the fact that the contest ended this year was a sign, like a sign that you don’t get a do-over whenever you want, that you can breathe but sometimes you’ve got to hold your breath for longer. you miss him? so do i. so do it.

you ever read a book and want it to never end?  wanted to lick your lips, taste it one more time. i feel like danez smith’s book did that to me.

in a rut. that’s how i feel. should i buy a domain? is that a thing a lot of people do?  just some two minute thoughts. run and run around in a circle don’t they? doesn’t the word circumspect come from “circ”? but you’re supposed to get wiser aren’t you? so what’s this called?

an exception?

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when it snows and it’s late and i look at the frosted glass from my bathroom window, it glows the most beautiful orange, not vibrant, just warm, subdued but undeniable. maybe it’s nostalgia but i really don’t think that’s what moves me. instead, it comforts me, crawls from the dimmed street lights outside, slides through the tempered glass of my bathroom window, and settles for a nap on my cheek, tickling gently, reminding me that i’m alive, that it’s real. the orange is warm, is sleepy, reminds me to breathe, maybe to hold my breath, but never to panic. never to abandon what is in the present but instead of listen, to see, to breathe in, and breathe out. live languidly, perhaps. i can’t see what’s beyond but maybe that’s why it’s perfect. because beyond the frost, it’s still snowing, it’s still biting, it’s still cold, still a cruelty that won’t forgive even when i repent, and this life en rose is currently in orange instead, but i can live with that, i can settle, perhaps because i have to. i make myself feel like this feeling of being entrapped is actually a feeling of being ensconced i’ve misread, and i take it non-chalantly. don’t overthink. it will ruin the mood.

i thought of him again and i’m not sure how i feel about it. because to write what i feel would mean i’d have to confront it. and that’s hard. it’s hard because it would feel like knocking my head back against the grime of a denial that’s caked on so thick it’s solid and i get a whiplash so good afterwards you’d call it an epiphany, an about face, a snap back to reality oh there goes gravity. so i’m timid and i think about it through this frosted glass facade. and maybe he reminds me of the winter orange glow but every day that sensation that i dream of feels fainter. and maybe that means i’m healing. or i’m forgetting. maybe there’s no difference. maybe you can’t heal without forgetting it all.

and that’s why i haven’t healed. because i hold on. i remember. i even try to remember the details, especially in the moments before bed and i let my mind wander and somehow it always finds itself back in time, two years ago when i was young and losing weight and determined to do great things and arrogant and naive and every name in the book. and every time i slide down this rabbit hole, i cringe, i sigh, i tell myself i would have done it differently, but i hesitate to leave, hesitate to come back up for air. i will myself to turn back time bringing with me only hindsight. i say all the right things, i make the right mistakes, i understand things in the moment that took me months, years even, to acknowledge.

we’ve changed. he’s changed. i’ve changed. i’ve grown, but it’s been ugly. three years is a lot of time for things to transform and we are rounding the corner of two. we are well past it at this point. what do i have to show for it other than these wounds that i pick too often to let them close, this life whose trajectory pointed towards great things but has since stalled since i have limited resilience for failure.

it gets better from this point, right? beyond the valley is another peak right? it only goes uphill from here, they say, but i always forget i’m the slowest climber. not the weakest, mind you, but someday i’ll see over this edge.

the opposite of a strong woman

the opposite of a strong woman is
nothing
is against the movement
is me, Day 147
waiting two hours early for a train
on a bench in Kings Cross
thinking, not moving, not healing, just…
stunned

about where i went wrong.

a grieving woman has potential
because she is redeemable
is granted the chance to prove that she is strong
and if she can’t
well, what an embarrassment.

there’s no room in history for weak women.

when i coughed up the bile, they cooed
look at everything you’ve gone through,
the beginning is tough,
i promise it gets better.

but the sour taste never subsided
and months in I saw his face
everywhere
his name was just a curse
to tie up my throat
how can you need someone
so badly
who doesn’t need you?

answer:

she’s the opposite
of a strong woman.
and they’re right, they’re always right
so write me down in history
as someone who couldn’t survive the war.
a weak woman is a witch worth burning for
the stakes are too high these days for
mistakes

there’s no room for mistakes in survival and
I grieved past the grace period,
didn’t let myself heal fast enough so they shield
their daughters’ eyes when I pass
out of blasphemy
I’m not worth being made an example of,
I’ m a lost cause among the growing cause

I cry when I want to,
sit frozen for periods at length,
unsure what is the next move,
unsure if there is something worth doing that’s an advance and not a retreat

retreat in some other context is a setting for healing,
for peace I haven’t bothered to find

strong women leave a mark in history and i’m just a bruise

black sheep, black witch
you want me to tell you that it gets better but I don’t
i don’t mind losing when I’ve already lost

He says come back and I do.
foolish woman

He says stay and I know I would
he promised me stars but never delivered

I’m not waiting, I assure you, I’m past that,
you see, I found some on my own
but they remind me of the ones he had promised
so I sit still
I grieve
I lay down and look up in the dark and think

what
have we done
to each other

words.strung.together

    1. you ever sit on the bus in those window-facing seats, and you angle your whole body to look outside, and there’s the tree? it’s her tree, it looks just like her tree and it’s been thirteen years and we’ve both grown older and sometimes you miss your childhood friends. but you miss them not like a yearning for warm days and cackles and footsteps that don’t fully originate on the sidewalk but along the middle of the cul-de-sac in circles at four feet five, acquiescing to nobody’s orders but imposing cars leaving and entering driveways, instead, you miss them like staring at the crumbling in your hands. it’s dust, it’s everywhere and you can breathe it in but it amounts to nothing. and she won’t visit your city because it reminds her of you. and it has been thirteen years, isn’t that enough to forget? but you don’t. because an eating disorder doesn’t have an expiry date even when it’s gone. and the music of our teens grows so nostalgic they become classics, and thirteen years ago is your generation’s Breakfast Club and you’d replay it all the time if you could. rewind to the best parts, play it again.   ////////  it ain’t gone, baby, it’s just not living.
    2. when the days are grey and mildew-y and damp, i think of this vision that looks a lot like the Barnes and Noble near Greenwich but it’s not totally it. maybe it’s the big picture window that confuses me in these dreams, but i’m not sure. and i think this is where i might die, or where i feel like i’m living, or maybe this is a memory i don’t remember, but i think fondly of this window. i imagine when it snows, it must bring some rush back into me, light me back alive if i was ever on the edge. it doesn’t feel like home, it never did. maybe it was a stopping place, where you rest, but you don’t call it home, because it means you must move on eventually.
    3. what would you do if you won the lottery? and i think easy, i’d buy a house, i’d invest, i’d travel. would i keep a job? of course. i could go to school and not worry about tuition. and when i don’t worry i grow reckless, when i worry i grow restless.  and the world is a blank slate because suddenly i have everything to lose, and that’s why you don’t see lottery winners on top 40 lists, that’s why they don’t run for office (because there are other things they can do), and i’m not sure how i could mess up my blank slate but baby i would.  my blank slate is power washed, hand dried. amnesia spreads among all my friends about all the things i’ve done wrong, and as for myself, i can’t pause, that would be the biggest test you see. i can’t pause so i run, so i rev, so i hit go. i’ve got to do something and it would be my demise. strike a match and arson doesn’t begin to seem like the right world. explosion? no, too abrupt. this is a gradual burn, but it isn’t slow.  you don’t know how to do yourself in until it’s o p p o r t u n e. what a word, huh? almost like fortune. just almost.

 

travels & tribulations

i haven’t really updated my life in terms of my travels and i’ve done a lot of it. i’ve suffered a lot too if your faith in measurement liberally includes a plebeian drama queen.  i’m never sure if i enjoy travelling, because i get exhausted after i return, and i’m always lukewarm about whether or not i want to come home. i want to come because i get overwhelmed by the income inequality, and i am reluctant to return because of the weather.

things i’ve realized

  • i am more inclined to give homeless people money when i’m abroad. i think part of it is the relative income inequality, and i feel like it will make a greater difference because in my head, i think there are fewer support services available to them than in canada. is that fair? am i being unfair?
  • i still haven’t been able to “relax” while travelling. there is too much to see, there is never enough time to reflect. maybe it’s an ROI thing?
  • i like meeting new people, i like meeting them for a short period of time. i don’t like growing attached.
  • i hate exploring canada. i’m not really sure what it is… maybe it’s too close to home? the weather? i hated vancouver and am certain that i would never, ever move there. i didn’t like the vibe, it’s not fast enough for me. it also feels like too small of a city. it feels like a fake city. the skies are also grey all the time. the tourist attractions like that lego whale statue feels like a pathetic attempt at public art, perhaps because it’s situated in too touristy of a setting.
  • i don’t think i would enjoy europe much… we made a pit stop in Zurich and i just hated it. things are too old, too cramped for my liking.
  • a full water crisis is gonna hit the world, and it’s gonna be ugly.

birmingham

i wish i had longer in birmingham.  great food, way too much walking, very hot and humid and i stuck it out. it wasn’t even as humid as home, so i didn’t mind it too much and don’t know why i pointed that out since it sounds like i singled it out as a gripe. i just spent too much time outside, walking, exploring, refusing to pay for transportation. loved the bird scooters, which is a source of internal conflict, because I am staunchly against tech because of the hyper-masculine, super-white work cultures and the entitlement that emanates from tech firms, but they were sooo fun to ride and they’re way cheaper than cabs or ride shares.  birmingham is very segregated, not only in where people live but what shops people eat and shop at. it’s very desolate. on weekends, it’s a ghost town. you could traverse the middle of the road if you wanted. you’ll always see a couple of cars, but the weekend sidewalks can be your kingdom if you want to claim them.  i don’t think i could live there… i’ve been thinking about it, since the cost of living would be so much lower and all my friends and family would consider that out of left field if i literally uprooted myself and settled down in alabama. maybe i would love the shock value, however short-lived that might be.

should we visit places that are known to be racist? i kept thinking about that. should we visit places that we think are backwards, not progressive?  when we visit them, are we complicit? i say you should visit them, i say maybe you are complicit and you have to accept that.  there are victims of that racism who live there, who deserve to be acknowledged, and their stories and history deserve to be acknowledged. birmingham was a learning experience. i went to the civil rights museum and learned SO MUCH, i walked the streets, i spoke to houseless people, i ate at places where everybody was white, i rode bird scooters, i conversed with a lyft driver who told me that he worked as a greyhound driver for his entire life but came back to alabama to retire because alabama is truly “sweet home alabama”. i’m complicit to that segregation, but i’m not sure you could not be… like if i don’t help “solve” it, i couldn’t possibly win.  alabama’s history is complicated, its politics are complicated and so problematic, but tourism can’t be strictly perceived as visiting places for “fun”. we visit new places to experience and learn about them. and birmingham was kind, it had that lucid, hot summer swagger (in the most erudite definition), and it made pity the world for overlooking birmingham and alabama as somewhere unworthy of visiting.  sitting at the greyhound station for a bus that ended up being delayed by 2 hours was eye-opening in seeing the people that come through the station, and thinking it looks a lot like how i grew up in the suburbs. i read Our Towns shortly after my visit; birmingham isn’t on a recovery from a decline, but it’s on its way up, at least for its white Millennial residents. there’s a Southern creative class there that’s emerging, and i got to see it because my decision to walk home from dinner led me to the arts festival that was going on. birmingham is slow, it wants to talk to you, it has an ugly history that should never be forgotten.

cape town

cape town was beautiful. i’m not sure what i expected when i went. i thought maybe it would change me as a person, and perhaps the mark it leaves on me is still pending.  the oceanside views are breathtaking, the best i’ve seen, but that doesn’t say much because i haven’t traveled to many capes. but Chapman’s Peak man…. I could sit there all day. The views were so gorgeous, the pace of life is slow and chill (typical oceanside!), the poverty is at times hard to stomach though I know it’s probably a lot worse in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The water crisis makes me think about how precarious potable water really is, and how much we take it for granted living by the Great Lakes.

i don’t enjoy travelling with other people and that’s something i haven’t been able to change, even though i made a true CONCERTED effort to be more affable and pleasant, but i am by nature very impatient, self-absorbed, and unable to make compromises. i don’t think i can stay at an AirBnB for the rest of life, because they have always disappointed me, but that says a lot more about me than anything else. I loved seeing Muizenberg, climbing Table Mountain and Lions Head (at least for the first couple hours). it sucked that i got my period while travelling, but i knew it was going to happen, and i feel like that ordeal could have been a lot worse, so maybe it was the best it could have been but i would make sure not to travel at that time next time around.

i’ve been more open to new foods… got to try ostrich meat, which i would definitely try again. i also tried brisbok, a type of antelope, and would look for local fruits and foods when i could.  i got annoyed with these Dutch tourists who weren’t interested in learning about the history of Bo-Kaap at all, because Bo-Kaap is shaped by the effects of apartheid, mild islamophobia, and colonialism.  It’s actually really sad that South Africa’s official languages are English and Afrikaans, because as our Robben Island tour guide pointed out, they’re both languages derived from the colonizers.  What does it mean to undo colonialism? Is that even possible?  Is language the greatest weapon for ensuring that the legacy and consequences of colonialism endure, because it becomes impossible to unravel: it becomes a literal matter of survival.  I really enjoyed the tour of Langa, the oldest township where ostracized Black South Africans were forced to live during apartheid. you see the genuine sense of community; the homes in the community were the most run down i’ve ever seen, but that’s because i haven’t travelled to any other third-world countries. it wasn’t shocking per se, because we can see a lot of those types of images online and through documentaries, but it made it real.  Some people live in literal shacks, and there is litter everywhere.  This is the legacy that the racist white South African government has left, and we are in awe of how messy, ugly, and terrifying it is.

podcasts

i started subscribing to the Yeah but Still podcast, although I should probably stop next month because it’s costing me a lot. I need to budget better given my reckless spending and I don’t get a lot of exclusive content for the amount I pay. I learn a lot about the creative industries of Los Angeles, about the alt scene, and I love that, but is it worth $92 a year? Hmmm…. maybe if there is a return on investment?  Like if I got involved in the creative industries then yes, it’s almost like exclusive insider information.  I only subscribed because I wanted to see Crissy’s powerpoint anyway, and now that I’ve seen it, maybe it’s time to say adieu. we’ll see.

Jack is so intelligent and observant, and I really respect that.  When I listened to the calamari algorithm episode, I thought this was ingenious and something I would do.  Both Jack and Brandon are very eloquent, funny, and engaging, and I enjoy hearing about their lives in LA. it makes me look at LA differently and makes me want to go back even more. I’ve always felt like I would enjoy living in LA, ESPECIALLY because there are fake, fame-hungry people there, because at least you KNOW that going in. it’s not like a surprise, and it allows you to play that game to your advantage.  i always said i would love the South even before I visited, and surprise, surprise, I fucking loved it!  And that was after I went to Charleston, which people said wasn’t even the true South, so people better not tell me that Alabama is not the true South.  Yes, I could go to rural Alabama, but if I were to do that, it would just be to prove a point (which I’m not going to waste energy doing), and I think it would make me really depressed since Alabama has some of the poorest residents in the entire country and living conditions are known to be comparable to third world countries (with things like no plumbing, clean water, etc).

i’m not alt enough for East LA, but I’m currently too poor to belong in Abbot Kinney so I’m not sure where I would fit in?  One of my favourite book series, The One by Ed Decter, painted a realistic portrait of Hollywood that I knew I would love to be a part of… which might sound rather insidious, but it’s a hustle game, and if I’m placed in a stressful enough situation, I would fucking thrive in this take-no-prisoners style of Hollywood.

====

now i’m at the starbucks reserve writing this post. i just downloaded the newest final draft, so maybe i’ll start that screenplay i’ve meant to write years ago, thanks to Jack for rekindling the creative intrigue that’s always burned in me. Hmm….

hopefully will do some analytical work. maybe start that application for the fellowship. hopefully i feel better after i’ve written this. i’m listening to Khalid’s Vertigo and feeling the calm. i miss writing. i think i’ve gotten worse at it out of a lack of practice. i got a subscription to The Walrus but now I regret it.  I am a closed-eyes, brackish-water cliff jumper and i’ve spent quite a bit of time sunbathing at the top, which is all well until i realize how much i’ve eaten while laying on my towel and how much weight i’ve gained, and how sad and complacent i’ve become. the sunbathing has been great, my endorphins have never soared so high, but now i’m not sure if i can make it over the edge. but i have to. sometimes we have to sink down in order to come back up again. it’ll get messy i’m sure. but sometimes we gotta fall down, and not just move forward, in order to get somewhere. and i’ve been in limbo far too long, afraid of where to go because it will hurt me, because it takes just that extra bit of effort. i need to be better.

a ten minute thought: go

i have twelve minutes, but i’ll use 10. only customary isn’t it?

i haven’t felt better. i’ve been in a slump lately, that has lasted months ever since my essay didn’t win that contest. it was like the softest thud but the nail was in the coffin and i haven’t really done much to fix it. i’ve tried not to see people, because some people make me feel down. and i already feel down so i don’t have more energy to do more labour for people who don’t really do it for me. i think a lot about my place in my world, among the people i know and i’m not really sure where i fit, maybe i’m mysterious, that’s what i hope to be.

i found out his sister got into That School, and i can’t help but think whether or not I have a chance to get into a good grad school, but the more i read application requirements the more i feel like there is more work to be done. like maybe i just need to write my GRE again, and i’ve been ready way more and hopefully that would help with my vocabulary. and maybe this time i would hire someone to tutor me for Verbal. i don’t know. i also have 19 other things i want to do, but never feel like doing them and that stresses me out. like this weekend, i’ll be writing an article i pitched, i’m supposed to see S and N for dinner separately, and then i’ve also got to do my part-time job. and after my part-time job, maybe i’ll set aside some time to examine carpentry stuff. it’s about time. it’s waaaay overdue. maybe i’ll try my hand at git bash again too. small goals. maybe i need to set a monthly goal. yeah, that sounds about right.

i thought about sending an email to tana mongeau’s team about an event planning opportunity but i started looking into the logistics of it and realized that i would probably have to do it illegally which means i shouldn’t do it at all, so that email will sit in my inbox… maybe… forever? that sounds like a long time. it also sounds like a long time since i’ve seen him or heard from him, and that hasn’t been forever yet even if it feels like it. he graduated, he’s not coming back for a while. i wonder if that was meant to be. like i’m never going to escape this town until he comes back, so our paths never cross again and then my email is just pipe dreams.

maybe our paths will cross again.

i find instagram stupid and will proceed to take the next few minutes to tell you that i’m tired of it, but i got it for A so that we could talk but i don’t check insta enough to do that, but i also check it too often to not feel self-loathing, which is to say that i don’t check it often (which is good) but it’s so good at making me feel powerless and little and feel like nothing and make me feel like i’m worth nothing, and it’s the worst cycle.

monthly goals sounds good. that’s why i come here right? for good ideas.

i finished my submission for next year’s contest, you know, the one i lost this year but maybe i’ll win next year I don’t know. I hope so but i don’t really know, and there are probably gonna be government cuts to the arts which won’t help so i don’t know if they’ll host it this year. i hope they do.

i’ve got about a minute or two left, and i’m not sure what to say. i have a lot to say. i just keep it so buried that it’s hard for it to find its way out. i miss him. i really do. i miss myself. i miss the person i used to be because i feel like a shadow of my former self. maybe i’ll find myself again. i really hope so.

Sacrilege: The poem he has been waiting for

I wrote this because I drove by the Hollywood sign.  Early morning, no birds, just calm. Clear skies. Wind that nuzzles lazily underneath your nose so faintly that you’re not sure if you even felt it. Ghost wind.  Almost jarring, startling even. The quiet.

I haven’t taken a breath in a while. Forgotten what the quiet really sounds like without a “shhhh” and the muffling of gossip that never really wanes, never truly dies because the heartbeat of a city doesn’t stop and can’t, every missed beat an alarm bell. The lifeblood of the City of Angels runs through its whisper networks: that’s obvious dogma for every newcomer Angeleno. How can angels sing without their words, their stories, their speculations, their hot takes? How can you really sing without a message, no matter how incoherent? How can the arts ever beat STEM, how can philosophy ever make it mainstream in a world of engineers if it can’t be applied to how we make sense of the world, how we theorize on who is really happy and what makes them happy?

There was a time when I felt like you were my whole world.

=======

My mother asks how you have been.
It’s been two years, she says.
And I’m not sure if it’s rhetorical or it’s a statement,
because it’s only been a year and 10 months, 21 days.
I count so I can count on myself
not to break in front what resembles a shattered mirror.
It’s bad luck to look right at it,
everyone knows that.
Bad luck looks a lot like me.

I say I went to visit you in the hospital after the accident,
thought it felt strange to be in a room of strangers I knew
in a past life.
I let the ghost envelope me, I played my part,
tried to be faintly spotted, rarely heard,
tried to wear it out like I had something to prove.
Take notice of the ex-girlfriend but take no interest.

Recently I realized I’ve been praising false prophets, you see
Thought the men in my life could save me but it turns out it was all a sham.
You ever seen a renouncement?
No seriously, like one in real life.

It feels like confession but you’re just repeating
all the things you’ve said before but your rhetoric now has an audience
although you’re not sure if they’re truly listening
which is to say that it was a lot like us two
day and night during my final days in San Francisco
and how I never got it right
but you got is so wrong.

Confession is just a room with a known dead end
and I leave you at the door on my way out every time.

“You’re mad at me because I won’t let you change my mind,” one of us says and
we both know who it is even if I don’t say it and
we’re careening down the northern stretch of PCH at 4:30 AM
windows down, bass blasting, neither of us continue talking,
no smiles just the grim and the wry.
I can feel everything but you.
Close my eyes and you become ghost.
Haunting is just another name for being present
but unwanted.

But I digress.  It’s not worth my time to reminisce.
You said don’t dwell on the past Kayl
as I ask you if you’re back with the one before me,
and the silence was all I needed to strike the match
so I burned The Nice Guy down to its bones baby,
I dye my hair caramel sweet like candy,
I drive Niko’s McLaren down wide stretches of New Mexico
so uninhibited I’m willing to die for it.
You’ve ever seen a martyr?
No seriously, like one in real life.
And for a moment in the rear view,
I start to think it looks a lot like me.
Blink again and it’s actually a siren.
What did I say again?
Oh yeah, bad luck looks a lot like me.

After I found out these gods were too human for me to revere,
oh you would have died again at the sacrilege.
I ran rampant, I confess.
I would have torched the whole city,
taken the hospital hostage,
rewritten the scripture…
you know you can do that, right?
I wanted a different ending.

Holy water is everything I didn’t know how to swallow
and now I’m forbidden from tasting it at all.
I gave you my all or at least it felt like it,
and what was left was this cloying ghost dance.
Thank you, your mother says, and I smile at your sister.
Of course I would come, I insist, to no one really.
Ghost girlfriend, sacrilegious tyrant.
Ex-communication is a funny concept in a hospital ER.

Love is the worst thing to ever happen to me.
You were the best thing that never happened to me.
Floods lead to renewal, every good writer knows that.
Baptisms must feel a lot like you;
it’s only for a second, you know that?
It’s not even that long but you still get drenched.

When I got that ticket in New Mexico for driving
100 miles above the speed limit
I couldn’t help but think that if I went a little faster
maybe I would have escaped,
maybe they would have missed me even.
Ghost girl, they’d say
I’d make sacrilege out of nothing.

salt lake

he moved to utah, this other one. we met in april in midtown after the conference and i couldn’t help but think we met at the wrong time, right place, wrong point in our lives… maybe that’s more on me. he moved in with his girlfriend who seems like an absolutely wonderful human being, just picked up his boxes into his car and drove from san francisco to salt lake city.

i’ve never done that. never moved elsewhere seeking nourishment. maybe that’s what I’ve been doing wrong. I wonder if he ever thinks about me, ever thinks of that encounter, only because it would have felt so wrong. not like wrong like illicit. wrong like it would never reach its full potential, that we were at the cusp of something maybe great but it would never see its bloom. the room got so warm, all those bodies, and i remember the beer. i can piece together parts of it that i’m not privy to… like how one of the people in our circle quit, and he probably quit, because you got promoted but he didn’t. i know this because i am good at recognizing patterns.

but i also feel like you’ve had it all. you grew up in an upper middle class suburb, your parents are still together, you and your brother moved west to the Coast, you look like someone who saves the world someday. you like attention on you. you feel like you have important things to say.

and i’m not sure how i feel about that. i’m uneasy about revering you, because it’s all you’ve ever known and i’m not sure if you deserve it. i’ve long loved an underdog story and i won’t find one there. it doesn’t feel right in this climate to grant you that win.

i tried bulletproof coffee that first day i saw you. i walked briskly around midtown, down soho in a frenzy, past people streaming in tipsy and loud and black-clad and waiting in lines for the regular scheduled nightlife to begin. i felt so confused about where my life was going. i got all the way to greenwich village before i got hungry and felt resigned to go to Gemma, tried and true Gemma, the italian gem underneath the Bowery and all i wanted was to feel somewhere safe and kind of special. but this time at Gemma it was busy, it was Saturday after all. and music was playing, and it was very busy, and the lights were dimmed, and the conversation was loud, and the man at the table of eight next to me asked if i wanted to join, but too many thoughts were racing through my head and i was breathing too heavy to really consider this offer.  all i could think about was where i was going in this life and how you had it all together. isn’t that a theme? am i always on the outside looking in? am i looking at myself or i’m looking to inward to see what’s really happening around me, to unravel the mysteries that surround me because honey, they’re really not mysteries but i just refuse to look.  that’s when i realized that i wouldn’t get anywhere i wanted without grad school, which presented its own set of problems, but which you had done, because that’s how you got this job. this job where you then got promoted.

you said something in passing that i’ve come back to often. you said you were a northern california person whereas your brother was a southern californian at heart.

“oh there’s a difference,” you insisted when i said i didn’t know what you meant by that.

and five months after that encounter, five months after new york, i keep thinking about that. you see, i’m a Southern California kind of girl. i’ve always been in my bones. and for me to chase that dream, well that would crazy and unrelated to what i really want to do. but would i give it a chance?

i would have whispered you stardust

i would have whispered you stardust

i would have whispered you stardust

i would have whispered you stardust

i would have whispered you stardust

i would have whispered you stardust

================

“my love is gentrification at its best. once it’s over, i bury every recollection and familiar under high rises and parking lots till my heart doesn’t recognize the neighborhood.  can’t afford the cost of living and is forced out of where he grew up all the while still complaining that he still has a right to be here. as if he gets some say in the anti-matter. as if he thinks i won’t burn this bridge between us just because i’m still standing on it. all of which is to say… do you know how long it took to be okay… with not being okay.”

I’ve spent the last two years underwater, but somehow I’m still not a mermaid.  I suppose I never purposefully embarked on a journey to live in the water, didn’t consciously realize that I had been holding my breath for so long now that it has become second-nature, until that’s all I kept doing.  At first, it was just me taking my sweet time to turn things over, muse, set them back down, and drift elsewhere along the sea bottom only to come back to reexamine them to see if I missed something, and this would occur again and again, and again.  Of course, I’ve been holding my breath the entire time, so maybe I was never meant to be a fish anyway, since fish do indeed breathe through their gills, these ingenious biological contraptions fanning the sides of its head that allow oxygen to flow into its circulatory system while pushing carbon dioxide out.  Or maybe it’s intent that has brought me here, here in my mermaid-less state, hands folded over each other, shoulders hunched over the public pool’s yellowing plastic edge as I let me heart rate come back down, coming to the reluctant acknowledgement that I had never really wanted to be a mermaid even though I checked off all the tacit requirements.

Spend time in water? Check.

Deem the state of underwater to be your home? Check.

A natural at swimming? Empty box, awaiting a check.

I was never a stellar swimmer, always too afraid to drown even when I could swim to wilfully allow myself to float, to relax.  On the rare occasion I would let a friend convince me to jump off her dock into the lake, agree to play a game underwater after some prompting.  Life in the water was never a choice made with time, made with purpose.  Life in the water just happened, the slowest of epiphanies to ever be remarked, something that slowly seeps into your mind that you’ve been doing all along though you don’t know how.

I took my last breath when he left two years ago.  Maybe the water in all the ways that it refracts, in my careful study of the way something looks in one angle doesn’t look quite the same way in another, made me unaware.  Maybe the way my mind was always occupied and I went on this mission to forget went awry.  I just held it, swept by the promise of lost treasures, prizes that may have been overlooked by the big skimmer on its first length across the ocean floor.  You think no one’s dropped money down there?  A gold ring? Some bauble that contains even the slightest precious metal?  A love note that got side swept in the wind and into the water?   A body?  Did it come by accident?  Who cares.  It’s the end point that counts at the end, isn’t it? Especially when you’re down in the darkest crevices of the sea floor.  At that point, there’s no way it’s not about the journey.  There’s only you, the breath your holding, and all the evidence at your feet.

There are no mirrors down on this floor, especially because mirrors refract light in order to be useful.  But alas, there is no light down in this trench. This bitch is Mariana.  And that’s what makes it perfect: you can’t see yourself, you can’t get distracted with about-faces.  You just have to keep going ahead, inspecting albeit blindly the artefacts for worth, collecting the promising candidates in your ever expanding mesh bag, and going on with the search.  It never ends.  The ocean’s not finite of course, but it takes time to turn over everything but good thing you have some time.  And you get greedy, especially when there aren’t other people who can hold their breaths as long as you to nag you, remind you that if you slowly come back up (as to prevent your lungs from bursting from the sudden change in pressure), you can make it back to the surface, and at the surface you can breathe.  It’s a fucking midnight kingdom here, and you don’t have to bask in disgust of yourself.  It’s not particularly filthy down here, there’s just a lot of stuff.  There’s a lot of stuff you want to see again, to search for.  It’s addicting.

Sometimes I think about the way he grimaced when I told him that my favorite television character was Gina from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but then I just start looking at a different spot in the sand and the thought passes.  I don’t like the feeling that comes over me… this life on the surface… this past on the surface.  I can deal with the past, as long as its remnants are all underwater.  Sometimes I can’t shake off the time we sat across from each other and he told me everything I didn’t want to hear, like how ridiculous I had been acting, like didn’t I know how much of an asshole I’d been?  And I’ve thought about it, fleetingly.  Then darted to a different thought.  It’s dark down here, it feels dangerous at times, so it keeps me in the present, it doesn’t let me drift to the past.  It doesn’t let me float up, I’m here to sink to the bottom with purpose, I’m here to find myself in memories that were abandoned.

I’m slowly starting to forget his smile.  Isn’t that the saddest thing you’ve heard?

Bullshit.  No it’s not.  It’s just sad for me.  It’s sad because I’ve spent so long at the bottom looking for something.

I don’t know what.

Maybe it’s his smile?

Maybe it’s closure?

Investigative journalism for all the things I’d done wrong.

Maybe it’s just waiting for time to pass until I gradually become a mermaid, an unintended consequence, a different type of obstacle to pass the time, to occupy my mind.

He walks, I swim.

I only came back up because I was caught off guard, getting myself tangled in a trawler as it combed the ocean.  And don’t you bet they were surprised when they brought up their week’s catch on that Saturday, laid out their creatures to sort, weigh and count, and  saw a mermaid –holy shit no, that’s a human girl… she’s got legs!– among the squirming fish and crustaceans trying to get back into the water for survival’s sake, to go back to their lives before this trawler came to collect its catch.

When they released me from that expansive net, also freed was my mesh bag with its various large shells caked in sea-floor sand, gummy fibres that must have been love notes a long time ago, a few coin-shaped pebbles, and a mollusk-infested anchor lined with gold.

Where’d you find this? One of the men ask, as five of them have their hands on the anchor, trying to discern on the spot whether or not it’s real gold and if that were true, whether it would be worth something.

I shrug.

I’m not sure where I found that, I say.  But when I did, I kept looking for another one.