Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dear Dream,

It's been a month since you killed yourself, and I am still so mad at you.

I'm mad that you could do this to your friends and your family, that you had such a low opinion of them that you just left them. That one more time you refused to compromise for anyone, that you refused to meet anyone halfway, that you were even more selfish than I had ever given you credit for. I don't believe that living only on your own terms is worth being so cruel. I have a hard time believing that it's true some days, and several times I have almost called you to tell you that you have taken this experiment too far yet again, only to realize that if I did call no one would answer. Because it is true.

And I'm mad at you for me, of course, because I feel broken and poisonous, and no matter how much people try to convince me otherwise, I can't shake it. Because I've always found it hard to trust people with too much of myself, and I'm afraid that this has made it even harder. Because I am a girl who breaks things, and this thing can't be fixed. Because you wrote those songs about me and I only got to hear them after you were dead. Because I still wake up every morning with guilt crouched on my chest like a gargoyle, and it takes everything I have to push it off and get out of bed.

I'm mad at myself too, though, because when it mattered most I failed at the one thing I've always tried to be. And regardless of whether I could or could not have done anything, the fact still remains that I didn't try. That I was selfish and hurt and exasperated, and that I let all of that get in the way of being kind.

But maybe it's better for you this way. I think this was a poem you've had in the back of your head for a long time now, that someday you'd go somewhere snowy and finish what you almost started all those years ago. In one of your letters you talked about living in Maine during the winter, about how you kept a pile of clippings about people that had lain down in the snow in those woods and fallen asleep, and never woken up. "Obituary clippings of whom you keep loose in a drawer to remind you that it's not always bad news, and that there is a good way to go. But not today."

I guess your today finally came.

People have been shattered on the rocks of your decision, because you were someone that affected people profoundly. And I guess the only thing to do is gather up our splinters and move on, with one less person around who will drop everything to make us soup when we are sick, with one less person to argue with until we want to scream or break things or both. I'll get better, with luck and help, regain the pounds that I have lost in the last few weeks, stop fighting so hard to stay stuck together in public that I cry until I throw up when I get home. Eventually I'll date someone again. Time is funny like that, and it's lucky for us that that's the case.

I wish that you had had more time with everyone, that everyone had had more time with you because whatever our differences were you were a worthwhile person to have known. But that wish is silly, and selfish again, because more time is not what you wanted. And you were a man who always got what he wanted.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I have roughed out an itinerary for my trip that includes Rome, Siena, Florence, Venice, Assisi, and Naples, with day trips to Bomarzo (if I can figure out how to get there), Ninfa, and Pompeii. I've booked places to stay in all of those except Assisi, because I am nothing if not a crazy planner. So now! You should tell me what to do in those places. Especially if you can tell me how to get to Bomarzo from Rome.

Planning and thinking about my trip is doing a lot to keep my mind off the deeply blues, my haunted bedroom, and feeling like a poisonous frog.

When I was in China, I was amazed at what turned out to be universal currency: Elvis and UB40, the Backstreet Boys, harmonicas. Some of my favorite parts of that trip were the moments when I stopped being so obviously foreign and was just another person. I'm looking forward to having that feeling again.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

All rectangles could be squares, I suppose, folded correctly, looked at from the appropriate angles. Folded appropriately and looked at from the right angles, all rectangles could be cups of hot chocolate or bouquets of earthworms or vast expanses of the universe. That's the thing about rectangles. A rectangle, properly motivated, could escort us to the points where our circular and elliptical orbits overlap, and explain just what we're supposed to be looking at.

I know that I collected smiles for a while, packed them into rectangles, shaved them off in pieces and stuffed them in a jar like watermelon pickle. But it looks like some other squirrel has gotten into them and sent them into space, because I can see them falling in flames through your sky like delicious meteorites. I would reach for them, but I think that they would scorch off the lines of my fingerprints.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Late at night I hold my hand close to a lamp, trying to see through to the other side, and find myself inexplicably sad that the universe just under my own skin is as distant and unknowable as the farthest reaches of space. I think about how the things that are good are also secretly gateways to the things that are bad.

Like that time in Tanzania when a bunch of school children were sent home for laughing too much, and how the laughing became an epidemic spread from child to parent to neighbor. How people had fainting spells and rashes and crying jags in between bouts of uncontrollable laughter for months and months. How they couldn't stop laughing no matter how they tried.
I imagine that very few people were brave enough to tell jokes for a very long time after that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of having and talking about all of these feelings. I hate feelings. (Did you know that my exboyfriend drove up to Snoqualmie and shot himself with the gun I was afraid to ask if he still had? Me neither! I just found out last night sometime after midnight from a girl who had only met him once, with me! I don't know about you, but that makes me want to throw up!)

Instead of feelings, let's talk about Italy. I just bought my airplane tickets, and I'll be going on my trip in April, for two weeks. Have you been? Are there places I should go and things that I ought to be aware of? Shoes that I should make sure to buy? Anything?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Love is a Mixtape, the author talks about kindness. He says, "You lose a certain kind of innocence when you experience this type of kindness. You lose your right to be a jaded cynic. [...] People kept showing me unreasonable kindness, inexplicable kindness, indefensible kindness. People were kind when they knew that nobody would ever notice, much less praise them for it...I had no idea how to live up to that kindness."

It's a thought that has been coming back to me over and over again this past week. People have been just astonishingly kind. They have called and emailed and left comments and sent text messages and flowers and notes. People I know have told other people I know and they have sent emails and made phone calls. My friends have been amazing, as always, but even strangers have gone out of their way to console and reassure. I'm overwhelmed, my hands and pockets and corners are all overflowing with it.

I'm still feeling fifteen things at once, angry and sad and guilty, having trouble seeing the forest for all of these molehills. I go long stretches where I think I'm doing alright and then something switches back in my brain and I'm broken again. The loss of my long quiet hours has been hard because when I'm alone I think in the same unhealthy circles, and until now I've always loved being alone. And I feel like I'm not living up to all of the kindness I've been given, that I should be healing faster because so many people have been so nice to me. And that might be the most illogical thought of them all.

And really, all I mean to say is thank you, for your emails and positive thoughts, for being just plain nice. It means the world to me.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I returned to my bed on Saturday night, drunk and in pieces. Last night I woke in a room full of ghosts, reaching shallow colored hands across my bed, standing in dark pools in the corners.

So today I left the apartment to buy new sheets. On the sidewalk across the street I skirted around a sparrow laying on the ground. Fallen, attacked, or old, it was hard to say, but as I stepped past it the bird opened and closed its beak weakly, moved its foot.

Though the old sheets have been washed a few times since our breakup they still seemed to exhale some of Dream's smell when I pulled them off. I threw them out, immediately, although my fingers were reluctant to let go of the fabric. The new sheets smell sterile, and hopefully free of ghosts.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I remember walking up to our first date to find you leaning against a bike rack, wearing a typewriter on your shirt and reading a battered Balthazar, and feeling all of my plans for skepticism and distance escaping through a trap door in the back of my skull. Twelve hours later, when we parted, I found all of my trains on new rails and a feel of anticipation hovering in a cloud near my ears.

I remember a night of home made pizza, arts and crafts, looking for and finding the treasure of the Sierra Madre in backyard flashlight beams.

And fighting until I cried, I remember that too, over your snap judgements of the people I love. Trying to make you see that everyone has more to them than you gave them credit for. Until eventually I couldn't stand to have you all in the same place. I remember how you pushed all of my buttons, constantly, because you felt invigorated by the arguments. And how I felt sad and closed up because of them.

Rollerskating and frisbee playing all followed by telling secrets and pulling hair late into the night, getting lost in rows of corn and stepping on disintegrating pumpkin husks in a field. I recall all of that. I remember how you chose movies because you wanted to watch me react to them, how you looked at me like a new species of girl every time I surprised you.

I remember how I loved the smell of your cologne on my pillows.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I would be lying if I said that I was doing well right now. It feels like all of my maps have been turned sideways.

Grief is always a strange experience, and as the news came to me later than it did to most it feels like I'm on some sort of reduced grief timeline. Like there's a very limited window here to get a handle on the sadness and anger and guilt before the point becomes moot. Only so much time to lock in my memories of our better times.

I am lucky to have amazing people around to bolster me up and take me out in public where I'm usually too self-conscious to do any sober public crying, although sometimes my dignity doesn't stop me. Yesterday the dentist lectured me about flossing and I lost control of my strings and collapsed into a sad snotty heap on his chair while he looked on in panic. My favorite waiter remembered my name last night, and it took all of my self control not to jump up and hug him. My feelings swing wildly in many directions, and when I regain control of them I feel extra guilty for making people uncomfortable. I am held together by the thinnest of strings.

And frequently there is a monster that grabs my head and makes me watch a movie over and over in split screen of me leaving one party to go to another while at the same time across town he was killing himself. I've spent the last two nights on my couch because he was the last person to share my bed with me, and it feels made of coals. In the daytime and the bar and in the company of people I can understand logic, understand the futility of assigning or accepting blame, understand that he made a business decision and that it couldn't have been stopped. But the rest of the time the monster is holding logic by the throat in its other hand, and I am overcome with anger and guilt and flat black sucking grief. It feels like you can see the holes in me from space.

Monday, January 14, 2008

In December a boy and I broke up, and I just heard--literally, just hours ago--that he killed himself on New Year's Eve. I don't talk about my love life on the internet, but this, you should know.

Things between us ended poorly, and after they ended they rapidly went downhill; we were both passionate, stubborn people with hurt feelings and different ways of operating. I wanted some space to heal up and forgive a little, and he wanted to talk everything out, and it eventually devolved to a place where the fewer phone calls I answered, the more he made. And the more he made, the fewer I wanted to answer.

We were never well matched, which was a lot of the excitement. He stayed home and played music, I drank and went to bars. He wrote long crazytalk emails and I sent text messages. And we adventured together, trading new experiences, swimming in a lake, going to gallery openings, visiting the pumpkin patch. The spaces between us were large but when our rough patches met they made sparks you could see from space.

He was kind, and smart, and he wanted badly to be the sort of man the he admired. He cared about people, and I very nearly loved him.

He called for the last time on the 30th, and I never responded.

It's a strange feeling, to be finding out so late that this person that I spent so much of my time with, that I had such strong feelings for, is no longer around. I am terribly sad, of course, but I'm also confused and angry. He had so many friends, so many people that loved him, that it seems such a selfish thing to do. He had nearly, as a younger man, attempted suicide before, and was stopped by a kind friend at the right moment who had no idea what was on his mind. Someone who still doesn't know that they once saved his life, and now might never know.

And so I also feel terribly, terribly guilty, for thinking too much about my own healing and not about his. We had both broken each other, but I worried only about how he had broken me. Things might not have turned out differently if I had been kinder, but they could have.

My heart goes out to his friends and family.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I haven't seen the old man in a couple of months, and I was distracted today, sitting at the bus stop, so I didn't notice his approach until he sat down next to me and put a hand on my knee. "There you are, Red," he said, patting my leg, "I've been worried about you."

I laughed a little at that, the thought that my accidental prophet might sometimes approach the bench with the same sinking feeling that I do when he's not there. I covered his hand with mine and looked at him, his filmy eyes squinting against a sudden sunbreak, his cheek riddled with broken blood vessels. He looked insubstantial, carved from soap, and I was glad that we sat under the shelter. Just in case.

"What were you thinking about, Red? You had your thinking face on when I got here." He mimicked me, furrowing his brow and pursing his lips, and I smiled. I live in a perpetual fog of metaphors, so it's always likely that I'm thinking about something, and I'm pretty sure the old man understands that. As time goes on I find myself ever more convinced that he and I are cut from the same cloth.

"William Tecumseh Sherman," I answered. He raised his eyebrows at me, made an impatient moue. "He didn't burn down Augusta. When he, you know, marched to the sea. And coincidentally, he loved a girl that lived there. Anyway, today I was looking at the map of the town that he carried during his march, and all it had marked on it were streets and cemeteries and powder mills and things. No sign of why he left it alone. So I was thinking about Sherman, and if his unrequited love saved the homes of that whole town." I punctuated this with a feeble wave. These things always sound worthwhile inside my head. He laughed at me, shook his head. "I think I know what you think the answer is." The corners of his eyes crinkled kindly.

On the bus and down the road, a bunch of boys stopped spray painting tags on a dumpster to turn and paint a swath of leaves on a tall shrub silver. The leaves glinted in the sun, apparently confused by their sudden transformation. A number of blocks further down a big rubber shark sat high in the branches of a tree, mouth open. I was unsurprised, therefore, when I stepped off the bus and into a sun shower.

In fact, I would have been surprised not to.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I enjoy your gaze.

You're not coming home with me, not today, not any time soon. My edges are still feeling a little to sharp for that, my skin too thin. My heart is beating in 3/4 time. I am fragile and painful to be around and slightly shrill, and you can't even dance to me. But in spite of all of that, I do still like to watch you watching me, even when I don't mean to act on it. Especially then.

In all of the time I spend thinking about outer space, I always think around the moon. I imagine that there was a time that the moon was as distant and fascinating as Saturn or the Omega Nebulae or spiral galaxy NGC 3079, but then we took a rocket up there and it turned out to be only dirt, and I can't think about the moon without thinking about all of the people who thought that it would be so much more. So I acknowledge the moon, I pause to think about how pretty and foreign and far away it is, but I stop before I let myself remember that we've had that sand on our hands before.

So you're staying out of my skyline right now, but I'm keeping your glances. I'm folding them up and putting them in my pocket and sleeping with them under my pillow, all of those seconds of opportunity lost, but not entirely gone away.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

It is only when it rains that I come home to myself, when your eyes on my skin don't stab like a handful of sand spurs and my own gaze doesn't automatically avert itself to stare down your ear. The sound of the rain dampens the noise of my footfalls and it becomes easier to tiptoe around the sleeping monsters that live outside my door, easier to unlock my small cabinet and crouch inside.

In the sun I would like to think that I could move out of that cabinet someday and go somewhere else, move to Gibraltar and change my name and make butter sculptures and set up tin-cans-and-string phones with the little monkeys, all without waking up those monsters. That I could patch up these cracks with slivers of stained glass and scuttle like a hermit crab into someone else's shell, and the monsters would stay put, throw a goodbye party, wave white handkerchiefs at my boat.

When it rains I remember slowly, like trying to make out the words of a song heard through an open window, like turning out the light only to discover that the stars always glow in the dark.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

I've been thinking a lot about Newton lately, and his whole knifing himself in the eye habit. I can understand not seeing the world in enough colors, everything not looking the way it does in that space behind his eyes. He found that by pressing the tip of the knife against the back side of the eyeball he could make circles appear everywhere, growing and shrinking depending on how hard he pressed.

I decided that to counteract December I'm going to force a good mood until it actually happens. Things have been working in my favor on that end. I've spent the weekend wearing a sparkly dress, assembling furniture, drinking mimosas and watching the snow. I walked home from a trip to the fabric store to find that I was genuinely pleased with everyone. It's a season of big crushes and champagne and feeling accomplished, and I've made it through six whole days of brazening out the plan. I've been lost in this driveway before.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Today was the perihelion, so I gathered up my tin cans and string a sent up a rocket to tell secrets to the sun.

I only told the sun the good secrets, though. I told it about taking off my hat halfway through walking home in a rainstorm, the drops all glittering in the streetlights, and feeling my hair curl on my shoulders. I told it about forgiving you too soon and myself not at all, about a hand that felt as reassuring as the cool side of the pillow after a bad dream. How you showed up like Wile E. Coyote with a suitcase full of black holes and put one on my heart big enough to drive a truck through. How I want to head up to Point No Point with a stack of smiles, a bottle of scotch, and my most enthusiastic friends, and let a few miles of windy coastline blow the sunshine out from under my eyelids.

I told the sun about laughing so hard I could see the tops of my cheeks, about a baby on an airplane that lurched into my arms when I said hello to it. I told it that there are always going to be things under the water that no one has ever seen before because nature always wins. I whispered a few not-out-loud things, my voice vibrating softly all along the string and into space.

I gave the sun the best secrets, because it's an awful long way back around to here again.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Dear 2008,

When you showed up last night I was taking turns kissing the cutest people in the room, and if that is how you plan to roll I would like to register my vote in favor right now. The evening eventually degenerated spectacularly into playing bartender, giving drinks for jokes, telling the dirtiest joke I know to a bunch of strangers and winning their hearts, making out, and, of course, falling down. I spent most of today recovering with my friends, eating too many things covered in gravy, laughing, and drinking mimosas.

I can't imagine a better way to start off the new year.

I believe in new years, and in clean slates, and in pretending that buying a new calendar is an excuse for brushing off the past twelve months and starting over again. I believe that amazing things are going to happen this year.

I'm not a big one for resolutions, but there are a few things I want to do. I want to be kissing people in more photo booth pictures. I want to decide if I'm going to go back to school, and take steps to make it happen if I can. I want big adventure and big love, I want it to rain, I want monkeys and flowers and robots and squids and whales and giraffes and dinosaurs. I want to learn how to loosen my grip on the things I can't control.

And as always, I want to learn to be brave enough to be bold, and to deserve all the love and attention that I get.

So, 2008, I think that you are going to be a big big year. I think you are going to be my year.