she’s cold outside

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It is winter and I am holed up in a hotel room, writing.

More and more lately, this is where you can find me. There is both a good and a bad to this. I’ve long known this was the life I was supposed to lead. I tried really hard to set up a home and be that kind of woman, but it just never took.

The desperation that domesticity inspires in me is best portrayed by  characters in stories like The Yellow Wallpaper, Wide Sargossa Sea, A Room of One’s Own.

I’m romanticizing it, romanticizing myself, my own experience. Of course I am. It’s what I do. Want to know why?

Because I am so fucking ridiculously and endlessly in love with myself. The unique gift of my solitary mind.

There’s a whole landscape in here that others will never know. And it is by its rich, dark soil that I’m held voluntary captive.

(What narcissism, I’m aware. I’ve no defense; let’s just move on.)

Until recently, I always assumed that my run-away tendencies were fueled by an unwillingness to participate in bonded life. That I found catastrophic fulfillment in the sharp precision of relationships torn asunder.

And even now, I don’t want to undermine that sentiment.

(The words themselves still make me breathless.)

But anymore, I’ve become so calculated in my relationships that there is no one left from whom I need to take flight.

I’ve overturned my own fear.

Only to find that the safety of a home, even the one I’ve created myself, feels like a suffocating condemnation (an airless chamber, a tomb).

Despite everything—the growth, the strength, the years—I am still the child that wants to sneak out of her dark window at night.

Truth be told, I think it might be growing even more extreme with age.

As if it’s the one weapon I’ve left to stave off my own death.

~

 

 

 

 

 

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me and miranda

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A few years ago my heart broke for the final time.

Being a reckless, passionate, and melodramatic woman, it never occurred to me that a heart can only be broken x number of times before it’s just done being broken ever again.

Had I known there were a quota, I like to think I would have been far stingier with some of the devastations in which I invested myself. I can see now that a couple of them were a complete waste. Especially towards the end, there.

“You have only three left,” it would have been nice to tally. “Is the gun-toting egomaniac really someone deserving of your emotional collapse, or would you prefer to select a candidate over whom absolute ruin might be more fulfilling?”

Life being short, I might have gone with the gun-toting egomaniac anyway. But I wasn’t even given that choice, which seems unfair.

It just seems like someone, some concerned professional who made my development her life’s work, and whose every word was for me like gospel, should have warned me this was coming.

I mean, where was that person? Where was that warning?

“You failed,” I want to tell her, before pinning a murder on her. “A miranda right could have done a better job than you did.”

Instead, I was left to harbor my resentment alone, denied every single personality trait to which I’d previously committed myself without reserve.

I was the woman who was born to have her heart broken; I was bound to that identity. Without it, who was I?

It was a difficult winter, to say the least. Sprawled out on my bed, my soul totally at ease. Not even listening to Lana del Rey on repeat. Not even sitting in front of my mirror with heavy eyeliner on, watching myself cry.

And as the even-tempered days turned into weeks, I was just like, “Oh God, now what? Use my brain or something?”

Two solutions came to me at that pinnacle time.

One was to throw myself into a high-powered career with such ballsy determination and skill as to inspire raw fear in both my colleagues and superiors. Just as a way to fill the void, make it through those long days.

The second was to become an unrepentant seductress. And in so doing, perhaps be able to keep a small pulse on the heartbreak I had previously held so dear.

Before its actual manifestation, I assumed this might be more challenging than it proved. I guess I somehow overlooked that I live in a female body.

And of course, I heretofore had no experience in how enticing a woman not perched on the precipice of disaster is. (The timing of my education in such a matter was unfortunate — Miranda’s fault again, no doubt.)

The development of this new persona has provided an undeniable outlet of sorts. I’ve acquired what I consider an elaborate collection of lingerie, for example. I revel in men’s sexual competence far more than my heart-shackled self was able to, she being more of a giver than receiver.

But the initial goal of vicariously experiencing heartbreak has proven fruitless.

In watching men fall, I find no grace. Only concern.

“This might be one of your last chances at this kind of drama,” I tell them. “So consider carefully. Am I really an adequate vessel?”

Predictably, they assure me I am.

“Why would you even say that?” they want to know.

After feeling their warm breath on my neck, or watching them accomplish great deeds in the world, or reading a particularly clever line they’ve sent me by text, I generally plead the fifth.

For all I know, they’ll be better off for it.

~

 

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the writer

You don’t know why you dream about the writer. Seems like probably just because you fell asleep reading My Struggle.

But there’s a lot going on in the dream, and it feels significant in the way that some dreams do. Not in their storylines, perhaps, nor their imagery, their host of characters. But rather in waking up rapt. As if something real happened.

As if something real happened.

You get out of bed feeling disoriented.

In your high school yearbook, your peers posted the following prediction:

Delilah will go on to own a hostel in Europe, simply to be able sneak into the patrons’ rooms while they’re asleep and rearrange all of their furniture.

The dream makes you feel like this. Like someone rearranged your furniture while you slept.

Meanwhile, the dream furniture had its own presence, in particular the long conference table.

Maybe furniture has always been a theme for you, and you didn’t even recognize it.

Maybe you should pay more attention to these things.

Maybe you’d have time to, if life weren’t always stabbing you in the throat.

In the way that anyone’s life does.

~

These days, every time you talk to your brother you wind up upsetting him.

“You go too fast,” he tells you. “You don’t give me time to absorb what you’re saying before you move on to the next thing.”

You know precisely to what he’s referring—the clusterfuck of your thinking—and try to make light of it the next time you call.

“Hey,” you say, when he answers the phone. “Mind if I come in and rearrange your furniture?”

Your brother likes this analogy, and says that, in fact, this is exactly how he feels after your conversations. As though he’s tripping over objects that weren’t previously there.

~

In the dream you were in an oddly furnished hotel room. You sat with the writer at the conference table and the two of you argued. You weren’t particularly invested in the argument, though for the sake of intimacy, you wished you were.

He was sticking it to you, verbally. And you should have been hurt, perhaps, but you have trouble feeling. You come up short, generally, in that department.

“I guess I should go,” you eventually concluded.

The writer, however, did not want you to leave.

“Leaving is not the solution,” he let you know.

“No?” you countered, arrogantly. “Then tell me: what is the solution?”

The writer ran a crazy tattooed hand through his hair and appeared almost vulnerable in giving you a wry, if exhausted and sad, smile.

“Showing up more,” he answered.

You didn’t immediately sit back down.

Leaving being easier.

~

Note that you actually like the writer.

Not in the way you’ve been liking men, not in the way you’ve liked seducing them. Because really, that has been much more about liking yourself.

Or if not liking, then perhaps affirming.

Though perhaps not that, precisely, either.

Point being, the writer is somehow a more relevant character. Has a fierce intelligence wrapped up in a deep humility, and then doubled back on with a gritty toughness. To say nothing of his showy good looks, about which you couldn’t care less.

So there he was, wanting more, and you thought, “I knew it.”

Though even in your confident certainty, it was not at all clear what you knew.

~

The thing about your sister dying is that once she’s gone you’re going to be fine. This is what you tell yourself: that it’s this dying part that is hard.

And in this ending, hell if you don’t love her. Even after spending the past twenty or so years convincing yourself you didn’t.

Turns out, you were lying. The whole fucking time.

The winter the wall came down in Germany your family went to Berlin, and your sister got drunk and lost her passport.

No one act defines your sister better than this.

The more necessary it was to maintain her identity, the more likely she was to lose it.

~

Back in the hotel room, you half-heartedly tried to seduce the writer. Yet another in a series of paralyzed attempts at intimacy.

Situations in which you used to be able to present yourself just aren’t nearly enough anymore.

When you straddled him, when you kissed him, it was unconvincing. Your performance. And you didn’t even know who you were without it.

You didn’t know. Who you were.

~

When all of the cleverly-devised ways you’ve intricately developed to define yourself fail you, what is left? This the question the dream seemed to be asking.

There were more scenes that followed, including a scene in which your estranged mother had a cameo, one in which you tried to bill some drinks to the hotel room but couldn’t confirm your own name, and so on ad infinitum. But already, this has gone on too long.

This, all of it, has gone on far too long.

~

 

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movement and sound

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By the time I really quit the DJ I’d lost respect for him, and that was probably the hardest part. I don’t blame myself for that; respect is relatively difficult thing to maintain in the face of someone who says, “I’d do anything to be with you,” and then tries to off himself when you don’t return his calls.

Try living, bro. Start there.

Because if you can’t even manage that, what do have to offer me, really?

Overall, I don’t remember my experience with the DJ favorably. Which means, if you’re me, that you don’t bother remembering it at all.

So it’s a cute surprise, this morning, when a song comes on I like, and I jack it up, and unabashedly perform for its tempo. And my just generally feeling exceptionally good in my body—that kinetic memory—translates.

The DJ and I. Music was his thing, and dance was mine, and we were so well-paired that way. The night in the hotel room when he set up his sound system in the corner, and stood next to the window and smoked cigarettes and played his tunes for me.

And I, in my oversized t-shirt and blacks tights, danced, thrashed, tore all the covers off the bed, rolled my body against the walls. Ended up in a heap on the floor, exhausted, all thoughts in my mind stilled.

It’s not easy for me to reach mind-numbing exhaustion. It’s a precious thing, on those rare occasions it’s achieved.

There were nights in his apartment that were similar. His music so loud that the walls were shaking and I exalted in my body while he stood in his corner watching, glorified in knowing that the sound he produced was finding a home in me. It was revelatory, naked, raw, some intrinsic talent in him inexplicably bound to a tortured expression I was desperate to release.

One night his neighbors pounded on the door to get him to stop, and he strode over to the door looking ready to kill.

“I’m making music for my girl!” he screamed in the face of two rough-looking men twice his strength. I came up behind him and smiled, red-faced and perspiring, by then in some ludicrous reduction of my original outfit.

They were speechless, merely nodded before heading back to their apartment.

Ours, together, was some impenetrable force.

He lived in a basement apartment in the city, with bars on the window, and sometimes people would squat and stare at our display. But it didn’t feel voyeuristic. It felt as if their existence was impossible, so far removed from us and our state of mind were they.

And there were a few times that we danced with the kids. Our three boys would unleash in some kind of mock-aggressive fight. And if they got in my path, I would scream at them, “Don’t manipulate my moves!”

The DJ loved his. He’d put that cute little hand over his mouth, and tell me later, “I love you with my children.”

It wasn’t all bad. I wouldn’t have been there, if that’s all there was. There was a point, before he went over it, that I loved nothing more than dancing out to his very edge with him, only to find my body coiled in his on the floor.

But in the end he wanted something more than just those isolated moments. I couldn’t understand that. Going out to dinner or doing anything normal held no flicker to those ripe collaborations of movement and sound. Those were beautiful.

What was the need for anything other than that?

Don’t we all want the freedom to choose the thing that is choosing us?

Nothing more, nothing less?

~

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the therapist, of course

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It was only a matter of time before I found myself here, I suppose. Though even so, I honestly didn’t see it coming.

The therapist drives a very clean, white Porsche and lives in an upscale loft downtown and has three teenage kids that he tells me are in beta-testing.

And his money makes things cushy and his front door having a security code gives me a sense of profound protection and his being a father makes him seem human, but …

…but…

what is it, woman? 

It’s his fucking gorgeous strength that’s going to trump all of that.

A power so great it allows me to be completely unapologetic about mine.

 don’t cater to me, i tell him.

i am not catering to you i am catering to me you are the meal.

He has those intense soul-gazing eyes that are the hallmark of his profession. The look that somehow communicates, “Unlike anyone else before me, I’m actually listening to what you’re saying. But unfortunately, this also means that you’re completely naked and ridiculous here before me.”

I have a love/hate relationship with that look. But soon, I won’t even have to see it.

unless i make you.

hush. you’re not going to make me.

we’ll see.

“I will key in the security code on your door,” I tell him. “I will proceed halfway up the stairwell. And then I will sit down and wait.”

He nods. It means continue.

“I want you to come down the stairs from your loft, behind me. I won’t turn around. And I want you to blindfold me.”

The therapist puts his pencil’s eraser just inside his lip. Makes no discernible show of emotion. Nods again.

Continue.

i am discovering that underneath i am not such a nice guy that there is a side of me that wants to express my dominance and power over a woman i understand this psychologically in terms of my dynamics and i have kept this in check but recently i met a woman who wants this and i am finding it exciting and unsettling 

recently you met a woman who wants this? i ask, teasing

I am so delighted that my hands want to take flight. Inside of my body is an entire orchestra.

“How are you doing with all of this?” I ask, tilting my head at him and smiling, odd girl flirty in the face of his sober expression.

I’m kind of being funny, in this brief role reversal.

He is not amused.

For the thinnest of seconds I’m almost self-conscious about how completely and utterly and happily narcissistic I am.

I look down at my lap and shield my eyes with my hand in an attempt to cover my glee.

He must lean forward in his chair. I can feel the distance between us lesson.

When he speaks, his voice is well-modulated, but even so, its got heat.

“Don’t you dare pretend to give a fuck about me and how I’m doing with all of this,” he whispers.

I can’t hold it in. The laughter escapes.

“Exactly,” he says.

I am beaming.

i want your help, he tells me, finally

well, if by my help you mean a willingness, yes. but process-y type things don’t interest me

not true. your own process interests you endlessly

okay, fine, but yours doesn’t

yes that’s better i will be interested and engaged in your process but your job is to receive and take it i can pay someone to process it for me later

He leans back in his chair. Again, I can feel the movement, without seeing it.

“Right now the only thing I care about,” he adds, calmly, quietly, “is your naked body and my exploration of it. You are not responsible for me, or my satisfaction. I will take my satisfaction.”

I splay my fingers across my face and peek at him from behind their screen.

 “And I am being too polite.”

i have never been with a woman like you worthy of worship your body is ridiculously amazing you are fresh you cut through me

~

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slapdash

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“Isn’t it strange? I don’t even know you,” she says.

This time they’re in his kitchen. It’s late now but they’ve been occupying the room for hours, since she went in to drink water straight from the faucet and he followed and a song came on that moved her and she raised her arms high and let him circle her, always with those bent knees that allow him to be pushing his mid-section against her. And she danced on funny tiptoes away from him, leading him across the room by his hard cock, laughing. Pushing gracefully off the walls, and back-bending over counters and pausing in dramatic stop-motion poses. Until eventually the song ended and she turned her back to him and swept her arms down to the floor, hanging loosely, rag-doll style, with her tush thrust invitingly upward. And he lifted her dress (This girl! Does she not even own panties, then?) and entered her like that.

She was scarcely aware of pleasure, so invested in the choreography of her body was she by then.

In due time, they separated.

She looked at the clock above the oven. Would it be too early to leave acceptably?

She was tired, but even more had grown wan on their fading connection.

(What remains alive for her is the the creative space they so naturally occupy together. Not so the incessant talking.)

He left the room to change the music.

(It’s very much his domain; he’s good at it. Also a powerful lover.)

She pulled some pillows in from the living room couch and created a small makeshift bed on the kitchen floor, fell quickly asleep.

Upon his return, he stretched his naked Roman statue body out long next to her on the bare linoleum and stroked her hair, waking her.

“Isn’t it strange? I don’t even know you,” she says, so very sleepy, running an absent finger along his collarbone.

“That’s the third time you’ve said that,” he responds testily, exasperated by her but as yet unwilling to admit it.

Definitively, he doesn’t like the ways she searches out conflict where he doesn’t want there to be any.

“But I don’t!” she insists, adamant on this point.

She sees in him someone who could have been something to her, who still might be something to her, though the possibility grows continually more remote.

It’s in her unintentional distancing of herself that their inevitable ending looms. She can’t understand why she does that, why she can’t impede its momentum.

In moments it makes her shaky and forlorn; in others unnecessarily cruel.

But for tonight she just appreciates his face, his body. Those high cheekbones, the little lion’s curve of his nostrils.

He gets up off the floor to change the music, yet again, dissatisfied with his choice, or what he believes is her reaction to it.

Playing DJ is good for him, gives him a sense of confidence, control, allows him to narrate the scene.

It’s interesting, the places people locate themselves.

“Will you bring me my dress?” she requests, when he stands. “I should leave soon.”

He finds her dress easily, on the floor in the space where he slid it over her spine and let it fall. He walks out of the room with it, up the stairs to his bedroom, buries it deep in his middle drawer, washes her strange savage smell from his loins, and returns.

She’s fallen asleep like that again, naked, on his kitchen floor. Hips and hair and the softest skin he’s ever felt and a sudden overcoming urge to crack her stupid skull in half.

“Oh darling,” he says, instead. “You’re tired. Come up to bed.”

She sits up and stretches, luxuriating in their mutual appreciation of her long torso.

It’s difficult to determine which of these two is the bigger narcissist.

“Probably him,” she guesses.

Simply because he continually floods her with his oratory of self, but then shuts her mouth with kisses when it’s her turn to speak.

She’s long since stopped listening to stories that were at first engaging and funny, distracted now by her own fierce but ever-muted desire to be heard.

She stands and puts on his dress shirt, looks in the entryway mirror and appreciates the crescent moon of her breasts revealed in the negative space.

He’s waiting for her on the landing that leads up to his bedroom. But she returns to the kitchen and pulls on his pants.

“What are you doing?” he asks, bounding down the stairs towards her.

She has one leg in his pants when he grabs them by their waistline and ridiculously puts one of his own feet in the opposite pant leg, almost knocking her over.

Again with their odd creativity, despite its now having taken on a strangely aggressive tone.

They’re so close to being right for each other, in these moments.

She giggles wildly at their counter-actions, at the way they’re now both rapidly struggling to inhabit the same pair of pants.

It’s absurd and hilarious, some kind of dysfunctional Marx Brothers routine.

“Stop!” she squeals, pushing him out of the pants but in turn falling over herself. Before he can rebound, she quickly rolls over onto her back and slips a second foot into the pants. But within seconds he is standing over her, pulling the pants free of her body by their cuffs. She stretches her legs wide and ineffectually tries to keep them on by friction alone, he winning the battle.

“Come to bed,” he commands, as he heads upstairs, pants draped over his arm.

“In a minute,” she reassures him.

Wearing just his dress shirt, she stands on the back balcony that leads across an endless field of tall grass. She imagines herself running wild through it, feeling the cool breeze arc across her bare skin. She imagines the thrill of his chasing her, breathless, and taking her down.

~

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show me who you are

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This summer, I take Lovey and Django on a three-day car trip across four states. A sixteen-year-old boy, now an equal part of our eclectic family, also joins.

Somehow, it’s in this spinning of wheels and endless road that I have historically seen my kids the most.

They unwind for me.

Show me who you are, I silently invite. My heart so wants to know.

And anything is allowed.

Well, almost.

As the adult, I know it’s my responsibility to demonstrate the difference between right and wrong. So I refrain, for once, from stories about myself at their age.

Like Django, Lovey is 14 this year.

Based on my own past, it’s a wildly unpredictable time for a girl, fraught with horrifying consequences.

Is this why I internalize her experience far more than that of the boys?

The boys, for me, are easy. But Lovey, oh Lovey, with her adorable Amelie haircut and green-bikini-clad curves, unwittingly attracting the attention of adult men. There’s nothing easy for me about Lovey.

And stupidly, this is the first summer in which I become aware of, and frightened by, the situation I’ve created with her.

Lovey is such a strong reflection of me, and I know her deep, dark waters so well by now. She talks tough when I know she is delicate. I intimately know the places she hurts, and exactly what it would take to destroy her. What an absurd statement, coming from a parental figure. But it’s true.

And it’s an enormous responsibility. Because if Lovey ever gleans anything from me other than a more absolute sense of confidence in herself, I’ve betrayed not only her, but myself.

As such, I am forced to confront the fact that I am, in moments, a far cry from anything that I am supposed to be for her.

So we’re in the car, Lovey my fixed co-pilot for the duration of the trip. I’m not sure how this impenetrable appointment happened. When I suggest alternating her with the boys, the kids uniformly deny me.

Meanwhile, on day one, I set the psycho-emotional pace for what we’re doing. Narrate our scene. As the kids DJ, with their bluesy and defiant blend of sound, I fabricate accompanying scenarios, assigning us fictional roles as bad-asses.

“This song is the soundtrack for the next next diner at which we stop,” I tell them. “And when we exit the car, spoons are dropped in terror of our approach.”

The kids laugh and take their cues as the song crescendos.

“The owner, in his dirty apron, will try to head us off at the door, and Lovey will be forced to execute her krav maga in order for us to gain entrance.”

I don’t know why it’s my tendency to portray our unlikely crew as being against the world rather than a part of it. Certainly the mood of the music guides me, and because it’s funny, but within it there also lies the implication of our forging some kind of unstoppable bond.

Lovey, in particular, thrives on this type of plotline. So that, by the second day, she begins to take the narration over from me. She’s dyslexic, remedial in school, but in actual life she’s whip smart and her potential for creativity knows no bounds.

I notice this transition happening, notice likewise my desire to shut her down. I’m competitive with Lovey, of all things. But the key lies in recognizing it. And instead shutting myself down.

Giving her free reign, which she handles like a master.

By the final day, Lovey has long since won over the boys. Whereas I’m proving a much more difficult audience. Sensing this, and exacerbated by it, we have a tense moment in which her confidence grows to such heights that she attempts a verbal overthrow.

“Are you honestly wanting to go head-to-head with me, Lovey?” I threaten. “Because I guarantee, you will lose.”

The words come out of my mouth hard, before I know I am going to say them.

What I’m really saying there is that I’m allowing her to take center-stage, because she’s a deserving apprentice, but that I can take it back any time I want it. And I’m not even sure if that’s true.

Lovey and I stare at each other, bodies rigid.

In some over-the-top choice of directing, we’re placed atop a cataclysmic precipice.

The boys, in their anxious and slightly delighted alarm over Lovey’s rebellion, slowly fade from my awareness, until it’s just Lovey and me, in absolute defiance of each other.

Then something strange happens. Some subtle change in lighting. A cool breeze. I don’t even know. Just something that suddenly allows me to to see, quite ridiculously, what I’m doing.

I’m trying to bring down the girl who is probably my most ardent supporter.

Lovey, in her intuitive wisdom, catches the shift.

“What song would be playing right now, during this scene?” she asks.

The question is magnanimous. It implies that Lovey and I are, in fact, just acting.

This isn’t who we are; this isn’t who we want to be.

The boys laugh in relief, and begin screaming out song titles that would, in fact, be perfect.

“Lovey,” I say, reaching out to her.

“Big Momma,” she whispers. It’s an old nickname she has for me.

Lovey stretches out her long, slender arms, accepts my embrace.

And we’re both shaking, though it’s barely discernible.

Lovey, that damn girl. In her I see the very challenge I presented to my own mother, and the opportunity to have something far greater than was ever allowed us. But it’s not easy. I come so dangerously close to failing.

~

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the rewrite

jesse at 8

Before the photojournalist and I said our final goodbye, he offered me some insight in the form of a story.

The story was about a soldier who’d returned from war and found himself unable to feel in the ordinary sense, the result of adapting to such heightened conditions in his years away.

He pretended, in the presence of family in friends, to be grateful to be home. But behind this facade, he was in fact tortured by his now-mundane existence.

In his doomed apathy, he secretly invited disaster. Some interaction that would allow him to feel again.

“Being alive, in the most simple and basic sense, was now somehow a fate for him worse than death.”

I recognized, of course, that the photojournalist was referring to himself.

But as it turned out, there was slightly more to it than that.

As was always the case with the photojournalist.

After he told me the story, he drew the shades in my hotel room and placed a cold washcloth over his eyes, over his scarred face.

I was restless, felt the need to move. So I left the room and circled the city block a few times, the steady disquiet the photojournalist inspired in me amping itself up as I did.

“What did you think about while you were gone?” he wanted to know, when I returned.

I loved the photojournalist for more reasons that I can cite, but this type of professorial probing was high among them.

“I thought about your story,” I answered, honestly.

“And?”

“I’m going to steal it from you.”

He nodded.

“Of course you are.”

“That doesn’t bother you?” I asked.

The photojournalist condemned me with one of his arrogant looks.

“It’s your story, you dolt,” he said.

The smile I offered in response held a confused mixture of flattery and sadness.

“How many more years are you going to spend hiding?” he asked.

It’s a funny thing, when one’s unconscious motivations are exposed.

It strips them of their mysterious intrigue.

Shortly after the photojournalist left, I met up with a dark and handsome man that I knew was not good for me.

I was bored and lifeless, and going through the familiar actions that had previously provided temporary relief to my sense of monotony.

But this time was different.

This time I recognized exactly what I was doing.

“Let’s drive to the canyon,” the man suggested. “There’s something I want to show you.”

I got in his car and stared out the black window as we drove miles from the city, and down a long, isolated dirt road.

He stopped the car. I turned to him.

“What was it you wanted to show me?” I asked.

The man unbuttoned his pants and pulled out his dick.

It did absolutely nothing for me.

I was as dead as I’d always been.

The prior potency of this scenario was lost, replaced as it was by an absurd transparency.

“Put that away,” I told him.

Predictably, my lack of interest did nothing to deter the man, who instead began fervently groping himself.

I put my head back against the headrest and closed my eyes.

“I want to go home now,” I mentioned.

The man grabbed the back of my head and thrust it towards his lap, tried to force himself into my mouth.

I braced myself, hands on his legs.

It sounds strange, but it occurred to me that this man cared about me not at all.

Simultaneously, it occurred to me that I could give him what he wanted and be home that much faster.

Which is almost what I did. Which is even what I started to do.

This is why his firm grip on the back of my head loosened.

But meanwhile, a reel of my life was playing in the private theatre of my mind.

The montage of memories started with the  photojournalist chiding me for the choices I’d made, and then cycled back to the many times I’d been in this very situation, dating back to the first time, when I was 13.

It was uncanny, how close I still felt to that girl.

And for the first time, I wanted her to define herself rather than give in to some destiny that seemed to have been bequeathed to her at random.

The man in the seat next to me was so caught up in the sickness of our circumstances that it didn’t even prove all that difficult to break free and exit the car.

“I’m going home,” I told him, before I shut the door.

Yes, it was a ridiculous. I was in heels and a thin dress and whatever fate befell me in my attempt to traverse the endless road ahead had the potential to be far worse than the scenario from which I’d just escaped.

But oddly, I felt a surge of incredible joy.

I was free.

Oh God, finally, I was free.

~

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the weeping willow

girl in window cigarette

As an adult, all of the memories she has about him fall under one simple category: Sad Lessons on Life & Love.

Still, as a child, there was Daddy. Bringing her presents and leaving her notes in his left-handed scrawl, each one confirming how absolutely wonderful she was. Feeding her on his oration and tucking her in and pulling her body out of the tub. Conducting audio interviews with her and transcribing her stories and filming her. Filming her. Filming her.

A child was never so adored.

This is true.

Once, he went away on a long business trip and she sat at school and missed him and crossed off the days until his return on her calendar. There was no delight in anything in his absence. It was all just one long spell of patient misery.

“May I go with you to the airport to pick him up?” she asked the morning of his homecoming.

“School,” Mum answered, pointing to the back door, which led across a large vacant field to the bus stop.

“I could miss school,” she suggested, despite an awareness of its being fruitless.

In her house, there were three women that orbited her father. Two daughters and a wife.

Of these three, she realized much later, her mum was the biggest child of them all. Needed his attention the very most, though was perhaps the least likely to receive it.

That day, during morning recess, she sat on top of the jungle gym and announced to her girlfriends, “I’m not going to be at school for a long time.”

“Why?” they wanted to know.

“Because I’m going to be very, very sick.”

From there, she went straight to the nurse’s office and developed a fever of 104.

Without meaning to, she went a little too far. There were chunks of time that were forever lost, and her overheated body ate small holes in the enamel of her surfacing teeth.

When the fever finally broke she opened her eyes to find herself in her parent’s bed in the dark.

By then, her mother was, predictably, gone.

“Dad?” she called, feeling his presence.

And there he was.

In the days that followed, her body woke and slept in irregular patterns. One night her father was missing from her side, and she wandered outside, feeling the stringy weakness of her legs. The clinging stickiness of her nightgown.

She found him under the big willow tree on the farthest corner of their property, crying.

“Please don’t be sad,” she whispered.

He wiped his face with the back of his hand and she cuddled up next to him.

“I’m not very good at holding my family together,” he told her, as her heavy eyes fell, and his voice broke as he said it.

Life carried on. She returned to school. Even from miles and miles away, she could feel, quite largely, how much he was pretending. Sometimes in the middle of her lessons, she was struck by loving him so much that it hurt.

One morning at recess, she invited herself to play King of the Mountain with the boys.

“You can’t play. You’re a girl,” Robbie Eggers told her.

She had a very small crush on Robbie Eggers. Even so, she pushed him as hard as she could in the stomach, and watched in wonderment as his body careened down the hill’s steep side.

And from then on, she was in.

At first the boys were timid with her, perhaps, but her lack of restraint soon earned her a solid place in the game. She became more and more drawn to the physical sensation of brute force. And when not at recess, she spent long amounts of time in the girl’s bathroom stall with her pants down, evaluating her myriad of bruises.

One day a boy’s arm broke, mid-play. And as a twisted result, the group was sent to the principal’s office, where they were told they would receive a paddling.

The principal sportingly removed the terrifying paddle from its shelf, looking a bit the cricketer.

And one of the boys started crying but she said, “You’re not allowed to do that to me.”

When she’d started school, her dad had shown her a waiver parents were asked to sign that permitted the use of corporeal punishment.

“My dad didn’t sign the form,” she told the principal.

Which was accurate. So instead she was put in the corner to watch, while each of the scared and teary-eyed boys were paddled in turn.

This, it turned out, was far, far worse.

~

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the unmade bed

unmade bed 2so some alarm on his phone chimes and he slides out of bed and into the shower. and before i’ve really thought it through, i’m fleeing my own hotel room. because my love for him is a fucking delicious knife in my heart, and it’s killing me and vitalizing me in the way that I very much need to be killed and vitalized.

again.

one day, i want him to let me reach out and touch him, without his touching back.

but for now, he and i have overlapping issues, it seems.

both so charitable and damaged and apathetic, that being in his proximity is like viewing myself through an oddly-flattering lens.

one in which running away is a viable option.

no one will tell you this, but sometimes, it’s actually the right move to make.

especially when self-preservation is at stake.

he’s leaving today and it will be months or maybe years until i see him again, if it all. and as such, sitting my way through a goodbye is simply not tolerable.

whereas hiding in a parking garage as my hands shake and my chest heaves and falls apparently is.

but first, i have to unearth the articles of clothing at my disposable.

which shouldn’t be a trial, but is. because yesterday, right before he convinced me to let him up, i paid the valet a generous sum to help me throw all of my belongings into my various suitcases and take them down to the car.

which, yes, was a really odd thing to do. but sometimes i can be such a strange girl, and it’s simply what happened.

“you’re checking out early?” the valet asked.

“no, no, it’s not that. i just need my things removed, you know, for now.”

he seemed confused, and i allowed for that, because it was easier than to trying to explain to him my need for the photojournalist on a blank canvas.

his smooth skin and perfect form against nothing but a backdrop of white.

his visit was short. or timeless. i’m not sure. but there was never really the question of whether or not it was enough.

because that single moment, when i went down to meet him in the hotel lobby, and saw him sitting there before he saw me? that alone would have been enough.

he has this quality of beauty to me i can’t begin to understand.

i even had the thought, “of all men, why him?”

but for better or worse, this is the pristine position he now holds with me.

of course, that was yesterday.

today is a new day.

one in which i must absolutely make haste to escape the threat of farewell.

i’ve managed to slip on my tights and a camisole by the time the water from his shower shuts off.

and at that point there’s just nothing more for it.

i grab my shawl and boots from the entryway.

and the door clicks shut behind me.

the noise it makes worries me. under no circumstances do i want him catching up with me. so i sprint down the corridor in what few clothes i’m wearing, with the brilliant plan to somehow make an acceptable outfit out of my shawl once i’m safely behind the elevator’s closed doors.

the thing i don’t anticipate is the young black porter being in the elevator when its doors open. but there he is. i can’t decide which of us is more startled.

“lobby, please,” i request as i get in, trying to behave as if my state of undress bears even a remote semblance of civility.

the doors close. he’s on one side of the elevator, in his handsome uniform.

i’m on the other, in tights and an open-backed spaghetti strap camisole.

to say nothing of my hair’s wild disarray.

“i’m making a quick getaway,” i explain to him, as if that makes things in any way better.

he stares at me, openly. i feel the heat rushing into my face. it’s an insanely intimate moment.

“whatever you’re doing, you look beautiful,” he says.

i laugh. he’s not even flirting with me. i’m not sure what he’s doing. it’s all just happening rather fast.

being a gentleman. that’s what it is.

i take a deep breath and tie the shawl around my waist.

then, holding the boots in my hands behind my back, and balancing on one foot at a time, i bend at the knee to kick back into them. all while standing perfectly erect. because if i bend over even at all, my breasts will be on full display, and we’ll be a little worse off than we already are.

“impressive,” he says.

i laugh again.

“thank you.”

there’s just time to pull my hair back in a loose knot, and then the elevator doors open.

before i exit, i give the porter a shy and grateful look, and curtsy.

in turn, he bows.

it’s a strange and very human moment, between a dignified young man and a woman i can only assume he believes is a call girl.

meanwhile, the photojournalist is wandering infinitely beautiful around my hotel room in a towel.

each of us carving out an experience uniquely our own.

~

Posted in the photojournalist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments