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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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.

#

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 …

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 … 

 

It still surprised me

It isn’t that I think the sky will fall. Or that I wouldn’t know what to do if it did. I am not afraid of anything, you should understand that. But I don’t know that I have ever felt safe. Safe seems like a promise someone broke, and the worst part is that you believed them. With promises, it’s only a betrayal if you believed them.

I don’t believe I’ll ever be safe.

Do you know how aware we have to be? Girls like me? The man ahead who slows down, who disappears into doorways. The man behind who walks too fast, his encroachment felt on your skin, creeping. Vans with dark windows and streets with alley ways. A park at dusk, or just emptier of people than you thought it would be, any old time of the day. The teacher whose hand lingers, or the group of boys with beer on their breath. The door closing and the room spinning. Do you know how aware we have to be?

(I suppose I let my guard down. At the end. When the sky actually did fall. The crack, and the flash of light, and the wet like rain drops. Air heavy like a boot on my chest. Dirt, and metal and being pushed down, down into the earth. It still surprised me. The shock of how little you can mean to another. How an entire world can be discarded for someone else’s storm. I was right not to believe I’d ever be safe.

But it still surprised me. At the end.)

~ Alice, What We Have Left

I am not allowed to forget

Is he dead?

I can see now that it’s a boy. He is lying on his back and his shirt is open, exposing a smooth, impassive chest that I see in glimpses between arms, legs, shopping bags, coats. I push through the crowd of people, going sideways against the throng, and then I’m standing right in front of him. Over him. I can’t tell if he’s breathing. His eyes are closed and his lips are pressed together. They’re not blue – I want to lean down and put my hand to his mouth to feel for air, just in case, but I can’t make my arm move. It’s as if my body wants to obey the same laws that keeps everyone else walking. Danger! Stay away! This is not safe for you! But up close, he looks like a child. If my arms won’t move toward him, then my feet won’t let me walk away.

And now it’s just the two of us. A young man laid out on his back, and me, hovering over his body, unsure what to do next. His feet are bare, dusky pink soles caked in mud. He must be freezing, I think this at the same time that I reach down, remove my sneakers, then my socks. They’re white, sporty, and now I’m thinking of Walter, of the way he tipped his hat at me when he first opened his front door, and how I knew I was going to be alright, even before he welcomed me in. I’m thinking of this gesture as I wrestle one sock, then the other, onto this young man’s feet. He doesn’t stir, but I can feel the warmth of his skin. I know what dead bodies feel like. Not like this. Emboldened, I kneel down and pull his shirt closed, fumble with a middle button to fasten the threadbare material across his chest. And then I lean back on my now-bare heels and start to cry. Is this all I can do? Give him my socks, cover his chest?

This is somebody’s baby.

Someday soon – it’s coming – I’ll think, doesn’t he know I’m somebody’s baby? Doesn’t he know that I was once loved? But right now I’m crying for this passed out boy, lying on a slab of concrete, halfway underground, that I can’t do much else for. I take the $10 emergency note out of my jacket pocket and gently tuck it into pocket of his shirt, and then I turn, run up the stairs and out onto the street, as if I am being chased. It’s dark, but you wouldn’t know it from how illuminated it is up here, above all of that grey below. It hurts my eyes. I walk a block with my hand up to both, trying to push back my tears.

I need to go home.

I don’t want to be in this world tonight. Not when it has revealed the true ugliness of itself so clearly. As if there are some things I am not allowed to forget.

~ Alice, What We Have Left

Subway

Real life. Spun into fiction. We are all better there. Right?

I will remember what it means

The day I die.

Where do you want to start? What would you like to look at first? I get up, I have sleep in my eye. I make a bad pot of coffee, the water hisses over onto the element, spits at me. I can’t get the water temperature right in the shower. Sometimes I think the faucets are switched from day to day, just to confuse me. I eat a banana, the texture struggling in my mouth. I step around dog toys, kick them into the corner of the living room, and open the window to the day. The street is its usual mix of bloated rubbish bags and scaffold frames. You could swing down them, if they didn’t always seem on the verge of collapse. The sky is blue, there is dog hair creeping across my big toe. The day is light, bright, ordinary.

I get up. I have sleep in my eye. Bad coffee, water hissing. Temperature wrong. Banana slick on my tongue, and the squeak of a rubber bone. Rubbish bags and metal and blue, blue sky. Dog hair itching my toe. The day is light, bright, extraordinary.

The morning passes. I make a cheese sandwich, leave the plate and knife in the sink next to my coffee mug. I should do more to help Carl, I think. Thinking too, I have forgotten how grateful I was. I am. I press down on another post-it note and write the word Help, before a large bang outside startles me. My ‘p’ wobbles, shoots off the yellow paper as I drop my pen. I had intended to write this: Help more around the apartment but the pen has rolled under the dining table now, and I don’t want to reach down to find it. Help will do, I think, sure I will remember what it means, as I place my last fluttering debt on Carl’s fridge door.

I do not realise, could not have realised, I have just left my first clue.

I have made a mistake, by the way. This isn’t the day I die. Not really. But it is the last light, bright morning of my life.

~  Alice, What We Have Left

NYC Morning

A quick bit of novel-ling before bed. It’s good to be back. If only in this way.