Happiness has its own weight

It might have been different had I arrived in the summer.

The city is a different island in the summertime, open, clear-skied and brilliant blue to the edges. Even the mucky shore-water out at Rockaway lightens itself, can almost be seen through if you open your eyes before a wave breaks and pulls you into the swirl. Summer here is dresses and sleeves shorter, legs leaner, drinks clinking earlier in the day, the days themselves longer, stretching out like Amsterdam, an avenue of sunlight, headed toward whatever comes next. Had I arrived here in the summer, I might have walked that line for longer, gotten far enough away. But I arrived late in the fall. The season of contracted light, of colors leaching. I arrived tilted away from the sun, and by the time winter came I had forgotten what it felt like to be warm. Forgotten sun slicking down my shoulders, sweat pooling in the creases of my skin, that ribbon of salt and water to be washed off in cool showers, before it wraps around you all over again.

There is a girl in Sheep Meadow, she’s sitting on the edge of a checkered blanket, feet bare and tucked beneath her. She looks expectant, waiting. The group of young men she sits with talk fast, easy, conversations bouncing over invisible nets, a volley and return of words, punctuated by laughter and exclamation. She is part of this, but to the side, a decoration. Unknown, but invited. Knowing the boy in the middle the longest – three, four days now, since they started talking at the laundromat, she not knowing how to get the coins to load, and he, extracting her newness, offering a thin line of friendship and his number – Come! It’s just some friends and some food in the park. They’ll all love your accent, darling. His boyfriend duly playing the part, asking her to say particular words over and again. Clapping at her vowels, rolling off the picnic blanket in a kind of mocking kindness before pouring warm white wine into her plastic cup – Ching Ching, darling! –  and telling her his own stories of the day and his life. There can be such quick intimacy to strangers. She discovers he is a hairdresser for that famous actress, and no he can’t share any secrets, but yes, that rumor really is true – it’s always true, darling! and she sips at her warm wine, smiling at her life, here, right now, in this fading light. She brought cantaloupe, diced in a plastic cup, and purple grapes, and a oversize bag of potato chips. Someone made brownies, set them out in the middle of the blanket as an offer, the residue under her fingernails now, she picks at the chocolate with her teeth, unable to say, perhaps not even knowing, how much she craves the taste of something home-made. Someone turns up music through a tinny phone speaker, Stevie Wonder becomes their soundtrack as the group passes around a joint, the weed packed tight into a ceramic cigarette. Flimsy disguise, barely a nod, as the distinctive smell wafts to other blankets, other picnics in this dusky park.

She got lost on the way here, mixed up her lakes, but she knows she’ll find her way home. It’s always easier to find your way back, but there’s something thrilling about getting lost she thinks, as she stands up and begins to dance to the familiar music, joining her new friends in their loose-limbed celebration. She can taste the weed in the back of her throat, feel her tongue go thick with it, and she’s happier than she might have ever been, with her new friends whose names she can’t remember, and their stories, and her welcoming. She hitches her flowing dress into the seams of her underwear, exposes her thighs and dances the sun all the way down the sky, twirling with him, and him, and by herself, in all this open space that she could never have imagined existed until now.

When, one by one, her new friends peel themselves away, heading off to clubs and bars and other people’s parties, she kisses them on both cheeks with each farewell, laughs and promises to come see their show, or be there next Thursday or Wednesday for dinner. Soon, she will be the only one left, and the night is pushing down on her skin, so she says goodbye herself, hugs her oldest new friend and then hugs him again as Isn’t She Lovely serenades her out and away from the meadow. Once she’s out of site, she starts to run, arms open, pulling her dress free of where she has hitched it. As it comes loose, her finger slices through the fine fabric below her hip, causing a jagged hole that she will later paste with clear nail polish, trying to prevent the tear in her dress from spreading. She will come to love this flaw and this memory of running and the high sweetness of harmonicas chasing her home. It is a hot summer night, and she emerges from the park breathless and dizzy from the wine and the weed and the newness of her life. The sky is inky now, and it seems to make everything heavier, closer somehow. This is the first time she understands that happiness has its own weight, too. That you can be thick with it, no different from sadness. She stands on the liminal in this moment, as wide awake as she has ever been, and sure this feeling is endless, a wide open breach into possibility.

She makes it to her neighborhood, feels for the first time that she fits in this place. Belongs. And I think, perhaps, had I arrived in summer, this girl would have been me.

~ Alice, What We Have Left

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I was saturated with wine and Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler when I wrote this.

The girl, of course, is me 😉

Central Park Summer Days

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The space before

Knees slanting, coming closer. Bodies knowing first. That there is no real distance between them now, only the memory of it, a last holding on to the space they used to occupy. The space before each other. Thinking, one last time, that it might be safer not to touch, not to fall. Foolishly mistaking suspension for security, like so many do. But they are about to know better than most. They know death now, and desire. And it is impossible not to conflate the two. Once you know.

I push them closer. Knees, a nudge.

She feels the pressure of him, all that is below the surface. Above, she runs thumb and forefinger along the stem of her wine glass, pulls at her earlobe. He studies her hand, taps the table top. Doesn’t move, can’t move. Was that some kind of otherness that pushed his knee against hers just now?

Of course the writer feels it. Feels me. Even as he understands so little of himself.

I want to sit down between them. Show her the nerves that flicker wherever they touch. Shift her fingers from glass to his lips, say here, this place, is home. I think that if I whispered this to him just now, he would be the one to hear me. I try, but the words come out as a gust of wind, a stir.

This is your night. I say it louder this time, and the trees rustle my words out loud. Let go! I shout, and the candle between them flickers. My voice is trees and flame and wind, now that I know how to hear it. I am everything that touches lightly, and this new power is extraordinary. Feeling less and less like limbs and hair and teeth and bone. More like air and sensation and the spark that shoots a river of blue all through his body.

The man who killed me sits at home and feels it, too. Candles flickering, night air whistling. He thinks of how he loved me in that moment, and I cause a crack in the sky, thunder that shakes him in his chair. He is worried about limbs and hair and teeth and bone tonight. Because all that I was, I hiss in his ear, is going to lead them right to him.

~ Alice,  What We Have Left

… don’t remember writing this over the holidays (wine??) but a few quick edits and it makes *enough* sense to share. And to pick up and follow … 

 

Very well

Jade ocean and granite mountain. I am still. Known and knowing, heart achingly quiet. I should stay right here on these rocks, face turned, palms open. I should let things be. But I carry the madness of my mothers, a garnet red river in my veins. When calm descends, I can’t help but twist toward wild seas. I want to breach my banks, break free.

I have said this all along: I was not made for serenity. There are no tranquil waters in me. I desire, crave authenticity. I cannot leave illusions alone. When I reach backward like this, it’s for the promise of new.

And no, this is not really about you.

You, who responds – are you well? As if I could be contained by this small question and this small interest in such a large, unwieldy life. I have long understood I dive to the depths on my own. It is the rare man who could meet me there – and you were asked before I knew.

I do know. Whatever sensation I seek today, you have merely waved from the shore.

(I do not think you feel less, old friend – but I am certain I feel more.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes)” ~ Walt Whitman
Mermaid Life

They are my stories

These are not suitcases. They are my stories. I carry them with me, yes, and at times – at 2ams and altitudes – my shoulders slump with their heft. The weight of past mistakes and all of the leaving. I spin the world backward, these times. Searching with my finger across the whirring, blurring globe for home. Are you nostalgic? she asked me once, and I said yes, as I understand it. I think writers, necessarily retrieve. I meant to say that memory matters. The past matters. But those words belong to another, so I left the thought behind.

I do – at times – have to turn myself around.

But these are not suitcases. I do not come with burdens, see. I arrive lush with autobiography. Stories spilling, swimming. I had a farm in Africa. I stood trembling at the door. There was a moment, just before. I sobbed and smiled. Here. And here. And here. I thought-. He was-. She was-. They were-. I was-. He sang in my ear. I shouldn’t have. I did. I came twice as he-. I saw the most-. I travelled to-. It made me feel. This is the … happiest I’ve ever been. Yes! I remember everything.

I remember every thing. I carry it all, swinging, dancing. Hands out, even to my sorrows. I never wanted a calm waters life. Though I waded through his once or twice. Just to see what it is to be light. And I found it heavier than I’d ever imagined, to carry no one thing at all.

Here, let me open for you now. These are not suitcases. They are my stories …

Rock2018

(Remember: Don’t believe a word I say. Just the way I say it)

♥ HAPPY NEW YEAR, dear readers! Here’s to all the stories in 2018 … ♥

 

 

 

 

 

 

What she is seeking

“For her part [she] needs to begin to curb her angry outbursts – – not because they are unjustified, but because they will not give her what she is really seeking. Anger may make her feel more powerful, temporarily. However, psychologist Steven Stosny observes that that “if loss of power was the problem in intimate betrayal, then anger would be the solution. But the great pain in intimate betrayal has little to do with the loss of power. Perceived loss of value is what causes your pain – – you feel less loveable.”
~ Esther Perel, The State of Affairs

Dear – –

This is not an apology. I am not sorry for the outbursts, for the kind of hurt from my kind of words, and the times I carved through your metal with my scorching blade. I am not sorry for the sparks, and if you got burned. You were the one warming yourself all over me. You should be the one on your knees, respecting years, respecting us me.

I am not sorry for the discomfort of a buzzing phone. For street corner revelations, or for Actually … tied up in your silence, I am not sorry for any time I broke free. Understand, from behind your perennial shield, you share some half this responsibility.

This is NOT an apology. My dear ‘Henry. Your arms-lengthing would provoke one more sober than me. Hard-won, I now at least have clarity. That withholding is an act of emotional cruelty. Revelation, finally! Your refusal had nothing to do with me.

No rust-mouthed man gets to (silently) say. If I deserve to be loved. And when I am free.

Aphrodite at body, remember

Sincerely. Me.

“Whether the ending is done in person or in writing, it must be responsible, mature, caring, and clear. He needs to … appreciate the depth of what they shared … and give her closure. There is no way for this not to be painful, but it makes a world of difference if [she] knows that she’s not the only one feeling heartbroken.”
~ Esther Perel, The State of Affairs

Trespass

I don’t know why I was surprised to find you there. To see you newly satisfied in that place. Smiling, shining. Grown fat with your forgetting.

You took my favourite season, after-all. Rearranged the weather. Built your shelter on my foundation, sought safety on my seas. But now at least I know. What I have always suspected to be true:

You have no sacred in you.

(there is no temple of mine you will not defile)

Eidyia at body, remember

Eidyia. Who sees. Who knows.