Correspondence and the City

Dear Couple on the Subway,

It’s cute that you’re so into each other. Really. At least someone has found love in this cesspit, right? But it’s Thursday morning on the commuter express train and you two are making out like teenagers. Which you are not, and have not been for a few years, possibly even a decade—I’m not sure because I didn’t get a good look at your faces. However, I can hear your faces: the adorable puckering sounds, the wet suction of lip to lip contact. And I can feel you. I don’t mean that on some metaphorical level. I mean I literally feel your bodies with my body because we are that close to each other. Continue reading

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When It’s Spring and the Ground is Stirring

When It’s Spring and the Ground is Stirring

I remember living sometimes, when it’s spring and the ground is stirring. I remember people—their footsteps hard against the packed earth. I remember mornings of flower blossoms and seeing girls out in their summer clothes, just slightly too soon. This is life: a fleeting progression from youth to age, just slightly too soon. It’s all we have. And yet, and yet…

It’s not that I wish for more. I abhor the slow track. Spring is the dying time in my mind. It is the heartbreaking loneliness. It is the bitterness of retreat. But that’s not true: what I’m picturing is protracted winter, instead. Like the winters when my parents left me. The ones that meandered into April and then May. Continue reading

Legacy

Dad and me

I was, apparently, a hella out of it baby who slept lots.

Dad died three years ago, this morning. 6:47 am, to be exact. I was awake for it, by some betrayal of my body, staring at my phone as the minutes counted down. The battery died before I got there, cheating me out of the most self-indulgent memorial I can fathom (besides, of course, this). I remember the exact time because I can still hear the doctor’s voice pronouncing it; somewhere, it’s still echoing in my ears. And in that place there’s a pathetic fallacy: eternal late winter without the hope of spring.

But, here and now, I know tomorrow will be warm, at least.

Continue reading

My Winter Rooms

I.

The city retreats in winter.
It recedes into itself and
I worry about the alley cats
And the man who used to sit
Wrapped up in ratty blankets
Like a great flightless bird
Nesting over the sidewalk grate.

Without them, the sky closes in
And low-hanging clouds
Fat with ice bear down
Compressing skyscrapers into
A claustrophobic maze of
Pavement—white with salt
And cracked like
The skin of my chapped lips,
Once so plump in spring.

I retreat into myself:
Another hidden face
Biting against a scarf.

What imperfect beasts we are,
Dreaming of our heated rooms,
Wrapped into misshapen wool packages
Into down-padded trappings that
Don’t keep out the misery.
At least not for me.
I feel all full of leaks
And the wind it blows
Through every open window
Every crack in my countenance.

And in my house of empty rooms
The fires have all been banked, for
My heart is an unused space:
I do not heat it in winter.

II.

I miss her again. Sitting in my new life. In a room she never saw, in a city she never lived in. And yet, in this place she’s never even dreamed of, her absence is an ache: as palpable as a physical wound.

Winter is maybe the worst time. The years of their passings were the longest winters of my life. I’m not sure they’ve ended yet.

Still, I know I’m not the only one living with ghosts. Everyone will, eventually.

III.

My friend:
I love you just enough
To visit you.
Provided
It doesn’t involve walking
Through the bad part of town.

IV.

Meet me in the cold. In the untrodden snow. In the memories we never made. I miss you, or the grand potential of you: I’m not really sure which was ever dearer. I miss your hands and the sideways look you’d give me in the backseat of a cab. I miss the way I fit right under you chin. I miss how annoyed at you I could get. I miss your optimism, your frustration. I missed the way you loved everyone you met, but could never find the words to really tell them. I miss who I was when I was with you.

I wonder if it’s an authentic feeling, this wistfulness coiling in my chest, or if I’m merely looking at ourselves on paper. A story with characters much beloved and yet…finished. Done with what they have to say. I hope not. I’m very jealous of anyone who has your time, these days. I wonder often if we could be friends. Not the kind we are now. The kind with late phone calls and an encyclopedic knowledge of the other’s everything. I know you’re busy. That these things either happen or they don’t.

I wonder if my missing was the problem all along. I wonder if I saw the ending before the start. I wonder if I was too wistful, too sad. Because the truth is, I don’t smile much. But when you touched me, I laughed.

Journeys End in Lovers Meeting

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?

O, stay and hear! Your true love’s coming,

That can sing both high and low:

Trip no further, pretty sweeting.

Journeys end in lovers meeting,

Every wise man’s son doth know.

—Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene 3

I’m just going to go ahead and start with a digression: every time I spell “twelfth” I think I’m doing it wrong. Seriously, just look at it. It’s all weird. And it makes me think of fish. I don’t know why. Maybe because of “gefilte?” It doesn’t look like gefilte either. It doesn’t look like anything but itself.

Well. That was quite a digression to start with. Day two of my Year o’ Blogging is going swimmingly, as you can see. Almost literally because for a moment I thought I was going to fall off the boat tonight.

There was a boat?

Right. A yacht.

Let’s start from the beginning.

This evening I had the immense pleasure of seeing two of my friends get married (on a boat). The Bride especially is dear to me. I don’t see her often, but she is heart-kin in the way that every time we see each other it seems no time has passed at all. She’s tiny and lovely: delicate and quietly graceful like Chinese women are supposed to be. And because I’m a fat slob, my mother used to spend lots of time comparing me to her. (Hint: these comparisons always came out in her favor.)

That may have been another digression.

Regardless, she is my heart-kin, and it was gorgeous just to see her with someone she so obviously cared about, and who cherished her in turn. The Bride and Groom are both graphic designers. Which made buying a wedding card for them a nail-biting experience. I mean: I had to pay attention to typography. You wonder why this blog looks as bland as it does? Yeah.

It also means they share a special kind of love. I’ve worked with them before: not together, that is, but each individually. They both have the capacity to be visionary and facilitating, which is an admirable range to pull off. They look good together, to the extent that I found myself thinking “Was I that blind? Why didn’t I see that coming?”

It took a while, and no time at all, for them to “happen,” I guess. Life is a trip like that.

Journeys end in lovers meeting.

A few couples at the wedding described love, and sometimes marriage itself, as a journey. Which, admittedly sounds hackneyed. But I don’t think we’re ever completely free of cliche once we breach this subject, and cliches are accurate often enough for them to become hackneyed.

Disclaimer time: I’m epically single. Preposterously single. I really have no place to be speaking about love at all.

But I remember sitting next to a violinist, years ago, on our way to Venice. I was expecting what we got: a hot, slightly smelly but gorgeous-in-its-own-dirty-way city that was overrun with tourists and gelato stands. She was expecting something a little more romantic. Her parents had honeymooned there, and in her mind’s eye she still had the snapshot of her mother, a young bride, standing before a fountain in a poofy skirt. And even decades later, in her parents’ kitchen they still had a knife from the hotel they stayed at. A butter knife. A small thing. A strange little souvenir of young love.

I asked her if she were to tell the story of her journey to Venice, where would she start?

Well, she replied, she’d start with the beginning of the day, and tell it chronologically. And the logic in that is sound.

But really I’d start with the knife.

Because journeys are weird things that don’t really ever end but splinter off into different ones. And, like the case of my violinist friend, journeys can even be inherited.

Even the wedding this evening itself became a journey as The Spirit of New Jersey made a slightly choppy turn about New York harbor. So I guess a touristy little spin around Manhattan can simultaneously pretty standard and also life-changing.

So standard we did a spin around Lady Liberty while playing cliched music about New York.

So standard we turned a circle around Lady Liberty while playing cliched music about New York. Seriously. The first three songs that come to your head are the ones the DJ played.

That’s pretty normal I think. Life is changed by little things all the time. I specifically requested that the New Couple spend the Crate and Barrel gift card I gave them on mini-spatulas for that reason. And my other gift to them, as partial-curator of the evening’s phat jams, was a little night music.

So in short: lovers met, and journeys began.