is home.
Honestly, I am not about this ethereal shit until all of a sudden I am. My tarot tells me this is just the beginning. Of discovery, adventure. Of learning what I actually love, not what I’m told. Of finally knowing what true pleasure is, not what they sold me. Not what I have been swallowing down in gulps of hysteria, panicked of losing a life I only barely knew in glimpses anyway. It’s funny though, isn’t it? How sometimes a glimpse is enough. How if you are very, very lucky, the sweet fresh air will sweep through unexpectedly. And you will recognize it for what it really is: the first next breath you are finally brave enough to take.
Perhaps you just pour the gasoline, toss the match, watch it all burn up in the tallest most beautiful flames. The old life, the old you, the previousness of so much of what you are still holding close to your timid chest. As the clock ticks on well past a time when time should have been up, I wash my face and brush my teeth. There is blood but only a little. There are scars but just a few. I cover them with cream that smells of lilac and lillies of the valley. My grandmother had lillies of the valley growing all the way down along the chain-linked fence which lined her driveway. She never drove a single day in all her life. Never needed to. She died too old and too young and had every single one of her real teeth when she passed on through.
As the minutes I’ll never get back fall away down the drain like shriveled skin cells, and dew drops which glisten in the foggy heat of a spring morning somehow burst forth against the morning light on the other side of this aching, weepstained earth, there are feelings inside of me I have never felt before. Mmm no that isn’t quite it. I have had these feelings before, of potential, of something secret and ancient just about to begin, but I took my hands and I smothered them so they couldn’t breathe. The difference now is not the feelings but the way I move around them. Toward them. Slow and steady and deliberate. When you stop threatening to kill them off, it turns out, they put down their weapons, too.
That voice in your head right now, can you be sure what it wants for you? When you pour the coffee when you add the sugar when you notice your feet are freezing even though you are wearing wool socks. The night descends inside of your bones at the beginning of the day. When things aren’t right, which is to say normal which is to say the same which is to say habitual, your whole routine is shot to hell. You scramble the eggs and sort through the thoughts like separating the laundry you now remember you left wet in the washing machine last night but, wait, more importantly, what is today? Is there something special in it that perhaps you forgot about?
The letters you weave together to collect words into existence to make the voice make itself. You forgot to send the letters off in the mail, again. I love the sober community or at least I think I do, right now they are all just heads on a screen which is full of heads and bodies and a crippling cascade of advice.
Sober sob stories. Condolences.
Some of us make it and some of us don’t but maybe death is a doorway or a gateway or a trap or a trick or an illusion. Try not to think about that. Try to take the coffee and the eggs and the cold and the letters and one day at a time. I want to tell them I’m just in it for the sober sex which is quite honestly mind blowing. I want to say today feels like the greatest day of my life since yesterday and that tomorrow burns in me like a triple sun, three large suns orbiting one another. It is very hot. It is very menacing the way they smile.
I cannot stop the words and I cannot imagine telling anyone about any of this. I remember what he said when he said ‘ . . . you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.’ and how that has irreversibly fucked me up. When you are a writer you are always in your head unless you are fucking your lover or eating the eggs or downing the coffee which tastes like the high point of your entire life to be honest, but even then it isn’t so easy to disengage from the voice. You need it or it needs you.
But what would you do to fit in with the chatter. If your friend jumped off a bridge would you do it, too? My mother would ask me that when I was small. Because the fear is that you are just like everybody else and the fear is that you are not like anybody else who ever existed or ever will. And the fear is in the holding on to one of those beliefs or the other but never both at once.
Your mother cannot understand that you would jump and you would not jump. It is possible to commit opposite acts simultaneously not in the body but in the mind. You look at your hands and see that they are holding a coffee mug and they are buttering the toast. And you are also ending your thoughts and you are also following them as they multiply. You listen to them and you do not listen to them. You get up and you stay in bed. You can jump and you can not jump. You can pick up the glass and not pick up the glass. You are doing so right now.
I am not your savior in any sense of that word. I cannot save you from boredom or fury, jealousy, rage, desperation. Can’t take those sharp-toothed desires and soothe them for you so you can sleep it off and buy yourself some time. But something about the way you look at me makes me think you think I could if I would just put my body close enough to yours. And lord forgive me, I like the way you shift your eyes from the corner to the floor to the inside of my thighs. It’d be cute if I were writing you into the plot of some kind of fantasy. Maybe I’d give you everything you think you want right before I rob you blind.
People are full to the neck of complicated story lines, the amount of conflict out in the world is nothing compared to the wars going on inside our own brains. We are quiet about it though. So quiet you begin to believe you are the only one with the problem. But none of their stories are my business. I keep my head down and stay in my lane. I don’t know what you have done in your past and you don’t know what I’ve been through in mine. Either you want to listen with genuine curious detachment or you want to sell me something money can’t buy. But maybe it could.
Maybe if the price weren’t too low or too high. If it cost me just enough that I feel the risk in my stomach. Have to turn it over and over in my mind before I finally give in. There was a man once who wrote something so obscene to me that I had to trash it so nobody else would see. Strangers. Comics. Clowns. Perverts. Obstacles. Everybody is a carnival all their own inside. Distorted mirrors and the smell of funnel cakes and lemonade and ice cream melting into the hot, hot, blacktop. A large painted metal trash can overflowing with sticky mangled trash. Empty bottles rolling around and around the fairgrounds for miles and miles in the oppressive summer sun.
People don’t know what they need so they reach for what they think might fix the agitation fastest. It isn’t good or bad it’s just human nature and the filthy rich guys know it better than most. They sell us the fix and they sell us the cure and we are so desperate for a way out of the labyrinth that we believe enough in both to confuse them with each other. Are you watching me? Are you watching what I say and how I say it, trying to peel off the meaning like skinning a cat? It’s nothing to you no matter what, maybe, but still. The thought creeps into my psyche I can’t really help it. It’s just the nature of the thing I do.
People don’t know what they’re doing, you know what I mean. Be careful who you watch and be very concerned with what they say they stand for. You wouldn’t believe some of the shit I’ve seen. If we were together I could tell you about it face to face but what would it matter? Everybody’s got a story. Everybody’s got an angle.
I fantasize about a cigarette and my mouth begins to water. I brush my hair and panic softly about all the ways I have overexposed myself throughout the years – the best and the worst years – of my life. I blame the drink and the ink and the seductive ways of strangers and myths, monsters and dragons and angels and demons and every other self righteous prick who taught us to play with a fire we were never meant to understand.
Today has been a long one. Today has been a tough one. Today still tugs at my tenderest insides even as it melts into evening, whispering sweet nothings about letting go. It’s funny the things which occupy our minds when we forget to listen to our bodies. It’s funny when he tells me to breathe and I realize it might have been decades since I inhaled or exhaled in such a manner that would actually heal me if I would just let it.
I sip hot tea and stare through the dead clear window, eyes hot blue and the trees reach for one another beneath the descending darkness. We could have been anything we chose to be and the trick about that is that we are. We are exactly what we chose to be bit by bit, sunset by sunset. Hand to the heart, heart like an unborn animal. Mind like a loaded gun.
The light begins to move as leaves of shadow slope sweet against the bare walls of my mellow mind. There is something out there which has its origins inside of my bloodstream. I am so certain of this it aches, but I have yet to find words which even come close to expressing this seemingly impossible phenomenon.
But I can listen to the sky no matter its color. There is a way to become the darkness if you can search yourself for all the reasons you are afraid of the light. Did you know that the universe is mostly darkness? I contemplate the vastness of cold empty space. I imagine myself as a single burning point of distant turning light.
Eventually, it all fades. I run my hands through my hair and stare blankly at its strawberry waves. There is a scent which becomes an alternate reality. It is the beach and the ocean and the way his body wants to stimulate mine. I was a child once and I ran through the fields. I was a feathered creature who could bring messages to the saddest ones of all.
I once read that sobriety would give you everything alcohol promises and I thought that was the most obnoxious thing I’d ever heard. The problem is that it is true. The other problem is that it is all I want to talk about because nobody talks about it because nobody listens. The lies we are sold are so thick it is tough to see through them to the other side. I know only because I have made it here to a place which may or may not be all the way, but which is changing me all the same.
At twenty-one days sober, my mind is crystal clear and even old memories from childhood which I never remembered before are returning to my awareness. It is very surreal. My anxiety has plummeted. Alcohol was causing the anxiety I was trying to cure with alcohol which is the most genius sadistic capitalist trick I never realized I was falling for all these years. You get caught in the cycle because it is designed that way. And people will roll their eyes about all of it. I know because I always did. The problem is that we have no idea what we are capable of. The furious fits of drunk ass rage. The highest heights of sober serenity.
Of course, the truth is that three weeks clean isn’t gonna undo decades of poisoned destruction. I know that. I get that. And a very big part of me is screaming, even as I type these very words, to please just shut up already because “you know you are so full of shit.” The thing is, though, that there is another part of me – small, just a flicker, but very determined for whatever reason to turn into a wild all out blaze – which cannot seem to help but open up its weary throat and speak.
It’s in the way the snow is coming down like white crystal rain, nestling against the statues of angels in the garden. I can feel the cold sloping off the window glass and onto my skin. Did you know that is where I came from. Off in the distant dark I can hear my footsteps falling soft as feathers on an unsure path. In the end there is no end and the beginning is an illusion, an impossibility. Life and death being spiraled and incomplete. You and I entwined like perfect circles, ringed for a time undetermined.
In the corners of my mind which are just at the start of lighting up like sunrise, the life I meant to choose but couldn’t reaches out its never-aging hand. There is a child who can only dream of what she could become but didn’t dare. She is the eye of eternity. I can see the rainbowed wallpaper and the canopy of unicorns in clouds. Have I told you that the dreams are returning. I sleep in the night and I am awake all day, as though I am learning what was intended.
I once heard that each snowflake is unlike any of the others. I watch as they fall so close to each other but rarely touch. Have you read Sappho. Have you ever held a heart in your palm and trembled. Thought perhaps it was your own in a time long ago. Everything you run from stays until you do. I light a candle and sip the prayers in my chest. I was never taught quite correctly. What I thought was escape was a trap and I believed. Can you imagine such a fragile thing. Maybe if you try you could. Just because you now see the bars of the cage doesn’t mean you know how to leave.
Like a tiny foal on wobbly little legs, I stand in front of him tired and undone. He wants to turn up the music and down the whiskey and I want nothing more than to play the role I have played along with my whole life. I can hang, sir. I can match you pace for pace until I can’t. Almost certain I want all the way in, which is not entirely true but my brain is a matrix of well coordinated lies I mistake for truth, all manner of exaggerated distortions buzzing around each other into a maddening blur of silent shriek. He looks into my eyes and tells me I am beautiful. It feels like warm honey for a split second and then rolls to the back of my rumbling thoughts. I hold onto it with all that’s left of my withering might.
If I make it through this night without poisoning myself it will be the fourteenth in a row not that I’m counting except that I am absolutely counting the days the evenings the hours the minutes. Not always. But sometimes. And those times are so loud I can feel them beating against my organs all the way up through my throat. Thoughts are knives and try as I believe I must, part of me is on my knees begging for the pierce of their stabbed gushing release. I just want the pain to stop and I don’t know how to pull that off because I don’t know where it starts. I don’t know why. And the why, though, that’s the thing. That’s the holy grail I build up in my mind for better or for worse.
If only I could understand this shit I could pull it apart, lay it all out on the table of my manic mind and re-structure it. I am a fool sure, yes, but I am not entirely ridiculous, am I? Addiction is a motherfucker. It’s got sexy claws and glistening fangs which are laced with a euphoric kind of heavenly abandonment. You want out, sweetness? Come here, baby, I’ll get you out. That’s right, angel, give me those pretty hopeful bambi eyes of yours and all that virgin flesh, inside, inside, inside in dark places and spilling out all over. Drink me, suck me, fuck me, I promise I’ll give you everything you crave so badly you can’t breathe or think or move or speak. Poor pathetic ritualed thing.
He has always been the kind of guy who rolls with the punches and I adore that about him. The cold doesn’t phase him nor does the heat just as long as he can be wild. He sips red wine and lights up his fancy cigar as I sit by the fire smoking a cigarette, wondering if any of this matters at all in the end. The music is so good that somewhere inside of it all of my questions dissipate like a fog gently lifting off of a wide dark sea. I kiss him hard and sweet and proper. He tastes like a past I am trying to run from but when he lets me ride him through the fear I come out like a feathered angel creature, floating high on the other side.
Sirens scream off in the distance as the blackout trees stretch empty toward the heather gray sinking sky. A lady neighbor yells something out her front door to her husband who is bundled up so tight in a coat, scarf, and hat that he can’t hear a word she’s saying. I smile to myself watching because domesticity is so often comical but no one seems to notice because they are so damn stressed out about the next email they need to send or the kombucha whatever the fuck they need to choke down before they run off to whatever else it is they do next. I sip my tea and feel a little judgey and then feel a little bad about it but then really not too bad at all.
A scattered electric pink stripe washes across the cloud cluttered horizon and suddenly what’s left of the twinkle lights along the block blink to life despite the razor cold. The lady neighbor yells another something I can’t make out but it is surely in earnest and the husband just lumbers up the driveway with their empty recyclable can, staring dead ahead at his open garage. People are absolutely hilarious, and oblivious to it all the while, which makes it even more so.
I haven’t had a lick of booze in thirteen days and while in some moments it feels like I could shred my own skin from the inside out, I couldn’t care less in this one. I sleep like smoothest, warmest silk and the anxiety has all but plummeted to damn near nothing which is wild because I never imagined that such a thing was even possible. It’s bananas the things we tell ourselves we need to survive until one day we give it a go without and find we are better off entirely in ways we never would have thought of before. We think we know so much. We think we know it all but really we should stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to get shit right we were never taught right to begin with.
I’m reading a book about love and limerence. It’s a real torture for some people, to live with a sickening all-consuming obsession like that. To want someone so badly that you can’t eat or sleep or concentrate. So terribly that every time you so much as brush your gritty teeth you want to cry just facing yourself in the mirror all alone. You want to carve their one silly name into your poor weepy bones if only for one chance that their eyes might drink you in just one more time. It’s rather strange, really. The debilitating tragedies we let corrupt otherwise beautiful things.
I can stay dead center in the middle of the chaos, baby, I’ve done it before and I can do it again. As long as it takes. As deep as the goddamn current drags. There may be tears. There may be sweat. There may be blood. There just may be the greatest fucking moments of your life spent unwavering in the quiet calm as the world around you spins so fast the others are slung right off the map of the rest of your life.
I’ve been lied to, angel. Stabbed in the back, cheated on, torn into ten thousand bits as though none of any of me mattered. I have been so terrified that the sun could show me nothing but sickness. I have been hurt and hurt doesn’t even begin to cover it, you know what I mean. I bet you do. I am, in fact, so sure you understand that I don’t even feel afraid to tell you anything because I can see you clear as glistening golden daybreak. You in your beautiful busted up humanity.
Pose for me. Kneel for me. Turn toward me and away again. Take your hands and touch yourself. I’ve seen just about everything, sweetness, the last thing I need right now is someone too afraid to ruin it. Pour your soul into something which begs for you to finally fall all the way apart. Do not ever look back. Do not ever let up. I can exist here in the eye of the storm for centuries. I’ve already done it. And here you are in the palm of the words which I write just now. You come to me. You come for me. You bow that reverent splendid head of yours and read.