There are some moments when I picture myself standing in an empty room. Not really even a room. Just an empty space. I’m standing on something and nothing at the same time, I’m grounded and floating. There’s nothing in the world besides white desert sand and the deathly silence of an airport elevator.
There are moments when I have to stop. I’m sorry that I’ve forgotten myself. I’ve been left stranded in a desert valley somewhere while someone else acts out my part. I tell myself that I have to stop, I have to leave right now. I return to that empty space and fill it with the important things. Words lots of words new words that perfectly encompass an intangible thought. Punctuation when I feel like it. Music, dreams. A wall to lean on when the burden gets just a little too heavy. Warmth for my eternally bare feet. There’s nothing in the world I need to think about besides what’s here.
If I was sixteen and you were throwing rocks at my window at 3 in the morning, I’d sneak out with you to explore the dark side of the moon or the surface of the sun, or just to take a walk in a quiet town - your choice. Even now, there’s always a list of strange and meaningless things I’m dying to tell you. Number one on the list (although the list is in no particular order): you can hear the sound of spring rain in a lecture hall of a thousand students typing on their keyboards. Sometimes, if you stop to notice the wonderful and peculiar things, life becomes a little less overwhelming.
These days I stand in the desert and watch the sky. It’s the only way I know not to lose myself.
I’m a little lost for words these days. When I can’t sleep, I lie in bed and tell stories to the night. I remember when I was five, I cried as I told my mom that I thought I was a terrible person because I dreamt I stabbed a girl in the neck with an icepick. She said I wasn’t a terrible person because terrible people don’t think they’re terrible. It was nice but not very convincing.
After that I think my parents started arguing more often. When I was twelve I would leave the house and take hour-long walks around the neighbourhood while my parents argued in the basement. They thought I couldn’t hear them - we have a small house. I don’t think they noticed when I left. Once, my mom stormed out of the house and threatened to take the car and leave. My dad stood on the driveway so that she couldn’t drive the car out. I sat on the stairs listening to my parents screaming back and forth at each other. It probably looked ridiculous, but all I could think was God, I hope she doesn’t run him over.
I only go home once in a while now, mostly because it’s a two hour commute both ways. Sometimes I stay away long enough to forget the fighting.
I can see destruction and beauty every where I go. December brought a city destroyed by wind and ice, and when the lights went out for miles I could only see the collapsed trees lit up by the moon and the snow. The world was a black and white painting, and I wanted you to be there so that you could see the beauty I saw. There’s something about the darkness that brings people together. Even cars become civilized at intersections with broken traffic lights. I think my parents argued the least that Christmas.
When I was thirteen I heard my mom crying in the morning, telling my dad that she’d heard a sad song on the radio and it had made her think about him leaving her. He said she was being silly. I think that’s when I started to believe that if two people love each other, they have to argue a lot. Still, they were always good to me.
I leave a trail of stories and footprints behind me in the snow. Sometimes a bit of truth spills out and fills the spaces between words. When I was seventeen I dated a boy for three months without getting into a single argument. I think that made me anxious so I picked a fight about something trivial. Yes, I started it. I’m sorry that it all went downhill from there. I don’t even remember what we argued about. I leave a trail of regrets behind me in the snow.
When I wake up in the middle of the night, who will I talk to if it’s not you? I tell stories to the darkness so that I don’t have to remember them, so that I can go back to sleep. So that I can think about things like what I’m going to cook this week for dinner. I liked that I could wake up at night and tell you what I had just dreamt about. I never asked why you were always awake. Now when I wake up after a dream, I check that the night still holds all my stories.
When you walk me home, I like that the trip is 30 seconds longer because you go up the elevator with me.
A girl curled up on the staircase. There’s the sound of scratching puppy footsteps below and arguments above. Sometimes shutting out the noise isn’t a bad thing.
Bed head and scraggly face. Stumbling around in the early morning hours with heavy eyes. Sometimes hiding under the covers just makes time fly faster.
Endings. The drone of city traffic and biting cold can induce temporary amnesia. Sometimes it makes me sad to think of things that don’t stay.
I am my disassembled states.
You are my warm desert breeze.
This city is my favourite place in the world. It’s all shine and glitter, each streetlamp is a shower of silver-screen dreams blind to all faults and I think it’s perfect. But the truth is, I love it a little less when you’re not walking its streets too, and I think that’s an insult to this place. You’re always too eager to escape. You’re a 30-day trial and I have issues dealing with non-permanence. (I always delete apps when I find out that I’ll get cut off after four weeks - it must be a control thing.) These days I just stand beneath the pools of off-white light and watch the moths flutter frantically amongst themselves.
Somehow I find myself on the roof of the TD building where you stood six months ago. I look down at the people walking by, tiny spots moving back and forth. I could capture this moment and play connect-the-dots with their heads. I pretend that I can see a crack in the sidewalk where your skull hit the pavement. I imagine the ghosts of your memories floating up towards me saying, “Remember me. Remember how I was a flightless bird and could not hang on to the sky.”
I have this recurring dream that I’m sitting on top of a tall brick wall. On one side there’s a forest fire burning in the distance, and on the other side there’s complete darkness. And I’m sitting on top of the wall, too high up to jump down, with no memory of how I’d gotten there in the first place.
Have you ever tried to hold the moment of some significant change in your hand? Have you ever seen a pinecone fall to the ground? Stood outside as the rain stopped falling? Have you ever tried to grasp the moment when the night turns into dust and today becomes yesterday? There’s an immensity that escapes in that second; I keep trying to hold on to it but the moment I touch it, it slips through my fingers.
Have you ever seen a forest burst into flames?
The light from the fire holds my attention like some horrible car crash. The smoke is a mixture of ash and condescension, filling my lungs and choking me from the inside out. Condescension suffocates worse than smoke. If hell was real, this would be it. I can’t run, I can’t escape. All I can do is sit and stare and choke.
I consider jumping off the other side into the darkness. After all, I don’t know what’s down there. Maybe it’ll be nothingness. Maybe it’ll be concrete. Maybe I’ll wake up. All I know is that in the distance, a forest is burning.
But this is the messy art of facing things:
knocking over what I love with what
I avoid; only to learn again that
this is not of our timing.
It doesn’t matter what thorns we carry
or how we squirm to avoid their pain.
We unfold as long as we love,
pried into blossom.
You always said I have a great memory, so I’ll tell you a memory that you might not remember anymore. This was back when we still had lockers, back when I had “teachers” instead of “professors,” back when my no-good shenanigans kept me late at school cleaning chalkboards or some other appropriate form of punishment. Back when my friends and I would wait at each other’s lockers so that we could walk home together. But that day they must have gotten tired of waiting (or I hadn’t cleaned the chalkboards fast enough), because I arrived to a deserted hallway and a sheepish looking locker surrounded by no one. I whispered to a dust mote that it sure would be nice if I had someone to walk home with, and I swear you must have heard me because you came through those doors like I had wished you out of thin air. And I never figured out how you appeared by my side with such perfect timing. But I know that after all these years, it still feels like home when I’m walking next to you.
when i see you again
i’ll greet you twice
because once just isn’t enough
to say how much i missed you.