Monday, January 16, 2017

Would You Think It Was Real

Can you tell me that you're safe, that you're okay, that everything is fine -- that you are, that you are fine with all of it?  (Can you tell me how?  Make a list, draw a map.  Tell me something wholly truthful, stripped bare.  Entire.  Can you?)

And how you said you couldn't even read for all that time (not acceptable, nothing for yourself, nowhere to hide), and I wonder if you read things, now.  Where you hide.  (But no, I know the places, deep inside yourself -- when you're there the distance stretches wide but if someone isn't looking, they'd never know it.  I can see them; I can see you crouching there, braced against the impact -- inside, outside, it's all the same.)

Morning, and the sun was diamond-sharp, filled the whole space up (hard and bright, cutting through glass).  The inside of my elbow aches, even though it doesn't show a bruise.  I had half a dream in French, and then still more, half-awake -- radio voices bleeding in around the edges, and stretching against the dull murmurs in my back, and then the sun.  (I know how to hide, too, palms against my eyes.)  I keep my gaze directed elsewhere while I drink my tea, eyes half-closed, pull the covers higher up around me.  The light can't pass through, even though there's nothing tangible to keep it out.  (You know where I sit, knees against my chest, my hidden attic basement corner closets; I think you do.) 

So, you know, I pet a dog, and he rubbed his sides against me like a cat; I could fill my fist with the skin around his neck and still grab more.  Such a perfect little dumpling, and he buried his face into the space behind my knee, between my calf and my thigh, crouched down, waiting for my coffee.  Yes, she said, he's pretty great as long as you don't live with him.  (And privately, I think...universal truths.) 

This morning, sitting at my desk, and someone comes up with a stack of files and paperwork, says Oh, I have something for you, just wait a minute...  (I sit there, expecting work -- envelopes, something to ship.)  So when he walks by again, moments later, hands me a single printed page of poetry -- Rumi, relevant in ways that make me flinch a bit -- and I smile, slowly, with a question mark...?  And he says, It's something I like, and I thought you might like it, too.  And then, not 10 minutes later, someone else walks past, and hands me another slip of paper -- another poem (she'd been out over the weekend, and there's a house that has a box in front, kept stocked with a different poem every month, free to take, and so she took one for me). 


QUIETNESS

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out,
like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet.
 Quietness is the surest sign that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running from silence.

The speechless full moon comes out now.
 
-- Rumi

I could ask how any light gets through at all, but...you've seen the cracks and fissures, you know what broken glass is like -- walls and skin and bloody throats.  (What bleeds through to you, even when you stuff the empty spaces with crumpled paper, crumpled faces, crumpled fists; what bleeds out?) 

When you're there, wrapped up in midnight velvet (half the reason was to see it, run my fingers down the drape and hush, arm and chest and hipbone, gentled; I put it on before I wrapped it, just to see, and when I think of her hands against it I can feel violence in my limbs and wrists and fingertips), do you feel me warm against your skin?  How much abrasion does it take, to scrape the feelings from your memory?  (The view from here, or everything you do or don't...I'd have to say not much, not much at all.  What can't you make look easy?  Can you tell me that you're fine with everything, or even anything at all?)

Talk to me about the places where we hide ourselves (what does safety taste like, and how does the taste of too-familiar danger confuse our tongues so much?); talk to me about the prisons that you love, boxes within boxes within boxes.  Put a fist through your broken windows -- put a fist through my shattered walls -- and bleed a wholly quiet seeping truth.  Words or light or fractured half-unspoken whispers -- spill out, stream in, run down, like licking splinters from your skin.  Tell me something that can finally (finally) be stripped down to silence.


 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Interstitial Spaces

I think about loss -- how it accrues, stacks up like something solid.  (Like distance, or time, or a hundred tiny wounds.) 

Throw my name at me like it's a weapon, and I feel it sharp in the center of my chest.  Like talking to a stranger, like piling bricks to make a wall, blocking out proximity.  Blocking out the light.  (Because you never did, except those small whispered moments, skin to skin -- and then it felt like something warm or all close-up -- but after, it was the only thing and the thrust behind it was clear and cold and far-away-unkind.)

I think about the cat, softer than the softest thing, tucking himself up under my chin, purring against my throat.  (Add up all the little losses and find that's all the world is made of.)

And you know what regret tastes like; there aren't enough bottles of wine to rinse that from your mouth, your tongue permanently coated.

(He calls you Mr. Friday, since the time I mentioned seeing you, that night-before-your-birthday, and anyway I doubt I ever said your name or that he ever asked; names are tricky, shimmery and shifty, can't be caught between your fingers  -- he came by, briefly, for a moment of delayed Christmas, the book I'd found for him still wrapped and waiting on the table.  Cold from a day outside at work, and me limp and half-detached from hours at the hospital.  He asked, and I looked away and shook my head and wouldn't say a word about it.)

In a dream, and you weren't there, just endless scrolling through your list of music.  Dream lists, dream words, shifting, mutable.  Back to all-the-way beginning, and there is a song called "Rivers", dated 1982.  In dreams, the impossibility of this doesn't even register.  It didn't play, though -- even some things that don't exist still don't exist in sleep.

I think about the dead plant, and the other -- likely also dead, or nearly so.  Write a song about omens, make something out of nothing.  (Take all the loss, all the regret, and knit it up into a blanket, the only thing to keep you warm until you've finally exhausted all the time you might have killed.  You, or me; either/both.)

In the dream, where nothing was really real, you weren't, either.  You weren't even there.  (Ask me, then, how I can be sure that it was just a dream.  Ask me if I know that I'm awake.)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Chemical Reaction

Out the windows in my office, and later, standing in the street, in the cold, after dark, looking up.  It didn't even look real -- a big expensive movie effect, something that pushed the whole project over budget (but worth it in the end, who could disagree?).  I stood there on the curb, long minutes, staring -- hands in my pockets, even I think it's cold, and I get colder, lately, with you gone -- and wondered if you were watching, too.  Under the same moon, but on some other planet.  Somewhere I can't reach, the atmosphere not breathable (not for you, even, but you don't mind slowly suffocating, or you've been oxygen-deprived for so long you've lost the taste for it anyway; what do they say about frogs and slowly boiling water?).  ((But the first thing, the only thing, I wanted to do -- fingers itching for it, or mind, or heart -- was send something quick and exclamation pointed, then, while I was still at work:  Go outside!  Look up!)) 


Look up, look up, look up.


(You have a song about that, or something like it --- but it's one that I don't like and so I've only heard it once or twice, and not the whole way through.  Sometimes, though, I watch your other things, the quiet kitchen ones -- because you're too much everywhere, even though you're nowhere, gone -- and cry.)


Spent the evening having drinks with the woman my ex just started dating (met her in passing, months ago, when they were still becoming friends, and had the immediate pull in her direction, emails exchanged, and then...life, time, everything passes, but finally we got ourselves together) -- I tell someone about this, say Oh, she's wonderful, I'm half-in-love with her, she's perfect for him!, and I mean it, and it's true, and she is.  And then I pause, say, So, apparently my life is now a sitcom...?  And she laughs -- I'd watch the hell out of that!  (Which...yes.)  And we sit there, on the velvet couch, dim room, and just have to laugh -- she asks me, Is it weird that I don't feel weird about this, being here with my lover's ex, there isn't any tension?  And I say, Well, I think it's pretty clear I'm not secretly plotting ways to marry him, all these years later...  But it's true -- we have conversations that I know would make him uncomfortable (which pleases me in the same oblique ways that some of the things I do, even now, please me, when they are things I know he'd disapprove of), and she is so earnestly enthusiastic, nakedly infatuated, and everything about this makes me smile.  (Thinking to myself, Yes! Love him!  Love her!  Love each other!  Fill your pockets up with something that tastes like joy!)  ((And I think, also -- not unkindly, just with a certain amount of quiet fascination, like looking through the wrong end of a telescope back through time and space -- Oh...you are me, 15 years ago.  I can _see_ you.  Hello.))  At one point, telling her something he said about her, in passing (something warm -- and I laugh and say See, he _likes_ you, he really really does!) she smiled and said (so serious, so emphatic), It's so good that he has you to confide in, though.  I think you're one of the most important people in his life, and that's so nice. 


You could ask me what's different (if that, then why not you?) -- you would, perhaps.  (Because you want impossible things, or because you're just delusional, or so deliberately and endlessly na├»ve.)  How could I even list the ways; I'd run out of space before I even started.  (Because he is not you; because no one is.  Because I'm not even me -- I mean, what I am now is not what I was then, and maybe I could not have wanted then what I want now, or maybe it is only what you are, or some combination of the two.  Because, like cells, my membrane is only semi-permeable, and most things can't get in -- not all the way -- but whatever you are reacts with whatever I am, and suddenly there you are inside the center, and now I'm different, not just-me, but something else, some changed alchemical reaction, you-with-me, and now the shape of everything is different, new molecules are formed.  Because she is like looking back in time at me, and that is such a different thing than what you've tied yourself to, what you've tied around your neck, what you're willing to let drag you down beneath the waves.  Fill your pockets up with stones and close your eyes, try not to feel the cold seep in.  Because a million things.  Because.)


The cold seeps in regardless, but I wonder if you notice.  (I think I've never really felt the cold before.  Not properly.  Something new I've learned, because of you.  Another change.  Everything so different.)




Pay attention.  Wake up!  I want to grab you by the shoulders and shake you, shout Look up, look up!  Look up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Time Is A Meadow

Count back the weeks, and find notes written to myself, or no one.  On the telephone, late -- dark broken by the too-sharp streetlight on the corner, and it sounds like rain under the tires on the pavement.  (And usually, I hate the telephone, feel disconnected, talk too fast, too much, lapse into prolonged silence.  But this time, I had an impulse.)  When I ask, If I call you, will you answer?, your Of course! makes me laugh (skipping past hello, first thing -- It isn't "of course", you might be terribly telephone averse, you might've fallen asleep, you might've been doing any number of other things).  I don't have assumptions, about you.  I don't want them.  Your voice in my ear, and I can feel how your chest felt against my hand, when I ran my palm down it, standing there in the book shop, and I can feel _that_ somewhere deep and twinge-y, insistent, central. 

Yesterday, when I asked to say hello to his dog, and he smiled, and said (sweet soft nose against my hands, ears between my fingers, tail not staying still) He really likes women.  And I blinked and said Who doesn't?  And his laughter was all warm surprise.  (And when I apologized -- I hadn't seen the writing on the vest, I wouldn't have asked if I had, wouldn't have disturbed his work -- he said No no, don't worry, he is all keyed up and needs to settle down, the bus, downtown, makes both of us too anxious.)  

Count back further (only just).  Beauty and terror.  (Because of course it had to start with poetry.)  ((And I could see you, even then.  Glints off the edge, peripheral.  Flash of recognition.  A train slowing its approach before a station.))

Yesterday, leaving work, and as I cross the street I hear my name called out -- when I turn my head to look, see him smiling from the window of a car (a year now, since I last saw him, not since my last job), and he takes my hand in both of his, says Your email wasn't working!  Takes my phone number, says he'll get in touch.  (He and his girlfriend -- almost too beautiful, the pair of them together -- and now the baby that was on the way last winter.  I would let him use our kitchen, use the printers; sometimes he brought me fresh injera from his cousin, and the time he gave me a book, because I always see you reading in the lobby during breaks.  There are moments of sweetness, even when the whole world is cold and shattered.  Even when they can't touch you.)

Fast-forward, recent.  Do you know, I wonder, that being sick (remember, sitting on the couch upstairs, the coffeeshop, your shaky hands toying with your lips, asking me if I knew anything about that particular disorder, and how I laughed -- and not because I found it funny?) is not actually a good excuse for hurting someone (for hurting them over and over, hurting them for years).  A bad moment, bad day, bad week, bad year, even -- but that level of sustained attack, control...  The destruction in its wake.  Do you know that you deserve...something...else?  (And I don't like to use the word "deserve", but still.  Yes.)  Do you know you aren't (for once) responsible?  Do you know that you don't have to be?  Does it matter, would it matter, if you did?

This afternoon -- here for his weekly meeting, and after half a day he left to go downstairs and find some food.  I walked by, while he waited for the elevator, and he smiled his slow warm smile and asked me how things were, and I paused, and said I'm sad, can I have a hug?  And he said You want a hug?  Sure.  (And then he missed the elevator.) 

And now, I sit and sift through moments like they're something solid.  Letters to ghosts and empty houses (or letters to you, or letters to myself -- where are the borders, and what is the difference, in the end?).   A trail of written breadcrumbs, leading from there to here to nowhere, back again.  I try and try to leave a map, a set of clues.  I've always tried.   (Two years ago, that messy trip, my small green notebook -- I think back is a direction that I no longer bounce.) A pocket full of seeds and paper scraps and pebbles.   Pocket full of ashes.  (All fall down.)  ((Do you know what time is made of, really?  Can you tell me where we are?))  Sometimes the path is overgrown and tangled, and whatever your intentions, it never leads you out.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Stark And Far Away

Early morning, still dark -- we were in a house, a big house, somewhere (nowhere).  You pulled me down a hallway, to a room, to a couch.  (You weren't you, not exactly, but you were also you.)  ((I think she was there, somewhere, too.))  I sat beside you, but you pulled me on top of you, and in the familiar moment of being there, just so, I told you not to start something you didn't plan to finish, and you closed your eyes and tilted back your head, half-smiled, and whispered something that I couldn't hear. 

(The only thing that keeps me breathing, the only rhythm my heart beats to, is the hope that you will find your way back here.  I wonder if you know that.)  ((I wonder if it matters, just in general.))

When I was on top of you, and I would reach down for your throat (your perfect lovely throat), close my hand around it -- and the more intention I put behind that hand, the more I could feel you arch up to meet it.  The soft noises in the back of the throat-beneath-my-palm, pulse against my fingertips.  I never asked, but there were question marks behind my eyes, behind my fingers.  (And sometimes, several times, I had momentary thoughts of What If...?  If I had put my weight behind it, put real effort in it.  Forced the issue.  What would you have done?  Where is the line, the edge?  What do you want?)  ((Or do I know the answer to that, well enough -- you want to set the pace, but also to feel forced, or just a little.  Out of your hands.  Not your responsibility.  On top but underneath.))

You told me, the first time -- sometime during, or before, or after -- that you thought that mostly what had kept you two together was the sex.  Another thing I failed to ask about.

And all the times you talked about not wanting to be possessed, it wasn't that you didn't, it was that you already were, and that was what you wanted.  (Or that was what you had -- what had you.)  I think about the word possession, and its different meanings.  Ownership, or evil spirit.  Head or hands or soul.  Subject or Object.  What can be compromised, and what remains once it is gone?

And there are certain kinds of poison that build immunity, of a sort -- it's the stopping that will kill you, in the end.

(But -- being there when you got back, and you were red-rimmed tired, and the many long moments standing against you in the kitchen, and longer moments still later, in bed; the message that you sent me, later still.  About happiness and missing.  What is truth, and where can it be found?) 

Later, middle of the day, I fell into a sort of sleep (that's all my body reaches for, now, fitful, bits and pieces, wherever there's a moment, though never a full night through; frenetic dreams and emptier and more worn-out once woken).  The end of the edge of a dream -- I was in a kitchen, eating a rubbery awful overcooked enormous hard-boiled egg.  Finding salt, finding other things.  Chewing endlessly.  When I woke, it took an hour and two separate tooth-brushings to rid my mind of the feeling, my tongue of the phantom taste. 




Sunday, January 8, 2017

Attention

I say, I think, the same things again and again.  Over and over -- a mantra, a prayer wheel.  An all-enfolding question.  (Because you don't remember, or you can't find the words; because attention is perhaps the only thing you never pay -- change the title, change the words, it almost makes me smile; because questions are difficult and answers even more so.)

When I said that's what I'd been doing for the last two weeks, that was both true and untrue.  True because...yes.  But untrue, because that wasn't the whole of it.  With you there, I was holding back.  Trying to stop.  Trying to be quiet.  Trying to remember how to breathe. 

The first time I looked at you, said Tell me what you want, your answer was quick, and unambivalent.  The last times I asked you, all you could say, helpless, was that you didn't know.  (Because you don't, or because to look at it head-on might blind you, or turn you into stone, into a hard white column of salt, into something you can't bear to see look back at you?)  The question I've asked you so many times already -- What even are you?  (Do you know?) 

Without you...I am free to fall to pieces, unchecked.  Nobody to witness the devastation.  Loud and endless, to the point of almost-sickness, right at the edge -- more than once -- and my face swollen and wrong for days, looking like I've been in a fight (which I have, I guess -- against myself).  The headache never quite stopping.  The hollowed harsh in my throat pricked by the cold when I walk outside. That was the whole truth, and that was something you could not see; I can't show you.

You are salt -- making everything taste like a clearer version of itself, better, bigger, more so, sweet things sweeter; making raw wounds hurt more sharply.   (Lot's wife -- her name was Edith, though it never says so in the Bible, just another unnamed sinful woman -- was turned into salt because she dared to disobey.  Or because she couldn't bear to leave behind the past.  Or because she'd sinned with salt -- all passive-aggression, knocking on doors, ostensibly seeking help while really alerting everyone to the visitors who weren't welcome.  Or perhaps all just a metaphor -- ceaseless tears, entombed inside her own private grief.  There are a lot of theories to be had, so take your pick.)

And when you say I'm not worth all that, I wonder if a you mean that you feel yourself unworthy, or if it's just a dressed-up way of saying that you would never find me worth any of it, to you.  (And would you answer, either way, if you could; do you know?  Do you listen to anything you say?)

You are an arrival -- the sight of a strange new station that somehow tastes familiar; a home I've only visited in dreams; a room somewhere in my center that I never saw the doorway to until...    You are a filter, turning every color up, intense -- brighter, darker, lighter, sweeter, louder, softer, harder.  More and more and more.  You're a perfect crystal; you're a shattered glass.  You're a shard of something shiny-dangerous, wedged deep inside my eye, my mind, my heart -- and the world freezes over in your absence, or I do.  You're a mirror and a reflection, both.  You're a monster -- look at your own face and turn to stone, or turn everyone around you into statues (but Medusa wasn't ugly, she was cursed -- violated and then punished for it, which is the way these things tend to go; the world is difficult and unfair and the truth gets lost among the long-forgotten details).  You're a maze of secrets; you're an open book, filled with poetry and velvet lush, ugly lovely things.  You are a gift.  (In German that means poison -- would that make you laugh, or cry?) 

I say the same things, over and over, because between us, everything is always just a whisper.  Because love is such a small and quiet word, and I try (and try, and try) to find a way to make it big, to make it all-encompassing infinite and loud.  To wrap it around you, warm, like arms.  Because I want to make sure you that you can hear me; because I want there to be one thing, at least, that you do not forget.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Junkies I Have Known

First there was C., at the coffeeshop next to the first place I worked when I moved here.  He looked it, the director or novelist's best conception of it -- sharply thin, pale, all angles and hollows.  But his eyes caught at me, and we had warmth between us.  He was gutter-punk and dark, and his hugs smelled of cigarettes and sweat.  I remember when he left (quit?  fired?) and running into him, months later, and how more sunken and hollowed out he looked.  I remember the marks, small wounds, blocking the pathways of his arms.  I wonder, now, years later, if he's safe.


Then S. (but he had many names) -- still so functional, on-again/off-again (I thought off-again, but maybe just better at managing it, then), in the same screwed up building I lived in at 19.  Tall (so tall, always a quiet shock to walk beside him), with that velvet gravel voice, dashing and ageless.  The sort of drunk who's always fascinated and confused me -- glass of bourbon first thing in the morning, the same level of seeming-soberness all the time.  Always a cigarette burning.  I remember, one night, in his room, in his bed -- an absurdity of kissing, and the clear memory of being on my knees and leaning back, back, back, until my head was on the mattress.  We didn't fuck, we didn't take our clothes off, even, or, not most of them.  But again -- later, a couple of years, a few stolen moments at a show, and I shouldn't have been out with him at all then -- and he kissed me and put his hand heavy against the center of my chest, and to remember that moment now, still, is to feel the weight of his palm entirely, to feel it electric at my core.  Lost track of him for a bit, and then, that one afternoon's encounter downtown, and he looked so...lost.  And then, moments later...gone.  Ran into him on the street, later -- a year, maybe two -- and he'd been homeless for the better part of that time (since before I'd glimpsed him that one day before).  But housed again -- unemployed still.  (I heard several versions of how he'd lost his job initially, and I still don't know what really happened.  I'm not sure anything he ever said to me was true, though there were fragments, moments, here and there.)  Either he was using then, or it was just the drinking and the using came after (with more drinking).  He wasn't using now, and wasn't even drinking (stopped for lack of money, and kept it stopped, for a time.  Or so he said.  I think it was true, for a few moments.)  We'd go for coffee -- play Scrabble (until he grew too cross with never winning), or do the Sunday crossword together, sitting at the sticky tables in the neighborhood bar, or in the sunny armchairs of the coffeeshop that all the dogs walk past.  Still perhaps closer than was prudent -- hands held; open-mouthed kisses to meet, to part; hugs for heartbeats too long.  But not like before, though we discussed it often, our weird little mutual attractions.  Even ravaged -- aged a decade, more, in two years -- untethered, he was compelling, in his way.  Still a smoker -- harder to kick than heroin, he told me many times.  (Eventually he stopped that, for a time, though he started to drink again -- how much, I couldn't say.)  He lived in a dreadful-sounding group sort of home, private apartments but not exactly so.  And then, later, into a subsidized studio of his own -- him and a cat.  Went back to school.  Had always said he was a writer -- and he could tell a story like anything, write a letter worth reading.  So I never doubted it, though I never saw his writing.  Not his writing-writing.  The 19-year-olds in classes with him idolized him -- of course they did.  Their own private Kerouac, Bukowski.  Trickster god of stories and half-truths.  We were drifting, already -- I felt put upon, he'd stand me up at the last minute, or postpone, and then when he initiated some kind of something, expect me to buy him drinks, or coffee, whatever.  The exchange suddenly felt like an exchange.  And so...distance, gradual.  Until, eventually, he gave me a sheaf of printed-out stories to read, one day, from nowhere, and when I read them it was the real beginning of the end.  It crushed me, in some strange kind of way -- because they were just...so bad.  Not even bad, maybe, but just...un-good.  This, this is what he was?  An overwrought pretentious hack?  I couldn't look at him the same again (because my shallowness, my pettiness, might look different from other people's, but it's shallow and petty all the same, there's no mistaking that).  We just...drifted, and drifted, then, and I let it happen (and he let it happen), and eventually that was the end of it.  I ran into him, in passing, on rare occasions (and kept occasional track, too, I will admit, through his writing website, just to see if he was there, what he was doing).  A lot of time had passed, and I looked for him, not so long ago, and I am mostly sure he's dead, now.  Of past abuse, or old habits taken up again.  Rough times, premature age, or any combination of anything.  There doesn't have to be a reason.


J. -- on-again and off-again; off, certainly, while I was close to him, but once, later, I encountered him on the street, late, and he was...different.  Something in his eyes.  So I don't know.  (But then, a few years later, that afternoon in line at the grocery store, when he walked up and I was so shocked I didn't even know how to react, he seemed once more himself.  So...I don't know.  I haven't found him since.)  Such a very beautiful man -- like a more solid, muscled Johnny Depp, everyone would always say (though he's never been my cup of beverage, so that isn't what I would have said).  Late nights at the diner, back when I still never slept, wished for sleep, and spent too many hours instead sitting in corner booths, drinking lousy coffee (or getting drunk, everyone in the bar being more than happy to serve my underage self, and usually for free), and that whole year sleeplessly sharing kisses and beds with half the people working there.  He was not-so-secretly in love -- obsessed -- with someone else, and she was not-so-secretly uninterested in him, and I was (among other things I was) solace of a sort.  And so was he, really, so it was a balm for both of us.  He would come home with me, late at night, or late enough to be early again -- shift over, too much coffee, maybe half-drunk.  He talked to me about her -- about his longings for her, unrealized -- and about anything, nothing.  I don't remember what it was like, to kiss him, but I remember laughing and being lost in it.  Teeth sinking into my throat, and strong hands, gentled.  Sometimes -- often -- I would push him down into the small armchair by the window, half-dressed, and sink down to my knees and lose time, so much time, lingering with my mouth on his cock (which I also don't remember, though I remember how it delighted me, and that I thought it lovely).  Once, after telling about a party I'd been to the week before -- a dress I'd worn -- he asked to see it, and I went into the bathroom, put it on.  Floor length, shiny black vinyl, too low in the front and laces up the back, cinched in tight.  He watched me walk across the room, and then laughed and pulled at the ends of the laces and said Now take it off...  And when I unzipped the side, slid the top off, tugged down the rest to pool at my feet, stepped out, he said (and I recall this moment sometimes, occasionally, and it still stays with me) You are like...the epitome of Woman.  (I'm sure I laughed, then, though.)  Once he got tattooed, sitting at my kitchen table, by someone else from the late-night bar, there -- I don't remember why it had to be in my apartment, but it did, it was.  I sat on the edge of the bed and watched the blood and ink, and the dark lines forming on his bicep.  One night he took me in his car and we drove for hours, aimless in the rain.  We tried to fuck -- twice, in fact.  The first time I ever tried to fuck a man (and both times the combination of his body and my body left me curled up in a knot at the edge of the bed, with that seasick kind of pain, and him running his hands along my back, and after the second time I gave up and didn't try with him again).  And then...time happens.  I moved out of the neighborhood, and then moved back but also in with someone, and so wasn't spending late nights in the same place, same people.  And I had bumped into him, that one late night, on the street -- his eyes making me wonder.  And then later, in the grocery store (and his eyes seemed back to his same old self).  And now...I have no idea.


T.  Beautiful and broken, and a genius at breaking anything around him.  Everything.  The reason I'm here, in this place, to begin with.  (Shining strings, intricate webs, pathways we never even see until, suddenly, there you are.)  if we take those eight points we can create a star by joining all the extremes together, and on the lines and spaces between all of those things there exist a million combinations and gradients of your infiniteness.  a billion...  a trillion.  (Now, 8 years later, I can read those things -- all the things -- and see them for what they are, and that is something.  Or nothing.)  Addicted to recovery in the same ways he'd been addicted to everything else -- heroin, briefly, and drinking, for much longer.  Sex -- or not even, but being the center of someone's vision.  Made real through the desire of others.  Made real and also, able to get lost.  To god, or God, for awhile -- or at least to the idea of being, somehow, holy.  Addicted to the idea of addiction, even.  There is a lot that could be said -- and I've said some of it, here, and some of it out loud, and some of it stays locked inside.  It ceases to hold my attention, now.  He was the same, and he was entirely different.  He knocked me out of orbit.  He broke me when I was already broken.  He's still somewhere, still the same -- playing different parts, testing different theories.  I worry for the people he touches, but I no longer worry for him.  And that, too, is something.  Or maybe nothing.


And then a different C. -- heroin had been a mere flirtation, but that's only because he took everything, took whatever was in front of him, whatever he could reach.  Drinking, certainly -- ceaselessly, relentlessly (or so he told me).  But anything -- acid every day for two solid years, and pot.  Crack, for a time.  Cocaine.  Pills.  Anything, everything.  But he'd been rid of everything, by the time I met him (and though we've been largely out of touch for some time, we say hello occasionally, and he is maybe the one exception to every other story I know or tell).  I couldn't say what makes him different, or why his particular Higher Power looks out for him and ignores everybody else.  (I mean, the fractures still show, and the recklessness is channeled into other places -- arguably better ones, even if not particularly good ones.  Everything is complicated, after all, and there don't have to be clean resolutions in order for something to be well resolved; things can be smudged and marked and tattered and still be clean.) 


(Others, here and there, but there are too many stories and not enough time.)


And now, here we are, at you.  (And it doesn't matter if you haven't really done it in half a lifetime -- because maybe everything you do is, in some way, this.)  That first afternoon, when I asked you if you smoked, and told you why I thought you might -- do you remember that?  (You tell me, often -- too much -- that I am always right.  That I see so clearly.  But it isn't like I'm magic, I'm not some faerie-eyed mystic, even if you think it; if I could see you so much so, even then, it's at least half because of you.  It's like with vampires; you have to first invite them in.  I knocked, you flung open the doors, then ran and hid beneath the bed.)  I guessed at this -- before you told me about people you'd been close to, then.  And while you were telling it, and afterward.  (But I didn't ask, and then you showed me anyway, in the midst of something else entirely.  For a while when I lived in L.A. I was in love with the ritual of putting a needle in my arm. Maybe even more so than the heroin. Hyper-focused. Nothing else exists in those moments and that was such a relief.)  You showed me that, and a thousand other things -- things that are yours to tell and mine to keep.  Because...why, exactly?  I have my own theories, and some of them are pretty and some of them are the opposite of that; everything is difficult.  Everything is complicated.  Everyone.  All of it.  You know this, but you reject it, because sitting with discomfort and ambiguity is painful (even as every place you sit is utterly ambiguous).  But also, you know I'll keep you safe, and so I shall.  Some things can only be whispered, privately; some things are too dangerous to say out loud.  I asked you what you were doing -- and again, and again.  Repeatedly.  Waiting for an answer; waiting for you to come up with something that might taste true to you.  Waiting still.  I asked you what she was -- the heroin, or the needle (meaning, really, the focus -- the everything-else-falling-away -- because conflict can be that, or anger, or fear, or pain, just as well as anything).  I ask you, over and over again, what you are doing.  Tell me what you want.  I wait for you to look in the mirror, look somewhere deep inside -- like sticking fingers in a wound -- and see the answers.