so i had a new job, that much made sense. i was wearing thick-rimmed glasses and my hair was up, strands dangling like fast rain. no one would let me in the bathroom, which was small and the color of cardboard. these types were the best safe-havens for moments alone but still halfway in public, to collect and clean the scattered crumbs of my distorted thinkings and remember who i am exactly if and when i am myself. the other waitresses were fast and proficient. i knew i had been too, once, i just couldn't grasp it now, i couldn't grasp anything - everything slipped. i'd been proficient before too, i swear, but my brain fell out, somewhere. i was leaking.
a very important group of people were beginning to arrive, dripping in like large insects in different colored suits. i was expected to do things. i looked at a pile of clean cloth napkins neatly folded, ready and a crumpled pile of used dirty ones. they looked back. things clicked in my brain that concerned me.
you were there, your bright boy face, a part of the group of important people. i peeked past corners at you, you glanced occasionally. i died, a little, each time. what did i want? i couldn't tell you, i couldn't even tell me.
my mother showed up unexpectedly and i ran to her, grabbed her off to the side. i pleaded.
i said please, my brain is in pieces. it's in piles, messy and cleanly folded ones. i can't do anything. i can't see straight. she was mad. this all made her very angry.
"no, be fine."
"you will lose this job."
my eyes were teary and warm and felt like the last sip in a beer bottle no one wants. i went to the managers office. walked over in a panic i know so well the merriam websters dictionary definition couldn't even compete. it was not foreign but so well known. too well known. the three women in the office looked at me like i had done something unspeakable that needed amends or punishment, at the least. i tried to explain. a tall brunette spoke slowly. "your glasses are full of fog which i know means you're lying. it's a tell tale sign." i felt the fog. i switched lanes.
"look," i said. "look, i'm with child. i can feel it. i'm sick. i can't breathe. he's here. i can't separate the clean and dirty napkins. i'm not sure whose inside me, who did this. i can't lose this job. he's here. will i lose this?
"separate the napkins." she said.
i tried to use my hands the way the other people used their hands. they were unwilling.
i dropped heavy silver forks and knives. the sound was lusty and full-mouthed. the other servers picked them up for me, it's alright, they said, we'll take care of this, they did their job and mine. i thought he must love them, as they set up his silverware, he must.
the sky outside was so sharp, wrestling through the restaurants glass windows. the sky outside was my mothers eyes times a thousand and i knew when i looked at it that i was liable and flimsy and that i should be filled with shame and i was.
i lost my mind, i would lose this, and the job, probably. what would i lose?
things happen out of nowhere. we were in the city but i knew very well it never looked like this. everything was off, everything was choked up and about to cry. i watched you more and more from behind hidden things and looked for any slight signs of possible love, any more love. you laughed with the important group of people and maybe there were small moments for me but nothing was big enough to compete with the universe. i decided quickly to run outside and got on the first bus i saw. a country bus, a city bus, it switched up, like the napkins. a man said "chloe" and i said yes? without thinking. he said your name is chloe? and i said oh no, but it sounds a bit like kerry. he said are you with child? and i said its funny you ask that because yes. because i am with child. he asked me my name and i thought of all the names i wanted for my child.
i touched my stomach. everything was threatening and childrens-sing-song loud. the two men in front of me were kissing, they said "bless you child, you are beautiful". but i knew beautiful left me when i stopped sucking my thumb and started to bite my nails, ignore phone calls and drinking vodka from the bottle. it left me in a mirror asking questions with no answers, only this darkness. i saw you then in my head while i was on that bus.
i had my head against the window and then there was the city, there were store fronts i recalled. we passed a home, unlike the others. it was subtly colored, a soft yellow, and a dark indigo blue with dark purple paneling. a woman nearby told her companion "its just what i imagined. we can live there one day, after everything."
once she said this i saw their whole lives up until this point, in an instant, i felt all of it, fast and hard and clear. it was not pleasant but beautiful, still.
in the movie we watched in a dream i had, that house was the same colors of your blanket that you pulled up over your head, in my head and i wanted in there, no matter what. i wanted inside no matter what.
i think i know i think i know i saw it, i think i really saw it. i never told you, i always told them everything. i
never punctuate - i fly, i have wings but you can't see them. they
don't come in two's but by the thousands and they are not kept on our
backs, they are somewhere else, they're all over. no, don't look. it's clear now that i am not a person exactly but a place. some place you come to, you come to sit and lay, you stay and talk here, like a confessional in a catholic church, just a really different kind of holy. growing up i would always lie during the sacrament of penance. i was never honest inside those tiny confessionals. not because i was scared or very guilty of something but because i didn't know why not to or how. why true? what did god want with my sins? fuck it, i kept them wrapped around my tiny fingers. i couldn't remember, let alone fathom not sinning. ten years old, i couldn't even process what it was exactly, sure, they'd try and try to teach me, i just didn't understand. just what wasn't a sin? it seemed like not much. seemed like not anything at all. but this i didn't mind. everything there happened too quickly to make any sense, anyway.
i remember choosing between the heavy cloth and a grid-like screen to separate the priest and i. this decision seemed important. i usually chose the screen, like maybe i was braver if i chose the screen. it validated all of my made up sins somehow, i was still able to see the priests green or purple robes through the very small holes and still smell his holy churchy aftershave. we were all subtly urged to whisper. the compartments, like wooden photo booths, lined the walls along the sides of our church near marble statues that i liked to touch when no one was looking. i had trouble with how hard the things here groped for beauty. you can't do it this way, with their stained glass windows and elevated alter. the priests all delicately robed and holding up books and bread, whispering words to them. this isn't how it works and i knew it. things were dirty and things were evil, skin always beats marble and it always beats glass. but there were still songs we sang in church that made me cry, songs that sounded exactly like reaching like mad for something bigger, my eyes would fill up and drip for the people that sang with their eyes closed and for the sound. i still memorized the prayers and said them right and closed my eyes and folded my hands and tried to find the god we were told to get on our knees for. i was just gone, is all, learning things they didn't care to know. so in the end, it just seemed best to lie.
even through the screen the priest usually knew it was me. he knew me by name and he knew my life. this made it worse. things would just plop automatically out of my mouth without warning. yes, i had been bad, yes, i had pushed my little brother -- hard. and okay i stole bubblegum from a bodega, or ten dollars from my mother, i kicked a kid in my class just for the fuck of it. i fudged a lot of facts and a lot of numbers. this was much safer. i wasn't like the other kids i knew or the teachers or the priests. i watched water & wind & made gravel move with my eyes. i did this for minutes and hours and days and years. i watched people that were there for me only, they would languidly visit my little existence. they never asked me my sins and i never asked them theirs. sometimes they'd touch all the wings. they'd tell me about the lines we draw between real good and real evil. i wondered things like just what did crows do exactly to warrant their dark symbolisms besides eat the dead? we'd all walk and talk alone, together. i'd pick up used stubby cigarettes off the ground and smoke them absently. i'd think about sickness and death and how to share human grittiness, the things people ran from with their eyes closed. i reached always, for everything. just not the things everyone else was reaching for. i learned things about places inside people that they had never traveled to, i touched finally the edges of all the meanings of sin and what it was to be human but more importantly how many of them would do anything to deny all the facts. at the end of confession the priest would make the sign of the cross over me with his hand, sideways, palm out, and only then was i absolved. absolution. but no different. i wasn't. maybe i should have chosen the cloth instead or told the truth, whatever that was, i should have hid my wings better or stayed on the ground. i saw it, i know i saw it. i see it still.
was the tenth or eleventh year of my life. i wore big soft t-shirts and
never had any shoes on. there were trees along the sidewalk that we trusted to be bases during tag, specific trees that jut out of the cement
like exclamation points. there was a girl that i would kiss that kissed me back. we'd kiss and kiss, touching for hours. we'd kiss under blankets at
sleepovers, inside big dark shoe closets (the bumpy shoes underneath us,
jutting into our girl legs and the crowded hanging clothing
embracing our cheeks and faces as we moved, that we grabbed in our
furies). softly or very aggressively we'd kiss in her bedroom and in the
dark empty classrooms of the elementary school building on sundays
after church. i would kiss her whenever i had the chance to, and when it
started some unnameable new sparking force would find me and nothing
could stop me from looking for my body, this new and greedy body. i swear
there wasn't a slope or curve that could fill me up. i was so hungry.
these were our bodies now. no one elses. her lips were
raspberries and i was all fruit-stained and covetous. i was learning. we
both were. i dare you to try and explain those first skinnydipping
kisses in the shoe closet. we
were all little-girl-knees and soft tongues, we were vlad's lolita,
nothing was dirty or impure, even all the spit was spotless. the most
magnificent thing was that we were unaware, we had no idea at all, the
things that were growing. everything turned
delicious. that's the thing about clean skin. that's the thing.
girl-soap air and wet hair after a whole day outside, the leftover scent
was proof that we defeated the world, we were the gods and martyrs of
our street. i wanted to be covered in absolutely everything. when
they found us kissing they arranged a talk with our priest. we sat in big
wooden chairs with round bouncy purple cushions under our bottoms, side
by side with his face across from us. i can still smell him, i can still
smell the room. he spoke to us calmly about pornography and the
troubles, he talked about sex and men. it was halloween. i used my
special vision skills to look outside the window behind him at trees and
autumn leaves while still appearing very attentive and focused on his
face. i didn't want to think about sex anymore, not here with this
priest, not like this. i conversed with the maple leaves and with myself
in my mind while his longish older-gentleman mouth moved carefully,
more at us than to. i wondered what he really knew besides the nothings coming out of that mouth. the trees moved soundlessly. i wasn't with either of
them in that room, but outside, away. i can see you god, can you see
me? my hands were folded, aware of one touching the other. it wasn't
about her anymore, something left me then. it was my tenth or eleventh year, in october. i
started to write in marble notebooks all the time. the wrong god answered. it wasn't
about her anymore, or the priest or the shoe closet or the wet hair.
instead it was a sooty gorgeous sickness that i still breathe in and
out, every time.
i visit your mind from the inside of mine i visit everyone it is not my decision
i am in a spot that is maybe your great great grandmothers sisters garden where her husband would watch her for hours from different windows of large house. everyday she'd grow and groom lilies with more efficiency than people that worked hard for money.
i am in an earthy, shady spot in that very garden and i am digging. everyone watches me. my name is said twice in a poem, which i think is very beautiful. some silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids seem to inspire my onlookers to repeatedly ask me how my garden grows and I don't know and when they ask it just turns my heart into a thing with eyelashes that is capable of crying. maybe the little salty tears are good for the soil and digging, i mean, the lillies still grow, so i don't stop. it is not my decision. they all think i am dreaming. i wonder what i look like from the windows of the house, i count the row of pretty maids and i hope, as i dig, that maybe now you or i could finally exist as something more than just human. its happening but it never happens. sometimes
you're you and sometimes you're already not, but either way,
somebody big and tough holds the reigns on your subconscious car
crashes. who you are then controls the colors of your garden dwellings
and elementary school memories. nobody i have found sounds the same but my garden is your garden quite contrary i know it is.
I'm sorry, I can't, there's 5,000 blades in my stomach. I'm sorry but I can't, the birds are all talking. Don't move, I think they're saying. Don't touch me, don't shoot. You love me you said? Is that it? You love me no matter what? I mean no matter what?
They're hunting turkeys outside but besides that I hear nothing. Yes, the television counts as nothing, your voice counts as nothing, my heartbeat counts as nothing. Okay, never mind, I lied, your voice is a semi-precious stone, at worst.
So all my apologies --- every single one. Tell me, were you always a god?
I move my body, my teeth chatter with the talking birds. Don't get cold, I won't be cold. Keep the bones warm and alive. Your hands are not helpful but your eyes are the kind that look to the color of the shirt worn for guidance as to how to shine. Look, you don't understand - I'm not a storyteller, so put all that shiny good stuff away and show me some shadows. You're distracting, I'm distracted. I scribble in my head and I hold your hands with mine. I'm sorry. I missed your call, I'm late for all the appointments, I'm sorry, I lose people like pens. It's complicated, I was always a late bloomer but maybe I could make you some tea? I could fold all your clothes? I could pour us some whiskey shots and I swear I won't stop until you tell me to. I could write you vague love letters on the back pages of novels, but not this, I can't do this.
Just please, wait and don't move, I'm trying to tell you something. I swear there's a point. There is a matter and the matter is this: I lost. It's that simple and I'm so sorry. It's too much like swishing warm salt water in my mouth when I lost a tooth. Blood and salt and teeth and 'Kerry, spit it out' and 'Don't play with that new, bloody hole there' but I would anyway, my tongue searching for a distinct bitter proof of something missing. In my growing-adult-teeths phase I remember being moved from one place to another by the sound of bells. They weren't silver or gold but I remember still a deep sounding ring and complete understanding. I left then and i'll never tell you where I ended up. My mother still has a baby tooth of mine inside a very tiny soft envelope. The others I swallowed in my sleep, like most things. I can remember learning somewhere that teeth are stronger than the bones of the body but i'm still not what you think, i'm still not that storyteller. Still lost, still sleeping. That baby tooth in the envelope is meaningless, I know, in the giant looming scheme of things but listen. It's a symbol and I can't stop searching for those. I play with the tooth in my hands back and forth, I press the sharp edges of it into the skin of my fingers. Listen up, please. I was born. I was born and then there was a gold rush.