You were in a foul mood in a stranger’s armchair. A fresh cut on your chin from slipping on the ice outside. And when I asked about your empty hands, you said you weren’t drinking because you were too sick. I wasn’t drinking (because I never do), and only just learning that alcohol is bad for your immune system.
Someone took the record off the turntable and had the lights dimmed. The people exploded into a radio-dictated frenzy. Everyone except for you got sucked into the thrashing vortex. When I got out, I checked to see if it was still my own clothes that I had on. You told me that was a sign telling us it had gone too far. And you made me call us a cab, but only I got in, and you looked in the window as it drove away.
Later, you would trace confessions into my wrists in bookstore cafes and buy presents for my mother. All while answering your phone to tell someone else you love them. I would never have the courage to ask and you would speak only in gestures. You would say that a thousand people were going to fall in love with me. I would laugh and try not to count you among them.
The last time I saw you, we ate french fries in a single floor mall. The food court smelled like grease — hope gone sticky the way rubber bands do if you leave them sitting in a drawer too long. You kept saying that everyone you know spins in and out of your life using the same exit. I promised to stay, not realizing that you were going to take away the option.
Now you are a shut door that I knock on once in a while. I think I imagine the handle trembling sometimes, as though it is gasping for air.
I’m a bead in your bicycle spoke irises – spinning like milky way dust, somersaulting to the lilt in your voice. One moment you’re crushing bird’s nest eggs and the next you’re cutting ribbons for me to wear. Picking out the fabric from old linen bandages. Sucking the dye from candy-coated nursery rhyme toys. You want to be the colour in my bird’s nest hair.
We play the horseshoe toss and you get the steel half-moon around my neck – still spinning like a flying saucer necklace when it hits me. One moment you’re shining your silver handgun and the next it goes off into disco ball bits instead of gunpowder. Ammunition from broken thermometer mercury and coin collection quarters. Scissors to cloth again for smithereens to weave into hair.
I’m the asterisk in your eye, but I want to be the metal in your silver handgun.
I don’t want your birth control, or to hear that pink is a masculine colour. No more smashed eggshell pieces of truth. I want the whole body before it has been rewritten. Before your heels are plastered with sticking rubber. Flap flap flap across your bedroom floor, across the burnt orange sunlight mixing with the wood.
You said that the scar along my thigh looks like stars. There are nebulas in skin. And when we run our fingers over new body parts, we make constellations. Astronomers that stay in bed all day in a room with more windows than furniture.
Nobody talks about the cracks in the pavement of life. They are doorways to momentous universes. I slipped into a trap like that once (when the months paused to stretch a gap between October and November) and landed next to you.
You had ice chip eyes and permanent marker lips. Clothes that always looked wet from having journeyed into the Hyacinth garden. We linked arms for an instant. We dug fishhooks into each other’s minds. I will never see you again, but I can always feel a tug on the line.
I want to spend eternity in the narrow rose-lined passages that bloom between seconds. I know I will find you there — inside a black hole tear in the pink fabric that holds together all yesterdays and tomorrows.
I am here, pressing my thumbs into the place where eyelid skin meets bridge of nose
But you are there, hanging like a pretty metaphor from a hook on the back of someone’s bathroom door
a place you should not be
Twenty-one had climbed onto her back like a lion — digging its teeth into the stiff muscles that melded neck and shoulder. I knew she would never be a fair match for youth because I had felt the baby bones of that body protruding everywhere. She was living the life of a woman in the frame of a little girl whose hips were still narrower than her already narrow shoulders.
I knew her because I braided her hair. I used to rake my fingers through it and pull it back on days that had been kind to us, lending us an extra hour or two. (We always paid them back later in weeks where we never saw each other.) She didn’t like it to be done any particular way. She would let me arrange it however I wanted, and still kiss my hands the same way when I was finished. Over and over again, she would kiss my fingers and the mounds in my palms like there was nothing she could be more thankful for.
Sometimes she would fall asleep and I would let her. I had seen the darkness around her eyes, and only a stroke of true heartlessness could have made me wake her after that. I knew it soothed her to feel my hands in her hair, and it soothed me too. I would whisper to her all of the secrets of my ruptured heart while putting her hair in plaits.
I told her about all of the boys that had turned me out of their doorways telling me to come back when I was a man. Age attracted me back then but I was not aware that it does not always come with grace or kindness or sense. I was almost convinced that the world was full only of childish lovers who had grown turtle shells to parade around as adulthood. She did not have any of that hardness, and I felt that she could never produce it, so I worried for her. And she only thanked my hands in kisses too soft for me to show her the problem with them.
I’m all in if you’ll let me keep my finger on the eject button the whole time. Gazelles are leaping targets, but I don’t know what to call you. All my women with their guns strapped to their foreheads say, “Aim. Fire.” without any exclamation marks and it makes you freeze. Tap dancer, where’s your shuffleboard wax now? Tell everyone you dodged a bullet tomorrow, but you’ll only be here again. You can’t go to sleep in a pile of shit and expect to wake up somewhere different.
Is the firing range schoolboys’ song for you when they’ve got clay-disk blindness. You’re a razor edge that carves the sky. Think you’ve got it going on, slick. And of course you do, just like a scream is loudest right before you can’t hear it any longer. Soon you’ll be a quicksand sinker, asking how it is that death is not the cold, skeletal man in all his hooded pictures. When you’ve met her, you’ll see that it’s a warm-bodied, able woman that takes your soul — unravels your young flesh like a rubbery wire and takes it to clothe her own fingers. The grim reaper is only bony because he hasn’t learned that trick.
I've followed your Project 365 religiously, and I'm wondering if you still do photography. If so, where can I view more of your amazing work? Thanks!
Hi! I only just saw this message today, so I’m sorry if this response is late.
I loved doing my Project 365, and a part of me really misses it. Unfortunately, many of the images I took for the project were stored on an external hard drive that stopped working, and I lost much of my work. It was tough for me, and made me subconsciously very anxious about making new images, I guess. I still do take pictures, but haven’t updated on the internet very frequently. Your message is very encouraging to here, however! I will try to update more often with new photographs. The best place to check for my pictures would be my flickr at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/madeehahashmi
The world was a spinning, shining, glamorous, dazzling thing, teetering on the tip of his finger. He sent it off like a top — some twisting hypnotic circle dancing its way to my feet across the ground. I tip-toed around it for as long as I could. But then I was smiling to myself when I caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror.
He talked to me with his hands shaped into signs held behind his back because his mouth was busy making good with the compatriots. I signed up to be his secret keeper and he grabbed my wrists in hallways when nobody was looking. The tablecloths were so white in the rooms that all the men and women in fancy-dress could never have expected a thing.
Let’s pretend there was no stain on his conscience for a moment. Let’s pretend that he did not dig his fingers into my hip when posing for photographs. Or take my face into his hands in silent parking lots and promise that mine were the kind of eyes that the world depended on. Now he says he loves me in passing like he’s dropping change into a street musician’s guitar case.
Money, money, call us all honey and buy us a powder room in your heart.
Cherry ice cream looks exactly like strawberry ice cream.
I eat cherries by the pool watching you swim laps and dip my fingers into the water when they become too deeply stained. You hold your breath under the blue surface and test my concern. I always knock the bowl over as I scramble to dive in after you and the clattering alerts you to come up for air.
My eyes fail to adjust to the darkness sitting on your bike rack. You pedal us to mossy earth and we kneel in the cool blackness. We dig with our hands, shaping two silent holes in the ground. You drop yours in first and it falls like a velvet hoof — a soft sound without regret. When you ask me for mine, I take it from my chest and press it into the earth, but I can’t keep it there. It beats like a fish out of water, jumping up underneath the palm of my hand. We bury it quickly and you take me home.
I eat pink ice cream at the university cafeteria expecting strawberries. Instead the flavour shoots through me like a splintered arrow. I tell everyone, “Cherries give me migraines,” because they do now. But I eat the ice cream anyway becoming nostalgic for your brand of loneliness. I go home with a headache and pretend that the boy I meet sitting by the lake is you. But when I put my hand in his chest, I can feel a pulse that betrays the illusion.