anyone

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why are you already a home to me

 

and why was walking in on you, asleep on the couch to the left

like walking through a dream i’d had as a child

of the woman I would one day become

 

the taste and smell of your breath

deja vu recognizable

 

after all these weeks spent sleepless, strike-ready

in a state of sustained exhaustion

so confoundedly alert

 

why do i now find myself so free and at ease

in your own damaged presence

 

and why was listening to your brutal stories

a strange source of comfort

 

a final point of surrender

 

“better letting go than holding back”

you tell me, but anyone

could say that

 

anyone at all

~

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the carpenter

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“How did I do?” he texts.

He’s big on feedback. Likely because he knows he’s good.

“You fuck like a bull,” she teases him.

“LOL. Yeah, I have a lot of different ways of fucking,” he responds, and she doesn’t think much about it.

Until the next time, when he shows her some of the ways in which that comment is true.

Afterwards she laughs, in large part because of all of the endorphins his talent triggers, but also because he’s illustrated yet another way in which, up until now, this girl has been selling herself short.

Because?

What opulence when his movements were slow, loving, fluid, easy.

Like a suspended caress.

An entirely different temperament, involving an entirely different persona.

She grows to love this about them.

How they are so many different people to each other.

And how they are no one at the same time.

The weeks roll by in which she welcomes him into her room, her bed, her body.

And her impressions of him are infinite.

But relatively unimportant in relation to the experience she’s creating for herself through being with him.

Tearing down so much of the structure that has been handed down to her.

Vamping and revamping.

And creating instead a thing of beauty, her own design.

“You’re a carpenter,” she laughs, as she lies next to him, imagining this.

She’s been prohibitive about communication, but this much she knows.

Along with one or two other things that he’s managed to sneak in.

He’s also a firefighter. A daddy.

“Yes, honey. I’m a carpenter,” he answers.

She can hear the smile in his voice.

“I think Jesus was a carpenter,” she muses.

He laughs. Runs his fingers along her sweaty hairline.

“Yup. I’m just like Jesus.”

She slides down the length of his muscular body and runs her tongue along the side of his torso, just because.

The carpenter tastes so good to her.

Later, grabbing fistfuls of her bum in the process, he enters her from a position she never could have devised herself. Because logistically it shouldn’t have worked.

Days later, the technical aspect of it will still confound her, and remind her, oddly, of the circus.

“How come a man has never done that to me before?” she wants to know.

He laughs. “I don’t know. I’m full of ideas.”

Full of ideas, yes.

And laughter.

And skill.

And a desire to give her pleasure for no apparent reason but that she exists.

The palace she ends up with will be hers, but she’s not without gratitude for the man who was sent to help with its construction.

~

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keeping pace

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Sometimes I wonder if the way I love Django is the same way other moms love their sons. Only because it feels so much different. Or maybe it feels the same, but in a dark side of the moon way.

A few weeks before Django was born, his paternal grandfather called me from Chicago.

“I’m just looking at your chart,” he told me.

That being my astrology chart; he being an astrologist.

It was grey outside. My feet were bare. I was wearing this enormous sweater that I hadn’t taken off in weeks. My black cat Osiris, who would soon be dead, was sitting in the sill licking frost from the window.

I wasn’t much for listening to anyone on Django’s dad’s side of the family at that time, despite the fact that they were trying to help. Do the right thing. It was a just a weird situation and it would have been easier for me, in a way, if they had just left me alone.

There was something stringent in their approach, and I wasn’t up for faking convention. Just wasn’t.

But in this call it was almost like that was the point.

According to my chart, Michael said, I was going to be an unusual mother.

I stared at the Total gas sign; the backside of my apartment rubbed right up against the station.

Every morning at about four an enormous truck would come and pump gasoline into the ground.

“My chart says that? That I’m going to be an unusual mother?”

“You know, perhaps unusual is not the best word. Let’s go with unique.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. Secretly I took it as a compliment, but I wasn’t sure that’s what was intended.

“You don’t need to try to fit in, if that was a course of action you were thinking of taking,” he said next.

The heater kicked on, sending a tremor through the building.

“I hadn’t really thought about it much,” I told Michael. “About whether or not I was going to fit in.”

Michael cleared his throat. “Well, no need to try. Just be yourself.”

I tried to get my mind around the conversation. Fit in with whom, exactly?

“I have to get off the phone,” I decided.

“Right. Well. Best of luck with the birth.”

“Thanks. You too,” I answered, hanging up before noticing what I’d said.

In most areas of my life, I’m flighty. Halfway there. I don’t mean to be. I’m just not that solid. I’ve got a lot of air, I’m told, if we’re going with the whole astrology thing.

And yet, somehow my love for Django stands apart from this.

On a surface whose ground is firm.

Where my footing is surprisingly certain.

So that, without my even doing anything, and no matter what else happens, my love for that boy just effortlessly keeps pace.

~

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upheave me

You know that thing where you feel like you can’t breathe properly and you wake up in the middle of every night in a crippling state of inexplicable terror and your now raw and tender body becomes allergic to itself?

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Yeah. Well, so, that’s been happening.

Not cool.

Back against the wall, this time I’m having a revelation.

The evolution of me is such that I’m not going to take this shit anymore.

Fact is, I’ve been way too sweet. My neurosis doesn’t need to be coddled and held. Hell no. My neurosis needs to be kicked to the curb like the bad boyfriend it is. Enough of all the whatever—a pattern of self-destructive behavior, possible indications of a chemical imbalance—nuh-uh. I don’t buy it anymore.

Let’s just face it. I’m all growsed up, and I’m too good for this kind of crap.

For real. I’m not going down again.

So you can just get your damn paws off me, Fear.

Fear shows just the slightest surprise when I say this.

“Awww, baby, you’ve got it all wrong,” he says, twisting his long, cold fingers all up in my hair.

But I don’t. I don’t have it all wrong.

In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s only one thing I’ve ever really had wrong.

And that has been my instinct to respond to bad situations by loving more.

Easy, because it takes absolutely no intelligence and not even a grain of self-respect.

All it takes is a big, juicy heart.

This time, I’m brave enough to look Fear straight in the eye as he attempts to seduce me.

He’s got some strong ammunition, right? Knows us all a little too well.

He’s slick, Fear. And he wants me. I get that.

But the thing is, I don’t want him back. Never have.

I’m not normally this much of a no-nonsense kid. It’s new.

New in the way that change and upheaval are new.

Fear oozes in slowly for a kiss.

“Did you quit working out?” I ask him.

“What’s that?” He withdraws slightly, inadvertently flexes.

I slip out from under the arm with which he’s got me pinned to the wall.

Head the fuck out of his lair.

“I don’t know,” I tell him, on my way.

“Somehow you used to seem bigger. Stronger.”

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when your mind is wild and your body is still

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Caleb and you spend long afternoons in your bedroom waiting for spring. He sleeps with his strong arm thrown over you and you yourself never sleep but steady your breathing enough to convince him that you do.

Without knowing why, you like this foolery, this deception. It makes you happy.

You try to keep this happiness secret, but sometimes it refuses to be contained. Sometimes your lips pull back across your teeth in a wide grin and, somehow sensing this, he goes up on one elbow and laughs.

“What’s going on over there?” he wants to know.

You shake your head, put his finger in your mouth, bury your face in the pillow.

If he knows you’re not asleep, he spiders his fingers across your shoulders, along your sides, pats your bum, tiny-kisses the top of your head. You wouldn’t have thought that a man who fucks like a bull would have this gentle side to him and it surprises you.

The first time you almost said, “You don’t have to do that.”

But luckily you caught yourself in time.

And now he does have to do that.

Now you’d miss it if he didn’t.

He never falls into a solid sleep until your Pandora station decides that you are no longer listening, that it’s playing to an empty room, and turns itself off. You never know how long this takes. An hour maybe? Forty-five minutes?

It’s in the eventual silence that his breathing becomes truly heavy, almost labored. That his body shudders in its final surrender, that the arm slung over you triples in weight.

You like these moments. You like feeling the sweat form between his belly and your lower back.

As your oft-caged mind begins to travel, you think about the guy at the grocery store whose lower arms are tattooed black. Imagine yourself indicating them and saying to him, “When do you think we’ll know each other well enough for you to tell me about that?” And realize that now it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to say that the next time you see him.

You think about your sister, who is always dying. You think about that time the two of you were stuck at the airport and when you came out of the bathroom she was reading your diary, wide-eyed. You freaked out and she claimed she was only pretending to read it, to be funny. So the next time she went to the bathroom, you did the same thing to her. Only when you did it she went completely berserk, yanking the diary out of your hands and hitting you over the top of the head with it. Which was embarrassing.

But also funny.

More funny.

Her diary had a title page. Duchess of Debauchery. You teased her about this.

“I’m writing a book,” she told you.

“I’m sure,” you told her back.

Caleb grunts in his sleep.

You think about him. Wonder if he’s sad. Lonely. Wonder if his heart is broken, and if you’re helping or making it worse.

You think about old lovers and almost start to miss them. But then you imagine one of them coming to your door right now. He wants his television back. That’s not your imagination. He really does. But you imagine answering the door butt-naked and screaming your head off at him. With Caleb still in the bedroom.

Caleb would get turned on by that. Without knowing him very well, you know this to be true. He’s big on unpredictability. And for a second you almost consider scheduling it. But then you realize that would be crazy.

Crazy is a word that has been regularly employed when describing you, and you used to buy into that. But these days you feel that it’s not really very accurate.

Still, for a long, painful moment, you genuinely wonder how anyone actually keeps from going insane.

Especially you.

By now the sweat is dripping down between your bodies.

You reach out an arm and take a slice of mango from a bowl on your nightstand. Roll over onto your back and slide it delicately between Caleb’s ridiculously gorgeous lips.

If there’s one thing you’re going to miss about Caleb, it’s going to be those lips. You can already imagine it being the kind of thing that’s going to be hard to get over, when the time for getting over comes.

Considering this, you take his lower lip between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze it appreciatively.

Caleb laughs.

He’ll laugh at anything. Your bull-man. Pounding away your sadness, your crazy.

“Another mango,” he says.

“You’re demanding,” you say back, obediently stretching your arm around for another one.

“Indeed.”

You slide a second mango into his mouth, use it as an excuse to give his lip another tug.

He takes your hand by the wrist, turns his eyes towards you.

Guides your hand down his torso, presses those lips against yours.

~

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sometimes

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You know, sometimes happiness is just so damn elusive.

Sometimes life is just hard and the people you want to believe in betray you.

Sometimes they go crazy, disown you, fucking die.

Sometimes your heart breaks. (A lot of the time your heart breaks.)

Sometimes you go on medication. Numb that shit out.

Sometimes, days or weeks or even years pass like that.

Then sometimes, new people show up.

And convince you that you’re strong enough to drop the meds.

So sometimes you do that, too.

And sometimes you actually are.

Sometimes, you meet a man with a gorgeous lower lip,

all scrumptious and puffy. And you like him so much that

Sometimes, you invite him inside of you.

And pretty much always, he accepts.

Sometimes, happiness isn’t all that elusive after all.

Sometimes, you realize with surprise, it’s actually pretty fucking direct.

~

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in touch with your sister

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“You might want to get in touch with your sister,” the email says.

It’s from Mum, of course, and I know this despite her having another new last name.

“You might want to get in touch with your sister.”

Our first correspondence in eight or twelve or six hundred years.

No signature. No subject header. Just the one line.

“You might want to get in touch with your sister.”

Unfortunately, the one line is all I need.

Because unfortunately, I am still her daughter.

Her cold blood still runs in mine; I am still a medium for her cryptic messages.

Even though I really don’t want to be.

Even though I was really hoping I’d escaped the simmering pot of crazy by now.

Outrun the echo of our bohemian-witch-cursed past.

But no. I haven’t.

Looks like none of us have.

“You might want to get in touch with your sister.”

It means that my sister is dying.

Again.

And it means that I should do something.

Trouble is, there is nothing I can do.

I’ve never said those words before, and once upon a green time I would have denied they existed.

I certainly wouldn’t have recognized a person who used them.

Myself. I wouldn’t have recognized myself.

But here we are. And suddenly I wonder, how was it ever even determined that I could fix us, heal anything, anyway?

Was it some promise I made when I was young, so madly in love with them, so freaked out by how lost they were?

Was it some last prayer that leapt from my father’s mangled body dying soul?

Delilah, please take care of them.

“I tried, Dad,” I want to tell him.

But then I’d have to avert my eyes and say lamely, “It just turned out to be a bit more than I could handle.”

It’s not that I’ve given up, exactly.

Or, I don’t know, maybe it is.

But it doesn’t mean I feel nothing.

When it comes down to it, I’m actually pretty scared.

In part because I’m afraid this time it will be for real.

I mean, of course, right?

Death is scary.

But it’s not just that.

It’s something more peripheral than that.

It has to do with the dark thing that has been lurking around my sister for almost as long as I can remember.

The thing that makes her scream and ravage her own face, overdose, sleep in cemeteries, fuck men that throw her out of cars.

I am so scared for her.

Or by her. I don’t even know.

But I have always been so scared for her by her.

My sister has beaten death before.

Each time looking more skeletal and raw for it.

But what if this time, her heart actually stops, her eyes actually close?

What if this time we bury the sweet destroyed body (that once belonged to a girl that held my hand, taught me to tiptoe, slept in my top bunk)?

Will her addiction claw its her way up out of the clean earth, and haunt her forever? Or will she finally be free?

If I could convince her right now that there is light and beauty in life’s design, I would. Please believe me.

But in the meantime, do you want to know what terrifies me?

That she will convince me that there’s not.

~

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because my soul wants to overflow

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Sometimes (all the time) I get scared that men will want something from me.

Something heavier, more hidden, than my attention, my time.

Something that will require I give an explanation.

Even when I have nothing to say.

Sometimes (all the time), I believe this. You either get me or you don’t.

“But all I want is to protect you, take care of you,” a man-in-courting once said.

At which point, I took a telescope and looked out at a future in which I succumbed to a life with a man such as he. And in the cross-haired distance I saw myself lost, feeble, dispirited, dead.

“I don’t want that,” I told him.

“Every woman wants that.”

He was challenging me, I suppose, but I was quickly going blank. Eventually I shrugged, looked away.

“Well, then, what is it, exactly, that you think you want?” he asked, almost mockingly.

I guess I want nothing (except to be stretched).

Which is probably why nothing is here (and my body has gone elastic).

I’m talking about Caleb, who just gets me.

“You’re sleepy,” he texts today. “Go home and take a nap.”

He’s been sending me messages like these off and on for days.

They stem from a brief encounter we had that apparently established the direction this whole thing would take.

“Leave me alone,” has been my favored response, even though we both know I don’t mean it.

But today my curiosity gets the better of me, and I soften.

“Why? What do you want?” I text back.

“I want to make you feel amazing. Vulnerable in your bed, wet in your sleep, unable to resist when you feel my tongue.”

I stare at the words for a long time before I decide that I am, in fact, feeling kind of sleepy today.

“I’m going home early,” I tell the sweet girls in my office.

They smile. Wish me well. At five they’ll go home to their normal lives.

Sometimes I wonder how I turned out this way.

And sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy.

But if I am, I’m really glad that I’m not crazy alone, that Caleb has come along to nurture me with his sweet mouth, spoonfeed me his twisted reality.

Fifteen minutes later I’m home, my average day gone riot. Thrilled, I turn the music up high. Open the windows. Strip down to my black ruffle boy shorts and matching bandeau. Dance around my house. Drink a large glass of mango juice and vodka. Give my dog a giant bone in the back yard.

And finally, crawl into bed all anticipation and insanity.

“I’m terrified,” I text.

“That fear will turn to lust,” he texts back.

He’s right, but how can he know that?

This man, whose grin I feel like a warm breath on my neck.

“It is adventurous. We both know the attraction is there. I want to be your lover and there will be nothing dull about it,” was the argument that sold me on him.

I’ve hung blackout curtains in my bedroom, and I’m not sure if I fall asleep or simply surrender to the perfect darkness.

In whose possession I come to see how very much I want this.

I’m lying on my side when a sliver of light is cast into the room, dispelled.

As the bedroom door opens, closes.

He makes not a sound.

The uneven rising and falling of my breath beats out its own syncopation of yearning, but everything else is cloaked in the ever-heightening silence of suspense.

Until finally there’s an identifiable clank, as his belt buckle lands on my bedroom’s wooden floor.

I can’t keep a smile off of my face as he reaches through black space and takes one of my feet in his hands, kisses his way up my legs so softly it’s almost indiscernible.

“If I’m scared will you kiss me deep?” I had asked.

Turns out I’m not scared. Not at all. Being alone in the dark with this strange man comes more naturally to me than most things in my life. But when he reaches my face he kisses me deep anyway, for a long, slow time.

Outside it is mid-day. And regular people are going about their days.

But here in my room is a netherworld, a darkened non-place in which an invisible man leaves no part of my cold body untouched.

And asks for nothing from me in return.

Nothing.

I knew there was a reason that the third Caleb arrived.

I knew there was a message that I hadn’t quite gotten from the first two.

And after circling around it with my mind, taking his LOL texts every day, this Caleb finally spelled it out for me.

“I’m here to satisfy your shadow side.”

There are moments when I almost feel I need to apologize for the kind of woman I am.  I am not sure why I can’t do the conventional thing.

But I can’t. It steals pieces of me, takes me away from myself.

So unlike the isolated sound of his belt buckle hitting the floor, as I lay there in darkness, waiting, unknowing. Which, for no reason at all, fills my soul up to overflowing.

~

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u gotta thing for calebs

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Every ten years or so I get a Caleb in my life.

They’re always younger but somehow more experienced than I am; they’re always sillier on the outside but sadder on the inside; they’re always some exciting blend of swagger and walking disaster; and they’re always completely unapologetic about who they are and what they’re about to do to me.

I loved my first two Calebs. The men more than the name. But just barely.

And I thought it was serendipitous enough that I got two.

But now Caleb three seems to have arrived, and I’m a little beside myself.

In all honesty, I was trying to resist someone like him this time.

Someone that comes on strong and fast, the way I like.

I was thinking of trying normal on for a change. Maybe even boring.

That’s what I was thinking, when the Caleb I didn’t yet know as Caleb arrived to hang some shelves in my boss’ office.

And I stood unnecessarily in the room watching him.

That’s what I was thinking, as I admired his stupid muscular arms, and started in teasing him about the hammer hanging from the loop on his carpenter pants.

Yes, that’s what I was thinking.

Even when he repeatedly turned my sass around on me, and coincidingly made me laugh harder than I’ve laughed in three long months.

That’s what I was still thinking. Maybe.

But then, on my way out, he called me to him and nodded towards the desk.

“That’s for you,” he said, indicating a folded scrap of paper.

I picked it up, held it in the air between two fingers.

“This?” I asked.

“Yup.”

And I was well on my way towards making a cheeky comment when he gave me one of those ridiculously confident grins.

That left me feeling stripped, girlish and shy.

So instead I just left. Quickly.

It’s questionable whether or not I should have opened the paper, but you know me, and of course I did.

Before I got halfway to my car, even.

Scribbled inside was, predictably, his number, and portentously, his name.

“No fucking way,” I said, out loud.

And it was over right there.

I could see some kind of surrender flag falling from the sky as if in slow motion.

I texted him before I even left the parking lot.

Your name is Caleb?!?
Incredible. You’ll be my third.

To which he responded?

Lol…u gotta thing for Calebs.

Lol, I’ve got a thing for Calebs?

Really?

Well, apparently so.

       ~

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holding back

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Very early on, I noticed how one side of Bruno’s mouth would draw up in a sneer when he wasn’t paying attention. For all of his carefully manicured self-possession, this was, at first, the only tell to his unrefined character.

It was for the rest of that character to show up that I waited.

“He’s perfect for you,” I was told.

And I was the one saying it.

“Everything you wanted.”

On paper, he fit the description of the man for whom I thought I was looking.

But in person he was oddly reminiscent of a crude police sketch, with hastily-drawn details that made the composite less convincing, somehow.

I couldn’t place it with any real precision. But I held back regardless.

My son was two at the time, turning three.

So it wasn’t just for me that I held back.

Life had given me a very special reason not to fall, which was nice of life.

I’d never been big on safety nets when it was just me, but now I had them rigged everywhere.

Bruno took my cautionary nature in stride for weeks. Chivalrously unloaded my son’s seat from the back of his car when I changed my mind about our going places with him at the last minute. Didn’t call during naptime. Things like that.

But over time the levels of his graciousness began to plummet and spike in unexpected fits and starts.

Little temper tantrums that he’d later disregard, shake off.

I wasn’t much for going out, but sometimes I’d allow him to accompany us on mundane little errands. He’d sit on the folding table at the laundromat, elbows on knees, and grill me about my past and our future.

“You’re not letting me in because you’ve been hurt.”

“I don’t think so. Everyone’s been hurt.”

“If you’d let me move in with you, you’d see what I could do for you and your son. You don’t know what you’re missing because you’ve never had it.”

I pushed the lever in and the quarters made a satisfying chink.

“Why can’t you just enjoy it when we’re together?”

Bruno scowled and looked at the other men standing around as though he had murder on his mind.

“Are you wearing underwear?” he suddenly asked, squinting at the lower half of my dress.

While we waited for the clothes to dry, we’d sometimes take a walk through the nearby park. Once when I stopped to tie my shoe, Bruno took over on the stroller. I don’t know how my son knew the difference, but he craned around almost immediately to see who was pushing.

“You push,” he told me, and I gave Bruno a hip bump.

Bruno’s knuckles went white on the stroller’s handle.

“The two of you, I swear,” he said. “One day, you’ll trust me.”

But the more days that passed, the less true that statement became.

At some point in there my landlord raised the rent. And like a strange opportunistic predator, Bruno lunged.

“There’s no way you can afford it. I’ll have to move in. We could get married, if that’s what you want.”

I guess that was a proposal, but it snuck in sideways, cowardly, as though hoping not to draw attention to itself.

“We don’t need you,” was my answer, to his trying to mash himself into our lives like the wrong puzzle piece.

“I don’t need you either,” he said, skipping a rock across the pavement.

But I suspected that he did.

“Look, I can’t do this anymore,” I told him, on the phone, late one night.

He was out on a full-moon hike, called four times in a row to tell me about it.

My son was sick. I was tired and worn, but suddenly very clear that I was done giving my energy to this man.

“YOU FUCKING BITCH! . . . YOU CUNT-WHORE! . . . FUCK YOU! “

That was Bruno, raging. And I could glean from the ensuing sounds that he threw the phone against something and then stomped on it.

Probably wishing that it were my head.

I sat listening for one shocked moment before putting down the phone to double-check the locks on the front door. Then I snuck into my son’s room, where I lay awake and alert beneath his loft bed, wondering what it was in me that had needed to wait for proof of something my intuition had suspected all along. What it was in me that had practically invited disaster to present itself.

Was it simply to see how the story would unfold?

Having sensed the conflict, had I simply become curious as to the how? That rather lacked imagination on my part. Far better that I would have written my own ending.

It was, after all, my story.

~

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