i guess i always expected more, growing up. which is funny because people always told me and i’ve been convinced, myself, that i was born cynical. but the biggest pessimist is just the biggest optimist disappointed. maybe i never gave it a chance, or not for long enough. maybe the world is still warm and people still love each other and food is still pure and the glaciers are frozen solid and we don’t have to squeeze through the slits of bureaucratic fissures and yeah i can go on, yeah, sure. but the next person will remind me to lower my expectations and grow up. this is life and it’s not as bad as i make it out to be, nothing is as dramatic as it plays out in the mind. and i guess i feel pretty immature, especially when i have to fight that temper-tantrumous impulse to step up really close to them and remind them, in the form of a question, oh don’t they remember none of us get to stay here forever?
Why does she always find herself seated at this desk at midnight after days of happy-go-lucky sunny-side-up easy-spirit carefree caffeinated buoyancy, counting the things that make her smile and staring at two pitiful fists the size of a heart too small for life and love and compassion because when fingers bear the burden of signification hers don’t move, can’t move, too stiff and too tired from clutching on to nothing for so long that the inertia of pettiness is just too much to overcome?
The relationships we have with our furniture - they’re portals of our history. They’re imprinted with the fingerprints of family and friends, some of whom are no longer with us. Our furniture - we remember moving them, hugging them the first day we move them in and hugging them again when we move them out. We wonder about the pieces we’ve given away, or left by the dumpsters, or transformed. Some completely broke down, ghosts of driftwood on the ebb and flow of childhood memories. We also remember furniture of places we’ve frequented: ex-lover’s apartment, grandparents’ attic, our old school or office.
Our furniture - they are witnesses, time stamps; they’ve been babysitters, sleepers, weapons, readers, keepers. They’ve kept the dust from reaching the floor. They’ve hid dead bugs, paper clips, hair, intimates, single socks, business cards. They’ve been tattooed by blood, sweat, tea, wine, burnt by the bottoms of casserole pots, scarred by the claws of pets. They’ve been quiet, loud, squeaky, rocky, heavy, flippant. They’ve been wiped, dusted, blown upon, oiled, sprayed. They’ve lost nuts and bolts and gained inexplicable 1-inch pieces of Scotch tape.
I remember an old couch. Pale cushions as a result of having gone through the washer once too often.
I say your name now
One mini syllable
For no reason
Not to ponder
Nor to exhume my guilt
After six years
No longer re-reading
Where you promised
“After you date 3 more guys
And I date 2 more girls
We’ll realize” we
No longer apologetic
I’ve had my heartaches
Not over you
So are you not
you were a robot dancing the human sign language
i was a human flashing the semaphores of love
A close friend and I were talking about the vices and virtues of staying up late. We agreed that, while the habit weighed down the day’s activities with the unmistakable sluggishness of sleep deprivation, there’s something we encounter uniquely in the small hours of morning that attracts us, that makes the universe feel right, that, even if bad, is good. For my friend, it is peak productivity. Why work on an assignment during the day with 60% brain when you know it’ll rev up to 100% in just a few hours? I can understand that. I’ve experienced it myself, though not often enough to justify all the more nights I stay up doing absolutely no work. And I don’t mean that instead I indulge in something worthy in a hedonistic sense - I don’t go out partying, nor marathon my favorite TV show, not even immerse myself in the internet (that’s more an evening sin). Most nights I sit there at my desk, just waiting. Every so often I’d glance at my bed and consider sleep, but it’s such an undesirable concept I dismiss it immediately. It’s not unlike when we’re much younger and still went on play dates and your mother shows up to take you home, and you refuse it flat-out, asking for another half-hour of playtime.
So maybe that’s what I do when I stay up late for no good reason - I don’t want playtime to end, even though there isn’t anyone else there and I’m not actually playing anything. It’s just that the process of going to and falling asleep is such a lonely one - I mean, truly lonely, you don’t even have yourself to keep you company, as that self drifts away and you dwindle from a singular point of self-awareness to no awareness, from 1 to 0 - and that’s the sort of terrifying that’d keep me at the desk, clutching thoughts like a childhood best friend. “Let’s keep playing, I don’t want to go home.”
I suppose there is also something to be said about the type of thoughts that uniquely exist between midnight and, say, 5 am. (Later than 5am, there’s too much light, too much birdsong, too much awakeness too close). In the solitude of night, ironically, I am least alone because the thoughts that visit are different from the sharp, utilitarian, economical thoughts of day. These are instead artists and poets in their own right, wizened sages and oenophiles. At night is when I can wind down and just rest, sipping mental wine with these old, intimate friends. Cheers.
And the fear is that they’d stop visiting if I lights-out at midnight. I mean if I notice that my favorite bar started closing at an earlier hour, and it seems to keep that up, sooner or later I get the message and stop checking. I go somewhere else. These thoughts, too, might stop coming over if I start putting up the “Closed” sign on the door of my consciousness. Then, one night, I’ll decide to stay up and there’d be absolutely nothing, and I’ll come to the despairing realization that it’s finally happened, when staying awake is just as lonely as falling asleep.
Not many know this but
the Sun doesn’t really exist.
It is really
Moon in a mask
But say it like it’s one word
Yes, just like
And it has to wear this mask
Dialogue and echo, unending and indistinguishable
In her head and she can’t
Erase, erase anything.
So it is easier to wear a mask
When the world wakes.
The world, thinking,
Now here is that Sun, the darling.
The world, thinking,
I’ve just about had it up to here
With that moon.
The world, fooled,
Because this one here
is the same one there
And so much love
For eye holes and a string.
This is how you curse a ten-year-old.
You, in your simple white gown and laces, with your straight brown hair pooled by your side when you sit because you never tied it up, smile. You are bored, you are only the sitter, you have too much time and not enough cash. You are simply lovely.
You coo, “Now now.”
You sing a little song, you flip the pages in a picture book. This ten-year-old can’t read English. You know the secrets of a woman’s body and the child knows you better than her parents. Because you are the patient lady and you are there and goodness, are you simply lovely.
You scratch your elbow.
You let the child sit with you when you smoke a cigarette. You know the child won’t tell anyone. You puff out the gray hieroglyphs from ages past, spelling peace and quiet in the settled air of an old apartment. And so the child learns the language of your breaths before English.
You tilt your head.
You say, “It’s time for me to go.” You say, “Be good now.” You say, “See you tomorrow.” And then, this is how -
You say, “This is the last time I’m here. Goodbye.”
- this is how you haunt me now.
Me, with my clumsy stumbles and clunky words, who learned English reluctantly because I had to forget the syntax of your breaths. Me, who cannot seem to hold a commitment with anyone no matter how hard I try. Me, who from time to time would do basic arithmetic just to keep you alive, constant, counting, “I’m now 23. Plus 12. So she is now 35. 35 and alive.” Me, who since the age of ten has always feared the road, the cars, the news. Me, who remembers how you were the last day we were together, neat and prim and long hair swishing, cooing, “Goodbye, goodbye,” and slipping into your little sad coffin on wheels. Because you were too lovely, which I always knew, but someone else figured it out and decided it wasn’t fair.