the perfect strangershe misses colin the most at night, when, waking from nightmares, her hand reaches out into the darkness for someone who is no longer there.
an unexpected message flares briefly on her screen, long enough for her heart to drop into her stomach in surpriseher ex-boyfriend's little sister's ex-boyfriend? sighing, she types a hello and strains her memory to recall what she knows of this boy from their one brief meeting. his name is aaron. tall. shaggy bed-head hair. sleepy hazel eyes. she lightly touches the keyboard, entertaining the notion that other people might feel as lonely at night as she does.
"tell me a secret," she types to him.
"why should I put my trust in you?" he asks, surprised.
"who better to trust than a stranger?"
so he does.
a five minute secret turns into an hour long story, then a night-long conversation.
the next morning, after telling this boy how colin broke her, she wakes to a message in her inbox:
The world is yours.
Boys are stupid.
NPR three minute story submissionShe closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. That low rumble had been Tom's temperamental engine; she was sure of it. The sound had tattooed itself on the inside of Anna's ears ages ago. Maybe he was sitting in the front seat of his car, trying to work up the courage to knock. Maybe his brows would knit together and his mouth would quirk and he would say, "I missed you, Sunshine," though he had never once called her by that nickname. Maybe she could apologize, and he would kiss the insides of her wrists, the back of her neck, her eyelids.
Yes, she could hear a car door opening. If she listened hard she thought she could even make out the rustle of his corduroy jacket.
Go outside, said her heart.
Wait, said her brain.
She began to count aloud. "One, two, three, four"
Anna was eight when her baby brother was born. He was little more than a fragile bag of bones and organs, an accident waiting to break her heart. Every night she'd snea
Thank You, Slater.I used to go to the nearby campus coffee shop in the early evenings, armed with a pen, a blank notebook, and writer's block. The sense of loneliness was unspoken but well accounted for.
I always shared coffee-counterspace with the same boy, who never smiled or talked and who had a penchant for bedhead and argyle sweaters. He liked to lean back on his stool, balancing precariously as he read novels, and I liked to pretend I wasn't watching him watch me. We coexisted in quiet companionship, thrived quietly under fluorescent lighting which sometimes caught his thick-framed glasses.
His novels changed while my notebook remained the same; his dogeared copies of The Sound and the Fury and Animal Farm distracted me as I doodled stars on blank pages, waiting for something that could not be explained.
It was raining. I remember that. His glasses fogged up when he walked in, his tousled black hair dripped water on my elbow.
"Why don't you ever write in your notebook?" he asked, turning to me w
numbit is two o' clock in the morning and i can't sleep. or i sleep too much. one of the two, and the pills make three. they stew and burn the back of my throat; the chemicals dissolve and form words.
the medical literature didn't say anything about that. or the numbness in my arms and legs. the tingling has crept up my right leg for the past week, weaving itself between my toes and nipping at the back of my knee. maybe it's a side effect, or maybe it's diabetes. or a blood clot. maybe my foot will need to be amputated, and i will have to hobble down the aisle for our wedding.
he coughs beside me, still fast asleep, and i touch one of his eyebrows so softly that maybe i am imagining the wiry hair against my fingertip. will he still love me if i only have one foot? i could ask him. i should shake him into reality and tell him about the burn and the tingling and the wedding photos that i will likely ruin.
"i'm sorry," i say, just to hear the words aloud, but he doesn't wake up.
the one tha
no one warned the little girlssometimes you will fall in love with the hands
or with the jawline, not with the penis.
watch out for boys whose eyes
are rougher than their voices.
little girls love hard and fast, and it is a lie
to say that words will never hurt you.
kissing in the rain is not romantic.
it's cold and wet, and your nipples
will be like pebbles digging into his skin.
he'll wipe water from your lashes,
and, if he is polite, he'll pretend
not to notice his thumb blackened by mascara.
later as he sleeps you will watch his lips,
unable to feel anything except your hair
curled damply against your skin.
when you were young, sex was strange
and scary and unreasonable.
when you grow older, that doesn't change at all.
please, do not use the flavored condoms.
getting married tastes like a wedding
invitation, heavy cardstock and eggplant ink.
if you cut your tongue and bleed
all over the calligraphy, it's bad luck.
when you speak your vows and look in his eyes,
you will still feel the blood
in your mouth, warm a
waiting.he has been there for so long that the girl sometimes wonders if he is part of the beach, if the seaweed and shells fuse themselves to his ankles at night and grow over his browned legs like ivy. he is always still, so still, eyes focused on something distant in the waves that the girl can't quite see, though she tries. the man has a face like a creased paper bag and she finds herself wishing that she could see inside his head.
she watches him all day from the corner of her eye but no one ever joins him in his vigil. he is alone in casting shadows that grow longer and longer as the sun sets. the girl wonders what it is like to be so alone and decides she'd rather be lonely on the beach than spend all her time with people, particularly the people she knows who seem to be full of incessant questions and sharp elbows.
the man is waiting, and so instinctively she waits too.
the girl is the only one to see him cut his palm wide open on a shell. she watches the red droplets fall heavily on
fog.have you ever driven through
a fog so thick that you can part it
with your fingers? a fog so dense
that you stick your hand through
the car window and watch it disappear?
these special fogs press
heavy on your eyes and ears,
fill the dips of your collarbone,
quiet the murmurs living
inside your throat.
before i drove through this mountain
and through this fog there were bills
to pay and children to teach, people
i hated and people i loved. there were mental
disorders and electrocardiograms. fears.
now there is only the positioning
of my hands. a steering wheel. a whisper
in my ear that says "drive carefully."
a cliff and a guardrail.
now there is fog.
and maybe, if i wish hard enough,
the fog will keep me.
i am not afraid of dying.
i am just afraid.
neverlandi'm giving myself ten minutes to grow up,
and with every minute that passes i am remembering
balloons and party hats and streamers
and the second star to the right,
straight on 'til morning.
every year i write myself a poem for my birthday,
but this year i think i'll write a poem about
peter pan and he'll die in the end and everyone
will be sad. i'll be the saddest though,
because there comes a point in your life
when you realize that you're not peter pan,
or wendy, or even a lost boy.
(how sad, i think, to be lost but not a lost boy.
it doesn't matter though, because neverland isn't
real and now look, i'm another year older, and what
have i even done with my life?)
today i'm twenty-three and peter pan is dead.
my ten minutes have passed and i still haven't
grown up. people around me forget how to talk
to mermaids, and no one claps because no one
believes in fairies, or flying, or themselves.
today every birthday candle looks like a bone
and i still have so many wishes left to make.
"who's that kid?" i ask, pointing at the boy whose hair cannot decide if it is red or gold. he holds a basketball in his small hands, bouncing it, once, twice, before putting it through the hoop in a perfect arc.
"james," the counselor responds, and leans closer. "he's a foster kid, you know."
i don't know.
the boy turns at that moment and catches me watching him. unthinkingly i form my thumbs and index fingers into a heart and flash it at him. he nods to his teammates and leaves the court, climbing the bleachers to where i sit.
"did you see my shot?" he asks.
"yes." pause. "i'm kelsey."
"i know," he says, and runs back to his game.
at the end of the camp day i wave to the buses as they leave the parking lot. the final bus clicks and pops to life, and from the last seat i see james cup his hands into a heart and press it against the window at me. i fumble to free my hands and return the gesture, but the bus turns the corner and he is gone.
it doesn't take long for me to vow that if i
Riding BikesGoing off medication is like riding a bike.
The doctor holds tight to my handlebars and lowers my dosage. The training wheels are off, and oh hey, look at me go! It's like flying but not, and I'm doing so well but then there's a horrible accident and I'm somehow upside down at the bottom of the sea with both wheels still spinning.
"Help," I say, and my doctor pats my head, puts a band-aid on my knee, and writes a note on my chart.
I've balanced by myself for months at a time, but I always end up hitting a fucking tree or falling off a cliff or something equally catastrophic because I am a catastrophic person. Except that is an exaggeration. I am an exaggeration.
I like to compare mental illnesses to mundane physical activities. Also you should know that I am sick but trying to get better.
Sometimes I relapse and then write poems about it.
It's not even the kind of sick where people bring you soup in bed and soothe your fevered brow. It's the kind of sick where I'm late to work because
the soccer game.the thing is, i need
the deer to mean something.
i go to the soccer game and smile
and nod while something furious
inside of me is screaming.
a deer appears while the sun
is setting and it's like a scene
from a movie: green grass and gold rays
that spread out, tingeing our feet
with one last bit of wednesday.
everyone watches the deer and makes
noises of appreciation and i look
around and i think to myself
"okay, this is it, i am happy."
the deer is watching me and i try
to decide if it's a metaphor.
i want the deer to be death, see,
to represent fucking or blacking
out or apathy or loneliness.
someone does something heroic
with a soccer ball and i watch
my hands clap together over and over.
okay, or maybe the deer is supposed
to be happy. maybe the deer
represents attending social
events and sitting with people.
maybe the deer means that
i'm ready to let go.
the girl beside me looks over
and asks if i've written any poems
lately. (that's all she knows of me,
that i write poems and
encephalitis.she asks, "is it weird to have one day where you really intensely, for no good reason, think of a dead person?"
the intercom was the one to announce that his body had finally given up. i don't remember what i was wearing that day, or how my hair looked, or what noises fell out of my mouth. death has dulled the sharp edges within me. this is what i do know: some people burst into tears and some people sat frozen and pale and some people simply got up and left the room.
"are you okay?" someone asked me, and i found that i was lying on the floor, though i couldn't understand how i'd gotten there. the overhead lights were buzzing and humming, or maybe it was just my heart. confused, i sat up quickly and let the blood rush to my head in one glorious fell swoop.
"are you okay?" they asked again, and i said yes, yes, i am okay. i am alive. i have to be okay. the linoleum is still cold against my cheek and i can still see i am alive i am okay i am okay i am okay.
but sometimes i wish i had t
throwing rocks.so i want to grow up and get a job and make happy, make money, make forget. i can't though, i'm too concerned with windchimes. i mean, fuck windchimes, right? i lie awake at night and listen to rigs on the rumble strip and the windchimes, (mostly the trucks), but damn, the tinkling is enough to keep me awake all night. but sometimes not, and then i dream i drown or maybe i marry a serial killer who props up corpses in rocking chairs or sometimes i dream about my ex-boyfriend's little sister because why not. then i wake up and it's taxes and credit cards and grades and people dying and shit.
i don't know what is wrong with me.
i mean i do, though, it's called obsessive compulsive disorder and major depressive disorder and severe anxiety and a bunch of other shit that takes too long to detail, but i'm talking about the pieces insurance won't cover.
also fuck claire danes.
it's just like, when i close the door behind me i push on the doorknob six times plus seven plus seve
march 24th, 2008.there is a chinese proverb that says your teeth will fall out if you tell lies.
i used to always dream my teeth would crumble from my mouth and lay glittering on the street like coins. i used to dream that the slightest touch jarred them loose, knocked them from my jaw leaving only swells of broken tissue behind. i used to dream of rivulets of blood streaming from the corners of my mouth, of thirty two pieces of myself lying naked on the ground, thirty two tooth fairies that would never come. i used to dream of screaming.
"you know," said my psychology TA, "to dream of losing one's teeth is very common. it typically means that you're concerned about your physical appearance. it's a dream that is prevalent among many young women."
i used to dream my mom would try to kill me. i used to dream she'd push me down flights of stairs or hold a gun to my temple or run a razor lovingly along my throat. i used to dream she'd watch me drown and smile, that she would set my room on fire, would lock
the personal ad of a writerumpteen year old woman, married once to the false hope of literary promise, from themiddleof, nowhere.
i spend night by fire, with a wish to fall in to bear beautiful, melting scars. burn off all my hair. singe my eyelids. sleep in cinders. i spend time in bed alone, celibate, not-sleeping, not-dreaming, too-tired, just-thinking.
i am often seen wearing a coat of blue wool, holding a knock-off coffee-chain cup, carrying emotional baggage in a brown leather suitcase.
unemployed, undetermined, unattached, underwater, unimportant.
in search of a hand to hold, heart to spit out, lips to kiss the scars on my wrists, mouth to suck out my soul[ they are all more trouble than they are worth.
i write poems, but i am not a poet. poets are thieves of emotions and old words. my heart is something like a wild beast, rabid and fearsome and fearful, but i love with more than a love, just ask my annabel lee.
I.My bones were glass blown:
Crafted to curve lowly -
(un)beautifully - furling like
Imagine me transmuted, bursting through
desquamated skin. Picture my
clay-molded contours liquified
and awakened, shifted:
But I am unseasoned - grape-shelled,
guileless. Esotericism is overflowing
in my veins:
This path is as smudged as
its traveler (skidding yet
never slowed), clotted
Watch my fingers splay, breaking
from my tendons to
grasp tangible air
You can neither scorch nor
whittle me into
nail-sized hopelessness, only
Steeled, my jaw is set -
diffident, not shattered.
great peace and beautyi stretch with the branches
overhead, so that i might
grow, so that i might
blossom into something
more beautiful, something
more worthwhile, something
infinitely more than myself.
there is a lot of ugliness
involved in love, and we
shield our eyes to it like
it's the blinding sun,
that blinding truth.
please listen when i say
that the air is too thin
to fill us. please listen
when i say that i can now
understand "too thin." i
want you to hear me tell
you i want to get better,
and i want you to stay
around. i am so afraid
that my body won't, but
even more when i realise
your fingers have become
memories like sound, just
a white sheet of noise and
i realise now that my body,
that i, am so fragile as you
sink me down to the binding
of the pages, the book of
you and me.
what i need is for
you to hear me
when i say that,
just as our love,
i no longer need to
be as weightless
as the folding
stars, or thinner
than the galaxies.
i've long promised my
bones to emptiness,
to breathe lik
the look to letting you goi hope i ruined
like a smudge
i like reminding you
of the things
i am sure you proudly
ache my heart,
when i try
bookmarked my skin
where you last
so that i may
open the pages
and read us
when i feel a little
all i want is to look across
a span of space-
a floor, a bed,
the breath between
and see another
holding me like light
within warm eyes.
it is likely
we will not make it
through the night;
in this case,
i hope that,
with my last,
i learn to love
MirageYou know how you broke me,
but maybe you don't want to know,
or maybe you just don't care,
but I do.
You've been a mirage to me
for these last two years.
A veritable paradise,
always in sight but
perpetually out of reach.
And I know what I've done seems stupid but
when you are dying in the desert
you walk toward anything that looks like water
even though as you get closer and closer
you start to realize that it's probably nothing
you keep fucking walking because
you need it to be something.
And now that I'm finally close enough,
I'm forced to realize you aren't really there.
That you've never really been there.
couldn't bluei draw a picture of
a man in a silver box sells
75 cent coffee and bad bagels.
his shirt is the kind of blue no one ever
tried to name a crayon after.
tried to love you
and the morning is that same color,
the color of canned lightning-bugs and
unfiltered cigarettes and desire,
because that is all you
draw with couldn't blue.
i pay him 1.25 in change and purse-lint
so that a fourth-world factory can make more
silver boxes to sell more things
more stale blueberry muffins.
and he will keep gathering change
in 75 cent purse-lint increments
in the small sinking townships of
all the couldn't blue mornings.
and he will keep gathering the
ugly colors of
another side of desire
and he will wear those colors
on a shirt
those colors no one
body languagei listen and you cough
from down the hall
you are whistling
and i can still hear
your throat's identity
shuddering in each note.
it bothers me
that i know you like this.
i shouldn't be able to
wake up and find you
next to me.
i shouldn't feel my face
pressed against your chest,
i shouldn't feel my shirt and bra
cushioning the top of my head
like a makeshift pillow.
i am not who you want,
so you are not who i want.
i put on my clothes
with the intention of you
taking them off.
i'm sorry i don't
know how to love my body
but still want it
sex is a way to be close to someone.
it's a way to show your appreciation
in some tangible way
because humans weren't born
knowing any other alphabet
than body language.
don't look at it like it's some
sweeping down in the black of night
to steal the innocence
of a nation;
don't look at it like it's
robbing us of our health;
that without it,
we would not be here;
that without it,
we would be detach
for exit 165.in the outstretched wingspan of
tuesday night you'll find them:
the foothills slumbering jagged under
sixteen inches of loose sand and
the city hushed and glowing, lines
of porchlights strung together in suburban rows like
beads on a chain
your house was cavernous hollow like a lung
the colors were dim and
jaundiced, a quiet rush of tepid water
bent the silence while thirty years of
smoking hung ownerless
in the air like the cling of a dead moths to a wall
you tell me of a dream that's vague like
clouds in the sky like
clouds in the sink with
your body limp and damp like
hot tea bags and
your face like spilled milk
all of my angles bisected by your limbs you say
you're frightened to nightmare
of rotary telephones and roadkill and
of a morning where there isn't any water left
to fish or bathe or drown in
of birds that
hang all over the mazarine sky like
tiny perforations in the
infinity of the skyline.