this is you in your winter overcoat, huddled in a bus station corner under the bright lights and muffled sounds of passing travelers. the soft strands of your blond hair cover your eyes as you try to remain hidden in the little world of you. no one knows you, but all that are see you. there is no fear in your face, no worry in your brow. you are exactly where you want to be.
this is your polaroid camera, underused and rarely moved, sitting on a chair by the foot of your bed. its pictures are warm and filled with everyone. they collect in a drawer, on a pinboard near a lamp, across your desk and in a secret place under the mattress. they keep well enough and you dream of them when asleep.
this is a document not being written. its letters are fake and more like a cliche, massaged and poorly fashioned for the benefit of us. this is a love letter to those who will never know. this is fleeting thought, bereft of anything original or pure, stymied by the dreary hands that create it.
in the old days, on the hot days, on the days like today, we would go down to the river by springfield road, down next to the river bank just beyond jacob’s house, just the three of us: me, jacob, and sam. the heat back then, to the three of us, was unbearable. we’d imagine being in a volcano, or a desert, or hell itself, and we’d pretend to be battling the sun as if it were some kind of cosmic enemy. we’d splash and play in the water like it was some kind of mystical thing that could heal all the things that were wrong with our lives. jacob would pretend he was purified in the cooling stream, that his family thought he were something special, something worth keeping, and the three of them - jacob and his parents - lived happily ever after. me and sam, we imagined that the water took us to another world, a world where the two of us never had to be apart. we’d secretly be together. she would sneak out every day and i would be there at the end of the street waiting. the two of us would keep this to ourselves until our parents would find out. they would be angry and confused and we would plead our cases and say, let us be friends. they would agree, after a spell, and we would all be together for the rest of time. the river would give us this, a release from what we had, a few moments of fantasy where the three of us spent our days. we were all together and happy on the hot days, on the days like today. and we never wanted to leave.
Fran was good with plans. Plans and plans. Notes made with fountain pens, pop-up reminders of moons and Fests and woodland adventures. Plans, they scared me. Mostly, I think, because I was afraid of breaking them, forgetting them, forgetting and letting people down. I wasn’t keen on making them. Ever. But she liked plans, thrived on them and, after a spell, so did I. I could count on her to keep our aim straight away. It was nice, refreshing. But it was intimidating, too. She had her shit together. She had plans. What did I have?
“Camping on Friday, yeah?”
“You get the wood, beer, ice. I’ve got the rest.”
We spent a weekend hopping around breweries in the southern parts, drinking up the sun. It was early on in our time and I remember thinking how crazy it all was, how smooth and wonderful and simply easy such a new thing could be. It was scary. It wasn’t planned.
And so now it’s months later and I’m wondering if I should have made those plans just as well. Plans for hotels and plans for Golden Gate. Maybe I wouldn’t be doing those things alone. Maybe I should have planned for the longer things, not been afraid. I don’t know. I should have. I wanted to. I was never good with plans. Fran was. I miss her plans. Plans and plans and plans.
Alli, a sculptor, small and smart, who is my younger sister, loved a man from Halifax once.
I thought to myself, What kind of fucked up sentence is that? No one writes like that. No one. I could have just as easily wrote,
Alli, my younger sister, is a sculptor. She is small and smart and once loved a man from Halifax.
See how much better that reads? How much better it sounds? It rolls of the tongue as they say. The first sentence is short and strong and states the point of it all. The subject. Alli. She is my sister, my younger sister obviously, and she is a sculptor. A fantastic sculptor. She had made me this amazing miniature statue for my 25th birthday. But you know what, we’ll come back to that.
She is small and smart and once loved a man from Halifax.
This is not entirely true. I mean, to her maybe she thought she loved him. Maybe she even had this perfect idea of loving him. But most of us knew that it wasn’t real. I knew. Marilyn, her best friend, knew as well. There were little hints when we first met him, hints that set us off to his beguiling ways. For one, he didn’t open the door for her. Any door. Car door. House door. Building door. I suppose for some maybe that’s not the biggest deal. We seemed to think so, me and Marilyn. He’s bad news, she’d say, bad news bears. Actually, I didn’t even know that was the name of a movie until 5 months later when Gail, this girl I’d only recently met, mentioned it to me in the video store. Bad news bears, she said. But I reacted, unknowingly, drawing myself to the first thing I thought her to be talking about - two large, black men who had just walked through the motion sensor slide doors. Jesus, I said to her, that’s kind of fucked up.
You wreck me.
It’s true. Straight to the core. You wreck me.
You’re not allowed to say those things.
You’re not allowed to be…poetic.
Is that poetic?
It’s certainly sweet.
But not “poetic”.
It’s enough. It’s enough.
Weekend winds and a sound that makes us young. A newborn breath into the lives of those who are longing, of those who seek more. The rising and falling of things that could possibly be. There is me in the side seat, sitting calmly and cool, a fictitious notion of a man who only ever desired to be something more. And there is you, the driver. Born and bread for greatness, a proper product of the wood and the bush and the wave that goes back and forth. A wave only you could ever conquer. Gorgeous in your love of life, cauterized in your love of me. There is fear in the wood where the days would be spent.
That’s an understatement.
It’s so dark. There, I can’t believe I’m saying this, are so many trees!
What are we doing?
Through and through.
Let’s start a fire first.
That seems smart.
You take to the pit, the place we will find our light. A box and some lint and a flint in your pocket - this is where we make midnight into day. You set to illuminate the nature. You set to do what you’ve swooned for weeks prior - sharing in nature and gathering wood and creating flame from dryer shavings and old coupons. I was hesitant and nervous and wondering if we would sleep in the black. You made it so, so that we wouldn’t be so helpless. You created light from the dark. You created hope from despair.
Who are you?
You. Who are you?
I’m just me.
These things, goodness gracious, these things. I can’t believe.
You’ve never seen a girl start a fire?
No. I haven’t.
I know things.
I see that.
This is my thing. I would live here forever. I love this.
I believe it.
Why are you looking at me like that?
I can’t help it.
Marshmallows and whiskey and the sight of a shining sky above us. The amalgamation of everything we’ve ever both wanted, of everything we’ve searched for in another…of everything we both wished life could/should be. It was happening, had happened, was to be happening. It was without word, without fear, without doubt.
This is the life.
You’re telling me.
This is all I ever want.
I’m glad I’m here with you.
I want nothing more than this.
They are there.
I see them.
This is the best.
It truly is.
You are the best.
I’m just trying to keep up with you.
I curled my toes and held tight to the notion that this could be the thing that makes all other things obsolete. What is it to be alive, I asked. What is it to be alive. You held my hand and came in close and, in the crease of my neck you said, “This is love and this is life and the stars can be shining but I will never love this place more than I love you.”
I saw the motion of satellites move across the great, dark sky. I saw suns exist in beautiful fashion. I witnessed a galaxy exist with my own eyes. And I could only think of you. I could only think of sharing a moment in time on a mountain in nowhere with you.
You’ve got sad eyes.
Yes. So heavy. So sad.
I didn’t realize.
It’s fine. You don’t have to be.
It’s in the middle of a warm day when the rush of feelings comes like a dormant storm from the hills, a bludgeon to the head of an already weakened soul. There is the meadow that you currently stand in, filled with flowers and grass and a bright and shining sun. You lay down.
Shuffle your hands together, fold them in on themselves. Find the feeling that has escaped you for some time. Do not let the storm come to its fullness. Clasp your fingers together. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Let the wind move over your face. Let the scent of sunflower fill every part of you. One.
I got things.
Bittersweet, more like.
But the sleeping bag is cool.
Recall the moment in the park, the moment you realized. So soon and small and in its infancy, yet fully known. Known and terrifying. There was a bridge there, a bridge made of plastic and wood, a bridge that hung across woodchips. You lay there at that bridge and you read words from that weakened heart. They pour out of you like so many things now, just barely held at the seams. So many words.
And then there is the meadow again, hands still clasped together, holding like it were another. Try and not fool yourself. All things come to their end, like so many words.
So, here we are.
Seems to be.
This is it?
Doesn’t have to be.
I think, maybe…I don’t know.
Too many things.
I don’t understand.
This is better.
Doesn’t have to be.
Yeah. It does.
We wrote with charcoal stems on the backs of rusted sheet metal our dreams of long lost worlds, of space colonies and countless species, horsehead nebulae, massive rainforests and explosive fires. The sweat of our palms stained the black into the undersides of our hands. Our nails itched with blood and ink. We were marked and ready, set into motion by things we couldn’t understand, the things out of our control.