This list is mostly for my own self reference, so I can come back and remind myself and hold myself accountable. I find I do...
At Leakycon we don’t say “I love you” we say “WE’RE WIZARDS WE’LL PARTY FOREVER TURN AROUND BRIGHT EYES HARRY I’M COMING HOME I...
the tiny sliver of hope i hold
will be what kills me,
but it is also the only thing
that is keeping me upright.
I have no right to feel your absence this deeply,
to expect your words at a certain time every day,
to expect them to brighten me.
I never had any claim to you.
I just hoped I did.
I shouldn’t have let my heart speak.
My heart has never said anything
that I didn’t regret eventually.
I miss talking in a way that’s not
feet on broken glass.
We were waiting in line to go on a water slide when he first told me he wanted to marry me. We’d been in the water for hours, wrinkly like we’d been together for sixty-five years. His eyes were wide as my bikini clung to my skin, like he hadn’t seen me in much less before, when he said those words: “I’m going to marry you someday.”
I wanted to run away so fast that the lifeguard blew his whistle. We were only seventeen. That’s not the kind of thing you can say to a girl who loves you. That’s not the kind of thing that can be put back.
I smiled, but I’m not sure it made its way to my eyes. I didn’t want to go on the slide anymore. My stomach was already flopping around in my abdomen.
A cross hangs on the wall, right between the line of blow-up Letter People and a bulletin board full of finger paintings. A man hangs there, blood blowing from his hands, caked into his hair. I’m surprised the same people who banned books in the library asked for this to be hung here. It could be traumatizing for a kindergartner, but we’ve all grown up around bodies like these, and no one bothers to look for too long. It watches us as we play, as we learn to share and count to one hundred. It follows us as we age, as we learn algebra, physics, The Great Gatsby, until we are old enough to hang one for ourselves, until we are the ones showing corpses to kindergartners and saying they are beautiful.
You always loved the stars.
The night we fell in love,
You wooed my by naming those pinpricks in the sky,
Pointing out pictures of warriors and animals and lovers.
Your eyes were so excited and you looked so happy,
I pretended I could see them too.
You tell me that you’ve never been in love, not really, and I feel an overwhelming sadness for you that makes me want to take you into my arms and kiss you until you can’t breathe, to bring you to an Italian restaurant and refuse to let you pay the check, to write you poems and songs and letters. I want to make you fall in love with me, just so you could feel the warmth it brings. But that’s not fair to you. I’m not one you would want to love.
I think how easy it must be, to have never been in love, to not have little snippets of yourself scattered all over, and to not have little ghosts of others inside you. And it must be beautiful, to be waiting patiently to finally be swept off your feet, to fall in love correctly, in perfect form.
But I couldn’t give up the feeling of intertwined hands, the blues and browns and greens of their eyes. They are a part of me now, as I am a part of them, and I know what it’s like to be in love.
Before I can stop myself, I lean forward and kiss you.
It takes about three and a half hours to get to Chicago by car, if traffic is good and you can manage to avoid too many stops. I had planned on us getting there around 6:30 after adding in some cushion, and had even made a dinner reservation.
However, I soon realized: Dee was a stopper, and I wasn’t very good at saying no to her.
In the first hundred miles, we’d somehow managed to stop four times. At a Lion’s Den Adult Superstore, not because she was in the market for anything they sold, but to laugh at the terrible porno titles and the silicone dicks, and ending up feeling a bit morose for the rag tag men we met there. At two gas stations to use the rest room and buy soft drinks, where we also ended up picking up gummy worms and novelty lighters and four packs of playing cards. And at a mom and pop style diner, simply because they had a billboard on the side of the highway saying that they had the World’s Greatest Coconut Cream Pie, and she insisted we needed to try it. (Although I doubt it was the World’s Greatest, I’ll admit, it was pretty good.)
Needless to say, we weren’t making very good time.
Dee sat beside me in the passenger seat, her knees up against her chest, hands fiddling with the radio. She had to keep doing this pretty consistently, as we kept losing the signals as we moved forward, and she was fairly picky. At the moment, she seemed to have found a station that played entirely 80’s hair metal. She turned and stuck out her tongue at me and screwed up her eyes, then danced around in her seat, somehow making it look natural, her long curly hair whipping around her face as though caught in the wind. I laughed good-naturedly, bobbing my head as best I could while driving.
It was all a bit awkward, because I didn’t even know Dee that well. I had a crush on her, but in the way that you like people you barely know, in an afar, a-little-creepy sort of way. They do cute things, they have nice faces, but you don’t know enough about them to be sure whether you’d have real feelings or compatibility.
We’d been in a few classes together, and had finally gotten partnered up for a project, which had allowed me to get her number, which had allowed me to begin texting her. We’d just been texting about little things, and somehow I let slip that I’d never had Chicago-style pizza. Before I knew it, I’d somehow agreed to a road trip to procure some the next day. I was having a nice time, but if we didn’t hurry, we’d miss our reservation at the pizza place, which was the whole reason we were going, and who knew if we’d be able to get another one.
“A scenic overlook!” Dee yelled in excitement, pointing out the window at a sign that said that one was coming up in two miles.
“Dee…,” I said, trying to keep annoyance out of my tone, but she must have heard it, because she wilted, just a bit. I felt bad. I was all for adventures, I really was, but it was almost seven already.
“I know, I know. Just one more. Promise,” she said, giving me that pouty lip that girls always do. “I love the crap out of these things.”
I knew I should have kept going, but I found myself saying, “Okay, we’ll pull off quick.”
She grinned at me, extending a hand to squeeze my shoulder. It was a bit of an odd gesture, and I wasn’t sure what she meant by it, but it made me grin back with a sincerity I wasn’t expecting. I saw the light that I’d brought to her eyes, and though it was stupid, I realized that I would do pretty much anything I could to put it there.
We got off at the exit, stretching as we got out of the car, even though really, it hadn’t been too long since we’d gotten out. She started walking in the direction of the scene we were supposed to be overlooking, and when I didn’t follow her for a second, she reached out like she was going to grab my hand, but then balked, like she realized that this wasn’t acceptable, that the intimacy wasn’t there. There was a pause, and in it, I wished she had just grabbed it. “Come on,” she said, grabbing my shirt sleeve, and pulled me on.
The view wasn’t much to look at, which I’d been expecting. We were just in Illinois, after all. There were some trees and a lake, and it was nice, but it would never find a picture on a postcard or anything. I glanced over at Dee, expecting to see indifference, but found only awe. “It’s beautiful,” she said, her jaw a little slack.
I wasn’t sure what she saw, but it was obviously different from what I did. I tried inching closer to her, to see if the angle changed anything, but it was the same. “Why do you like these things so much, Dee?”
She looked at me, seeming to ponder this. “They’re a break in the monotony, I guess. From the pavement and the yellow lines and all the stupid drivers. They’re a chance to breathe? To step out.” She paused. “The stops are the most interesting part of the journey, anyway. They’re what you tell everyone about. They’re what make stories.”
I instantly regretted being annoyed with her about stopping, if it meant so much to her, and I realized she was right about our little detours. The important part of today had been laughing over coconut cream pie, holding up ridiculously sized phalluses, competing over who could eat the most gummy worms in two minutes. I hadn’t tried the pizza yet, but I knew it wouldn’t compare, wasn’t what I would remember.
We stood for a few minutes, and I stared at the view, really looked at it. I saw the way the leaves on the trees were budding, the light that reflected off the lake, the ducks swimming around in its water. I like to think that, after I stared at it for a few minutes, I saw a fragment of what she was seeing, a sliver of the beauty. I looked over at her, seeing the tranquility of her face, the way that the setting sun added pink smudges to her dark eyes. “Thank you for making me stop,” I said to her, meaning it sincerely.
And before I knew it, her hand was slipping into mine.
why should i be brave
when it only makes me smaller.
why should i offer people
the ventricles in my heart
if they’ll only mar them to pieces.
i can’t take much more of this.
you light me up
like a string of christmas lights
on the winter solstice.
and sometimes when you smile,
i see spots behind my eyes,
like i’ve been staring at the sun.
i can’t help but fear that i’ll hurt you,
that i’ll dim those bulbs in your eyes,
but they’re what i see by.
they’re what keep me
from losing myself in the dark.
and i would do anything
to bask in your rays
for a bit longer.
I never believed in ghosts until I met him, until he showed me the way the pantry door opened by itself, the orbs he insisted I’d missed because I’d chosen the wrong moment to blink.
I suppose I didn’t believe in them, but I humored him, and that’s almost the same thing.
If he thought there was a spirit about, he would call out, asking its name like an old friend. I would kiss him, closing his lips, because I didn’t want to know if they would answer.
Ghosts float around, trying to make an impact on the natural world but always coming up short. They strive to be noticed, to be heard, by someone, anyone. They are shadows of their former selves, not realizing that their state of matter ever changed.
I realized he was so fascinated with ghosts because he was one of them.
We were once the aurora borealis,
Shimmering above the night sky,
Our bodies intermingling, our colors blending.
You were the purples, I was the oranges,
And together, we made fire.
But you took the purples away,
The flames too hot and the tundra too cold,
Too much all at once.
Without you I only burn,
Obliterating everything I touch.
I need someone to slow me to embers.
I thought we were the northern lights,
But I was just a spotlight in the night,
And you were just smoke.
you don’t believe that i have baggage,
because i don’t wheel it behind me,
opening it up and handing out
bits like party favors.
i hide mine close to my person,
secured with zipper after zipper.
if i let it free, i imagine
it would consume the entire room,
and would never fit back inside,
and you’ll never get it all off your walls,
or off your mind
or out of your hair.
you have your own burdens.
you don’t need mine caked to your skin.