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

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

Take Three

loved

A comment on a forgotten piece. News of a friend’s much deserved success. A restless night after too much wine and rain. And suddenly-

Third time has to be a charm, right?

(It was always about being loved).

“This story is about love, mostly. The kind of love you find in movies and songs, and also in quiet afternoons. This story is about a girl. A girl who loved a man. It’s about how this man knew she loved him because she told him. Once, and many times after that, because you only stumble with such words the first time. So she loved him, and he knew it, and it was then that the battles began.

Because love can so often feel like war, don’t you think?”

 

 

Something small and true

He thinks about it like this. I am a song he can’t quite remember. A melody he used to know, but now he only hears the same fragment, a last clear note hanging in the air, until it turns back on itself, repeats what came before.

He knows that he knows. But he can’t get to that place yet, not far enough inside his own head to where other people, other men, reside. I see him try every day, see the times he places his thick fingers at both temples and pushes down hard, elbows against desk, eyes squeezed shut.

Someone took a photograph of him like that once. Printed it out, labelled it The Thinker. It’s still pinned on a wall, some busy wall, amongst dozens of other snapshots that document people and places and moments passed. No matter that the real Thinker man has his hand at his mouth. The photographer recognised the intent, the turning in on oneself, the folding of thoughts over and over. Until they’ve been reduced to something small and true.

The truth always wants to be told.

Come on Detective Matlin. You’re almost there. Press down a little harder. Here, I’ll help you. I won’t leave a mark. See, that’s a clue right there. I can’t help it. I never did like a mystery. Long before the question was me.

~ Alice, What We Have Left

Riverside Park

Maybe it’s the weather. Something in the air …

Aftermath

Week-old red wine. Just one more sip from the glass. I’ve been saturated for days. Imbued thoroughly. Isn’t that a way to put it. I’m soaked right through.

I can’t shake you off or swim clear.

There is work to be done, I know.

But I like the sinking. The aftermath, then, is always this. My tendency to get lost in the deep. And the way life reaches down, pulls me back up. As if she knows.

That I might sometimes prefer to drown.

Magdalene 2

“I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths. And a great fear of shallow living.” ~ Anais Nin

 

Where the feeling starts

Look deeper, Sherry would say. Examine where the feeling starts.

Am I focusing on your mistakes so that I can avoid the mistakes I have made? Is that what we do – embroil ourselves in other lives, in other failings so that we don’t have to examine our own lives so closely?

Sherry wants me to concentrate on me, on where I lost control. She wants us to get deeper into my relationship with Adam, to reach into my memories and start pulling out the ones she says I need to remember. If we’re going to get anywhere with this.

One good thing, two bad she suggested the other day, when I handed in another journal with nothing but graffiti on the page.

One good thing, two bad.

This is her equation for not falling into the abyss, for not getting lost back there in the dark.

It’s a funny thing. When I try to remember, nothing comes. The abuse, when I have been asked to describe it, is the hardest to draw out. I don’t really remember what it feels like to be hit in the face. The pain of it, I mean. I remember what it is like to fear its return – yes. But the impact, the sensation? I can’t remember any of it, unless I am dreaming. Would that have happened to you, Ben? If you had survived the incident? Would your body eventually push down those minutes and seconds after the blade went in? And only remind you in dreams?

Our real trauma, perhaps, is the fear of finding in daylight whatever we have hidden out there in the dark.

It’s all progress, says Sherry when I struggle. I’m making progress. She just wants us to be careful with what I am blocking, because, she assures me, nothing stays down forever.

What did you push down, Ben? I am fixated on this, I know. Is it because I need for you to be a villain, too? A liar and a cheat, rather than the noble hero who saved me? Or is it that I need Maggie to have chosen the wrong man, the same way I did? Do I need this from perfect, faithful Anna too?

Do I need the three of us to be not so different from each other in the end?

I need you to be that liar, that cheat, Ben.

I cannot keep remembering the hero who saved me. Or I will never be able to understand why I am the one who survived instead of you.

~ Lucy, The Memory of Stars

Put this story away for a long time. All the no after that small yes had to fade – and it has! Now I remember what I was trying to do here. Time to dust off the words and try again … #HerStory

A ritual for letting go

It is not so remarkable. To be two in seven billion. To find each other in the throng. It is not so remarkable to navigate the wide oceans and narrow fences between us, to swim and scramble, and to arrive at each other at last …

I’ve been here before. Recognising that happening under the skin. The visceral confession that precedes, concedes. Thinking – hand to chest – I found you.

To be two in seven billion. Thinking – perhaps – you found me, too.

I’ve been wrong before. I’ve misconstrued. And now. This forgetting heart of mine, she’s made and remembered. New old mistakes to drink away. To somehow, some day think away. Searching again for words, for wisdom and witches.

… try, they say …

Candles. Moonlight. Paper. Fire.

(Stilnox and bathwater don’t make the cut. No matter what they’ve cured before)

Crystals. Lanterns. Mantras. Sand.

(Ticket stubs, boarding passes? Silver chains and crumbling flowers?)

Sage. Yoga. Feathers. Tears.

One or two or five or seven. So many ways to ritualise. But not so many to exorcise those familiar feelings, familiar failings. Yes. This foolish heart of mine reluctantly knows. That there’s still more swimming and scrambling to go.

Try, they say.

To arrive at last, Rock – first a ritual for letting go.

rituals

(I’ve been there. With my heart out in my hand)

Note: this post is as much about the odd trajectory of my writing career as it is about love and the usual subjects. How not to get weighed down by the past, but not forget it either. And a reminder that there is no quick-fix, magic-wand way to transform your situation. The only ritual that works for that is, well – work.