Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Behold the fractured notes I've culled from the depths of my phone.
Lying in bed in a gentle Ativan fog, allowing the cats in, wearing black sweatpants a black tee shirt that says old York (as opposed to New York you see) and large alpaca socks sent in the mail from my mother. I luxuriate in leafing through the entirety of the New Yorker reading most of it in sequence. The cotton wool wrapping that cuddles my brain thanks to Ativan has me languid with hard-won rest after a day of fevered sentimental panics. Something about sitting up in bed reading the New Yorker brings to mind cohabitation and placid domesticity in the cold weather and I can't help but feel that the only thing that could make this momentary oasis nicer would be some sedate (because I am sedated!) sex. I think about calling the ex as if it's a real possibility knowing that I'd never be able to take the rejection of being a warm willing body deemed unworthy. hypothetical details seem to glow slyly with primitive wisdom that I can only understand in my sleep. I'm too thick with fatigue and drugs to appreciate their arcane lessons so I peel the dry skin from my lips the result of chewing them nervously and a terrible habit and distractedly make a mental list of sensory upsets from the ex's imagined presence. Careful to caress them piecemeal and quickly before they're fleshed out enough to conjure his image like an abandoned Paint by numbers. A white under tee that is the tiniest bit too short for his frame. The peppermint soap and barbasol. The enticing little trail of fur below the belly button on an otherwise mostly smooth torso. A hand gently gripping my throat, a ticklish kiss where he pushed aside some soft elastic. I cut myself off at that, like the former smoker who's allowed himself one glorious secondhand huff outside the restaurant. I find my place in the article I'm reading again and consider letting the cats sleep with me. Maybe. It's warmer. 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Minnehaha Watershed District

When I first moved into this apartment, I was grateful for its proximity to my old house. It made moving easier and guaranteed the help of the ex, who has an uncanny ability to scramble in and out of the backs of pickup trucks in slippery brogues, without the use of hands, wiry but unaccountably strong. He can load three rooms' worth of furniture into the back of a truck in ten minutes. But I digress.

I took the first apartment I was offered, far too expensive, but convenient, and probably the only place that would have accepted an unemployed tenant. In the days before I found this place, I was accompanied by near-constant nausea from the tension of desperately needing to get out of that house for the sake of my own sanity, and the grief and stubbornness that on a deeper level made me want to remain.

I now live one block south of the most emotionally-loaded intersection, for me, in the world. I can't explain how exactly it came to be that way, rather than the street corner in Paris where I was mugged by three teenagers (well, they were my age then, I suppose), the street I must turn on to when I visit my parents for the holidays (it's remained the only option even as the town has grown, as they're surrounded by woods), or the cross street Andrew and I parked on for six years, across from our drafty craftsman duplex. Regardless, I have one seemingly insignificant memory associated with turning left onto 42nd Street from Portland Avenue, and this memory, which used to cause a warm rush to the solar plexus, now brings a dull, looming sense of dread, and hot on its tail, a constriction of the chest and embarrassing, short gasps for air that I've become good at hiding in mixed company, especially if I pretend to yawn, as people who know me also know that yawning gives me red nose and watery eyes, as if I've been crying. Andrew noticed, though, when he came to visit. Usually I'm alone at this intersection. He asked what was happening. I shook my head, turned up the radio, and he kept looking at me, sighed, furrowed his brow.

I do what I can to avoid this intersection, and sometimes it necessitates driving quite out of the way. I live in exactly the worst location for this, relative to my most frequent errands. About half the time, I force myself to use it for its convenience, either with a practiced distraction or a feebly "triumphant" attitude.

From my old loft, I made this left turn countless times during the late winter of 2015. The memory that gnaws at me most is of the coldest night of that February. I had had no plans to go out. I had been in bed, reading, and texting with my friend while he worked. In those days, he worked until two or three in the morning. I joked about how cold my uninsulated apartment was, how the heater hadn't kicked off in eight hours and still only managed to maintain a sixty-one degree ambient temperature. "Come over!" He said. He had given me a key a few months ago, but I had never used it except when he'd been in the shower and couldn't answer the door. I hemmed and hawed. It was late, but it seemed like a good idea. "Get warm! I'll leave work at 1:30."
In the car, I played 'Slave to Love' at top volume, and enjoyed a dorky dreamy sway as I drove through the empty streets. It was during the previous few days that I acknowledged to myself that I had Big Feelings for my friend, and immediately suppressed them. I thought I'd noticed the same thing turn in him, but he was married, so I did my best to ignore it. Occasionally I'd let the butterflies roam free in my stomach. It happened as I was driving that night, and I let it.
It was so absolutely gelid that I drove extra fast.  The route between my place and his was a satisfyingly straight, two-mile "L".  I let myself into the cosy house, lay down on the couch, put in earbuds and pulled the quilt over my head. I listened to Sparks' 'Sherlock Holmes'. Our favorite. I sent him an awkward selfie (I'm using that word, finally. I've folded) lying on the couch: "Creepin' in yr house, stealin' yr heat". I dozed. There was no way I could have remained asleep through the rumble of his truck pulling into the back, or him unlocking the back door, hanging up his coat and removing his boots, but I kept still, so comfortable, with my eyes closed. "Aww," he said quietly when he came in the room, thinking I was asleep, and I laughed. He made us tea. I don't remember what else we did that night. It must have been the first time I spent the night there, while his wife was away. We slept head-to-foot on the couch, his arm looped around my calves snugly so I wouldn't slide off. He stroked my feet which were in fuzzy alpaca socks and I fell asleep trying to puzzle out if he had kissed the sliver of exposed skin at my ankle before he nodded off, or if he'd fallen asleep with his cheek against my foot.

At 42nd and Portland, each time, I relive for a millionth of a second the happiness, the calm, and the anticipation, of that single evening. After we fell in love I took that left turn countless times more when it was decided that I would move in with him. I borrowed one of the trucks he was working on and every day for a week, while he was at work, I made that trip, bringing boxes from the loft to the new home.  Later, we drove that same stretch of road to death, moving my things yet again, while he ate sunflower seeds and I held my breath to keep from sobbing, crying, saying anything at all that might reveal the mess inside.

But that night imprinted itself on me first. Then comes the sadness that knocks the air right from my lungs, but before, just for a blink, I can remember what it was like to feel warm for the first time in years.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

I dreamt of a painted bride, Kosovo pagan-style. I wonder what it signifies. I don't tend to think of dreams as significant but I always want them to be. 

Yesterday at a long red light, a Vietnam veteran was panhandling and I gave him a dollar. "You look like that Irish singer!" he said. Very boisterous. I smiled gamely. "Sinead O'Connor?" I don't look like her, but people don't see past the lack of hair.  "Love that rebel spirit honey!" He guffawed and flashed the peace sign. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

motorcycles and nothing else

I smoked a black cigarette and as I scrubbed the scent off my body in the shower my mouth tasted like him. Not as he tastes in actuality, but how he tastes in some metaphysical region of my brain, like James Joyce's watercolors and foggy half-remembered emotions. My lips were numbed and spicy as a souk. 

I walked twelve thousand steps late at night down Lake Street. No one bothered me or acknowledged me but one man brimming with swagger and bearing a shopping bag steaming with fried chicken and potato wedges. "Hey, lovely," he said, and kept walking. I chose to offer him a tooth grinch smile. Whistles from friendly wolves. How do they know I'm female when I have no hair and am hunched and swaddled against the wind in a hoodie and pants and pants and boots? 

Song for Zula came on in my ears when I was outside a Mexican bakery, momentarily gazing in at the still pastel offerings asleep in their neon lit cases. I don't believe that Zula is a real person but I swipe at my eyes hard with the back of my hand and glance left and right quickly, in case anyone has seen.

I meet cats when I walk at night. Most are furtive and busy as their nocturnal alter egos, but some come to me. I meet one on a stone wall that reminds me of the fat marmalade cat that jumped from the birch tree, that day by the lake, narrowly missing my face with a flash of its clumsy startled claws. I stood with my back pressed against the stark white bark and your hands were around my waist, your thumbs pressing in, in, until they met at my navel and I exhaled as I melted and left a breath hanging visible in the cold air. 

If I have to be alone, I want to be alone, on salt flats, on the motorcycle. You can go in any direction. Everything about a motorcycle is sexual, don't listen to the rational people. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

I'm daunted and impressed by people who have the courage to let their bodies display their personal histories, because I have every desire to make my history invisible. The parts of my body that nettle me when I look in the mirror aren't glaring because of years well-lived but because they're marks left by grinding, pointless pain. I don't look at lines around my mouth and see summer holidays, I see fragile burst capillaries and tiny cobwebs around my eyes and a deep furrow between my brows, nights of waking in the dark and finding my face sticky with tears. Sometimes my reaction is just anthropological, detached and musing, a genuinely puzzled passing interest in how I could possibly be so broken and so outwardly (almost-) functional. Cosmetic clues to identifying the walking wounded on the street?
Other times I find myself wishing--hard--for the trappings of a coddled suburban lifestyle I never would have found appealing in the past. Botox, fillers, easy procedures. There's certainly a little bit of anger, against a background of general health-centred gratitude, at the notion that every time I look at myself, I have to see the past months of experience stamped across my face, mostly due to lack of money. Once I laughed out loud at myself in utter disgust for imagining charitable professionals who will erase emotional battering from your face, in the manner of tattoo artists who cover mastectomy scars, etc. My own confused vanity is always hissing to me that these flaws will keep away romantic prospects, and depending on the day, this is either a dire warning or a watery concession to circumstance ("Keeping them away precludes the formation of more wrinkles, yes?").
On the other hand, grief has given me a body that I hadn't seen since my twenties. Lack of appetite, compulsive running and yoga (seemingly the only effective anodyne measures available without social contact), and occasionally, twelve hours' sleep a night, excavated my clavicle and scooped out the taut line of my abdominals. This only lasted a couple of months. The toll of stress-eating has fleshed me back out into a doughy, loosely-assembled bag of viscera. The weight is kinder to my face. At some point bone structure works against you, the cheekbones that gave you definition just make you look ghoulish when sadness enters the picture. I can't win. I'm not certain I want to win, if I'm in competition with my own body. I'm not sure what that would mean in terms of flesh.
And that's all I'll write on the matter. What a nasty, shallow business. Inhabiting a human form.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

the house i lived in

the house i lived in, went missing. it walked away, i suppose, like baba yaga's hut on lanky chicken legs. it kissed me on top of the head in imitation of a human, it blithely walked out leaving behind a shucked-off shabby wooden exoskeleton, a carapace that i could cling to with my hands. but the pulsing soft center of it had gone. 

i sat on the chipped honeycomb tile of the bathroom floor, but only after you'd left. i put tiny half-moon marks in the giving flesh of my upper arms while i thought about the places on my body that your tongue had visited often, when my temple touched the cool porosity of the beast-footed tub, i thought about the times we couldn't look away from each other in the half-dark and finally slept with our damp foreheads pressed together. in the front parlor which awkwardly held a bed that wasn't ours, you gave a shrug and a smile even after i showed you the ugliest, the darkest parts of my brain and my heart. at the very center of the wooden structure, months earlier, we'd reified something as the snow fell. the something bought us entrance to the back-most room, which became a proper bedroom for the first time in at least five years. 

later, this breathing house disgorged me unceremoniously. it settled back on its chipped cement haunches, i can only assume, after i left, and swallowed you up again eagerly late that night. it lapped you up and this lit its rooms goldish-warm. Smug and satisfied and amoral as Nature in its ramshackle exclusivity. 

now in my spartan and over-expensive treehouse that is not a home i imagine i can see the house i lived in, two miles away as the crow flies. i can reach across the distance and prise the roof away with my giant clumsy hand and extract the secret mollusk heart, i could split that house in two, and grow myself a whole new house. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


be strong like the mountain says the master
the mountain i chose is the ghost of a mountain that migrating butterflies
still veer around when they're crossing lake superior. millions of years ago the mountain was but now it is not.