There is only one picture of us together. You’re wearing blue and ours is the only shot where you don’t have your suit jacket on. It makes the photograph look like it’s in a storyline of its own — one where the evening doesn’t require a tie and you don’t hesitate to stand that close to me
"This is my favourite picture from that night. We look so happy," you would say whenever you saw it in the photo album that I keep on my bookshelf. And we really do look delighted: you newly in love and me finally having accepted that.
I thought about making a second print of it for you once, but I changed my mind before you left. I don’t know how to talk to you about San Francisco other than to name the movies that have been filmed there. You could have moved anywhere and it would be the same. I will never know how to ask you which pictures you dress down for now.
I haven’t washed my hair since I last saw you. It reeks of diner grease and whatever it was that you were smoking. The memory has tattooed me with the smell of the evening — the smell of being spent to the last drop.
You are the plate that you were eating french fries on. You were eating them plain because you don’t like ketchup. But I do. So I poured a bottle into my shoes when you wouldn’t let me put it on the plate. I can’t get even a hint of red on you, so I walked home barefoot.
You are a place where someone agrees with me. I see you like people see traffic lights, except I fill the colours in myself. I am in a fast car and you are the red that makes me hit the brakes. Or you should be. You smoke so much that it fogs up my windshield and I speed past the intersections.
We ate till we were sick and the corners of my mouth felt sticky all night. You took me to wash up by the lake where I cut my ankles on seashells and glass. I must have bled runny red into the water. I didn’t see it happen because it was dark and I was thinking about how damp the air had become.
You are the water that does away with blood and other traces of death. I will wash my hair with you — knowing I am only rinsing away one shade of you to baptize myself with another.
I’m reblogging this because on Thursday this became the first piece of my own writing that I read aloud in public. I feel like commemorating that so I can always remember that I chose these words when I finally worked up the courage to do it for the first time.
Patent is a good colour on you.
Everything’s got more of a polish now. We know how to serve our eggs up black and shiny and not as scrambled as before. You won’t catch us getting our hands cut up in the alley behind some grungy teenage haunt, fumbling with the razor edges of the zipper on some older boy’s leather jacket.
The bones in our faces have finally settled into a place that can be called adulthood. Chequebooks and cufflinks are the currency now. Nobody here’s nostalgic for the baseball cap crowdfund that we used to drop our dimes into. Dollar bills to line the inside of our coat pockets and all.
Everyone’s wearing fine china white lapels and shoes that are spotless even underneath, smacking their limousine lipstick against each other’s cheeks. No more muddy sneakers or the jingle of quarters in our wallets — just the silence of plastic credit cards and the type of happiness money can buy.
Conversations With The Real Imagined Boys (9)
"I had this white knight complex back then. All a girl had to do was to be in desperate need of help for me to be attracted to her."
"And that’s how you got together with your last girlfriend?"
"No, actually. My girlfriend was never that girl. She could never be my girlfriend if I was in love with her. I know that’s screwed up… "
"Maybe it seemed more heroic that way. ‘I’m not your boyfriend, but I’ll save you anyway’ type of thing."
"Yeah, probably some bullshit like that."
St. Patrick’s Day
I wake up stuffed stiff with words only to fill myself up with more. In my afternoon poetry class, a man is ripped apart by a murderer about halfway down the page we’re all reading. I daydream about being torn open too, and feel surprised at the lightness of the words that fill the room like feathers do when people have pillow-fights in the movies.
Everyone is wearing green when I bother to pay attention again. I walk around in a sea of people dressed like summer leaves with an incomplete wound from my interrupted imagining. And there you are like the yolk at the center of everything, wearing gold — an unabashed announcement that you have never had to worry about curing a hangover.
I am only a little like you. Not loud enough to glitter, and dressed as your yellow shadow. Green is the colour of new growing things, and yellow is the shade of the pages aging on the library shelves. If I am going to be unlike the youth I am surrounded by, I wish I were golden like you, and not stale like the phonebooks that have sat on my doorstep all winter.
Reprinted Without Permission
I am waiting to leave this city because there is not even a hair’s breadth that I can have all to myself. You are in the gap between me and the other side whenever I have my hand pressed up to mirrors in public bathrooms. You are in the spaces between ripples whenever I throw stones into the lake. I can never get them to skip the way you did. The lake does not spread itself out like blue silk for me like it did for you. The city is not begging me to put it on like a winter shawl like it begged you.
But this city is here with its arms wide open telling me that you are the fill for that emptiness.
I enter buildings and my eyes play connect the dots with all of the places I have seen you stand inside them. A permanent wall-hanging in the shape of your silhouette is the first and last thing I see in a room. You are always the stirring in the air and the restlessness in the soles of my shoes. I am waiting to leave this city because I cannot bear to be in it without you.
And if I could do it all over again, I would do it just a little less than perfect. I am ready to do it once more if I can leave the buttons of my cuffs undone and make a mess of everything by kissing you for the first time. I want to live the year we spent in this city together all over again. I want to relive all of those moments that are still alive here even after you have left.
I want it all back, M, and this time I want to make sure that I spend every single second of that year falling in love with you.
I never used to give my phone number out. At my first university party, a stranger asked me how he could reach me if he wanted to see me the next day. And I lied because I didn’t know what else to do. I gave him a mixed up smattering of numbers — a sequence like tossing a handful of dice and then reading the results back to the dealer. I don’t even know if he bothered to call the next day.
Now I hand out the digits as though I’m saying, “you can have a piece of me as long as it gets the job done.” Everyone who calls me wants a girl who can be out the door in fifteen minutes upon request. Reliable. Put together behind the rolling shutters of a factory that they haven’t had to look inside. Something they do not need to know the origin of. I come like pineapple in a can — already sliced for your convenience.
Nobody invites me to parties any longer because I am always the host. Always the greeter at the entrance with the directions to the washroom committed to memory for all of the hotels and restaurants and bars downtown. I am a good smiler. It gets the job done.
The place the arrow shoots off from.
Sometimes on bus rides too long to sleep through, I think about all of our lives swirling away like the headlights of cars going the opposite direction on the highway. The whole world seems to move to the rattling of our footsteps racing to pass the baton to the hand waiting in the next morning — hanging just off the edge of the bed. We are all going to explode in different directions like sailing solo javelins and forget that we were ever young together. I like to imagine that I am leaving a string of bread crumbs like the white stripes trailing behind us on the roads we have already passed over — a path to help us find our way back again.
Your writing inspires me to write.
That’s wonderful to hear. Inspiring other people to write is pretty much the most amazing reaction to my writing I could ask for. I would love to read some of your writing some time too!
Something about the way you talk of winter puts me at ease — puts to rest the cold sweat that has lingered in the roots of my hair all day. The way you dwell on the dryness of cracked skin and the bark of trees that have no leaves anymore reminds me of a time before I knew the cold. A time where the closest I had ever felt to a different season was slipping my fingers underneath the carpet edges and dragging them along a length until my hands were chalky.
You speak about the greyness of February as though it is a drink you sip with a scarf around your neck. Everyone else walks around heavy like the sunlessness of the sky has poured cement into their boots. The clouds are not what is weighing me down. I have been carrying an ice pick in my pocket. You do not need any such tool. You carve your name into the transparent stillness of winter whenever you speak its name.