I want to hear you echo in my hollow places. I want to prove that words can fill the emptiness. I want to cave into the feeling. Or I want you to. I want to wear the sound of words we won’t say, like the emperor’s new clothes, we see it because it’s not there.
Saturday, May 24, 2014
We sang “Like A Virgin” as we walked to brunch that morning. T was my Material Girl. We loved singing Madonna songs together. We were about to have sex for the first time. At brunch, I ate a Cesar salad and when we got home T baked me a cake while I sat in the bathroom painting my toenails, still singing “Like a Virgin.” T sprinkled discount yellow rose petals that he had bought on sale at the grocery store on the floor of my apartment and presented me with a wine glass full of apple juice.
We didn’t have sex that day. He couldn’t get it in. I saw this as a personal failure. I was a problem solver, a perfectionist, and a hopeless romantic—and I had a burgeoning addictive personality. Sex became a hopeless problem I was addicted to solving. We finally succeeded in having sex a month later after my Death and Dying class, which was taught by a professor who smoked up during break and rejoined the class with leaves he thought we might enjoy touching. It was bad.
The day after our first time, I sat on my hands in the backseat of T’s Aunt’s SUV, sore and raw and burning and cringing as we made the trip to Detroit to meet his entire extended family for the first time. His aunt had horrible grammar. I was sure it was the most painful day of my life thus far.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
As he handed me my fourth glass of Pinot Grigio, the bartender leaned across the table and whispered, “You were the best. If you had a book, I would buy it right now.” It was maybe the nicest compliment I’d ever received because it was from a stranger who had no reason to say such a thing—no bias or personal investment in my feelings—so I figured he must really mean it. It was my MFA thesis reading. I had just read aloud from a chapter about the way women in my family danced and how I used to want to grow up to be like them: all hips and thighs and smiles and a certain winking grace.
I had arrived early to the reading that evening and the bartender and I had chatted a bit while the other readers drifted in with their families. I was alone. I had been dreading attending that reading for months—almost as much as I dread holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had pictured my classmates sitting with their families or their boyfriends/girlfriends smiling proudly, just as I pictured they would do a week later at graduation. And I had pictured myself alone. And I was, at first.
On my way to the reading I almost cried as I crossed the intersection of 12th Street and 5th Avenue. I was thinking of my younger brothers and an inside joke we have about pigeons. I was thinking of all the people I had written about—my family, old friends, old loves... I was thinking about all the people I felt like I had lost. I was thinking about how sometimes you have to lose a lot of things—a lot of people—to get what you want, or to get to where you want to be. Every page of my thesis was written as a love letter to one man or another that I had once loved. But I had not written about love, precisely; I had written about myself. The goal was to explain myself so well that someone would be able to know me well enough to love me. I’ve always had this idea that true love is knowing someone. I want to be known. I want to be loved. I don’t know if I’m any good at love, but I seem to be halfway decent at writing, so I’ve always hoped my writing might help me get what I want. And I was almost crying because I had written what was practically a book of metaphorical love letters and no one had written back. I was worried that I would always be the person I had written about being, a perpetual outsider, who ran away from home and who kept running and looking and hoping for something.
As it turns out, I was not alone at my thesis reading. After I got my first glass of Pinot Grigio from the bartender, my friends began to arrive. A friend I had met while I was living abroad. My thesis adviser, who feels like a mother to me and who smiled at me and hugged me like she almost was. A new friend I had met in my MFA program. My classmates who have turned into great friends. Someone I care a lot about. And then, all the friends I had made at the office I worked at for the past year and a half. I had people—people I had cried with, drank with, danced with, grown with. I had moved on. I was no longer the sad, lonely little girl I had written about being. That was just a story.
And as I read that story aloud, I looked out at the faces of people I loved. I looked at my adviser, who had read the whole story and who knew me through it. I looked at my friends who had read the story and at someone I care about who was reading it in order to get to know me. And it looked like I was starting to get exactly what I had always wanted.
I have spent a lot of time alone in bars in the past year. I like bartenders. I like the good ones who can sense when to draw you into conversation and when to leave you lost in your thoughts. And so it seemed fitting that, at what felt like either an ending or a beginning, there was a bartender complimenting the piece of my writing that I had read aloud. On my worst days, I have thought to myself: I don’t have a family; I have drinks. And it has been true. I spent Christmas without any family—or even friends—drinking in a Japanese bar on the Upper East Side, chatting with the two bartenders. But family is not always the picture on a Christmas card, or even the proud, smiling thing I pictured it being for my classmates. Sometimes family is just the group of people you come from. I come from tough, mean, beautiful people who are quick to anger and perpetually too tired to love well. I come from women who danced their way through bars and kitchens, into hearts and beds. And I am lucky because they have given me a great story, nice hips and a certain winking grace. But the truly lucky thing is that the group of people you come from are just that. They are what you come from. You can move on. You can go anywhere.
And I'm lucky these days when I look at the faces of people I love and think to myself: you are here.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Kiss me like the sky is falling. Bite me like a bullet between your teeth, smiling. Take me down like your thoughts, onto pages. I am fresh ink. Smudge me with your fingers. Look at me like I’m the last thing you want to see before you close your eyes. Say my name like an Ave Maria. Come to me on your knees. There's no rest for the wicked. I'll keep you up all night.
Maybe it was because my thighs were already burning from my uphill run. Maybe it was because sweat was already trickling down my spine and pooling at the curve of my lower back. But suddenly I realized how long it had been since I had let someone get under my skin. Let someone make me squirm. Make me mad. Make me writhe. Make me crazy. Make me like having my hair pulled. Suddenly I realized how much I missed letting someone get under me.
For me, the past year has been a lesson in letting people go. Conversely, it has also been a lesson in letting people hang on. Relationships—friendships—may require work, but not fights and death grips. No matter how tightly you try to hold someone in your life, they are already lost to you if they’re not reaching back to take your hand. My most successful relationships are friendships in which I am often separated from the person by several states and maybe even an ocean but, no matter what, the depth of the friendship has never changed. And I think that’s because they value me as much as I value them.
In the past year, I went through some really hard times and I couldn’t bear to hear myself aloud, so I just stopped talking to everyone. I stopped answering emails, Facebook messages, texts, phone calls… And while that kind of behavior doesn’t necessarily make me a very good friend, in the extenuating circumstances, the right people understood and they didn’t let me go. They held out until I was ready. And then all I had to do was one day pick up the phone or return an email or go to dinner. It was in pushing away the people I loved, that I finally saw the mistakes I had made in trying to hold on to failing romantic relationships. Holding on is a mistake. People come back if they want to.
My friends are my unconditional loves. Making friends in New York has been difficult for me, but it is happening slowly. And I am very lucky to have a friend who texts me to help me make it through a particularly bad work day and who lets me call her crying when it feels like the sky is falling.
I write a lot about love—romantic love. I write about sex and dating and heartbreak and everything that comes with such territory. But what didn’t make it into my thesis and what rarely makes it onto this blog is the fact that friendship is how I’ve made it through the pitfalls of romance and somehow came out alive and loved, in spite of lost relationships. It’s what gets me through the workday when I’m counting hours and wondering what I did wrong with my life; I have a friend or two who are proof that sometimes I do things right. Sometimes.
It is when I look at my friendships, that I see for sure what I would like romantic love to be. Of course, I would like someone to sleep beside me, hold my hand, and laugh when I tell a stupid joke. I would like someone who wants to be an adventure with me. But what I really want is someone who knows me. Someone who wants to always know me. Someone who wants me to know them. I want someone who holds on and who wants to be held.
That’s what I’m holding out for. And, in the meantime, I’m glad I have my friends.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Come at me like I am silk and lace. Like I am something to be worn and ripped. Leave your ideas of me in tatters on the floor.
I am muscle and mad hope. I am hard fought. Comprise is just a position. Take me. When I tear, I grow.
Mascara tears running down my face, he said, “You look beautiful.” Pain looks pretty on me.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
He buried his childhood in the backyard on the Fourth of July. He lit sparklers like prayer candles. Two hundred miles away, in Chicago, I practiced flirting with a member of an anarchy collective while we drank beer on a couch in an alley. That night, I wished on falling fireworks because in the city I couldn’t see any stars.
That summer someone told me that fireflies can’t live in the city—the lights extinguish theirs. I had grown up two hundred miles away from a place where there are no stars or fireflies. Wishes were all I had. I used to run through the backyard, beneath the stars, catching fireflies in my hands. Fireflies are like stars you can catch and keep in a jar beside your bed for the night. Short-lived wishes.
I traded in my childhood for a plane ticket and one checked bag. Now, in New York, I wonder how to wish for anything at all when I can’t see the stars. Maybe I’m a firefly.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Sunday, May 4, 2014
I wasn’t looking for anything more, least of all love. I felt like I was figuring myself out for the first time and the one thing I knew for sure was that I was terrified of ever loving anyone again. When you love someone, it hurts you when they’re hurt. When you love someone, you hate yourself for not being able to be better for them. When you love someone, you owe it to them and to yourself to let them know you, but first you have to know yourself—and, more importantly, you need to have accepted yourself.
As time went on, I grew more and more accustomed to being alone. I spent a lot of time at the Chagall exhibit at the Jewish Museum across from Central Park. Chagall had always been my favorite painter and I found it comforting to spend time around things I loved. There was a particular painting of a vase of flowers his wife had arranged on a table in their home that almost made me cry whenever I saw it. And somehow, in realizing that I had all the power necessary to make choices that would make me happy, I started to accept myself.
Friday, May 2, 2014
I didn’t write about that first night in the emergency room in December, when there was three of us, when I hadn’t yet showered and my hair was matted and sticky with something unknown. It was not necessary to the overall story. I would have had to explain too much. Why two of us went back the next night. How I would later decide that love has limits and I had pushed people who loved me past theirs. How that’s what I think it means to push people away.
It’s strange how I could write people out because they’re not necessary. Or really because, there are no words for everything we lose. I edited my dialogue from our walk back to the emergency room the following night. I wrote, “I told him, ‘It’s not like the first time, in Chicago…when I had no one. I have you.
And I have
friends. For the first time since
moving here I realize that I love it here because I have people to
have someone to love]. It almost makes
me happy because it makes me realize how much [I have something] to be
I wrote, “There are no words for everything you lose. I sat quietly in my bed for the rest of December, hugging my knees to my chest and avoiding looking at my bruises or the scrape on my ankle that wouldn’t heal. It hurt somewhere I couldn’t reach whenever a friend texted me or called. And I just kept repeating the same line to everyone, ‘I’m okay.’ I hated the way I sounded.”
It never occurred to me that other people hated the way I sounded too. That when all I could hear was the way silence and loss felt, someone would hear something else from my lips. I will leave the conflict of multiple points of view to the fiction writers.
I didn’t write about the last time I saw You in January, how I walked you to the subway and we smiled and kissed goodbye and said “I love you” like it was any other day. It didn’t seem necessary to the story that I lost you then, as opposed to in December.
I didn’t write about how when I saw my friend (the third from the three of us), I felt like I was a ghost haunting my old life. Because I hadn’t written about that part of my life. I hadn’t written about being happy with friends in bars and at brunch. I hadn’t written about the simple things that we all assume we’ll never lose.
And I won’t write about how He stood in the rain and said, “You need to learn to give people space,” because I don’t want to talk about how I’ve had too much space, too much loss. Because I wanted to tell him that he shouldn’t ask for something he’s never really experienced. Space is the way the past hangs between every syllable you let fall. Space is measuring days – weeks – in Netflix and cocktail glasses and strangers who don’t know what is necessary to the story.
I contrived an ending out of a moment in time before he asked for space, because I felt it was necessary to the story.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
I am from Wisconsin. I was raised like hymns and American flags. Grown up tall from farmers’ soil, deep like our abandoned mines. I am made of the past and hard things. Time is a consequence. At night, I still toss and turn like thunder and lightening in Midwestern summer skies. I am limestone and lead ore. I am picked over, but pretty in the rain. I am things you’ve never touched.