He has never been honest

She is supposed to be his safe haven, the place he can go to when he is exhausted. Didn’t he tell her once that she was the shore, or had she imagined that after he played her a song with such words? Has she afforded him a depth of feeling and meaning that he has never really possessed?

What would it be like if she could see him going about his day just now. The care he gives to others, the attention he bestows on anyone not her. Perhaps, just a little, he hates her. Despises how she has led him down a path he cannot return from. Cannot make up from. He forgets all this in her arms, of course, or when he is alone in another clean, wide-bed hotel room and he has had one too many wines to fall asleep. In these moment she is all he can think of. His dark-eyed lover, the one whose body he has traversed and drowned in and drunk from, all these years. Sometimes the ache for her is no different from thirst or hunger. A primal need her skin and scent satisfies.

Other times, like now, when she sends her SOS from across the ocean, he wishes she would leave him be, thinks of life before her, and after her, too, if he could just say the words he needs to. Why doesn’t she understand? Why does she keep coming back for more? She cannot lose him, he was never hers to begin with, he never offered himself the way she offered herself to him.  This is not his fault. What is he supposed to do? Leave his wife and children for a woman he barely knows, barely even likes, if he’s honest?

If he’s honest.

Thanks to her, he feels as if he has never been honest a single day of his life.

~ Elliott, What We Have Left

Jo Piechota at body, remember blog

What we have left, indeed!

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To keep you

This, this was the day your life changed. Slowly, then all in a rush. You used to think it was the day before you met him. You used to think about the lack of hunger, the lack of yearning, the something missing-ness of your life. You got so used to recognizing him, the back of him, in any room, in any anecdote or situation that you forgot who you were the day before. Let me tell you. If I could sit down with you on that last day, when you did not know him, did not think of him in some way.

You were healing, piecing yourself back together. And it suited him to keep you broken.

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Full circle. Or something similar.

When they know who you are

Here’s what happens when they know who you are. It changes. Everything changes. They begin to dig into your life. Because ‘Dead Girl’ needs a bigger story to keep it interesting. The fact of her loss could never be enough. So they pick through my past, sift through my bones, the reporters and editors who don’t get this kind of treat nearly enough, the shock and tragedy of pretty, dead, white girls.

I have made some things easy for these storytellers. No mother (suicide!), no father (where is he?), and there is a predictable small-town history to snack on. Enough people who went to school with me, or knew me when, to keep the theories coming. But most revelations come as a disappointment, no matter the digging. Good student. No record of trouble. Scant evidence of running around with boys. Not a single scandal of my own, until-

And here, Mr. Jackson sits in his studio, waiting for the knock. Charcoal fingers twisting, a package of photographs in a locked box under his bed. Knowing he can’t throw the package away, considering burial or burning, but never quite able to bring himself to unlock that box, open it up. Afraid to look at me the way he used to. To see me alive and vital, and to remember the way I used to look back at him. He knows these pictures are a ticking bomb, a catalogue of his errors, and he knows, inevitably, the knock will come.

Still, when they show up at his door in their blue suits, with their notebooks and guns tucked into belts, he is unprepared.

~ Alice, What We Have Left

Riverside Park

 

Stay like this

Did I think we could just stay like this?

Did I think there was a place you could land, and everything around you would retreat. Where nothing and no-one else would matter, no outside world impacts or time-changes, because you were exactly where you were meant to be. Finally, and irrevocably.

Did I think there was such a place, and such a time, and it would all stand still for me, because I was happy in that place, in that time?

How else to explain my surprise when it all came to an end? How else to make sense of my utter confusion to find the earth shifting beneath me once again, spinning me away just as I began to get my balance. When that was what I’d always known to expect, in my life before.

In my life before him.

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We try to make sense of things because we’ll go crazy without the story; our most important moments in life can’t be things that just happen. Later, I see what he was doing, where he was leading me. Later, I am not surprised that he made me wait, prepared me. He needed to know he was safe.

As if my safety did not come into it at all.

~ Alice, What  We Have Left

… drafting all the things …

Down to where you are

She was 27 when she met him. Her heart was a bruise at the time, she would often find herself pushing against the flesh under her left breast, fingers searching the pain, trying to soothe, trying to make it worse or better, she was never quite sure. The man she had loved, the one she thought she would marry – when she never thought she would marry – had walked out on her three months before. Literally walked out. Dropped the key ring she had given him on the cluttered coffee table between them and walked backwards out of her life. The night before, they had talked baby names. He took her to a restaurant with fairy lights and white flowers and a 40% vegetarian menu. He took her to a place that said I know you, I know what you love, and she was wearing a new black dress, just deep enough at the chest for her new-found sophistication. For this life as a girlfriend, a woman who lived with her lover – she loved calling him lover – and they talked baby names and ate their vegetarian dinners and when he removed the black dress later that night, he was slow, thorough in the ways he replaced fabric with fingers. She came three times, biting down on her hand, the pillow, his lips, lest her housemate hear this primal, private sound.

Later, she would understand the spell that is cast by the first man to make you come. But that night she was too fresh with the discovery, these last six months of loving a man who loved her back. Not that the miracle was the latter. What was amazing to her was that she loved him. She loved someone the way she’d read about and wondered about and been quietly, alarmingly, sure that she’d never experience for herself.

You are earth and I am air. You’ll need to draw me down to where you are. You’ll need to hold me, to make sure I don’t just float away.

Something she wrote to him at the very beginning, a note never sent, because how would you say that at 26 you were as new at love as a teenager, or as skeptical of it as an old woman who’d seen to much for her own or anybody else’s liking? It was hard to remember that resistance, her earliest fears, on this night, six months after she met him, and he began the slow dance of pulling her down.

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~ MV,  What We Have Left

So many ways to tell a story 😉

 

Three years past pretty

Maggie Valentine has no idea how old she is. Not in the sense of calendars and birthdays, these details she of course knows well enough, marked as they are with parties, and resolutions, and the requisite attention to the big years. Rather, it is the final number that doesn’t make sense to her, the tally of her years as if the age she has landed at is a place, irrefutable, like the next city plotted on a map. She does not feel 37. She sometimes experiences a jolt of surprise to hear this actress, or that singer, someone she sees the details of regularly, is a particular, much younger age than that. When she would swear these women are contemporaries, older even, than she is. It is as if she has the wrong idea about everything now.

In truth, Maggie Valentine is approximately three years past pretty. Though filters and animal ears hide this in her most commonly shared photographs, it is a reality she sees in the mirror every morning. The slacked jaw, the fold-down corners of her mouth, the stomach rounded and hips fleshed. She has not grown old with someone, has only herself to wake up to each morning, and this is what she sees. A woman well past pretty, still sexy, even beautiful at times, but there is little youth to be found in her features now. This, she has to accept.

But how to be 37? How to understand in her bones what that means, when it is nothing that they told her it would be (They. Her mother. Women’s magazines. People who should have known better).

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I missed Maggie V. So I’m revising her at a different time. Just to see where she’ll take me 😉

 

It’s my story too

Joe. The first man I have touched who isn’t you. The thrill of it will not leave 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 is just hormones, and I’m lonely, and he looks enough like you for this to be okay.

I have not desired 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 Maggie Valentine’s 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 high school. Except this time I’m in it somehow, it’s my story too, even when I only appear in the shadows.

I am jealous of you, Ben. I am angry and jealous of your second life, this other life you lived so fully without me. 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 continue to feel it, just the same? That inexplicable, intriguing something. The realisation that there is so much more happening under the skin than we are ever aware of. Do we all come to this awareness, eventually? Are we all just waiting our turn to betray each other? Have we betrayed ourselves first, by settling for one kind of feeling, when there are so many other worlds waiting to open up inside us?

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 lie 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. My fingers move in the slowest of circles, and I close my eyes against their pattern, and the heat. 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 there you were, 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 with the release. 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 some kind of understanding. I do not understand what you did, Ben. I do not forgive what you did. We are not the same.

~ Anna, LOVED

2017

For my last post of the summer, I flicked to a random page of my first manuscript. A little game to see what I might have forgotten. But oh, I remember writing this 😉