from one great lover of mankind to another.
Looking out these glass windows, I'd dream
of a place where it'd just be you, it'd just be me.
We'd abandon all human language, and treacly
gratifying human self-pity.
All forms of human troubles, magazines,
pulling all forms of scandalous heartstrings.
Instead, we'd chirp, screech, howl, croak
in a place with nothing but the Law of the Jungle,
with birds perched on our arms,
we could live offa the fatta the lan',
and our legs would grow strong
from our trots with wolves and
our trickster fox.
But the dream fades,
when I hear every tick,
and its inevitable
don’t leave us alone.
The porch floor creaks and moans. Old, damp wood, rotting from the inside out.
My mouth is dry, but I know this is it. This is the house.
I force saliva to coat my cracked lips.
The door budges without any effort behind it. One small nudge with both hands.
I step in, leaving the door precariously open.
A barely visible hallway spreads in front of me through the darkness.
My eyes adjust to the complete lack of light as I step deeper into the house, the wooden floorboards suddenly silent in comparison to the porch. The safe porch.
The air is thick. My body starts shaking, and once again I know.
This is it. This is the house.
The shaking gets worse as I go up the stairs. A long staircase, the wallpaper on the surrounding walls yellowing and peeling. The front door slams suddenly. There is no wind. I'm not welcome, and they know it. I know it.
My whole body becomes heavy the further up the stairs I go. Another hallway stands before me at the top. Several rooms with completely closed doors. One of them is open--
That is the trap. Do not step into the open door. Go for the sturdiest one, the one that is completely shut. But it's so tough, because that one completely open door shows me a room full of light. Of warmth. I can see a bonfire crackling away, the scent of melting chocolate, marshmallows, cold pines. Christmas. Warmth. Caramel.
Why can't I just forget all this silliness and go through that door?
Wouldn't it be easier? It's a nice place to rest. To finally let go--
a screaming voice breathes into my ear. I jump, a yelp held back.
The rest can't know I am there.
The shock from the voice is enough to make me realize I was one step away from going into the room. On second glance, the room is not warm. It is not bright. It is darker than the rest of the house. Stains around its walls, its floors. I do not need a light to know their color, their origin story. A rank, putrid scent.
Stop it. Goddamn it. Stop it.
Forcefully, I walk away from the room. Towards the one door that is completely closed off to the rest of the world.
My hands are burning cold. This is it. This is the door. I take a deep breath. I knock.
No one answers.
But the door opens, a draft of wind hitting my face.
Before I know it, a small frozen hand slides into my own. The voice is back.
"Please. Don't leave us."
what we hear more times than we can count.
Trigger Warning: physical and emotional abuse.
- - - - -
So, here's the deal. Here's the sitch.
Here's the big ol' spoon I'll now gently pry between your lips.
Love is meant to be freedom, and love is meant to be kind.
Love is not meant to be difficult. Love is not meant to be pain.
In my particular line of business we see it all.
We see couples who weren't meant to be together
try to give it one final go--
or perhaps 33 more attempts before that one final go.
We see broken hearts who insist on 'making' someone
get back to them, as if there is an invisible leash of light
that they can pull on if they only get those magical words right,
or if they apologize or plead or beg just one more time.
Then there's indignation at the wrong place, and completely out of line
of people who believe they are entitled to being the only love prevailing
in other people's lives.
There's the aggression, the violence, of people who say love is meant to hurt.
There's the denial, the gaslighting, the manipulative brainwashing
of people who believe this is what they rightfully deserve.
Because they think they deserve cruel or sharp-edged words,
they think they deserve cruel thoughts,
they think they deserve backhand insults
and the occasional cigarette burn, slap, choke, push or shove.
They think they deserve all this because perhaps, more often than not,
that is all they have ever see, all they have ever known.
That's the hardest thing about life, as I've seen it, as I've coached it:
trying desperately to reason with the spiraled brains of those
who mistakenly but truly
believe they are deserving
a song for the birds - eisley
"Care for this dance?"
Her laughter fills the air. The streetlights glow above us.
Orange. Yellow. White.
She smiles, and nods, gives a mocking curtsy while I give a half-bow.
I pass her the earbuds usually hanging freely from my phone.
I take one, she takes the other, safely placed now inside our ears.
The cable makes it difficult to do much more than sway,
but we make it work, and it's all we got,
so I go ahead and press play.
Bass drum, snare, the constant high-hat in the background,
definitely not a song that screams 'romance',
but we make it work, and it's all we got,
and it really is all we need.
I bite my lip and smile, guiding her through a fox-trot,
which is ridiculous since all I can really do is
a high-school level of waltz.
But she doesn't care, and she doesn't mind,
so we keep stepping
front then back, then side to side.
She removes the earbud to let me spin her,
then places it right in her ear once again.
The corners of her eyes crinkle,
and I can't tell if what I see is an added burn;
an added question I have no idea how to even phrase,
let alone guess how to answer the way I'm guessing that
she'd prefer to pretend we know how to fox-trot
instead of going for the worn-out steps of a waltz.
But we make it work, since it's all we got,
and I keep telling myself that as the song fades out,
because God knows I'm too much of an idiot
to have picked a song that simply goes on,
and on, and
thank you for sharing your childhood books with me.
Breathe in his thoughts like smoke,
hold them in, keep them stitched to your lungs.
Exhale a chained up series of
bitterly hopeful, hopefully bitter words.
Breathe in the worn-out memory
of all the times he wore
his heart on your sleeve--
hold it in, like medicine;
and whenever you are ready,
let your clammy hands uncurl,
let your shaking body rest,
pause the unending film depicting
all your impulsive, reckless mistakes.
And as you bite the inside of your cheeks,
as you pick at your face, scalp, and fingertips,
you know for a fact that all of this simply means
it is too late to go back in time.
You see, there are two choices, when you are
between a rock and a hard place:
A) swallow the red medicine without
a spoonful of sugar to help it all go down,
or B) pretend it will someday disappear
the longer you ignore it, the longer you hold it
tightly in, never letting it
coat anything beyond the
swollen, angry lump
in the back
songs with a beat like a car alarm.
What's the earliest you can remember?
Do you smell the sour morning breath of your classmates back in elementary school as they shared an elaborate scheme to send a left-handed letter to their crush?
Do you remember whole films in your head as you fall asleep, twisting and turning on a pillow whose corner you rubbed against your eyelid back when you were old enough to acknowledge that fairies existed?
How about that squeaky toy wagon, screeching away with red wheels and blue edges, your Sesame Street cubes with bite marks resting in a pyramid on top?
Do you remember that Jacob's ladder, how it fascinated you as the colored blocks went form left to right, held up by lace?
I remember it all.
I remember the soccer team's screams as they yanked each other's shirts; I would hang upside down from a red-and-blue metal jungle gym where I'd eat my ham-and-cheese sandwiches, my sweet juice boxes. Berries were my favorite flavors. Mango the least favorite. It tasted bitter more often than not.
I remember every memory, nearly every word, or the flavor they held on the tip of my tongue.
I remember the laughter, the tears, every single thought held tight in the back of my throat;
every nightmare, every dream, every piece of clothing that got torn as I fell while running, on a skateboard, or the 16 miles I rode on a bicycle as the sharp pedal got caught up on my jeans.
Remembering is a blessing. Remembering is a curse.
Because you remember every loving, affectionate moment that made you feel
like you could soar high up in the air, untouched by the lightning in any storm,
and every single moment of doubt and slash of hurt, every cruel concept you've said,
every single goddamn frustration that roams freely across the streets of your head.
You remember every nook and cranny of every childhood homes, every apartment,
every step from every staircase you roamed.
And when people tell you, "Nah, that didn't happen, you're remembering it wrong,"
you feel the growing, aching frustration because
they don't get your brain the way that you do.
They do not get how you remember those exact moments:
the phone call you never picked up,
the hug from every person you've ever loved,
the way their skin smelled and the way their eyes glowed.
You remember everything.
So how dare they
the choices you made with the poison you take.
Back in the days when I slept
with an 80 proof bottle on the left side of my bed,
the world was blurry, uncertain, with strange emotions
I barely knew what to do with.
I saw him tearing up over a ghost I dreamt about,
I saw her tearing up as I held her face between my hands,
so I helped them, between clean shot after shot,
they never knew about from how well-hid it all was,
as I snuck in the bathroom and punched all of its walls
over and over,
and over again,
until my knuckles were bruised,
the hidden bottle was gone,
and my spirit was torn
with the memories
of all those nights
the marvelous adventures and musings of one mr. M.
My dear Mr. M, do you really not see
this jesting dread below your chin,
or the noxious smoke as it settles
right between your willing lips?
They both spiral and comfort
your lungs and your mind,
the full extent I know not of--
I rely on 80 proof remedies
to get me through the night.
My dear Mr. M, will you please try to see
that where I'm lacking in rhymes
I can make up for with sincerity:
as the creases of your hands run along black and white keys,
and the sounds flooding out are those
of incomplete melancholy.
You must know those are the fingertips
I want on my face as you speak,
and I would gift-wrap my thoughts so
they're part of the air that you breathe.
I'd tie a lasso around the moon,
find you stardust so bright it's blinding,
if it gave you enough light to appease
all the ghosts that you are hiding.
And I'm afraid I must remind you,
since our clock won't cease its chiming:
in order to fully go on living
you'll need to accept
that we are dying.
So, my dear Mr. M, I hope you'll now see,
at long last, as we drift off to sleep,
how my affection does not rely
on your smoke-ridden misery,
but instead trusts the
potpourri and neil gaiman.
"Tell me something you've never told anyone else." Charlie passed the flask to me, her breath smelling of the unmistakable potpourri combination of gin and lime.
"Why in God's name would I want to do that?" I took a generous swig from the flask, staring directly at the branches stretched above us. Charlie punched my arm gently enough to not make me press charges, but hard enough to potentially leave a bruise.
"Because you're my friend, and friends tell each other stuff." she pressed on.
"Unless we are on social media, our friendship doesn't count."
Charlie propped herself up on her elbow, inching her head closer to mine. Her other hand poked at my chest and my ribs. I held on to it, trapping her fingers between my hands.
"Alright, I'm ticklish." I gave in.
"You rat, that doesn't count! I could've easily guessed that about you." she tried to pull her hand away, but I simply would not let her. I continued to grasp her hand, pressing it against my chest.
I look back on that moment often. Why did I do that?
Why did I hold on to her freckled knuckles?
Was it the gin? Or was it that in the few months we had known each other,
I had grown to feel like I could really tell her anything, but still felt
terrified of that idea at the same time?
At that moment I was not scared. I felt bold.
I felt like I was the closest version of myself-- of the very person I aspired to be.
I also felt mildly tipsy.
I could tell she was blushing in the dark. But Charlie was never one to walk away from what she perceived as a challenge. At the end of the day, let's face it, the only reason why I kept holding on to her hand at that moment was because she let me. She did not lean in closer. She stayed exactly where she was at, flexing her fingers beneath mine.
"When I was younger, I wanted so badly for magic to be real." I let go of her hand, and sat up, my arms wrapped around my knees. "I wanted to be in a Neil Gaiman story. You know, the sort where you could go through a small door or knock on a wall and you'd end up in this whole new universe. You'd see all sorts of crazy shit, and everything would be this...greater than life experience. There'd be meaning in things that actually were supposed to have meaning, even if they were nonsense. In here, nothing really has meaning. Nothing important has meaning. We look at most situations and think, 'Oh shit, well that's complicated,' but it actually isn't. Most things are easier than we think, but we make them complicated ourselves because there aren't any monsters or demonic angels or Other Mothers with buttoned eyes. We are our own goddamned worst enemies, and we are masochistic bastards who think this is better than just..." I faltered, realizing I was ranting.
"Than just knocking on a wall and see it open up in front of you." Charlie finished for me. She sat up as well, her shoulder bumping against my own as she leaned her head against her knees to look at me.
"Then I realized. Ghosts wouldn't choose to talk to me. Fairies wouldn't pop up from plants. Doors would just lead to other rooms in the house. Walls wouldn't open up."
"There is magic around you, though. Even if it isn't in the way you expected." she whispered.
I turned to look at her. The wide space between her eyebrows. Her almost comical angular nose. The red sweatshirt I let her borrow as we climbed out the window and onto the rooftop, because she hated the cold. I shook my head slightly.
She nudged closer against me.
"Ever thought that maybe people and the connections we make are the real magic in this world, Pete? Look, hear me out. It isn't the same as the Canterville Ghost walking around, or with fairies popping up left and right, or with these giant quests to show your own bravery. Maybe it's all in doing what's right just because it's the right thing, instead of focusing on all those complications you mentioned we get stuck in. That is magic. It isn't loud or show-off-y, but it is real, and it is there. And, hey. Can I tell you something I've never told anyone?"
There was an inch between us.
"You are proof magic exists in the world."
Her eyes glinted. Her thin lips widened into the most Charlie-esque of smiles;
the sort that made me believe there was merit in what she was saying,
but it wasn't applying to me. Not really.
It applied to her.
I had a choice. Did I have a choice? Was she giving me a choice?
I could close the space between us.
Or I could stay where I was at,
just looking into her eyes for as long as she allowed me to,
holding on to this moment exactly as it was.
"Just hold that happy thought, Peter, and it will lift you into the air."
a memory of our february evenings.
It was the oil slick of colors,
the bubbles floating in the air,
the way I felt a rustling deep in my stomach
while sitting next to her.
It was the air, so sharp and cold,
it was the stars, so bright they burned
into constellations marked deep in my mind
while sitting next to her.
Her words echoed on the rooftop,
both inconsequential and profound,
a reminder of how our wish for immortality
is really nowhere to be found.
So I'll sit here, next to her,
with all these bubbles in the air,
and I'll think of how we will be, and how we are,
Someplace, Somehow, Somewhere.