How Today Feels

On days when everything feels a little jumbled, when the words don’t come, I’ve learned to seek something outside of myself. And I’ve found that on days when words are difficult, often the world will intervene in some way. I’ll come across a song, a line from a poem, an excerpt from a novel I haven’t read in years, or—most often—a video that makes its way onto a screen in front of my eyes seemingly incidentally, but with eerie accuracy, that explains that particular feeling better than I can on my own. And then it becomes something to work with, something to sit with and wallow in and understand a little better.

This is how today feels:

Beginning Again

I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know what I’m doing here, or how this little space has remained empty for so long. I don’t know where to begin again, but I’d like to try. 

I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know how to drive in the snow, or how I left home with no plans to return. And I don’t know how I feel about any of it. I don’t know how people survive these harsh winters year after year and never think about leaving, how they resist the temptation to give up because it is dreadful in a way I have never known. I don’t know how not to need the sun. 

I don’t know a lot of things, but I know I miss writing poems, though I was never any good at it. I know I miss holding your hand, though it was never completely right. I don’t know how to articulate this tangled mess of feelings, but I know I miss the blueness of you. I miss the parts of you my metaphors can’t touch. I never looked away when your eyes caught me studying you. Even now, I could write about the freckles behind your ears, the neatness of your fingernails, the way you scrunch your nose when you felt like my staring required a show, but not your blue. Maybe this will be my favorite mystery, maybe it’s like the ocean you always seemed to be longing for. Maybe this is the closest I’ll get. 

I don’t know a lot, but I know I’m in the midst of big things. I don’t know where I’ll be living in six months, where I’m headed or what I want, but I think I’m starting to learn who I am. I know I wish the world was a little bit kinder to itself, that I still believe love undesired is the biggest waste. I know that I’m resilient, I just forgot for a little while. 

 

A Bedtime Story

The air in my room is a little too still, so I crack the window and let the cool November night sing me to sleep. I bury my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase and wish for sleep to come quickly, just this once, a nightly ritual. It doesn’t, as has been the case all week. Despite the restlessness, my eyes are thankful for the rest the nighttime lends. Out the window I can hear cars pass on a highway a few blocks out, a murmur that blends with the breeze.

Clearly, distinctively, the sound of a train interrupts the rhythmic rustling of my body as I kick the sheets away, then pull them back.

I am a little girl again, burying my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase that smells of home, in a blue-walled sanctuary with soccer trophies on a bookshelf across from my bed. A train keeps me awake as it calls in the distance, warning the road of its presence. It’s strange how close it sounds, but it’s not close at all.

I know exactly how long it would take me to pedal there. It’s a long ride, one that takes me around Dead Man’s Curve, down the shaded street with speed bumps every ten yards, past the house with the mean horse, the sometimes-sweet goats, the streets named after flowers, and all the way down the big hill, the really big one with train tracks at the bottom. It’s not close. It’s a long ride, one I’m not allowed to make alone.

And in this new city, far from the room with the blue walls and a bookshelf now empty of childhood trophies, I’m having trouble remembering where I’ve passed a single set of train tracks, where a train could be running close enough I can hear it so clearly, so distinctively, warning the road of its presence.

Maybe it calls to me from the other side of the highway, where I only wander when I’m a little sad and a little lost. Maybe it’s a few blocks out, in a part of this city that remains more foreign to me than the rest. Maybe it’s far from me, past a set of streets named after flowers, at the bottom of a very big hill, a long bike ride away, one I’m still not quite old enough to make alone.

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On Your Birthday

This time of year still feels haunted. Autumn feels like a gift that belongs to you, is overwhelmed with you, but absent of you. If you were alive, I like to think I would call you today. I like to think I would have apologized by now, that it wouldn’t take you leaving forever for me to realize how wonderful you are. I imagine I would call you and I’d wish you happy birthday, but I’d linger a little and stay on the line a little too long, even though you would have other calls to take and dinners to get ready for, because the whole world would be waiting to tell you how glad they are that you’re alive. I would ask you about work or some warmup question, one that doesn’t matter but feels essential. I’d ask about how your sister is, how home is, and you would say that everything is OK, and you’d tell me the most hilarious thing Victoria said the other day, and I would laugh with you because we both love her so much, and I would have figured that out by now. And I would tell you how I wish I was home to celebrate with you, to buy you a beer and give you a hug because I love you so much, and I would have told you that dozens of times by now. I would tell you about the boy, about the charm and the frustrations, and you would spout some brilliant advice, to be patient, to be sure to always be my brilliant beautiful self, and you’d say something perfect like, “I’m so happy that you’re happy, My Alien,” but a million times more eloquently because words were always on your side. And I would have teared up a little, even then, with you still alive and thriving and stringing words together perfectly on the other end of the line just hearing you call me by my favorite nickname, one no one has called me since you left.

Sometimes, I can still hear it, faint and far away and fleeting and full.

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Season Sting

Today I ache for summer, for an open road with only one lane on each side, that weaves and winds and turns and stretches and couldn’t hold onto me if it tried. For time outside of coffee shops, for time with the stack of books beside my bed labeled “To Read When…” For a scratched CD scribbled “Summer 2010″ playing Sublime or Marvin Gaye or anything that sings to me from summers past through the warm wind that tangles my curls and reminds me that the glorious sun can heal everything, but stings a little. And I’ll take the sunburn and the Texas heat if it means I get to race to the lake after work on Friday and bury my toes under murky sandmud and stay up late playing music and eating snow cones because that’s what it means to me to be young and terrified of everything, especially growing up.

And I’m still young and terrified of everything, most certainly growing up, but everything else has changed.

My Friend

I bought my first pack because I was angry with her. I don’t remember why, exactly. I’m sure it was something dumb. It always was. But I was angry, and I knew my buying a pack of cigarettes would upset her.

***

“You can have this one, but just this one. And you’re only allowed to smoke with me.”
She made me promise, and I did.

A good friend cares about things like this. She cares about not passing along her bad habits, and forgives you when you succumb to your own.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a good one, maybe just one in your entire lifetime, who manages to be the perfect combination of therapist, mother, big sister, and crack spirit guide. She knows all of your secrets because they are easy to tell her.

She means it when she tells you that your gray hair isn’t as big of a deal as you make it, that you’re being a jerk when you are, and that you actually do deserve better. And she knows it’ll be at least three years before you figure it out for yourself. And when you do, you’ll laugh, the two of you, and she’ll forgive you for not listening the first time because she cares, more than anyone else, really.

At times, your lives ere on the side of absurd, when she wipes your tears all over your face and tells you they’re a natural moisturizer, or when you eat sad-time tacos like they’re a real thing.

In many ways, you’re unstoppable. The two of you are the ultimate Catch Phrase partnership, pulling from years of inside jokes and “Remember that song from that 7th grade Birthday Party mix CD?” moments. Your conversations are impossible to track for anyone else, as they’re placed within a context that took years to construct.

But it’s not your history that keeps you together. It’s not an obligation. You know a friendship like that is worth fighting for, worth preserving.

I bought my first pack of cigarettes because I knew it would upset her, and it did because she cares the most.

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