Sunday, March 4, 2012
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
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
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.)
Saturday, January 21, 2012
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
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
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
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
It is dark when I arrive, and cold, and I walk down crumbling and magnificent streets (more magnificent because of it, beautiful and gritty and confused). Sit in a room beneath heavy glittering chandeliers and eat cake, drink sweet coffee. (And the cakes almost always end up surprising -- the texture something unexpected, rich and light and strange and delicious all at once). And I walk, and walk -- thinking, often, just a bit further and then I will go back -- but I keep going, not stopping. Come to the river and watch the lights scattering across the surface, shine out from deep within; cross the bridge (all cold metal, cold concrete, brightest lit-up lamps). It is much later (tired, cold, smiling) when I find my way back to the hotel, into a hot bath, into the wide white bed.
Moments bleed together -- the Metro employee who smiles and nods me through, although I did not punch my ticket in the machine in front of him, when I point across the metal barrier and say I came in the wrong way, first (and I am sure he did not understand the words, but the meaning was clear enough). Drinking hot spiced wine from a paper cup, unstable, while outside, walking. Sitting in the back of a small ornate and dim-lit church, eyes closed, listening to voices singing words I do not understand (and so -- voices, singing, nothing else). Coffee and cake and coffee and cake, again and again. The sweet woman selling antique jewelry at the enormous flea market outside of town (the farther from the city the bus went, the more snow still covering the ground, turning slowly grey) who spoke no English and loved the pin I wear on the lapel of my coat -- she called over two other ladies, and they all touched it and chattered in smiling, enthusiastic Hungarian, until, after several minutes, she beamed widely straight into mz eyes and worked her mouth around the words (slow, deliberate), VERY. NICE. UNIQUE. And of the four words in Hungarian I could (shakily) say, one of them is Thank You, and my saying it (also slow, deliberate) made her laugh delightedly. She touched the ends of my hair with her fingertips, nodding at me. ALSO. UNIQUE. And we laughed, and then I said goodbye and walked away.
And it is cold, cold, freezing -- my fingers stiff each time I take my hands out of my pockets (I think of you, then -- your always-so-cold hands, my warm skin).
I eat Indian food, spiced to make my nose run, in a dark and smokey dining room, stay at the table long after I have finished, drinking tea, reading a book, and halfway-listening to the tableful of girls somewhere behind me -- the only others in the restaurant -- talk quietly in Italian.
Another evening -- and the public baths are noisy and crowded. Drift for an hour, two, in the warmest of the outdoor pools, the night air colder than cold anytime I stand all the way up and let it touch my shoulders. Sit on the steps, water up to my chin, and watch a knot of laughing old men play chess, standing chest-deep in the pool. (And oh, I want to embrace them all, kiss their faces, run my hands across their broad or bony or hairy backs -- and there is no clear way to explain this constant urge to touch, to hold, not connected to desire or sex or hunger, but just...to touch. Contact, with nothing more behind it or around it. My fingertips tingle with the impulse, still, for hours.)
On the last day, I go across the river to the other side of the city, eat crepes rich with sour cream and salty cheese. Walk up steep hills and too many stairs, the wind cold against my face. Stand in the darkness of churches, all candles and stained glass glow. Wander the stone maze of stairs and archways, like a castle, and go into a coffeeshop to sit and wrap my hands around something warm. Once inside, I realize it is a much nicer place than it appeared from outside -- sparkling chandeliers, heavy with crystal, and white-gloved waiters in tuxedos -- and I sit alone in the empty upstairs dining room with the panoramic view, drinking my cofee, feeling mildly conspicuous. (But, when I am finished and ask for the bill, the handsome man in his tuxedo jacket and pristine white gloves walks me around the whole of the room, to look out all the windows, and lets me out onto the balcony, and I see that it has suddenly begun to snow.) Later -- soon -- the snow falls in earnest; the wind blows it in thick wet stinging kisses against my cheeks. I walk through it, for a time, then duck into a warm and croweded cafe and drink tea, eat chestnut cake, and watch the swirls of white outside the windows. And in the morning, through the windows of the train, the ground is white and expansive, and the glass it cold and smooth against my forehead.