27 April 2011

28 November


Sometimes, when it’s really late, and it’s not so much that I can’t sleep, but just that I won’t, (such a coward I am, I can’t even say this on paper…. On paper that I will most certainly burn before it can do me any harm) … sometimes, maybe I break just a little. There among my pillows and the overabundance of blankets, because I get so cold. Maybe I reach for you, and maybe I .. maybe I imagine what it would be like having you there. Just to burrow into, just to float with, just to breathe beside, our dreams mixing above us in the shared, twining night. And these are the things I don’t allow myself to think all through the day. These are the things I mercilessly squash. Me with my metaphorical head-tossing and my defiance. Me with my barracks heart. But here. Here on this page. Under this moon. At this unearthly hour. Here is where I pull down the window dressing. Here is where that triple-security-locked heart is laid bare, seen, crumpled and deflated, lying on the cold ground, weak and weeping. And maybe I do cry. And maybe once in a while, I drag my blanket over to the window seat and drown in the tears and the hours, and the liquid stars. When the night is like a black ocean, and the fish that swim in it are the collected sorrows of the shadows of the hearts of men. And mine is there among them. And I watch it. Until I can’t anymore. Until it disappears into sleep.

24 April 2011

15 November


It   It has occurred to me that a girl writing love letters she has no intention of sending to a boy who is off limits to her for… well, ever; is not quite the same as a boy doing the same thing. When a man is struck down by love, it’s the stuff of romantic legend. When the same words come spilling out of a female, it only  savors of desperation. And pitiful … ness. Which is unfair. What is it about a woman that denies her  the right to be just as hopelessly love’s fool as a man? Austen said something to the effect of the following: “No heroine can fall in love with a man who has not first declared undying love for her.” (ok, that really shouldn’t be in quotes, because I’m pretty sure I butchered that puppy pretty good) But seriously. What’s that about? Why must we as women, in order to remain dignified and worthy of respect and love and admiration, only be allowed to love as a reaction? Why is it somehow inappropriate for the female of the species to love first? Or last? Or longest? (Austen had opinions about that too, but I think I’ve caused enough literary grave-rolling for one night) Are we not allowed the same breadth of emotion as the male? Why can’t my unrequited love be as honorable and heart-rending as that guy in Cholera? Why is my ridiculous devotion to someone who will never be free to love me; to someone who, when given the choice, picked some other girl; only desperate and pathetic, and not noble and fine and … mythical? Because it should be. Because you did. Because, honestly, where else would I go? Who else is there... after you.  Because I would rather bury this – deep and silent – and live with my sarcophagus heart, as long as I can, and still, in whatever small, insignificant way, be a part of you, than let it go and be ever diminished. Because in truth, Simon - you flawed and undeserving, wholly perfect specimen if man - your sweet absence is dearer me than the present dust of any other. 

23 April 2011

8 November


Simon. All of my happiest memories are with you. How can I make any new ones? When you’re… when you’re not… when it’s… now.

20 April 2011

4 November


Just thought I should let you know that I didn’t think of you at all today. Well, except for when Carver accidentally poured orange juice on his granola at break (he had decanted the rest of his oj into one of those cafeteria milk cartons to save space in his mini-fridge. It was bound to happen). Then – after I’d finished laughing at him, of course – I thought of our X-days and that one time we decided to make every meal into a smoothie and we made those orange juice-nutrigrain-banana-vitamin-egg smoothies… those were gross. Not, however, anywhere near as gross as the avocado-cheddar-wrap-snapple-grapes travesty that constituted lunch. … heh. Oh wow, do you remember the one where we couldn’t speak English… and then you got the call from the dean, and you couldn’t … yeah. I guess you do. Anyway, so aside from that, I didn’t think about you today.  Not even when the rain was pounding on the porch roof and I unwrapped myself from the lair of my blanket and coffee and book, and decided to kidnap Erin from next door, so I stole her away from her Spongebob, and we ran out into the backyard and did cartwheels and slid down that hilly part behind the house and laid ourselves down on the splashy grass and watched the raindrops fall at us like a missile assault… not even then.  Not much. 

18 April 2011

2 November


Took a morning run today. And it was this amazing morning. There’s no real reason, why I should compare it to what I’m about to compare it too, but somehow it felt like opening my grandma’s music box when I was small – you remember, the one with the doves on the top, that I wasn’t allowed to touch, but I would sneak into her bedroom when she thought I was going to the toilet, and stand on my tiptoes and drag it off the bureau and crouch down in the tiny space between the bureau and the closet and my heart would start to beat really fast and I would imagine the things that would happen when I opened the lid, and then I would, ever so slowly, peeking through the crack and watching to see the exact moment when the music would start… and then It would, and the little bird would spin around that tree in the center, and the song would play – clair de lune… of course – and I would sit there, and feel like I was on some kind of magic carpet of music box Debussey… and somehow that was what this morning was like. The mist off the lake, all brown and still and glassy… and I had to stop a moment on that footbridge over the meadow… I’ve never seen it like that before. It was this incredible patchwork of colors… gold and brown and green and the purple of the Spanish broom and those yellow spiky things, and this red-orange color that has sprung up everywhere this fall… the birds swooping low, and that little soft spring bubbling and it was that same feeling. Like I had opened some magical box and there was this beauty just pouring out all around, and me wrapped right up in it. And then I wished for you. Because I always wanted you to be there in my grandma’s room, those times I escaped with clair de lune. And because I know you would have known. …. And … and I wasn’t going to say this, because, well, because it’s one of those especially pathetic things, but nobody reads these anyway, so what the hell… and because I pretty much wish you were everywhere I am. And because I can’t forget what it feels like sitting on the jetty like we used to, me all wrapped up between your arms, my head leaning back in that place it fit so perfectly. That place just below your collarbone. And the way you’d always wrap my hand up inside yours, all safe and snug, and the way I could hear your heart beating, and our breathing would always match up… and I miss you in ways I can’t even say. And this morning was a treasure. Glorious. But it wasn’t half as nice as it would have been if you had been there to stand behind me on the bridge, with your hands around my waist, feeling your breath on my hair, and eventually we’d find ourselves swaying like we always did. Making a dance of everything. 
And I have to stop. Because … because I might actually kill myself one of these days with what isn’t. With what can’t even ever be. With you.

13 April 2011

24 October


Why on earth do you do this? Simon, honestly, sometimes I just want to throw something bulky and dense at your dense and bulky head. What in the green and blessed world do you think this is going to accomplish? I mean, it’s hard enough, you know.. . hard enough to wade my way through these thick, liquid days managing the fact that… well, the undeniable facts of us. And most days I can get along just fine. You know, loving you… well, most days it can just make me better. Like… wanting to swim the Atlantic Ocean or something. The kind of thing you know you’ll never actually achieve. Because it’s not possible. It’s not even in the realm of the hypothetically plausible… but still, you have it, and you keep it there, close and huge and bright, and it makes you do bigger and be more, and aim higher than you would if it were gone… most days. And most days I’m fine with it. Your heart is spoken for. I, well, I left and you … chose someone else. And you were probably right to do that. And most days I can choke down the fact that I can’t breathe, and I can swallow the pressing ache of seeing you and your family, and smiling and being, nothing to you. And then you … you go and do something like this. Right in the middle of what was a simple, un-aching conversation… or at least not any more aching than usual. And you have to break off right in the middle of your story about Henry and that guy at the bank, and stop and look away and take those steadying breaths and then look back at me… and kick my whole decent, manageable world right off its axis. Because there it is. That same look. The one I’m wearing all the time underneath. The old one. The one from that day under the oak, when you kissed me and the sky was turquoise and smooth between the branches. That day everything I thought about decided to grow legs and arms and a consciousness and build cities and walk around and fly through the hitherto vacant airspace of my soul. That day I knew I loved you. And not like I had before. Not like my best friend. Not like another part of me that I’d be lost without, although you’ve been those things as long as I can remember, but as something else entirely. As something new and precious and shining and wonderful. As something completely different and completely necessary. That was the day that I saw something that was nothing less than the most real and beautiful and incomprehensible expression of God that I had ever seen. And how could I keep from loving you? And how could I keep everything inside, all that newly born metropolis of spirit, from reaching out for you with every limb and thought and movement? It was that look today. And I swear my organs all turned to granite and stopped functioning and dropped right out of my body onto the pavement, shattering into a million shards of heart and lung and thyroid and pancreas. And all of the invisible molecules of that invisible city that spins and works and lives and dies inside me, every one of them dropped what they were doing and turned and reached for you. 
You there, kicking the pavement with the toe of your scuffed shoe, hands in pockets, eyes searching mine, and I could no more have moved from that spot any more than I could have grown gills and swam away.
And you said nothing. So long. And it was probably not even a full minute, and your hand kept creeping out of its pocket, trying to say what you couldn’t. Pulling at your collar, and carving the shape of my arm in the air just beside it, without ever touching. And everything got blurry, and I had to move. To break it or I would have exploded, right there, like a star, pushing itself apart by the force of its own burning, until at that precise moment, when some tiny neutrino lodged in its furnace heart finally decides to take one baby step to the left,  and the molecular bonds burst and it soundlessly, in one cornea-melting blaze of light, and with shockwaves sent speeding out to the ends of the universe, bending grasses and expanding like ripples on a lake face, ceases to be. And so I looked away, and closed my eyes, shields to guard against that too-anguished look, and suddenly your mouth was at my ear, and your breath in hoarse whisper; a short exhale, and then, “I love you.” And one half-heart-beat of your hand on my arm, and then you were gone, striding down Jasper Lane fishing your phone out of your pocket and knocking into a trashcan on the corner.
And I had to stop in the ladies room at Harper’s Market and cry until my nose and eyes were all red and no amount of splashing with cold water was going to fix that. And my plans of moving into Dreiser tomorrow in class and then grading a little, and stopping by the field on the way home to watch the clouds over the hill, and the sky burn itself out on watercolor fire; of calling up Stephanie tonight and making hummus and working on the paper… all of that suddenly slid off the plate of today like so much spaghetti in careless hands. And I know I’ll spend twice as much time walking home than I would have, and I won’t get half of the grading done that I need to, and Stephanie will remain uncalled, and Dreiser will hang back, unintroduced, and all I will do is hear those words. Over and over. And feel the heat of your hand as it warmed the air around me and the bright spark of it when you touched my arm. And it will take weeks for me to stop looking for you to look at me like that again. To find that emotion again, hidden under the distracted smiles and the friendly, moderate words… and I don’t know how to keep myself afloat when you storm that way. And I love you, Simon. And we’re not free to say those things. And it’s not fair for you to say them. And I hate when you say them.
And good Lord, I should leave. Find some professorship in Morocco and meet some nice boat builder named Hassad, and spend our weekends on the Canary Islands taking an amateur interest in underwater photography and digging for pirate gold…
And I get as far as going online to look at openings (not necessarily in Morocco), and then I get an email from you and it’s a some obscure reference to that time we climbed the spruce tree with cables and beaners as practice for all the mountain climbing we planned to do as adults (could have perhaps found a better use for our time… ), and we got up, but couldn’t figure how to get down, and ended up spending a number of long, hungry hours clinging to sappy, scratchy limbs… and all is suddenly well again. And I can’t help smiling. And I tap the keys for a minute and then click out of the job search and get up and put some coffee on, and maybe I will call Steph after all, and I should look over the Dreiser for tomorrow, and … and that’s that, I suppose.

11 April 2011

12 October


Thunderstorms tonight. The world all compressed and shivering. The atmosphere throwing a fit. And the rain slashing the air and the lightning like electrical exclamation points. Livid punctuation. And Rodney called to check up on me when the lights went out. He’s sweet. Rodney. You remember him, he works at the University. In the library. The stacks. He’s the argyle one, but he wears it too earnestly. So it’s not really the same. Anyway, we talk from time to time when I’m in there, and we’ve done a few lunches and one or two faculty show things. So he called to check and I felt like company, so I invited him over to share the storm and figure out how to make coffee over the fire.  So he came, dear man, through driving rain and cracking thunder, and was graciously received with kerosene and candlelight.  He dried out and we burned the coffee and some of my potholders, and we played scrabble and I made one of those junior high thingies with deep questions in them and we tried to talk about faith, but he said he didn’t want to speculate on that, so we tried the space-time continuum, and he was good for that for a while- Physics degree. And then we ran out of wood and the fire died down and I got out some blankets and we wrapped up. And he decorously leaned against me. And it was very friendly and companionable. But as hard as I tried to pry some kind of … something from him; tried to lift the lid and let out whatever was trapped underneath… I think what was underneath was pretty much more of the same. And so sometimes you just have to accept that. And it’s funny. I always thought he was older. But do you know he graduated the same year as Andy. This life is a strange thing. The way we all grow up individually, becoming something that is ours alone. Made of all the same materials. Like children in preschool, we all start out with the same collection of blocks, but each child’s creation is something individual and distinct.
Anyway, it was a nice evening. Pleasant. And he was courtly and intelligent. And made a few jokes which were appreciated if not for their particular brand of humor, then at least for their existence in our evening. And he told me I was inspiring and that I made him feel so new… sigh. But if that was him all open and shiny and new… well, then there isn’t really any place to go is there? And he held my hand at the door when he left. And I smiled. And he isn’t you, Simon. And when he dropped the hot pad in the fire and we had to fish it out with the poker, he was grimly serious, and overly apologetic. And there wasn’t one comment to remember. And I couldn’t help thinking that if it had been you, that silly potholder would have become some private joke between us, and I would have kept it somewhere under the sink where I could see it and remember and laugh again. Instead of just tossing it into the wastebasket after soaking it thoroughly in the sink to get rid of the singed smell. And there was no hint of boldness in him. His eyes didn’t do any of the things that yours do. They didn’t burn and devour the way yours do when you’re on a topic that you love. They didn’t laugh or even grin when I tried to feign seriousness about my space-time questions. There wasn’t any twinkle of challenge, or lifted eyebrow of daring. They didn’t slow down and swirl with …  well, they weren’t your eyes, and the hand he offered as zenith of the night was cold and though he smiled as he took mine, his smile was just a smile. With nothing behind it but smiling. And perhaps some hoping. But what are his hopes? How big are they? Big enough? Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. Maybe I’m not being fair. He likes Tolstoy. That has to earn him points or something. If he can find something in there that twitches in him, familiar. And there’s nothing wrong with people being simply what they are.
I just… he’s just not enough. And really… his name is Rodney. He needs some nice, quiet, bright, timid Rebecca or something. I’d end up freaking him out. And I missed you tonight. And did my very best to not think about what you were doing. I’d say I was 77% successful. 

05 April 2011


Little Avelyn came up to me today. She’s beautiful. She’s like a rolling carnival of sunshine. Sparks shooting off of her in every direction. Those eyes. They’re your eyes you know. Green and deep and full. A museum of possible things. All the things that might be. That will be someday. That are the beautiful gold-leafed spines of books we have yet to read. But her smile is Adelle’s. And those silvery blonde curls. Such a fortune she was born to. What must it be like to live your days in the company of a dancing ray of light? Anyway. She was at the lake with your mother and we walked together out to the dock and sat and fed the ducks and she sang me the song about the crow who went to market. “his vest of purple and gold, hopping along the rafters, for to choose an apricot.”
                And we talked of school, she loves art class. And her best friend is Daisy Cranston. And she wanted my opinion as to whether it would be worth it to ask for a trip to Disney world for Christmas. I told her it never hurts to ask. Her legs, clad in slouching socks and scuffed pink maryjanes kicked the entire time, and she talked to the ducks. There was one, one of those beetle-shiny, green-headed males, that was particularly handsome in the bright of the day and she named him Senor Herman. She advised him to be a fair ruler (he was the duck king, you see) and to be sure that all of his drab subjects got the same number of soggy bread crusts. Then she asked what would have happened had the Emperor who had no clothes  been a duck. Because they don’t have any clothes anyway. And so nobody would have cared.
                What an amazing thing is a child. It was nice being one, but I think it may perhaps be even nicer to watch one. To watch the light burn and burn behind their eyes, and see it shoot out of their fingertips and glow down the strands of their hair. To watch it dance in their feet and swim in their expressions… of love and hate and wonder and faith and sadness.
                Your mother is well. She says you are working too hard. That you aren’t sleeping. But when have you ever slept? Always preferring the dark hours. Not wanting to miss even one minute of your life. We would stay up reading. Two books, but we’d share them so much that we’d both end up having read both books at the same time. Or out, having successfully escaped the bonds of doors and windows and walls, out under the moon, on the roof of the porch, dreaming and humming and making our plans.
                She says Adelle is doing well with Jantz. Also that she bakes an amazing lemon chiffon cake.  I think sometimes, often really, about leaving. Getting out. Maybe New York. Maybe Prague. Maybe Australia. Maybe.

04 April 2011


I caught a glimpse of a rising moon out the window on the way to the kitchen this evening, and suddenly it was the night of Caroline’s lost cat. Do you remember the moon that night? It played music for us and we tiptoed among the fir trees, trying not to make any kind of noise that might wake the Conklins, trespassing as we were on their property at close to two o’clock in the morning, calling in raspy whispers to that infernal cat. It was rising then too, the moon, and Adelle at home, because she hates to be out in the night air, and Caroline and Keith on their own whispered, tiptoed path somewhere to the west of us. And how it felt like a night stolen from time’s basket. Like a night from a fairy tale. The trees and brush softly aglow, the hush of the hour, the thrill of the air, and you taking me by the hand as we clambered over boulders and wound our way in and out of the banks of the small stream, secret in the shadows, trying to keep dry and to smother our laughter, and to not look at each other too closely, or too long, and yet wanting nothing else. You incredulous about Caroline and why in the world she would keep vital information in a pouch attached to the cat’s collar. And me sailing along at your side, talking us away from dangerous subjects, swollen inside with the warmth of your hand in mine.  And the moon an orange ember in the sky. Maize-colored and warm and near.  And we came upon that clearing all tapestried in moonlight, pinned back with glittering stars, rippled like a pool of gold, and we stood there, breathless and you took my hand in both of yours and held it to your heart. Your fingers around my wrists –as of old – where the blood ran, where life made its mysterious revolutions underneath, you used to say. And I flowed like a liquid. And my heart swam out into that glowing circle of moon and magic, and I couldn’t stop your hand from touching my hair, any more than I could stop my head from falling onto your shoulder. And you whispered my name to me there. In that insubstantial moment. Under that chimerical moon. Tonight is an infernally palpable echo. 


You came to my window that day. That yellow and grey day in autumn. You came and tapped on the glass. You with your boy’s grin and your wild eyes. And I was wrapped up in some or another project of mine, and I was annoyed to be interrupted. And I shooed you away. And you climbed inside. And sat on the windswept windowsill and laughed at me. And how could I help but laugh as well. And then you stopped and there was a sorrow hung over your face like a veil. And so we leaped from that afternoon window in the mellow brown of September and with coats and scarves we walked through the hours.
And we spoke of … oh who can recall. All of those words, spilled out like careless clouds leaking thoughts, soaking the mountains, the meadows turning to gold, the trees, dripping with syllables and phrases and snips of laughter and snags of joy. There, then, walking in a rain of careless words, each one a gossamer string tethering our hearts together, you shone like an ancient lamp in the melancholy world. So true. And also troubled. For how can truth walk untroubled through this false place and dim. Simon. It’s hard not to wish for those days back. Those days of extravagant affection. When we did not have to guard our words, our looks, our hearts. Me, at any rate. When we were wide and open and free and clean. And just a little mad. For was it you or I that day who suggested hitchhiking to Malafee?  Walking there in that narrow strip of dirt and rocks between the woods and the highway, not really believing we were doing what we were doing, and yet not really believing either that we could be doing anything else. And then that beat old dodge dart and that man that smelled of apple cider and dirty sheets. And the way we watched the world blur by out those triangle shaped windows. Listening to his plaster voice and making up wild stories to answer his barrage of questions. Sneaking eloquent looks at one another after each answer. And our grace of thought, acrobatic and aerial. And our youthed, heedless hubris. That we were alive. And wonderful. And breathtaking, and that the world was ours to ride. And I caught your hand and the circle was closed, bound look and hand to you. And our souls were in a perpetual state of giddy delight. Ravished as we were by each shining moment. By each falling leaf; that fell – as it ought – for only us. The festival of living. Simon. And now. Well. Now we are wiser. And older. And more sedate. And the leaves fall of their own accord and not ours. And the sky turns to gloom or gladness with the fronts of warm and cold, blue and red on the invisible weatherman’s map, and not to humor our whims. And you no longer climb through windows, and I won’t be hitching rides to meaningless destinations any time soon. And we are grown now. Men and women. We have tamed our souls. And taught them decorum and how to fit into the too-tight clothing that is approved by the overlooking world.
And tonight. Under this sky of lambent blue and heathered clouds. Tonight I can’t seem to quiet the restless windy Lilly inside who keeps pelting me with paper airplanes. Made of old letters. And I open each one and on it is a single word: Why?


It’s too much, sometimes. All of this. This amazing day of filtered, glittering sunshine. This shelf of books to ingest and grow from. This life full –so so full – of hope and bloom and glorious discontent. This poor, stupid, stretched-out heart of mine crammed full of the love of you. You are such a beautiful place, Simon. You are a warm, familiar landscape. You are a heart-stopping panorama view. You are an adventure on the next page; an afternoon drive through greening hills soaked in wonder and heavy with light. Simon. Such a thing is this life. How we always have so much of what we don’t want, and never enough of what we do. I suppose though, if somehow everything we wanted most fell neatly into our laps, wrapped in silver paper and tied with careless abandon, we would soon enough come to find those things dull and unimportant, and begin to long for something new. For what is man if not inconstant. An everchanging melody, never content with the verse it is on, but constantly moving through choruses and up and down transitions, leaping through narratives like badly transcribed gazelles.  Ah, these metaphors. But this is how things are with me, well you know. Flashing images pressing one hard upon the other in my restless brain. And I strive to catch them as I can. And here, I can afford to be extravagant. For no one will see these pages. Least of all, you. But the laws of reason demand that there be some kind of outlet for all of this. And I can’t seem to bring myself to write in a journal. It seems either too stuffy, and that I must make it some kind of ledgered record of the hideously mundane events of quotidianae; or, even worse; sickeningly egotistical, overflowing with every last emotion, and written in bubbly, pre-teen letters, possibly in purple ink, with all of the I’s dotted with little hearts. And so, as I can’t write that way, and because I like to pretend (I am ever so much bolder in my imagination) that I will actually say these things to you, these shall be letters. Letters to you, Simon. The boy who I, so long ago, tripped over and fell smack into love with, a fall from which I have not been able to rise. This may be because I haven’t the will to try… it’s hard to say. Sometimes I’m convinced that you’re not really anything that special. That everything I love about you is just my own imagination coloring in all the unknowns. And that loving you this way is folly. And then we speak. Or I see you somewhere, in some completely commonplace activity, and you shine, as you do, and then I know that it’s you. That you’re the one. And it doesn’t matter whether or not we can be together as others are. That it doesn’t matter even, if you know all of this, or if you feel anything similar for me… that none of this matters because none of it can be helped. And so, then, for the sole purpose of the unburdening of a too-full heart, I’m writing you. Words you’ll never read. Which gives me license to overindulge. Just a bit. Read gently, then, as you don’t read these words. With some sympathy, and whatever understanding you can muster, dear Simon who does not hold these pages in your hand. It’s all for you.