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What if. What if. What if.

Words like a heartbeat. Tapping in his chest, pulsing at his temple.

Can you ever be sure? He is sure. But.

What if. What if. What if.

Words like footsteps hitting pavement. Lift and fall, lift and fall.

He cannot, must not let the rhythm be a question.

To change somebody’s life, you have to first change your own.

Did he read that somewhere? Is it something he just knows? Perhaps he has always understood his destiny. What he was put down here for.

Not much longer, now. Either way.

There is something he must do.

NYC Walk

Playing, playing, playing. The idea for book #3 has been fizzing around since a stranger told me a magical story some bright night in Oslo. Let’s see what comes of this invitation.

What if. What if. What if.

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The exact equation

You know what else is funny? How the ache is so strong, you think it will never go away, that something set so deep couldn’t possibly fade. Then later comes along. At some point – later you no longer feel what you used to feel.  And when you think about what you came through, you can’t remember just when that ache went away. It didn’t feel gradual; it certainly didn’t get easier one specific day or time. Two months in, you were just as likely to be sobbing on a Friday night as you were when your heart was first split open. Still. At some point it wasn’t there anymore. At some unidentifiable moment, it all slid off you. You were no longer sad. It … he .. was gone. What was the formula? What was the exact equation of distance and time to take you where he wasn’t?

I need to know this. Because I’ve carried this bright, new sadness across the ocean with me. I’ve put the distance between us, once again. So how long before time meets that distance? When? How long before I stop feeling like there are strings playing under my skin, a mournful dirge that pulls me down?

Back when it ended, I listened to that music on repeat, it was my constant refrain.

Am I really back there now?

~ El, What We Have Left

tinkering …

You are not the only one

Last night I slept with a man I met at the hotel bar. A Sailor visiting dry land for the holidays. He told me he lives weeks at a time aboard his submarine. Submerged in the deep and the dark. His world is a place most of us would do anything to avoid.

My God your body is beautiful, he said when we lay down on the bed, and I thought – living under the sea must do strange things to a man.

But I looked to see, just the same. I lifted the sheets to make a coy appraisal of my flesh, marinated in the salt and oil of summer, this skin that I will peel and shed back home. I took in the chipped red of holiday nails, the grains of sand in the curve of my foot, and the nerves still pulsing in my flexing toes. I looked at my pliant muscles, and the startling white of my hidden parts. I could see all of the ways the ocean had left its mark on me, too.

This man tasted of rum and cherries. And when he kissed me again I wanted to say –You are not the only one who has emerged from the deep.

Last night we both looked beautiful when held up to the light.

~ Lucy, LOVED

I posted an early version of this exactly five years ago. Like so many of my musings here, the scene found a perfect place in my novel. Eventually. Funny reminder today that you never know where you’ll end up. You. Just. Keep. Going. Here’s to an exciting second half of the year …

The way she does it

It is not an easy love, the way she does it. It reminds me – vividly, oddly – of the shocking red of a determined flower. A flower that lasts the winter, when everything else goes to grey around it. Is this you, Ben, over my shoulder right now? Sending me the image of a flower, when I think of Maggie? Because that’s not what I see for myself when I look at her, here beside me. I see something so much stronger than that.

There is nothing delicate to the way she loves, Ben. But as your mistress cries in my arms, I suddenly understand that this red flower of yours is something the fading flowers – the grey people, like you and me – have always wanted as our own.

~ Lucy, LOVED

“The world is little, people are little, human life is little. There is only one big thing – desire.” ~ Willa Cather

Beautiful stories

I used to try so hard to find the right words to reach you, Mack. Always searching out the perfect metaphor. So many love letters typed out, all of the things I couldn’t say directly. My mouth used to fill up with everything unspoken, sometimes there were so many words crowding my tongue that the only way not to choke was to spit them out, to siphon them through my fingers, and down through the computer keys toward you.

What did you do with all of those midnight emails I sent you? Did you print them out, did you return to them when you came close to forgetting? Did you ever slide my confessions between the pages of your favourite book, keeping my words with other words, too? Did you ever do that, Mack – to keep me close to you?

M, your Valentine.

My sign-off, always. When I wrote out all of the things I couldn’t say. When I tried to resurrect streets and temples for you. Trying so hard to make it all rise up around you after you went back to that other world. Words as breadcrumbs, leading you back to the bars and parks, and hotel rooms that were our altars. Those places of worship and exaltation, covered in cigarette burns and red velvet, and so much better in the dark.

The myth of us, Mack. I laid it out for you as if it were historical fact.

You said once – You write beautiful stories, Maggie.

History is written by the victors, I replied, too softly for you to hear.

~ Maggie Valentine , Loved

AnaisWords

… and then comes the hangover …

Of sticks and stones

The other woman, too many birthdays, opportunities closing one after the other around me. I have to admit that none of these would have been enough to keep me away. The desire to be good would not have won out – I would have come back to that twice next month. Eventually. In the end, we were always going to survive a metaphor.

It was only ever going to be reality. In the end.

The last time I ever saw you – turns out, I lied to us both. This is what I have learned since then, what I now know better: the body has been much maligned by the idea that words are more honest than a beating heart. My body always knew better.  Every confession it ever made, those trembling revelations in your arms – that was the most honest I’ve ever been.

Ignore my words, Mack. I was afraid of sticks and stones back then. But I once wrote the truth across your skin, and I need to believe you can feel it now. I need to believe that even when we re-write the story, our bodies remember. That leap of faith made when hands reach across the widest of chasms.

And how sometimes, Mack, we nearly make it.

We can dress up in someone else’s clothes, we can recite lines fashioned from other mouths, and decorate our promises with beads and silk, but these offerings only last until the candles burn down. Love is what the body remembers.

Love.

(Oh, how I loved you)

2017

Now the words are memories too. Embellished, redacted, turned about. Which is more real? Knowing what to say, or how to say it? Was the story better then, or now? All I know is it never really ends … #Loved

The narrowing of distance

I mean, can you imagine? That a place can feel like a person? That a place can talk and sing, and make you feel that same bubbling under the skin that a lover can when you’re just one corner away from meeting? I love that feeling. That sort of pleasurable terror at what’s to come. He made me feel like that. Like this. But! This is a city of sensation, and I can push away those sad feelings, those reminder feelings, just by going for a walk somewhere new. I walk like some people drink, I suppose. Too early, too late, until my head is spinning with everything I’m forgetting.

I never expected to be happy.

Carl bought me a pair of sneakers. I came home and they were there in a box on my bed, the sticker with the price scratched off, so only the .99 part was left. Purple, thick-soled, smelling of rubber and dye, and so much newness. My size, too. It was like sliding my feet into the future. Into all the possibility ahead. That’s what I felt, and I may have cried a little, but I didn’t tell Carl that, or say thank you, because I’m learning he doesn’t like that kind of thing. I just wrote out another I.O.U on our post-it pad, and stuck it on the fridge door. They’re layered on top of each other now, all the little notes, and I don’t know if he ever looks, but there are a couple I’ve snuck into the pile that just say – Friendship. Or Loyalty. Things like that.

The things I can pay back sometime.

I’ll be 25 one day. And 30 and 40. By then I will have accumulated so much, and I’ll buy Carl a farm, or an animal shelter, or a farm that is an animal shelter, somewhere in upstate New York, where I’ve never been, but people go, and I think it must be beautiful there. I haven’t put that on a post-it note, though. I’ll keep it as a surprise for Carl one day.

I have Carl, and I have my sneakers, and my camera. And I have this place. This city that runs in straight lines and sprawls, so you can’t ever get too comfortable with one or the other. Sometimes, when I’m crossing the street up here, I stop in the middle and look both ways, just to see the avenues run on in either direction. I love the perfect lines they make, the narrowing of distance to something you can see, understand. But I ventured further south yesterday, and one street turned into another, right under my feet, no warning, just a little veer to the right, and I wasn’t where I was before. That happens a lot, too.

It’s amazing how little I mind getting lost.

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures on my walks. People sometimes, but the city mostly. Like I said, a place can feel like a person. Sometimes more like a person than the strangers blurring past in their sneakers and suits. I do not like this by the way. The quick legs and stiff arms of people in a hurry. I do not like the way they look unfinished. When I am 25 and 30 and 40, I will not wear a pencil skirt and sneakers. I will learn to stride along in lovely heels, or maybe never wear pencil skirts at all. This is something I haven’t yet decided.

~ Alice, What We Have Left

Just 500 words, someone reminded me. So I wrote these 580 or so before breakfast. I may even keep a sentence or two, ha.

nychome