Saturday, March 1, 2014

Utterly Fucking Delightful

It begins like this...


I put my card down on the table in front of you, say something inconsequential, smile, and walk towards the door, looking back at you.


But that isn't the whole truth of it.  Actually, I am sitting at the small table, waiting for him to come back, and I leave to go upstairs to the bathroom.  When I come back down, enter the room again, I catch your eye,  half smile (mostly without my mouth, I think), and you do something between a smile and a wink, and I go back to my seat, and he comes back in and sits down with me.  We have tea, and we both look over at you; I am compelled by...something -- your jacket, your face (more accurately, perhaps, your demeanor).  I tell him I ought to give you my card when we leave; he doesn't think I'm serious.  We're putting on coats, getting things together to go, and I am still sitting at the table, digging a card out of the small metal case inside my bag.  You're actually going to do it, then?  And I shrug, Why not?  He walks out the door in front of me, and I pause, turn back to you, put my card down on the table in front of you, say something inconsequential, smile, and walk towards the door, looking back at you.  I see you look at it, hard, then up at me, then back down, and then you start to laugh.  And I walk out the door and down the stairs, out into the damp of the late-afternoon street.


He says he thinks you will send me dirty pictures, and I say I doubt I'll ever hear from you at all; he's jealous -- Nothing like that ever happens to me!  And I smile into his eyes, But you already know me, and who else does things like that, after all?


We go back to his room, after laughing our way up the street in the dark and being ridiculous outrageous in the lobby checking in -- I go through every scrap of everything inside his pockets until I finally find the tickets for his bags; it takes ages, and the man behind the desk must think we're drunk.  We go upstairs, so he can shower, change into non-work clothes, leave his tie behind.  I borrow his computer while I wait, and there is -- immediate, like that -- a message from you.  I shout this from the desk into the bathroom, and he comes out, towel around his waist, to look over my shoulder -- disappointed in the lack of dirty pictures.  I look at his (terrible, awful) tattoos (and I love them so), and once he's dressed again, I put my hands against his chest and lean in and kiss him.  (And it's been years, and it's still utterly familiar.  I have forgiven him, or myself, or simply life and how it is; what's left is something gentler, something that will fit inside a pocket, unobtrusive.)


You send me messages, and we agree to meet -- time and date and place.  I'm not expecting anything, or I'm expecting to be disappointed, or expecting it to be a funny story to tell later; I'm not expecting much.  I wake up earlier than I want to, and force myself out of bed, into the shower, out to the train station; you send me a message when I'm halfway there, and then I send one to you once I have gotten to the city.  I go underground and get a train, and then another, and when I come out again into the street it's windy, cold, and feels like rain, and I don't see you anywhere -- too many exits, unfamiliar territory.  You call and once you do, I can see you from across the street, and I tell you so and hang up and moments later there we are.  Your jacket matches my hair, and we laugh about this later (but not right then).  You lead me up the street, and I ask you questions you find difficult to answer, and I like the fact that you find them difficult, and so I ask you more.  (And the first story that you tell me makes me think that I dislike you, but really I have no idea what I think about you yet.)


You take me to a tiny side street crammed with little shops and too many people and rows of outdoor stalls stuffed full of flowers; we get coffee, and wander through the crowd.  (I'm not expecting much; I have no idea what I think about you, or what you think about me.  But we are drinking coffee, and squeezing through crowds of bodies and flowers and I stop to look at every dog and bend to pet a few, and continue asking difficult questions, and talk too much -- as usual -- and it doesn't start to rain.)  We go into a pub, and you order and I change my mind and have a cocktail after all, because why not drink before 2:00pm on a Sunday afternoon when it isn't raining and I am out with no expectations and endless questions.  And I think I like you, and I am being, maybe, very mean -- because it's true, that's what I do, vacillate wildly between meanness and too-overt affection with anyone I like; I didn't know it was a truth the first time he accused me of it, but now I see it as clearly as my own face inside a mirror -- but you are (perhaps) enjoying it and we stand beside the bar for what feels like hours but isn't really.


You take me to a tiny run-down pub to see a strange little cabaret, and you don't know where we're going -- or not exactly -- and we get a taxi, and you don't recall my name.  You think I'll be offended, but it makes me laugh, and I refuse to tell you, and we begin to play a game of guesses (and you are terrible at this game, and the worse you are the more I love it).  You introduce me to a friend, at the cabaret -- thinking now I'll have to say my name, so clever -- and so I lean up to him and whisper in his ear, so you can't hear it.  A little while later, over dinner, after I give you nearly all the letters and as many clues, you finally remember, and your relief is almost palpable, and it makes me laugh.  We sit on battered couches, watching the show, and you lean over to talk into my ear, and I am not expecting much, but I do, I really do think that I like you, and that's enough.


And this is how it begins.


The taxi ride back to your apartment turns into speculating about the difficulty of stealing cars; I ask the driver if he's ever done it, and he admits it -- Once, when I was really young.  I press for details, and then ask you for any law-breaking stories.  When you both turn it to me, and I tell you about my (innocent, really -- especially compared to cars) habit of taking spoons, you both act like I'm confessing murder, and it makes me laugh.  If I'd been in the car alone, without you, then perhaps I could have gotten him to tell me other stories -- he was obviously holding out on us -- but he is coy and charming and soon enough we have arrived.  (And when we leave the cab, the driver tells me, as I shut the door, to cut out stealing spoons.)
 
Your apartment is not what I would have imagined, if I would have imagined anything (but do I ever actually imagine places -- I suspect not, my mind works more in fragments than in images) but it is, exactly, itself, which is to say, it's exactly what I should have imagined, if my imagination were ideal.  (And the fact of even being there is funny, really -- I practically dared you to take me home with you, or told you to, or asked; I wonder if it would have crossed your mind at all, were I even slightly different, less insistent, quieter.)  You make me tea, you break a vase (that I maybe sort of made you do -- at any rate, I didn't catch it before it hit the ground), and I like to listen to you talk and you pull some stories out of me, and it's too cold but not unpleasantly and I like your voice and face and when you touch my hand I can feel it echo elsewhere in me -- spreading, getting bigger.


And this, then -- maybe -- is how it actually begins...






Sunday, March 4, 2012

Time Differences

Heavy with jetlag, still -- four days gone, and they say it takes a day for every hour of difference, which leaves five more to go, if you believe it (and I never have, but what do I know?) -- and I fall asleep suddenly, with almost no warning, leaden and immediate...but it doesn't last.

I dream of him; we are somewhere, going somewhere else, or in a house, or finding an empty room and getting into bed together, or talking, or it could be anything, I don't remember now. His brother was there, too -- were his parents? Were we talking about them, talking to them, hiding, sharing, something else? When I was at his apartment, sitting at the kitchen table, sun-squinted eyes, tisane from a saucepan off the stovetop, strange orange-scented chocolates. He said something about my massages, the power in my fingers, and at some point I got up and stood behind his chair, hands on shoulders, the narrow planes of his back, smooth thin-skinned skull. After awhile -- breathing, deep breaths, in and out and silence -- he asked if he could lay down, and we walked into the next room. Casually tossed aside sweater, belt, pants (the casualness of it not making a difference, either way, which is a form of comfort in itself) and I sat beside him on the mattress and spoke silent volumes through my fingers to his skin.

On the bus this afternoon, I stared hard outside the windows, thought of everyone I know or don't who I could touch, who I could take into my arms, into my mouth, into my bed, into my chest -- thought about all the things I could do, might do, things I do not know if they are things I want or wish or just drift through, aimless, nothing little ghosts of thought.

I wonder what you are thinking.

I asked you, on the edge of sleep or just-then-waking, what it is that people see, how anyone could possibly think I might have anything to offer them -- answers, wisdom, hope, approval, iron reinforcements -- anything, nothing. You didn't hesitate a moment, It's because you sound like such a mess. But you say it all so well, so people think you know things that maybe they do not. People do these things, you know. They do. How could I argue with that, even just as pretense?

We do such violence to ourselves, is it a shock that we extend that same (dis)courtesy to everyone, the world entire around us?

I woke up, early-morning, in your bed and had a moment of not knowing where the hell I was; I was facing away from you, and that added to the confusion, head muddled, grey undersea light throwing veils over everything. After, I could not get back to sleep, and I pressed close against you, gently rubbed your back and shoulders, palms and fingertips and skin, my hands drawn to you like magnets, remembering how it feels, the warmth of your body in sleep (not until later did I know you had been awake, or mostly, also). My cells are full of this surface knowledge of you; my fingers can remember more things than might seem possible. (I wonder what goes on inside your head, inside your chest; I wonder what your memories make room for, there.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cueillir

I walk through freezing dark cobblestone alleyways -- a city that could not have been designed to be more potentially dangerous if they had tried, and yet it is the calmest, safest place I could imagine -- and find the tiny music shop I had been pointed toward. I am looking for sheet music for her, traditional Slovenian choral music. She wants contemporary pieces, I think, but I do not find anything like that. However, I am here, now, and what is a little bit of money thrown away, really? And so I purchase non-contemporary traditional music, and traditional (and very very much not contemporary) masses. Several thick-ish bundles. At the post office, they have to look in the back to find an envelope large enough for all of them.

She tells me, Gather together all of your feelings from this trip, and (with an exclamation point to emphasize what she really wants to tell me) write them out!

She will never read them, never has; the language is wrong (and too complicated to pretend otherwise). It doesn´t really matter, in the end.

She begins her emails, always, with a light kiss on the neck, and ends them (always) with a smile.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Snapshots

It is jarring, strange, to be surrounded suddenly by English again, the announcements on the train into the city from the airport confusing in their familiarity.

Walking down the street, the evening dark and not at all cold enough for the end of January, a group of young men stop me, ask me -- accents heavy, stilted -- where to find the Underground. I think, for a moment, they must be joking. I gesture to the lighted sign above my head -- Right here! -- and walk down the steps to get a train.

On the long long neon bright lit escalator ride up towards the outside world, I stare at the crowds of people taking the long ride down down down beside me. A man suddenly grins hugely at me, all smile-lines and white teeth and friendly eyes, almost laughing with me as I grin back at him, and we pass, the moment fleeting, but my smile follows me all the way back up, out of the station, onto the street.

I meet my friend the gentle giant, and talk him into going to look at modern art, even though, inside his head, it could be centuries ago. We are walking down the street, my arm in his, when he pulls away slightly, says, I shouldn't do that, anymore, it makes me nervous -- and I smile to myself, and later at him, as he shows me a photograph of his sort-of-but-not-entirely new love, a Real Thing, and the amount of happy that makes me nudges me into silence for several long moments. (Later, in Paris, I will see some of the same photographs we looked at that afternoon -- or, if not exactly the same, then from the same series, by the same artist, and the memory will make me smile again.)

Late at night, on the tube, a very drunk girl shout-asks for directions -- and she is absolutely on the wrong train, going in the wrong direction, could not be wronger in terms of where she is trying to go with her little group of equally -- or even more, perhaps -- drunk friends. Cocktail dress without a coat, and her shoes are in her hands, high uncomfortable looking things like weapons, and she is barefoot in the train -- that alone makes me cringe -- and her feet are blistered and dirty and painful to look at, making me wince. I wonder, now, if she ever made it home, or wherever she was headed.

Dinner at the tiny warm-lit vegan cafe -- I have no idea where it is, but I find it every time regardless -- and later, stopping mid-walk to have a coffee at the little espresso bar across from the blues bar I got taken to that second trip over. A couple sits down at the table beside me, with their little daughter -- she could be five or she could be eight or she could be anywhere older or younger or in-between, children all exist in one large lump of semi-agelessness inside my head. I drift into conversation with the woman, and I am not sure how -- she mentions Chinese New Year, we catch each other's eyes, it is nothing, it is a few words tossed into the air. Her daughter moves over to sit across from me at my tiny table, my little table with nothing on it but my coffee cup (their table overflowing with plates and cups and bags from earlier shopping and excursions), props up the menu like a curtain to hide her face, and begins a little show, with her koala-shaped knitted hat as the star, the sugar canisters playing supporting roles. I take out the little bunny that travels with me in my bag, suggest she might want an extra player. And while I talk about travel and American politics and society-at-large with her parents, she provides an endless stream-of-consciousness sing-song monologue, in the way that only little kids are capable of, making me laugh helplessly. Finished, she stands up to take a bow, and when I say that it was wonderful, her earnest response -- I know -- makes me laugh even harder. I take her picture, and take her mother's email address, promise to send a copy when I get home again.

I meet you for cocktails and then dinner. It has been four years now, or very nearly. You, who are responsible -- indirectly at least -- for almost every major happening, every large choice or trip or anything else, since the last time I saw you. You haven't really changed, but something deep inside of me has. We laugh, and drink, and talk -- eat saffron-tinged risotto, fancy desserts. The wine is very, very fine. You take me in a taxi back to my hotel, and we sit in the bar that is trying so hard to be hip and stylish and fancy but really just seems loud and tacky and laughable, and I sip tea and you sip beer. And you are maudlin now, the way you always were whenever you would call me from far away places, far away from everything, far away from yourself. You want to come up to my room, and spend the night with me -- just talking, just next to each other -- and whether that is true or not (halfway, maybe, the way that so many things are) the answer is still the same. When I tell you that you cannot, and you ask why, the answer surprises even me. I just...no longer want to. And there were years that I would have dropped everything for a night with you, and there is a still a vast expanse of love somewhere deep inside my chest that has your shape, your look, your smell. And I will always have that, and always love you. But...it just no longer matters. There is a certain art of detachment, and if I have not learned it in most areas of my life, I have learned it in the parts containing you. I am still not sure how that makes me feel, really. Just that I have to, finally, pull myself away from your insistent embrace as I say goodnight, and when I walk out of the bar and into the elevator I do not look back. And if I cry a little when I get back upstairs, I would not admit it to you, or anyone (and then I call him on the phone, thousands of miles away from here, and use up many minutes, many dollars, talking about nothing, and when I am finished I can go to sleep in peace).

There are things that, if I look hard into a mirror inside myself, I might no longer recognize.

Sometimes a little distance is required to see things clearly, too close and the focus is blurry indistinct and the subject becomes lost.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Doorman

The skin is stretched thin across his skull, eggshell fragile, warm with heartbeat. A hand on the back of his head could crack, shatter -- fingertips filled with responsibility, with soft whispers.

He asks me, always, the same two questions. We are walking through the small stretch of forest near his apartment building, cold clear brittle glass afternoon, sunlight sharp against our faces, and he looks down, sideways, at me and asks me, How is philosophy doing? And I laugh, and tell him that seems like a question he should ask philosophy directly (and I think of you, and how philosophy is stealing our freedom! and I want to tell that story, but it is too complicated and trying to piece it together in my head makes me feel tired, so I do not). Then, of course, he asks about love. And I smile, say that love is doing very well indeed (and then I wonder what that even really means -- to say that love is going well, does that mean that you are loving very very well, or that you are being loved very very well, or simply that you are able to see it all around you, if you look...or even if you don't) and he says that makes him happy to hear, and he wishes it were the same for him, talks about how his heart is still full of his ex even while he is with his new girlfriend. When I see him two days later, he shows me their pictures, asks my opinion (of what, precisely, I am still not sure); he compares them to each other -- in small ways, or large ones, or all of them --and I interrupt and tell him that is not fair to make comparisons between people like that, that is, finally, unkind. That it is, perhaps, impossible. And he pauses, his eyes focus on me, and he nods his head, agrees (but we do it all the same, every moment, don't we, after all?). He tells me the story about cooking breakfast for a prostitute, right after the last time we saw each other, and later asks me if I am manipulative. And I answer, without even really considering, that of course, I am -- we are all manipulative, in one way or another, occasionally or often or almost never or every single moment.

Not as gentle as you are...or, well, nobody is gentle the way that you are...and I think about this, because I wonder how gentle I really am. Or, I know that I am gentle, sometimes -- maybe even often -- but i don't know if it is by default or only on purpose, and if I am not always hard, then maybe...brittle? (When I am with you, I feel gentle, or gentled -- maybe this last year has made me softer, more permeable, both less and more distinct.)

Waiting for the tram the other night,a stranger approached me -- middle-aged, hair oiled back against his scalp, making me feel greasy just looking -- and started in with the sort of bullshit nonsense that comes out in these situations, often -- oh, you are so beautiful, do you know how very beautiful you are? Which is a ridiculous question to ask anyone, because there is no answer to that. A tight smile and an inward withdrawal, silent, but audible all the same. And suddenly he grabs my head, my face, in his palms and leans over like he is going to kiss my forehead, the top of my head. (And there is a lot that doesn't bother me, and a lot that I will tolerate, but you do not get to just fucking touch me like that without at least asking first.) I am a hypocrite, of course, because every day, constantly, I fight the urge to reach out and embrace complete strangers -- and while I keep myself from doing it, or mostly, the desire is strong and present, and what makes me think that my touch would be somehow any more welcome than this extremely unwelcome one (but of course, I think it anyway). And I almost cross the line into shoving him away, and, louder than I mean to, say Excuse me, no! And he and his friend seem almost offended, like I am the one committing some social faux pas, rude and ungrateful for what is being offered.

We laugh, this time, more than anything else, we laugh -- quiet smiles and loud throat-exposing mirth. I see, finally -- maybe -- the place he holds in my life, the where and what and how, standing quietly beside a hidden door. The cocktail napkins in the bar are printed with pseudo-wise sayings, tweaked into not-terribly funny, really, jokes -- written in English , for whatever reason, and he asks me to translate all of them (his English limited to short bursts of phrase that sound like he is chewing up the words even as he speaks them, crunchy and deliberate -- when he says we invest in people I laugh so hard I lose my breath, beg him to say it one more time) but it is near-impossible , because puns and wordplay do not translate very well; every phrase requires several different explanations, and then even more to fully clarify why, specifically, it happens to be funny (or why it's meant to be), and half the time it is still unclear. (How to explain that two words that sound the same in English, but have two different meanings, and one of those words also has an alternate slang meaning, which that same word in French emphatically does not have, but here is what it would mean, but that has nothing to do with what it translates to, and are we done talking about this cocktail napkin yet because my head is starting to ache...)

I tell him he was the first person I ever loved -- not liked or desired or anything like that, but purely, really loved. He waves away the statement with a careless hand, and I insist. You know, they say -- (and here I think of you, and what you would say) -- that when you love someone, you are never really loving them. They are functioning as something else entirely in that moment. They are opening a door to love inside of you. You never mean "I love you", what you mean to say is "You open up the source of love inside of me". I might not (do not) agree with this entirely, or always, or even often. But there is part of it that sounds, sometimes, a tone of truth. I look at him, and say, You opened up my door. So thank you. And he smiles, eyes gentle like my palm on the back of his head, and leans in to hug me, one-armed, cheek pressed warm against my face.

We are all so, so thin-stretched brittle fragile. So many strings to tear and break and tangle. It would be wise -- or simply good -- to keep that whisper-thought in mind, and make our fingers softly pliant.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kaleidoscope

Six months -- six-and-a-half, more like. Half a year, a little more. (And things that seem impossible, improbable...well, what is reality, anyway, really?)

You are a kaleidoscope; we are bits of colored glass and intricacies and glinting mirrors. Things are real and not-real in the same place, same time. Same breath.

I spilled boiling water on my hand, making you coffee, and the pain was exquisite; it was a living thing, it was a door that opened up and sucked me in and shut hard behind me. For a week my hand was like some off-kilter prop, some unreal thing used to frighten children, but then, two weeks later (and I pick at it, even though I shouldn't, but it actually seemed to make things better, faster) it looks like a normal human hand once more. Pinker than it should be, slightly wrong, but something recognizable as part of me. There is a certain resilience, sometimes, in certain situations, places, moments, that surprises, even if it shouldn't.

There are things I have let go, and in doing so, they have let me go, too, and some small part of me wishes -- maybe (but it's hard to tell, sometimes, so maybe not) -- that I missed them, that I wanted...what? But the more solid reality (whatever that might be) is that I don't, I haven't, I don't think I will. And that, too, surprises, although I might not know why it should. (Like this place, which, when it was empty was some kind of halfway-refuge, maybe, and then it got so crowded that I found it hard to breathe at times, but now it is so much closer to empty than filled again, and there is something that tastes almost like relief at that, though it's tied up in all kinds of other things and not as simple as it might sometimes feel, or as it ought to be.)

Three weeks now, jobless, and the next year or more-than-a-year stretching out in front of me, without form or plan or schedule, and if I could never work again I wouldn't, because this might be the first time in years I have consistently felt rested on any given day, time moving at the pace it wants to, and nothing (or very nearly, anyway) being forced. Like this, on a random afternoon when I am coming back from doing some small errand, somewhere, I can walk twelve blocks and end up at your door, curl up against you on your bed in the middle of a noise-bright day, and fall into the feeling of your hands against my skin, and after, fall into that magic sort of mid-day sleep -- heavy-without-weight and mostly dreamless (until I am close to waking, and then the world seeps into my sleeping mind and steers my thoughts, and twists them into something not-real but rooted there, and I wake myself up laughing, and mumble explanations at you, half-awake, and I can feel the smiles in your fingertips before I see your face).

And this is warm and solid, and utterly intangible (open full hands; they are empty), and you are something, or nothing, or a third option without a name. This thing that has words attached but nothing to define it (and it is tiresome, it becomes so full of weary, to have things always defined and needing edges) -- it is here and it is not anywhere, or it is everywhere, or it doesn't matter at all but when I wake up, sometimes, it is from laughter.

You are a smile, hooked in my skin like something sharp, coloring each breath, the tint hiding beneath tears or dreams or who-knows-what-everything; you are the voice in my ear each night -- or very close to it -- before I sleep.

And nothing and no one is simple, and sometimes, it doesn't really matter (or if it does, it still doesn't, really).

And every glowing letter is a kiss, if you can just stop (and close your eyes) and really look.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stones

The stone in my pocket is a smooth, flat, not-quite-perfect oval; it fits between my index finger and thumb perfectly, like it came specially-made from the rock factory, just for me, custom order.

I sat in the steam-heavy bathroom and watched the outlines of your body through the glass doors of the shower -- you pressed your face against the glass, your hands, your body; you looked at me and smiled. (My camera's clicking fake-shutter noises loud and incongruous, audible to me above the sound of running water, the beating of my heart. You wipe the fog from the glass, watch me with the camera in my hands, pause. Click. And the glass clouds up again.)

The rock is in my left-hand coat pocket, small and warmed by the constant rubbing of my fingertips; the rock is a minute and solid secret. It could have a heartbeat; it could have mine. It might.

It was sky-bright, sun-blue, but the wind was sharp against our faces, hair tangled, and the waves were foam-white significance. We walked the beach, empty, coat-bundled and wrapped in scarves, looking down, sifting through all the pebbles with our eyes and following with our hands, crouched down, intent. I wanted glass, worn smooth by water and sand and time, and eventually, you found me two tiny bits and pieces -- one brown, one clouded-clear. All the rest was pebbles, rocks -- and at first we were quite discriminating, picking up and just as quickly letting fall, but soon, because the stones and pebbles might as well have been shipped over from some high-end boutique, so many of them ideal and lovely to look at and to hold, soon we collected and collected, our pockets clinking tiny-noised in rhythm with our steps.

The day after, after we came back to Real Life, back to time-moving-forward, irresistible. We came back, and you came upstairs with me, and you were lying on your back, eyes half-closed, and your voice was a soft-edged whisper, Take off your clothes, your face calm impassive (and it is an illusion, but a good one). Later still, we both burst out laughing, long and loud and helpless, while you stand there beside the bed, breathless, and I lay on the bed, the warmth of pleasure turning cold and dripping slowly down my cheeks, along my neck. And we laugh, and laugh, and keep laughing still. The day after, that morning, before I leave to go to work, I pick through my small paper bag, heavy with small stones, and find the one I'm looking for, hold it in my palm for a moment, smiling, before I drop it in the left-hand pocket of my coat and walk out the door.

When I walk down streets, now, around the city, I keep one hand inside my pocket, fingers insistent against the smooth grey surface hiding there. It soaks up nervous chaotic energy like the sun and breathes the warmth back into my skin. (My hands are almost always warm, my fingers. I feel the cold on the backs of my hands, my wrists, but carry my body's heat within my fingertips.) And every thing I see, every breath, each word -- I collect them in my hands like pebbles, and carry them around, hand them to you, one by one by one. How long does it take to count up to infinity?

When you are somewhere else -- across the city, or wandering through sleep, my fingers reach for you. (The only-thought of you, itself, is enough to keep me warm.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Not Quite

And where are you, when I am alone in the middle of the night, in the dark, and it is cold and stretched-out empty and my eyes are dull-stinging with pain and the noises escape, strangled, from my throat and I hear them from somewhere far away, from somewhere deep down inside, from somewhere floating out in space; where are you, then? Far away apart, and your arms are not around me, warm, and there is nothing to anchor me to this place, to myself, to anything at all. If you were here, and solid, and keeping me from sinking down or floating up, so far that I could never come back, ever; if you were here, like that, then maybe I could stop. Maybe something small inside could make me, because it leaves me feeling awkward, or stupid, or ugly, or unworthy; if you -- if anyone -- were here, then maybe I could stop myself, stop this. Stop it. But when it's just me, alone in the dark, and the room is cold and the shivering involuntary, and my arms the only ones wrapped around myself, and not even half as tightly as I need them, and the night is long and hollow and my eyes burn with the hot salt hurt of it, and I can't remember how to breathe, and it won't stop, I won't; I cannot. Stop. When it is only me, and no one else, there is nothing that can make it stop, nothing that will slow it down, nothing there at all. And it is hours later, when maybe finally exhaustion can take over and drag me limply into something that is pretending to be sleep, but isn't really, and it will be more than a day before I trust myself to look into a mirror, because there isn't anything inside I want to see. Things are not quite. And more than that, something like a lifetime before I find you and your arms again, somewhere far away (and by that time, it probably won't matter any longer, anyway). But then, why should they be. They never are.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Memory Of Breathing

I could tell you that you have all the power, here. I could tell you that, and it wouldn't be a lie. It wouldn't be, even, a half-truth. Here it is, a solid stone pillar: you have all the power. (The people who draw the maps, who delineate the borders -- they hold all the power. The rest of us, we show our passports and try hard to respect the boundaries, and leave when we are turned away at the gates.)

You are haunted by ghosts more solid than the present; they wound you and disturb your rest. They have killed something, perhaps, or very nearly. (Or worse, they have made you wish it dead.) And my ghosts, they are...what? They are things that murmur in the background, and take up space (but there is still this infinity of space, out and out and more outward-reaching, continuous); they flit around the edges of everything, and they make noise, and they make things move faster than they should, and they seem more real than the realest thing, sometimes -- often -- but they are ghosts, and we all have ghosts. And this could shatter me into a million tiny bits, a billion. Shatter me into bits so small they are like glitter, like dust, like nothing at all (but sharp-edged shiny somethings). It could shatter me, ground down into a powder so fine I could never put things back into a single solid again, not ever. Not even halfway. Everything all not-held-together and holes and hollow and not-quite-solid.

People say that things are worth the risk, and they mean that, literally. Worth taking a risk -- but nobody really says that when they think the thing that's risked might actually, or likely, come to pass. Things are often worth risks, and rarely worth consequences; this is how things feel. But this. This is worth the risk, and more than that, it is worth the potentialities, all of them, the worst ones. It is worth the bad end that I can taste like blood and metal on my tongue. It is worth the things that could happen, and the things that most probably (though sometimes there are miracles, sometimes -- and things aren't often what they seem) will happen. It is worth it, this; you are.

(Early-morning hours, and I close my eyes and fall half-asleep between my words. I write you things, eyes half-shut, not really clear, and then lay down and shut my eyes, and fall, immediately, into a dream of you. It was bad, and confused, and everything was loud shouting jarring...and then the phone rang and it woke me, eventually, and I look and it is you, although it shouldn't be, and we both know that.)

I would be different for you, if I could.

There are a hundred versions of you, inside -- a thousand, an infinity. Coming to some singular consensus must be near-impossible; I can imagine how it must be. (I can tear myself apart into a million different directions inside my mind, also, deeply down inside. We are nothing alike at all, completely opposed; we are twins; we are cracked and shining mirrors.) Inference is the only possibility when nothing is explicit; it's either that, or not considering at all (and I think we all know well enough how impossible that is).

I say things, and I do things, because life is short, and complicated, and unexpected, and things you don't do now, might not happen, ever. Not because I think these things I say and do will change anything else. Not because I'm not-so-quietly digging for...something. My compulsions are mine alone, closed-circuits, and although nothing is ever that simple, this one thing really just might be. But how can anyone explain that, and have it mean anything at all?

And when we spend the night together, we are awake until the early-morning hours, when light turns aquatic and exhaustion is a so, so solid thing. When our bodies are tangled up in each other, and everything is fingertips and mouths and warm and wet and sliding into pleasure, floating, jumping off the edge of cliffs, and the landing never comes, because there are no hard places here -- when everything is whispers, and the words aren't important, the words are secondary, the hush is everything.

Things were different, then...and then things changed, and they change and change again, and things are different, always. Sometimes imperceptible and sometimes glaring smack-in-the-face, and sometimes only in your head, and sometimes only in everybody else's. And again and again and again. Things were different, before, and they are different now. And we go to sleep, eventually, and in the morning, when we wake up, it's like everything raw and new and waiting. Things can be whatever you want them to be. Because you are the one creating them, new, with every breath. (You just have to remember how to breathe, and then...keep remembering.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Egg Farm

When we met, the first time, and I blurted out that you were so not-tall (as if you might have spent every day moving through the world but somehow failing to notice the moment you took up in space) I didn't tell you -- or at least I do not think I did -- why I really actually like that (as far as it goes, I mean; it is an arbitrary thing and height does not influence my opinions about a person, aesthetically or in the more important, hidden ways, but still). But when we embrace, my head can rest there on your shoulder, or my lips press against your neck, warmly, and my face isn't just smashed somewhere into your chest, there is no feeling of needing stepladders to kiss you. And this is a pleasant thing, this (all of it). When I am in the kitchen -- making tea, or making breakfast (or whatever it is when it is after noon and you have not slept nearly enough and the hours in bed stretch out and distort and drip like slow dark honey to the floor, but when you look, the time has disappeared like some kind of insidious magic trick) -- you come up behind me to wrap your arms around my waist, your palms in conversation with my skin, and you are warm and pressed against me, and you can rest, only-just, into the pause between my thighs, not-here-not-there, and it is almost impossible, to split my brain in two -- slice mushrooms and press back against you, hard -- and if you were taller than you are, it wouldn't be this exactly-same of a moment, here, and I do not think to tell you this, and later my mind is sifting through the polished pebbles and pale sea glass fragments and uncovered treasures that you leave behind you in your wake, and I hold this particular thought in the palm of my mind, and I think how silly, that I didn't tell you then.

When you aren't here, I see things -- anything, all of it -- and I think of you; I want to show you everything I see. I want to collect it all in pretty little boxes, tied with shining ribbons and dusted with glitter, and hand it to you to unwrap and consume at your leisure, in the long quiet hours of late-night or too-early-morning, inside your dreams. I want to give you everything I touch; each thing is really you, against my fingertips (inside my head, beneath my skin, the liquid warmth flowing through my veins).

(And when you tell me, My hands are your hands, in that moment, it is a truth.)

I try to distill the hidden intangibles inside of me into words, to pour those words over your head, shining trails of them running down your body, coating your skin, pooling at your feet. But it is a kind of filter, already -- because words are boxes with sides and tops and bottoms, and infinity doesn't fit inside a box, not properly. So what I tell you...it doesn't really matter, in the end. It is never quite the exact right thing, never quite tastes the way it ought to. (And I know what I am giving you -- or not even what I am, but what I want to -- but...) And my hand against your cheek might possibly be more right, or more true, or more precise (or it might not at all); your fingers paging through the book of my universe, dripping with unanswered questions, dripping with unquestioned response, dripping with the force of pure momentum. Your mouth on mine writes a story without a proper narrative arc; everything is penultimate and the story goes on and on and on without ending or beginning.

When we were sitting there, beside each other, in the dark -- and my hands were in your hands, your fingers tracing patterns against my skin, our bodies warm with proximity. (And all the other moments, also -- when every breath is a kind of love letter, folded up and floated into the air, prayer wheels turning to the rhythm of heartbeats, ceaseless, feeding off their own momentum, off the inner-outer forces of...something...vast and formless.) But, when. We were sitting there, in the dark -- the light from the screen, glowing, carving shadows out across your face -- and your pulse beneath my fingertips, and your palms gentle against me, and I turned to look at you, at your face (lit-up and veiled, both, there, so close to mine) and your eyes widened and then eased into a smile, and that. That is the river, and the bridge that spans it, that spreads out to give a home to the echoes of my footsteps; that is the map and the pathway and the land itself beneath us. (You think, perhaps, that I don't see you, but I can close my eyes just as tightly as anybody, and that's when things start getting interesting.)

If you are a mirror, and I am a mirror, reflecting an endless hall of neverending doorways, keyholes, illuminated -- back and forth and back and back and back and back and (this is where the breath catches). If that is what it is. But there must be something deeper, also -- some light source that glows, hidden internal, and that is the thing we catch in our reflections; a glow, a spark, a metal key, glinting -- the click of locks falling open, falling away. Mirrors can never see into themselves, and so they must never know the things they hide within them -- endless reflections, a deep well of unseen memory, waiting. (And even in the dark, without any light to give them form or function; even then, they still exist.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Lesser Is The Greater

You mix these thoughts together and they become thick and sweet, something to lick from fingertips, from the backs of spoons. And you toss in more words, great handfuls of them -- every taste and shade and nuance, and through some kind of magic transform the whole into something so nourishing and real and the taste that lingers on my tongue, afterward, is like nothing at all describable. I could eat and eat and eat them, these things you bake for me, warm in my hands and electric on my tongue -- more and more, and never sated, always still hungry for another (and another, and still one more).

And this builds itself, one word at a time -- a trickle that becomes a river that becomes a huge world-sized wave, crashing down on everything -- or we build it, bit by bit (or it was there to start with, and with every word and every tick of the clock we are simply erasing more and more of whatever was obscuring it; pull away the veil, and it's been there all along, waiting -- the statue hiding within the cold chunk of stone).

A minute particle of nothing that expands and unfolds until it is filling up the whole of everything, and infinity widens to make room, and nothing stops or slows, and I cannot breathe and it doesn't matter but it begins to taste of panic and waiting three more days to see if fiction can be reality suddenly seems impossible. I need things human-sized, I need something I can hold in the palm of my hand and feel the edges of it, the smooth solid absoluteness; I need to remember the secret to inhale-exhale-heartbeat-quiet. And I ask you to meet me, sooner, now -- and No and Can't dissolve, change shape; there is a hidden alchemy at work, here, that turns things into Yes and Can (it coats everything, here, since the very first thing, turning something solid into something possible, turning possibility into something solid). And when you walk in, from the cold outside, and you are suddenly real and a thing that I can reach out and touch, beside me -- and your arms are wrapped around me, tight, and when I brush my lips against your closed mouth, briefly, I feel a string of bulbs light up, explode, in a neat line down to my feet.

So we sit there, leaning close together, your cold fingers wrapped in my warm ones, and your fingertips grazing my skin, ascertaining where things begin and end, and your eyes and your face and gravity is suddenly just a theory, quaint and wrong-headed, something to laugh about. Everything is tightly-focused close-up, and all the rest just falls away. (Later, walking in the cold wind-rippled night, I push you back against a wall, abrupt, and kissing you is like a huge intake of breath after too-long underwater. It makes me ache, to stop.)

There are things I want to say to you that I cannot; they wriggle just beneath the surface, making me itch. And I want to give you everything, to hand you infinity wrapped up in paper and tied with golden string; whisper secrets into your chest, show you the open doorway into mine. My empty palms, outstretched; I am spelling out proffer with every breath, every moment of my pulse. Waiting for you to take what is there, to take what isn't there, to take it all (waiting for my fingers to close around your own).

Friday, January 7, 2011

Saudade

Somebody else taught me the word, but it was you who taught me the meaning. And so I look for you -- not constantly, but often enough, more often than I might admit -- in familiar places; I close my eyes and reach out my hands, fingers spread, waiting to feel the subtle shift in time and space and what-is-real. And often it is nothing more than blind-wanderings through empty hallways -- or, not empty, but the things that fill them are less than nothing; it doesn't matter. But, sometimes -- once, twice, perhaps even a third -- I find you. Or I don't find you, but what I find is so much the very same that it is eerie; tell the same story again and again, and you can make it into something almost solid. And it is the same -- tiny details shift and shimmer and the truth is mutable, as it always is, in everything -- but, in a deeply hidden and important way, it is as exactly-same as it could hope to be.

If you have nothing to say, and you are tired and tired and so far beyond tired of walking these tedious pathways to no place in particular; if the same stories (and they are always the same stories, because the storyteller is always the same, and words have the taste of something finite in their infinity) leave you weary. If you stop saying anything at all. If people ask you why you are silent, tell you that you should speak, and this leaves you wanting nothing more than to never speak again -- it is part stubbornness, and part that special blankness that appears when something specific is asked or requested or even mentioned (What are you thinking, right now? And the only thing, once the words have hit the air, is...vast unending empty, nothing at all.) If that, then what?

(And people make you responsible -- this isn't the intent, but it is the result, you being you and things being as they are. You have this weight of responsibility, and it is tiresome, and unasked for, and the warmth and gentleness you might feel -- you do feel -- for any of them, for all of them, is tinged with something heavy; your head aches, vague. And when somebody says You understand me, what they really mean is I feel like I understand you, and you at least know how ridiculous that is, but what can you say to a fragment of your reflection in a shard of mirror?)

So all the tiny moments pile up, one upon another, like pennies; the taste of life, metallic somewhere behind your tongue. There is the happy, frolicksome puppy, the softness of its fur still a warm impression on your fingers weeks afterward. There is a dream of dead birds, and the waking up -- lost and still somewhere else inside your head, tears hot on your cheeks. There is spiced hot chocolate, smooth against the roof of your mouth. There is rain, and the hypnotic umbrella-rhythms wrapped around you, the grey half-light filtered red through your temporary shelter. There is a single, perfect pear. There is silence, and there is time for many words, and finally, finally time for sleep (and the sleep stretches out into a place beyond time). There is an evening in the dark where everything is friction and warm skin and wet welcome and the lines crossed spanned continents -- spanned eras. Reality shifts on its axis. There is midnight beside a fire in the crystalline cold, and strangers who hand you plastic cups full of cold champagne, and when you look up at the far-away sky, you can even see the stars. There are a hundred more, a thousand, a million; full pockets, piles spilling over into everything, taking up space, taking over. But.

When I find you, every time, it ceases to matter what, exactly, I have found; the actual reality -- you, or me, or someone else entirely -- makes no difference. We tell the same stories, again and again; they are a sort of conjure-trick. The facts are not important. And every time, the ending is the same.

(And every time, we wait until the next beginning.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quenched

You say you know the color of my soul (but do you know what it hides, what it contains?); when I tell you that I write about you, sometimes, you laugh and say I must be joking. And perhaps it just wasn't a true enough statement -- maybe everything I write is in some way about you, or to you -- maybe everything for half my life has been shaped in small or larger or invisible ways, by you. And there is always the thought of one last time, one more goodbye, that makes certain things almost impossible. In some ways (I do not tell you this) you save my life over and over again.

First, we meet at the train station -- and I tell you, later, sitting at the table in that cheerful grimy bar, that we always seem to meet at train stations, points of in-between and not-quite-anywhere. We realize, just then, that it has been solidly 15 years, now, that we have known each other, and you half-shout Champagne! (and you even laughingly ask at the bar if they have any, and of course they do not, so we sit and drink tea and swim in the pools of each other's eyes). It is quickly done; you have to go, and I walk through the icy snow-covered streets with my arm in yours, wait with you until your bus pulls up, and touch your cold cheek with my warm fingers as you turn to walk away.

Later, my last day in the city, you call me in the afternoon and ask me to come meet you nearer your eventual evening rehearsal destination. (You never found your lost suitcase full of wooden recorders, $15,000 lost, more or less -- well, less the money, more the flutes themselves, and you have some persistent small-but-irritating injury affecting your left ring finger, that makes playing the violin painful and very difficult. When I ask you, later, what you will do if it gets worse -- or does not get better -- and you can no longer really play, you whisper that you have no idea at all.) So I take the bus to a depressing little almost-suburb of the city and meet you at the depressing little Commercial Center -- grey and harshly-lit, fluorescent -- and the only thing in the whole area, really. We sit in a small pizzeria where I drink coffee and watch you eat an early dinner.

And you think of me as a shaman, a healer, a mystic -- always, still. And either you simply do not know me at all, not even a little, never have...or you see something, here, that I cannot. That, perhaps, I am a different thing -- something better -- than I can imagine. (Or maybe, I am like that when I am near you, and it is just that simple. You are magnetic, drawing the metal shavings of something better, something good, from somewhere deep inside me, pulling them, briefly, to the surface.)

When you finish eating, I take your hand in both of mine, and kiss each knuckle, the joints of every finger. I press my thumb gently against the contours of your hand, your wrist, massage the palm. The places where things come together, pause, and split off apart again. And you smile, eyes closed, and sigh. It is difficult to find the words for things -- or there are things that, to say them, makes them smaller or less true or simply less. I tell you that it is like slowly dying of thirst, a week or more without a drink, and someone comes and offers you three drops of water. Which does nothing, of course -- three drops of water are less than nothing, and you are still dying; you are going to wither away, become dust. It is almost worse than nothing at all. (And these stolen, so-quick hours -- one, two, and then a year goes by -- that is what they are like. Drip. Drip. Drip.) I raise my eyes to your face, and halfway smile (you pointed out to me that usually, when I smile, it is with the right side of my mouth only, except when it is a smile disguising something else, when it changes to the left -- but almost never both sides at once). As far as you are concerned -- or you-and-me -- I have been slowly dying of thirst for years.

You watch my face for a long moment, trail a fingertip against my cheek, and screw up your eyebrows into a question, But, surely not -- with all of your other relationships, your friends and lovers and everythings, surely there are many filling up your glass? And I look at you, and laugh. But nobody else is you, and one person cannot replace another. There are all kinds of water, in the end. And then we are quiet for a long time (or for no time at all).

You have to go, after what seems like an instant, and you say you'll call me when your rehearsal is finished, and we stand in the hallway of this depressing plastic strip mall of a place, and embrace, and I take your face in my hands and your press your forehead against mine, and then you are gone, and the dull and empty ache is something too far inside me to reach or even name; outside, it is coldly raining, and I tilt my face up to the sky and let it mingle with my tears. And the bus ride back into the city feels like years.

Later, though -- nearly 11:00 that night -- you do call; you are nearby, close to the train station. Am I around? So you come to my hotel, up to my room, and we sit next to each other on the bed for several minutes, talking, until I take off my glasses and lie close beside you, my head on your chest, over your heart (but your sweater scratches my skin, and so you take it off so I can rest against the softer shirt you have on underneath). We stay still like that, your hand on my shoulder and mine tracing paths up and down your arm; I feel you slow your breathing down, closer to my own, I listen to the message of your heart. We talk, low-voiced; we fall in and out of sleep or almost-sleep. I trace the details of your face with the tips of my fingers, memorizing and re-sculpting. I tell you, finally, how you are the first person I ever loved -- not something romantic or sexual or anything, but truly loved, something infinite and real. You unlocked something for me, inside of me, you formed a base. After that, I was no longer the same person. You say, quietly, When you were 15? And I make an affirmative sound into your chest. I listen to you breathe. You know, when I first saw your picture, before you came to stay with my parents -- it struck me, deeply. I can't explain it. It was, for me, a sort of archetype -- you were. It's funny. And all of that before I'd even met you. Before I knew... and you trail off, ...before I knew how good you are for the soul. We stay there, in the room, with time kindly stopped around us, wrapped around each other gently. You say several times that you should go, But the more I sort of fall asleep, the more I want to stay and sleep for real. You sit up, and I rub the back of your neck, and you stretch out flat on your stomach and look at me questioningly over your shoulder, so I laugh and sit on top of you, and massage your back and shoulders for a long time. I can feel you dissolving, bit by bit, and you make small sounds in the back of your throat with every breath. Finally, I stop, and lay beside you once more, and you roll over and wrap your arms around me tightly. You have always been a magician of massages (and then, almost to yourself, And of caresses too, of course).

I asked you, when we were in the restaurant, to tell me the name of the artist -- the old man from Lithuania -- who lived near your parents, and your eyes lit up as you said his name (a name that rolls so smoothly off the tongue, how could I have forgotten it?). He died, you know. And I ask when, and you say it was five years ago, or six. I smile gently -- for he was old 15 years ago, already; he smoked and drank like life depended on it. I adored him, so completely -- and you say, the memory dawning suddenly, Oh, we went to his house one afternoon, I had forgotten! And indeed, your parents were away, and the two of us alone for several days, and you took me to his house for coffee one afternoon, abruptly rushing off to a rehearsal, telling me I should stay for dinner so I wouldn't be alone. When I pointed out that I hadn't been invited, you smiled and told me not to worry, that I surely would be. (And so I was, and I ate at that big kitchen table with a dear, dear old man, his paintings looking down on us from all the walls.)

You have always loved how I used to work in a sex shop -- a topic you bring up at least once every time we speak. This time, though, you then ask me if I am still working for a travel agency. And I stare at you blankly for a moment. A travel agency? I've never worked for a travel agency. You make a face, open your mouth to say something, stop, and start again. Are you sure? And I laugh, loudly. Pretty sure. But then, who knows what I am really doing, when I'm not paying close attention. (When you whisper to me that you don't know what you'll do, if you can no longer really play anymore, we are both quiet for a minute, and then I tell you, Well, you can always come work at my travel agency. The pay isn't great, since it doesn't actually exist, but the hours are fantastic. And your laughter wells up from somewhere deep inside.)

In a month you will be 45; you haven't really changed at all. Your age shows a bit in the moments around your eyes, but nothing more. (You say, That isn't so bad, then, is it? And I tell you that it isn't anything, good or bad, but just something that I noticed.) Your eyes, which are the warmest warm thing, through which I would give anything to pass, like mist, like walking through a mirror.

It is nearly 4:00am when you finally pull on your boots and leave, for real. We kiss, gently, and I touch your cheeks, your temples, your lips, your chest. You hold me tightly against you, your hand on the back of my head, and I watch you walk down the hallway before I close the door to my room again. (So much unsaid, here, where words have no place and time flows in strange, uncertain ways.) I hold the touch of your skin inside my fingertips, the rhythm of your heartbeat deep within the center of my chest. I can hold these moments in my cupped palms like something solid (like something more real than any solid thing).

And for the first time in more time than I can possibly remember, I am -- however briefly -- no longer thirsty.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Luck

In the airport, at baggage claim, I watch my suitcase drop down onto the conveyer belt, and think "I have checked this bag four times in as many weeks, and nothing has been lost or stolen or broken or anything at all. I have not missed a flight or a train; the weather has been just far enough ahead of or behind me to never once seriously impact my transit. How lucky!" I consider stopping at the ATM, but pause and think about the 30 Euros I already have, more than enough to take the train into the city and find my way to my hotel. So I do not stop, I get no cash; I decide to wait. And I buy my ticket and board the train.

There are only two stops before the Central Station, and I do not want to lug my bags up or down any more stairs -- to reach the upper or lower seating areas -- so instead I stand in the wide entry area of the train car, my two bags on the ground beside me, my purse loose hanging off my shoulder, sliding down my arm. I stand there, leaning back against the wall, watching the city lights blur and streak past outside, beyond the windows, my eyes unfocusing, feeling the only-three-hours of sleep I had the night before.

And there is a man standing beside me -- or, a few steps away, really, but off to my side -- and he is talking loudly on a cell phone, in some fast language I do not understand, not Dutch, surely, but something else, something that blurs by like the lights outside the train. As the train approaches the station, its first stop, this man suddenly starts pulling at my sleeve, asking me something in a language I do not speak, repeatedly, that seems to be a question about the station because it seems like he is ending with its name, but I cannot tell for sure and anyway I have no idea what he is saying at all. I tell him, in English, that I am sorry but I do not speak...whatever language he is speaking, and as I start to turn away he yanks more insistently at the sleeve of my coat, asking his fast and incomprehensible question. And once again, and then he says, very loud and slow, the name of the station, and makes a questioning face. And I nod and tell him yes, that is this station. And he smiles and hurries off the train, and the doors close, and the second before the train begins to move again time slows down and stretches out and something clicks into place for me inside my head, and I turn and look down at my other arm, at my purse hanging there near my elbow, and I pull it open and look inside and I already know, before I have even really looked, but I still look, frantically, again and again and again, touching each item individually, as it that will make the truth less true.

But of course, my stolen wallet isn't there, no matter how many times I look again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lines

We go up to your room at the top floor of the small hotel -- the room is not large, not especially remarkable (though you have a tiny and snow-covered balcony outside your window). You've left a bottle of champagne, sitting in a snow-filled bucket on the small round tabletop out on the balcony -- did you know it would be 1:00am, that I would come up here with you? -- and I sit in a slightly-awkward armchair with my glass cold against my fingers; you sit on the bed (eventually stretching out on your back, head propped up against the pillows). There is a long time that passes, and we sit there, sipping fine fizzy liquid and talking too loud, too fast, about a thousand little nothings. Eventually, I take off my glasses, rub my eyelids. Take off my boots -- one, two -- and climb onto the bed beside you, head resting on your chest. (Your hand on my back, my shoulder, and I hear your watch whispering, insistent, in my ear.)

He asked me, when we were sitting there in the small cafe, colored lights twinkling in the windows, music playing in the background, my friend in from out of town -- just for the evening, just to see me, briefly -- beside me, and his sometime-lover beside him...he asked me if coming back here, to Geneva, felt, in some way, like coming home. I could have cried (because of course, the answer was yes, and of course, it is the only real sense of home I have ever had from any place). Later, when we were sitting in your room, drinking champagne and talking about everything and nothing in particular, we spoke about things, and the attachment to them, and how some people perhaps base their identities on things instead of anything less solid and more real, and it struck me that perhaps this is what my attachment to things, to stuff, really is -- that is a place where I can find my home, because I do not ever find it in places. (People, objects, a turn-of-phrase, but never something on a map that I can point to, a building or a city or a place.)

There is a strangeness and a familiarity, with you (only the second time we have been beside each other, present) and the mixture comes together to spell out Safety, for me. And maybe that is something I do not want to throw off-balance, or maybe it is something as simple as too little time, or some combination of the two, or something else entirely. Because crossing lines, that is the thing that I am best at, it is what I do most often. And so often I find it painful, frustrating, that there are any lines at all to start with -- a wish that everything could melt together into shades of grey, blurred -- but, sometimes, there is a feeling that it is better, somehow, to occasionally have someone with whom no lines get crossed at all (or very nearly, as surely we were crossing some, some small ones, anyway, in bed and curled around each other, warm). And your watch continued to whisper secrets in my ear (and I didn't understand a single one).