Fall isn’t even over and I am already thinking of spring.
What makes a story?
A start and an end?
Or is it the middle,
Must it start at the top,
the left or right?
Does it have to have words,
or can it be pure thought,
We’re at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh. We’ve come from afar to see new friends in a new place. We follow the maze of paths through the endless garden and our meandering conversation changes subjects as often as we change direction.
Children and bees and ants bring our focus back to the wonders around us. I stop to take pictures of the most striking flowers – but the sites surrounding us are truly only distractions.
Eventually we are back where we started, the path ends at the beginning, and in the rush to tie the loose ends of the menagerie of topics, I completely forget to visit the gift shop.
We part with hugs + kisses and plans to meet again.
I slept wrong
as they say, as we say
we who wake with pain
that wasn't there when we lay down.
What went wrong,
between the last sleep
and this sleep?
And how can I learn
to sleep right
if I'm always
sleeping through the lessons.
The cold is in my nose. I can no longer use it to breathe. I open my mouth and the cold pours in. It hits the back of my throat, it penetrates my trachea, and explodes into my brain.
I stop, frozen, mid-stride, mid-sidewalk. At first, people flow around me, only cursing the blockage. Soon, others stop, not frozen, just curious. Am I a statue? Am I a joke? An odd ad for the shop I’m stuck in front of? Screens come out of pockets, capturing my humiliation. I go viral. “Don’t touch me, I’m probably contagious,” I do not say with frozen lips and tongue, because it would only add to the bad joke.
It all ends when a gust of small boys or a mischievous wind knocks into me from behind and I go down with a resounding clang onto the pavement. No longer meme-worthy, the screens dissipate. The owner of the blocked shop brings out a portable heater. “What am I paying taxes for,” he grumbles while scraping at my edges. I obligingly melt into the crowd, my inability to breathe the least of his problems.
On the last day of the year, I dreamed of heat. The melting asphalt was soft under my shoes, like walking on an air mattress or a balloon. Something poppable. The thought pricked my brain and I sank, slowly, inch by inch into the black sticky sludge.
Too slow. Fear turned to boredom while every inch took longer than the last.
Like the woolly mammoth in the museum, stuck halfway in the tar pit, eyes wide with panicked confusion, forever asking: How did this happen? and Why doesn’t it ever get significantly worse? I’m always just on the verge of disaster, but never fully committed to the ending.
Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
If you want to be happy in a million ways,
For the holidays – you can’t beat home, sweet home
If this were true – no one would go anywhere.
We’d all just stay at home.
We wouldn’t drive for miles and miles away from home to go to someone else’s house. Even if that house used to be the place you called home, it isn’t anymore.
I’m never as comfortable anywhere as I am when I’m home. My home, with my smells and my temperature and my sheets and pillow and mattress. My food in the fridge, my towels on the rack.
Home is where one chooses to be everyday – with the person or people one chooses to share their home with.
I never get to be ‘home for the holidays.’
If I stayed home, my family would disown me.
The pretty girls chatter, painted nails woven with the chain-link. The others hover, waiting for an opening either through death or disfigurement, the method matters not. Boys pose and pout and kick at the ground because, well, because.
You stand somewhere in-between, your head full of algebraic equations, energy and matter and the colors of rainbows. If you don’t hear our laughter does that mean it isn’t happening?
We’re jealous of the way you separate without conflict, the way you suffer neither the in nor the out, unaware of the fear we cling to with our decorated digits.
Who are you, waiting so patiently? Why do I struggle for you – to explain, to string perfect words together, to map vistas of emotions, of ideas, of feelings? What is this obsession with communication? I am, in the end, the only one who can truly understand these thoughts. I should keep them to myself. A treasure. A secret.
Why add my drop to this ocean of mediocrity? My own reactions to these words are the only ones that count. The only ones I trust. The only ones I believe.
Perhaps it is to prove I exist beyond my shell. I think, therefore I am only goes so far. I write, so that you’ll know I am. This is not about legacy. I don’t care what happens what after I’m dead. When I cease to exist, so will you.
No, I must imagine right now that you are there and that you will see this, that I am not alone on this screen. Because, the opposite is true too. When you cease to exist, so will I. You read, therefore I am.
They speed through daylight obscured while sitting too close. The rings on their fingers don’t match despite earnest dreaming. With mist and shadow they build houses, make children with corresponding eye colors and weave monogrammed hand towels. They breathe a whole life onto a hazy windshield.
An alarm chimes.
Blinking, they move apart, left and right, away from where they were, as the fog lifts all at once. They awake to pain, like a slap in the face, like a flashlight in the eye held by a cop asking, do you know how fast you were going?