Tomorrow was made for some

Speak the words you have swallowed. We have seven years of silence to fill. Let us crowd this night with all we have not said, let us cover every last second with our secrets. Whisper them soft and sure against my skin. Tell me goodbye, and tell me why.

Dust me for your fingerprints one last time, hold me up to the light and see yourself all over. Know that you were here. Here we are. Grasp at what we will leave behind. There are ways for us to end this.

Love me just enough. Then let me go. Hold tight all through these midnight hours, then stand up and watch me walk away. My darling there are ways for us to end this.

(Move to the window when I close the door. Press your forehead against that double glass and strain to keep me in your sight. Stay with me – won’t you, please?  Watch me tremble away from you into the night).

We have always known tomorrow was made for some.

I know you don't watch me walk away image 2
Image by Joanne Piechota

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All that is lost

The dream is always the same.

It is always about reach, about skin and breath and compacted air, how any distance between you pulses with the memory of touch. There is a softness to the desire, and a recognition, because in dreams it is about return, about visiting the caves of your sub-conscious and finding the little pieces of history you have hidden there.

You get to spend hours in these dark rooms together, turning over your memories, sinking in to the want they hold. There is such ache to the bone and longing in the muscle here – in the reach, on the skin – the hunger saturates you until you are soaking wet, and you can lick the sadness from your fingers as you part.

It tastes of all that is lost in waking hours and it lingers like an echo through the rest of your day.

The dream is always the same.

It tastes of all that is lost in waking hours ...
It tastes of all that is lost in waking hours …

Eidyia’s note: This is a work of fiction … and yet. Such ache to the bone and longing in the muscle – I never did know what you made of these words (when they were written just for you).

Falling

Are you sure you want to do this? You have this moment still, a closing chance to take it back. You could remove your hands from my skin, from that place your finger tips are only lightly grazing. You could stop right now, slide straps back onto shoulders and return my shoes. You could make of me the nearly-did, the nearly-made. I am not the one transgressing here. I am your cliff, the edge of you – are you sure tonight that you want to jump?

Because I’m telling you my love – it will feel like falling.

Remember those drugs you never wanted to try? Well darling meet your own narcotic. You’re going to offer your veins from the very first hit. You’ll crave and burn and shiver and beg. Life will splinter apart when you close your eyes, you’re about to become kaleidoscopic. You’ll crack your own mysteries wide open, you’ll forget you know what’s left from right.  If you take this step you’ll plummet, then soar. So I’ll ask you again this one last time. Are you sure tonight that you want to jump?

I’m telling you my love – it will feel like falling.

Jagged and jutting, I am your rock. And I’m ready for your disintegration. We’ll re-arrange you so carefully when you land, when you scatter yourself across my skin. It will take only our mouths to change your name. I’m saying it now and I won’t ask again, with your trembling hand against my shoulder. I am not the one transgressing here.

(But when you slide my straps down – it feels like falling).

A conversation between friends (revisited)

“When the two people who thus discover that they are on the same secret road are of different sexes, the friendship which arises between them will very easily pass – may pass in the first half hour – into erotic love.”

– CS Lewis

Here, now, at a hotel bar. The transience of this place, a living in the moment when the rest of your life carries on outside. Talking through the wine, a gentle teasing, discussing hot-headed reactions and how the battles of two people are so finely played. Trying on friendship, letting it settle on the skin – this is your new thing. As lovers the relationship was a series of ellipsis, a trailing off when words were required. And now a chance to finish your sentences, to speak in the honest and open way of allies. You have put down your swords.

The room glows amber as you raise your glass to this new found alliance. You are friends. You are feeling your way and you are careful not to touch (though your knees list starboard).

“Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; friends hardly ever about their friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.”

– CS Lewis

You want to understand his views on God and family. “What did your mother teach you?” … “Do you fight with your wife?” “Is being a dad what you thought it would be?” … endless and earnest words flowing… “Venus came up out of the ocean, you know … and the problem with religion is it tells us men and women are fundamentally different, and don’t you want to fuck your equal?”“See, I’m not the same as you but I’m trying to understand a little”“Can I see a picture of-” … “How many times do you-” …

(Endless and earnest, yes – though some, still, are hard to say out loud).

He answers carefully, aware of this fragile accord. You are friends. You listen with a frozen smile. As lovers, you would have stopped his mouth.

Because the real question, the one that aches, comes last. You tell him you don’t have a ballast. An essential truth about who you are together.

“Tell me please” you ask, and the smile liquefies, “Tell me when you were most true with me?”

His answer is in moments like this, just sitting at a hotel bar together. It is all right here. And the physical, the times you leave the bar and move upstairs – it is just a manifestation of this feeling. This travelling down the same secret road. Two friends, side by side. Absorbed in each other.

And it’s lightening quick. Acknowledging the confluence of friends and lovers, before he orders his last glass.

You ask him to drink slowly. He assures that you will see each other in this way again. You say “grazie destino” but you are lying, because it will never be enough to meet at a hotel bar and drink slowly these one or three with a friend.

Who used to be your lover and moves upstairs, alone.

***

This isn’t fiction. Sometimes you just feel like telling the truth. When I first posted this, I left out the last line from the original piece, how it’s a lonely walk home when you don’t have anger at your side. I remember that walk, and how it wasn’t the last one I took with this man. Some lessons take much, much longer to learn …

We are not the same

Sshhhh!

I put my hand to his lips, his voice has been rising and I don’t need a string of expletives to wake Ollie up.

It’s okay Joe I say but it isn’t, because my fingertip pulses when I touch him and suddenly, inexplicably, I imagine placing it in his mouth. A flush rises up my neck at the thought and I press my thumb hard against my finger in an attempt to focus on something, anything other than what just happened.

It’s perfectly normal. I tell myself this over and over after Joe shuffles home, after his boyish grin takes my breath away when he waves goodbye from the driveway. When he kissed my cheek as he was leaving I could smell the sharp mint of vodka on his breath, and a smoky remnant of cologne that settled on my skin. It’s hormones, it’s just pregnancy hormones making me tune in to this frequency, suddenly, inexplicably. And he looks enough like you, just enough that I’m obviously mixing up the signals, crossing and jumping wires in my head. That has to be it. It can’t be anything more. This is Joe, your Joe, my Joe. The white knight of this tragedy.

I want him to come back. Ah, fuck. It has to be the hormones.

I lay in bed with his smell on my lip, the way his scent feels like a hand at my neck. I run my own down and over my full breasts, these little hills of flesh that have taken on a life of their own these days. They ache from the centre out when I run my fingers across them, but I am used to this now, the fine line between pain and pleasure. My body traffics both, growing this child of ours, and doing it without you.

Joe. The first man I have touched who isn’t you. The thrill of it does not escape me tonight, laying here with my hands resting under my belly. I will allow myself the thoughts that have crested in, I will let them wash over me because it’s just hormones, and I’m lonely and he looks enough like you for this to be okay.

I have not thought of sex since you died. And yet I have been saturated in it all the same. Your affair, it permeates my life, it settles over my sleep and flares throughout the day. I have re-read those emails a hundred times these past few weeks, it is like I have my hands on one of those illicit novels we used to pass around in school, only this time I’m in it somehow, it’s my own story too even when I only appear as narration.

I am jealous of you Ben. I am angry and jealous of your second life, lived so fully and successfully on the side. Did it feel like that, the first time? Did your finger pulse when you first touched her, the way mine turned to an electric current tonight? Did you back away like I did, but feel it just the same? That inexplicable something, the realization that there is another layer under the skin – for everybody. Are we all just waiting our turn to betray? Have we betrayed ourselves first by settling for only one kind of love when there are other worlds waiting to open up? Fuck. I don’t want to understand this. I don’t want to see how easy it could be.

How long before you pursued it, this something? Did you fight it, or did you lay in bed next to me and roll the memory between your fingers, did you play it out across your skin the way I am now? I have my hand between my legs, it is the first time I have done this in years. The sin of it sits tight in my chest and throat, yet the heat feels like some kind of preparation as my fingers move in slow circles and I close my eyes against their pattern. Is that what happened, Ben? Did you solidify the experience by coming against an image of her face, did this imprint on your brain so that one little spark turned into an explosion and you were there burning away at its centre? I can see Joe’s face now as the waves begin, I have my hand on his lip and it isn’t you as my orgasm is wrenched out of me. I do not even bother to stifle the guttural cry that comes up out of me. My body has betrayed me for the first time in my life and I feel a kind of triumphant terror as my eyes re-adjust to the dark.

It is just the hormones. I am flush with pregnancy hormones. It is nothing else and it is not an understanding. I do not understand what you did, Ben. I do not forgive what you did. We are not the same.

A certain calm settles over me when my breathing finally slows. It is as if I have dived into the ocean, the way the shock of what I did gives over to a yielding, to a silk-like feeling of surrender.

I used to love opening my eyes under water, searching through the deep. I liked to swim away from the sureness of the world, out into the endlessness awaiting. I never looked back to the shallows where feet churned sand and bodies broke the surface. I would hold my breath and swim out as far as I could go before the tug of fear pulled me back. The endless blue sometimes felt safer than the shore.

This kind of calm, it is a return to that feeling. A remembering of how to swim out and away, to fix my eyes on a limitless unknown. You are behind me, Ben. I sense the turbid waters you have created, the way you thrash against the waves. You struggled against this safety so long you inevitably went down with the ship, Ben. I see now what happens when you don’t take that breath, when you won’t dive under. So many people drown in the shallows because they are afraid of the deep. Why did you never once swim out to where I was waiting Ben?

We are not the same. Now I know we are not the same. I was always going to love you better. Your best offering – your wedding dance, your earnest vows, your dedication – that is how I did it every day. And I would have loved you in this way forever – it is easy enough when you do not fear it. That is my love, and that is not how you did it. It is my swimming into the depths whilst you broke against the shore.

I am not the same as you, Ben. This certain calm reminds me. I will send Jane a card tomorrow, a thank you for all of the love and support her family has given us since your passing. I will gently remind her to love her husband because he is a good man. And I will never, ever think of this night again.

****

A little more of Anna’s story to share today. Thanks as ever for reading these drafts! 

The best thing(s) I never had – revisited

There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire.

The other is to get it   George Bernard Shaw 

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. You have thought often of these fish and their bicycles. How the idea of needing a man is just as curious. It is this way from the start – just ask your barbies and Laura Holt. Anything boys can do, you like to do it better.

(As a necessity it just never strikes you to equate men with air. And you never could ride a bike).

But want is something else entirely. Want, that director of desire, takes up residence well before you can name it. Your early poems hint at this something sleeping within, a dormancy more dangerous than need. Your body can barely contain it as you begin to strain at your seams.

You are 14 when the first breach occurs. A particular scene in a particular film. The way two characters make love. It stops you in your tracks. With a white hot clarity you think – I want to do that. You rewind the scene a dozen times. Your chest blazes and your heart pulses in your finger tips as you study the limbs and skin and sweat on-screen. It leaves you blinking in the light and quietly sure that you want nothing less than this from Jeff Bridges men.

With that quiet sureness you wait. Any time a skinny boy with grass on his knees comes near you push him away. Sex will not be an education. You want to greet it fully formed. You will know when you see it, and indeed years later the recognition is instant. This boy on the cusp with no grass staining his knees. He wears an earnest love of women on his sleeve and builds you a grotto on a laundry room floor.

When you lay down with him the sheer joy of it makes you laugh out loud. Later you scrawl in your diary that you cannot erase the feeling of his strong arms, and of laughing. You fall in love with the feeling of wanting more.

(You edit out the finer details however. You do not mention the girlfriend, how your secret glows up out of you but you are not allowed to say a word. He is the first man you will lie for. The first lesson in how little people see when they decide to look the other way).

When this boy leaves town your heart contracts once, hard and painful, but brief. You carry no weight of loss. Just the memory of strong arms and laughing out loud. He has taught you in secret the lightness of love. Un souvenir léger in the swing of your hips.

The next man is just a little famous. He buys your friends drinks and snorts coke in a bathroom bigger than your apartment. It makes you giddy, but he drinks three to your one, and when you spend the night your bodies tangle but never connect. He tells you with the ego of someone who is just a little famous that the fault lies with you. Alone, awake, you test his theory and experience a revelation. Your first ever orgasm, to spite, while he snores. As the sudden shift of settled rocks floods to your limits you have to bite down on his pillow till the tide recedes.

(In the morning you are ferocious in your gratitude. He is confused by your ardour and though you never see him again, you think often of this man who is just a little famous. The one who led you to the best sex you never had.)

And now you get back to the business of want. It hits you in the stomach when you meet this next. Your mind is turned, it splutters and starts like an old movie projector every time he enters the room. This bohemian boy in shorts and a tie. You spend a hundred hours trying to capture him through your pen. Forests of words in his honour, a treatise on longing. And you literally slide down the wall when he tells you I’m gay.

But he teaches you, this man, to trust your instinct. When you get up off the floor he will become a great love of your life. You will live together in domestic bliss on a busy street and fill your house with Buffy re-runs and cheap red wine. You will spend many a night in his arms and he will be the one to say just write. He will call you New Years Eve to remind you to forget perfect, and he will never trust your crooked smile. He is your first experience of love as being known.

Then comes your Finch-Hatton. The man they say you conjured as if you had written him yourself. You are covered in red dust when you meet and this time you welcome the grass on his knees. This earthly man when you are air. You still believe in stars then, underneath an African sky. On a continent that lodges under your nails, where changing the world is changing each other. This, then, becomes your fine romance. A man washing your hair on the banks of the Mara. When he tells you he loves you the mosquitoes hum.

You survive a full year on the memory of this. But in the city your fucks become urban. Until one day Africa recedes so far he hands her back with your keys. Stilnox and bathwater carry you through the hazy weeks that follow as you slip under to silence the humming. From this man you will learn how to climb back out. But for a while the under-tow pulls you down. (You will dream of red dust for years).

It is in the wounding that you meet the one. A man with slate eyes who has a low tolerance for alcohol and your flesh. He will shuck you from your skin, this man, shake you loose and leave you scrambling for the pieces. Everything you have ever learned recedes in the glare of his gold band. And you will spend years riding your freedom with the curb of this bit.

As his sign flickers on and off you will measure your days by his vacancy illuminated. Your greatest love will be your greatest folly and you will revel in the farce.

(Funny that ‘mistress’ means having authority, heading a house. A woman who has the power of controlling or disposing of something at her own pleasure).

As long as she never needs.

And what did I get for it? I never weighed what I gave for what I got  – Walt Whitman

Eidyia’s note: I wrote this over a year ago and it is funny to me now that I was always writing toward you as the conclusion. I was obviously too close at the time to see that you, too, are merely a chapter in this story of the best things I never had.

The things we think we cannot lose

I see now that I have been both blessed and cursed in this life. I was once the luckiest woman on this earth. I had everything promised to us, and more. I counted my blessings every day, I lined them up and gave thanks to God and fate for what I had been given. And truthfully, I also lived in fear. I lived in a kind of terror that these things could be taken away from me at any time. Everything we build is so precarious, so delicately strung together that it sometimes takes only the slightest shift for our structures to tumble. I knew this in my bones at the exact same moment I knew how great my happiness was.

The truth is our most precious things are not meant to be held, no matter how tightly we clasp at them. We lose the things we think we cannot lose, we survive when we are sure we will drown. Because we are meant to go on. We are still here, the ones who have been left behind. And we will laugh again, eventually. We will feel excitement and desire and hope again – eventually. Life does come back. But make no mistake here. We are never, ever the same, those of us who have lost what we loved. There belongs to us now the deepest sadness, a soul-sadness that cannot be reached or soothed or repaired. Something is dimmed in the ones who survive.

Make no mistake here. We are never, ever the same. But it is what you do with these changes that defines you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

It is not what Mike Keegan has in mind. I fold the statement into the smallest of squares and place it in my husband’s bedside drawer. The bottom one, next to his red shirt and a book he was once given by a woman who loved him, perhaps as much as I did. We must do right in this world. We must take care of each other. We must take care of what we have. And we must try to understand when the time comes for us to let go.

***

Eidyia’s note: Coming to the end of Anna’s story. Thoughtful, deep-water Anna whose lessons have in so many ways turned out to be my own. Thank you as ever for reading body, remember.

The Butterfly by Picasso
Le Papillon – Picasso