100 Words: #38-40

38. Rainbow

The rainbow hues of the world drain to black and white when you leave.  It feels wrong, strange.  This is not your space and yet when you leave, the holes in your wake are gaping, as if you’d been there since the beginning.

It’s quiet, uncomfortably and strangely and achingly quiet.  You aren’t there to shift the blankets in bed next to me, to run the shower while I’m in another room, to type away at a laptop while I lay on the couch pretending to read and just listening instead.  

My apartment is small, capable of fitting two but filled with enough to make it suitable for maybe one and a half at most.  Three years to come to terms with the silence of an independent space.  But having you slot into the spaces felt right; never claustrophobic, never overtaxed, just right.  In the span of just a few days, you became as permanent a fixture as the hum of the dehumidifier, or the washing machine that beats out strange rhythms when it gets a little too full.

You fit in so well that it’s easy to forget that you are not designed for this this space, that it is Mine, that you are a Guest, that you have a home and that this is not it.

I had never known what it was like to miss someone, body and soul, with every single atom of my being until I got to hold you here and then had to give you back.  Until I wanted to clean out half of my dresser to make room for you.  Until I wanted one of the empty spaces in the toothbrush holder to be filled by yours.

I had never known what it was like to fall so hard that someone could take colors with them.
39. Self

They say you can’t love someone until you love yourself first, but I’ve found that’s not true.  You can love someone deeply and fiercely, love them with every ounce of your soul and heart, love them with an intensity you’ve never felt toward anything in your life.  You can love them love them love them until the world stops turning and the stars stop shining and the sun dies away, until the universe is dark and cold and warmed with nothing but that love.

They say you can’t love someone until you love yourself, but that’s not true.  You just can’t let them love you back.

40. Humid

It’s hot in Texas.

More accurately, this particular bar in Austin, Texas is hot.  Stifling.  It’s all open air, and sticky humidity is stagnating in the windowpanes, the gentle occasional breeze unable to carve a path through too many bodies packed tightly together in not enough space.  You can feel a bead of sweat trailing down the nape of your neck, and you take a long draught of the cold beer condensating in front of you hoping that it’ll do something.  It doesn’t.

You’re buzzed – not drunk, definitely not drunk enough to mistake your decision for a good idea – but it doesn’t stop you from pushing back your chair abruptly and leaving the bar, dialing an all-too-familiar number and dropping a handful of crumpled bills from your purse next to your half-finished drink as you do.  You’re not drunk, it’s a bad idea, and consciously you know that calling Him from a bar when He hasn’t called you back in weeks is A Bad Choice That You Should Reconsider, but the phone is ringing, it’s ringing, it rings twice, three times, and then, “Hello?”

You had thought that you wouldn’t be affected by the simplest syllables only half-heard through the noise of the bar and the tinniness of of an only-partially-functioning cell phone speaker, but a shiver runs down your spine anyway.  You respond, “Hey.”

“…Do you need something?” And it’s confused.  As confused as you are, honestly.

“So you got a new job?”  You blurt it out without and pretense of small talk, the tip of a knife carving straight to the point.  Get the whole damn thing over with, you tell yourself, as if you weren’t the one who picked up the phone.

“Yeah, I mean.  It’s been good.  Desk job.  We don’t really get that much hands-on stuff anymore, but it’s good.  It’s really good.”  He sounds genuine.  Happy.  He sounds like all the things you could never make him.

You squeeze your eyes shut and lean back against the wall.  Despite the miles of distance separating you, despite the lo-fi quality of a degenerating cell phone, you hear music in the background.

“Are you out?”

“What?”

“Are you out?  Like, are you at a club?”

“Why?” He laughs.  You can imagine him shifting awkwardly at the question, a smile on his face, a glint of confused defiance hiding in chocolate brown eyes.  “You’re out, too.”

And you can’t say anything, because it’s true.  You don’t know why it bothers you so much to know that He’s out in a club; you’re both independent now, both adults who can do whatever you like.  And without anyone weighing Him down, it’s not like He’s going to spend Saturday night in bed.

“Are you out with anyone?”

“Why?” He asks again.  Trying to laugh like he did before.  But you know that underlying note in it.  A ‘what fucking right do you think you have to ask me that’ tone just a scratch beneath the surface.

“Dunno.  Just.  Wondering.”

It’s dark.  Humid.  Two girls clutching one another teeter by you on a pair of heels too tall and too thin to be anything but a safety hazard, and you’re distracted for a moment by the faint smell of alcohol, by a flood of messy Spanish spilling from red-tinged hips.  You wish you knew how to have fun like them.  Instead, you’re very aware of the silence on the line.  Aware of your sundress clinging to your back.  You sink to the ground.

“Babe, are you okay?”

He stopped calling you that months before he stopped looking at you.

“Babe?”

“You’re not out with… with her?”

“…What are you talking about?”

The Spanish girls are waiting for a ride.  You spoke too quickly, not thinking, too busy watching them, too busy listening to the way the words are flowing between them unhindered, too busy wishing your own words flowed like that instead of tumbling out of your gut like mismatched building blocks.  There’s a dam in your throat now, thankfully, and the Spanish girls are cheering for their savior the cab driver, and He’s on the phone demanding, “Answer me.”

“I just- I saw pictures of you two online and-“

“What the fuck?”

“And you just – you never did that before.  With me.  Never took pictures with me like that.”

“You – I  – what – I never could.”  His voice has dropped, so low that you can barely hear him over the sound of music in the background.  “You never let me.”

“Yeah, but.  You could have… you could have…”  You don’t know what He could have done.  You don’t know why you’re so accusing.  You just can’t stop thinking about that picture, about Him, about Him and her, about how it’s not Him and you, about anything and everything and –

“Are you… are you jealous?”  Disbelief.

You don’t answer.  The Spanish girls are making negotiations.  You pick the sweat-damp dress away from your skin like it’ll bring you relief, and it does nothing.

“Babe?”

You’re mesmerized by the spinning in your head, by the way the neon lights are painting the sidewalk in myriad colors.

“Babe, you‘re the one who left.”

You swallow.  Your stomach is churning, but not with anticipation, not with excitement.  Mouth dry.  Fingers that won’t stop picking at the hem of the dress.  You want to vomit.  You lick your lips and it takes you two tries to say, “I didn’t-“

“I’m gonna say this one last time, okay?  For good this time.”

You squeeze your eyes shut.

“Goodbye.”

You stop breathing.

Second later: nothing.  Just a dead connection.  A spinning head.  A sick feeling of immeasurable guilt that you wish you could drag out of the pit of your stomach with angry claws.  A dress falling limp and shapeless against a trembling body.  Even the Spanish girls have long since climbed into the cab and are nothing but a pair of taillights fading in the distance.

You don’t move for a long, long time.

It’s too damn hot in Texas.

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100 Words: #32-37

32.  Block

There are words stuck in my throat.  My mind spins novels and tales and questions into a tangled mess lodged somewhere in my esophagus.   I can’t swallow, can’t breathe, can’t wheeze out enough of a plea for help for anyone to hear.

I have options.

The skin trapping them is paper-thin and untouched.  It would be easy to sharpen my nails and dig them into the bulging, restrictive flesh to let the contents of my throat spill out alongside the gore.

Harsh?  Cradle the porcelain bowl of a toilet and stick two of those fingers down the aforementioned throat instead.  A familiar sight, it would be all too easy to wash ugly words away like the waste they are.

A high building, just a tiny dot marring the late night city skyline.  A step forward.  Body meets concrete.  If I rattle my bones apart enough, maybe they’ll free a sentence or two.

Or I could write.

But that seems too easy.

 

33. Inhale

It’s just past three-thirty in the morning and I can’t – no, won’t – sleep.  Won’t sleep.  I won’t sleep.

In an hour when dreams are supposed to be sketching the deepest parts of my subconscious on the back of my eyelids, I’m drawing slow breaths – slow, deep, as silent as possible.  Slow, because I’m lying next to you.  Slow, because I’m still trying to relax my board-stiff body into an unfamiliar mattress.  Slow, because I’m desperately afraid to disturb the deep sleep in-out of your lungs next to me.  Slow, because I don’t want to spoil this moment with myself.

This night has been far from perfect, pointedly unromantic, and I’m sick to my stomach with the knowledge that it’ll be the last one.  Sick and sad and desperate, like all silly little girls with silly little crushes and silly little debilitating self-esteem issues are said to be in times like this.  I’ve imagined it many times – never romanticized, never sentimentalized – except always always always with moon eyes and hearts choking my throat and dreams spilling out from my clasped hands.

You move in your sleep, slightly.  Adjusting a pillow, taking a deep breath that sounds like contentment personified.  And I want to cry, somehow.

When you have less than twenty-four hours, how do you not waste it?  

And so I stay awake.  And I listen to the rhythm of your inhale like the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.  And I bask in the surreality of the turns my life has taken to land me here.  And I pretend that I am okay with my transience and my disposability and my user-friendly manual.  And I listen to you breathe.

 
35.  Unfinished

I am incomplete.  Fragments of a human strung together with mental maladies and fleeting fantasies.  I can feel ice cold breezes rattle through the bones of my ribcage on winter mornings.  I watch people pass through me like a ghost.

I seek my meaning and definition in others, making patchwork quilts of personalities to drape over myself and hide the gore and marrow of my bones.  Not a human being, but an idea and a concept, cursory and partial.  A skeleton strung up before a classroom, an instruction in the things we want to pretend we don’t conceal within us.

I am not real.  

 

36. Adore

Love.  Noun.  A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.  A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection.  Sexual passion or desire.  Love.  Verb.  To need or require; benefit greatly from.  In love.  Idiom.  Infused with or feeling deep affection or passion.

Hopeless romantic, I fall in love indiscriminately and with ardor.  Love disingenuous, love passionate, love enthusiastic, love pretension.  I have always known my particular brand of love as thoroughly as the skin stretched uncomfortably over my bones.  As consequentially inconsequential as the word has become.

I have never known love pure, love authentic.  Given love is disgust, love is being despised.  Given love is cold and love will always hurt you because love is inextricably labyrinthed with hate.  Love is for me to offer, not for me to receive.  I want to love because I do not want to be loved.

I am not sure how to define what I feel now.  It is not ephemeral, it is not unresponsive.  Distant in distance only.  Not a weapon, not quite a cure, but something that spans far beyond the militaristic frame I give my language of love.  It is a need to consume and be consumed, to dig my fingers deep in the fabric of your soul and memorize its patterns and its texture and its scent and its taste; it is wanting you to do the same.  It is a dialect of possession and ownership and jealousy, and a vernacular of unity and selflessness and I-can-do-better.  Not beautiful, not ugly, not pure, not dirty, not anything in between.  It is yearning to mortar my fractures and empty spaces with you, a craving to blur lines between one and the other until two are indistinct.  It is a smile through heartache and not-my-homesickness and anger.  Well-defined and incomprehensible, I want to write odes every time you make me feel something I never knew possible, and I choke on any of the words I could try to find.

I know love, multitudinous and various and unfathomable, so I do not know love.  But I know you, and somehow I think that is enough.

 

37.  Sphere

When you inhabit two distinct planes of existence, how do you decide who compromises theirs to join the other?

100 Words: #26-31

26. City
A pier. New York City at night. New Jersey waiting on the other side of the river. Lights over the city dance like incandescent fireflies, halogen fairy lights, fluorescent candles – light pollution hanging like a haze of possibility. We’ve been awake for twenty-one hours, walked as many miles, lost ourselves in corporate consumerism and dead midnight streets. There is exhaustion, first and foremost, a filter that every other sensation must battle through to be felt. I hold your hand, tangle my fingers with yours, let my body fall heavy against you, drape my legs over your own. The city makes my eyes heavy with dreams, the cool wind curls me into your sphere like a tendril of wayward wispy smoke.

I want to sleep, but now is not the time. Not here – not in the city, not on the pier, not next to you, not when the seconds tick closer to my leaving with every breath that I wish I could so desperately hold because maybe if I hold the breath in my lungs I can hold the clocks at bay and hold you in my arms for just a little longer.

 

27. Endings
When my pining stories became love stories – when heartbreaks wrote themselves into heartmends – when I sought out the happy ending instead of the this-is-the-fate-we-have-to-accept ending – that’s when I knew I’d fallen for you.

 

28. Sprawl
Legs tangled up in yours, I never liked sleeping next to anyone until your body was sprawled next to mine. Too close, a breach of personal space, I should have pushed you away and I didn’t.

Legs tangled up in yours, fingertips finding meaning in the faint lines and creases of your skin, draped over you tied up in me, I waited to hate the way I could feel your breath tickling the hairs on the back of my neck. I waited and changed decorative finger paintings to movements with meaning, to quicken your breath, to wait for the moment I could no longer stand it, and I didn’t.

Legs tangled up in yours, skin sticky with the day and the hours and the city and the rain, skin sticky because of the way your skin moved against mine – legs tangled, I closed my eyes and fell asleep to the rhythm of your heartbeat, hoping to claw my way just a little bit closer.

 

29. Venemous
Bitter poison pills swallowed down one by one – words choked back, actions buried deep in the gut, acid memories eroding stomach lining. Bitter poison pills I can’t spit out, can’t retch from my body even with violent force. Bitter poison festering in veins, trapped, bitter poison warping minds, twisting gnarled fingers that pervert and defile everything they touch.

 

30. Tell
“You can’t tell anyone about us,” he said.

“What do you think I bought you all those fucking drinks for?” he said.

“I’m bigger than you. Try to push me away,” he said.

“We’re just friends. That’s it,” he said.

“It’ll make me look bad if they find out,” he said.

“I’m trying, but I can’t,” he said.

“I’ll come over again if you want me to but I need you to do something for me first,” he said.

“I don’t know what you want from me,” he said.

“You looked better last summer,” he said.

“That was just one night, it didn’t mean anything,” he said.

“That’s your fault,” he said.

“You weren’t the only one,” he said.

“Whatever,” he said.

 

31. Pour
The words drip from your lips drenched in tetrahydrocannabinol, palliatives, and dopamine. You’ve waited for the moment, planned for it, imagined it, tested out the weight and heft of these words in various settings, with different inflections, with every possible reaction – and then they slip from your lips with the ease that sinks ships and you can’t bite your tongue fast enough because it’s not the right time or place, because you’re drunk and high and half out of breath buried in a dark night wrapped in humidity, but it’s too late.

Your heart misses a few of its quick, steady thumps in the silence that follows and somehow you’re still sure of your choice – because of course it would happen like this, of course it wouldn’t be the beautiful planned moment turned robotic from all the times you ran it through in your mind, of course it wouldn’t be the perfect fairytale hopeless romantic unrealism you’ve dreamt up, of course it would happen here, of course it would be this simple, of course it would be messy and rough-around-the-edges and imperfect and spontaneous – because that’s who you are. Your heart misses a few more because of how positive you are that you’ve made the right choice.

And they ask, “Really?”

And you breathe, “Yeah.”

And you wait. And in the space of the seconds where you wait, you begin to dream up grandiloquent responses and declarations and echoes of your words, where they seal the letters with hot-wax kisses pressed onto your enveloping thighs, where star paths cross and everything falls into place and you fit that last piece into the puzzle and it’s like all the books told you because maybe it can be a mess and maybe it can still be a fairytale hopeless romantic ending and maybe it can be the story you’ve always wanted to write and maybe it can be modern day American realism.

And you wait.

And wait.

And you hesitate.  And you stop breathing.  And you wait.

And.

And and and.

And

nothing.

And the heart you’ve torn, bleeding, bruised, broken from your chest – the heart that’s tumbled awkwardly from a thick tongue – the heart you sewed to your sleeve to bare to the world – that heart withers, ashamed and defeated and distrustful. And that heart pries open your clenched teeth to slip past your tongue and bury itself in your throat and dig its claws into the tender flesh there. And that heart chokes you every time you open your mouth so that it will never be made to feel so foolish again.

100 Words: #23-26

23. Intoxication
you need to pump poison into your veins before you find her attractive enough to fuck. head swimming, thoughts a chaotic disjointed nonsensical mess, when pleasure eclipses person – it’s the only way you’re able to find ecstasy in her imperfections

she – she, who remembers all, who burns moments into memory like the smoldering scars of funeral pyres – she traces patterns onto her body with pilgrim fingers trying to find a tripwire that will tell her how your hands felt on her. she doesn’t remember your lips on hers, only remembers the kiss of the bottles she tipped back to pretend she didn’t notice the disgust in your eyes

 

24. Unique
special skills:
– finding, defining, embracing the exceptions to ‘forever’

 

25. Butterfly
With the changing of the season, the butterflies flickered away one by one on wings of jewels and dreams in search of warmer climates. I tried, desperately, to keep them from leaving, but they slipped through my fingers like I was trying to catch smoke tendrils in a net. I knew it was the last I’d see of them; the barren tundra of my stomach would be far too cold for them to call a home again.

 

26. Record
Record the sounds of a life. Record the gentle swish of a brush through hair, record its muted click on a porcelain countertop from another room. Record soft midnight breaths cascading over sweat-sticky exposed skin and the prickling goosebumps that flower under your touch. Get very close, record a heartbeat at its softest, when it’s no more than a whisper. Now, stand back – record the sound of buttons loosened from their restraints, being done up again; the scratch of a fingernail on a pair of shorts. Record windchimes of silverware making music on porcelain dishes at dinner, record dilated eyes and gentle hums of contentment and the sound of a hand pressed against your own. Record the gentle puff of air the follows parted lips, record the intimation of a thought never destined to come to fruition. Record.

One day he will be gone. You will miss him in silence. The things you thought so trivial, once lost, echo into the cavern of his absence louder than noises themselves.

Record the sounds of a life. Play the soundtrack when you miss him. Remember.

100 Words: #20-22

20. Beat
I flatten my palm on the center of your chest, five fingers splayed wide like roots in a fertile garden. Your heart beats a steady rhythm of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard against my palm. I spread my fingers a little wider. Maybe, if I try hard enough, your heartbeat will fill the spaces between my fingers. Maybe, if I try, I’ll never have to let you go.

 

21. Stop
My life is a process of leaving. Perpetual transience. The unstoppable force without an immovable object, I’ve existed in past-tense terms as I left destination after destination in my wake. It doesn’t hurt to leave when leaving is all you know how to do. You’re just a force without an object to give you a reason to stay for a while.

I never thought I’d find anything to make me want to stop leaving things in the past and start living in the present. I’d been committed to my suitcase being my permanent residence, to friendships being as fleeting as a tree flying by outside the window of a speeding car, to a life best lived in the process of moving.

And then I met you.

 

22. Insecure
I wear my insecurities like armor and wield them like weapons. It’s easier to use them to keep the world away than confront the hard truths about myself that I’d rather choke on than swallow.

100 Words: #17-19

17. Dead
You count the dead flies lining your windowsill. Like tally marks carved into wooden bed frames or concrete jail cell walls, they track the weeks spent trapped in your own head, prisoner to the cocktail of chemicals that make bedsheets an impassible barrier.

 

18. Fool
i’m a fool
– for you
– about you
– before you
– because of you
– with you
– around you

 

19. Silence
I’ve settled comfortably into the spaces between your words. Living alone, its intimacy is as familiar to me as the moments I align together to make up my every day. Grandiloquent declarations of affection strung next to uninspired chatter has always made the latter pale in importance in my eyes. Let me hear your laugh, your stories, your testimonies, your thoughts – but let me share the authenticity of your silence.

100 Words: #14-16

14. Good
I am not a good person, but I am trying my best to learn how to be.

15. Voice
The lilting dance of your accent is one with which I am unfamiliar. I could dedicate hours to tracking how sincerity and heartbreak and laughter alter the choreography, how once dancer can be so fluidly adept at performing variety.

I have yet to see the way your lips come into play as a setting – a vehicle – upon which your uniquely-you accent comes into its own. How do downturned lips and teeth ground together and curling-ivy smiles change the way you pronounce your ‘a’? How does nature give way to nurture every time you say my name? How many pages can I fill with its every quirk and detail?

16. Commit
Each of Maggie Nelson’s novels are stories of fixation. Hundreds of pages exploring the color blue, what it means to be a queer mother, transition, loss, death, murder. Her life is dedicated to things and ideas, to inanimate objects and abstract concepts; she analyzes personal stories, anecdotes, objects, definitions. She learns histories and makes them her own.

 
What kind of thing would I focus on like Nelson? A color, like pink? A theory, an event? I’m not sure. I don’t know if I’m the kind of person who can commit to anything, even an insentient substance, with enough zeal to write a whole novel about it. But I think I’m ready to try.