Friday, November 13, 2015
Tonight, I was standing in line at Trader Joe’s waiting to checkout with my customary Friday-night champagne and salami. I’d gambled on a particular clerk’s bagging skills. I felt confident he could load up one person’s items and blow through another before I’d been standing long enough to get bored. I was wrong. I’d overestimated my attention span. I let my gaze wander over the usual display rack of chocolate bars, mints, and seasonal oddities. Shifting from one foot to another, I happened to glance to my right.
There, perched in the middle of the store in a modified walker/crib were three pomeranian dogs. They wore tiny jackets with color-coordinated bows tucked behind each ear. Little blinking red lights were affixed to each of their collars, for safety I presume. Attached the front of the cart with white zip ties, the hand-painted sign read: Caution! Guard Pomeranians. Next to the words, a fluffy painted pomeranian looking like a modified ball of sunshine, red tongue lolling from its black-lined mouth. Pictured alongside the guard pomeranian were the Mother Mary, and a uniformed man toting a rifle.
The trio were keeping a close eye on everybody passing their cart while their mother fastidiously examined each bottle of wine on the shelf She would select a bottle, peer closely at the label, lean in to see the price tag, and frowning return it to the shelf. All the while those little dogs, poised in their cart, keeping an eye on things.
Now, let’s be real. I’ve worked in a veterinary clinic for nearly four years. I’ve seen plenty of dogs in strollers. I’ve even seen trios of dogs in clothes before (though the last one was yorkies in dresses). And while these guys were pretty adorable, all fluffy bundled up, I’ve seen cuter dogs in stranger places.
What surprised me was how many people walked right past those dogs. How many people nearly walked into those dogs, and their cart. Or their mother where she was examining wines. And they didn’t miss a beat. They didn’t look up, or say hello, or say sorry. Like some kind of autopilot allowed them to swerve around [unimportant object] on their way to the chocolate-covered almonds, or next open sales clerk.
It made me wonder how much more we’re missing. How many things do I nearly collide with without every knowing? I mean this literally and figuratively, of course. Maybe it’s time to look up a little more often. Maybe it’s time to open our eyes.
I don’t know if that woman ever settled on a bottle. When I left, a man had slowed in front of the cart, looked up from his phone, and was raising a tentative hand for examination by one of the dogs. When I left, those pomeranians were guarding nothing more than the fact that they weren’t guarding anything at all.
Happy Friday, boo faces.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Won't let it get to me.
Tonight and a dark bar where you can't hardly see the company unless you’re looking hard enough. $5 glasses of Merlot and $1 off whiskey because Wednesday. Because the girl you know is leaving and the bar didn’t know but they seem to sympathize anyways. Jubelale tells you the season has changed, winter on a summer-drunk tongue. Your focus funneled into pool cues and angles and an impossible shot made possible by the sheer physics of luck.
Every time I tell the story it becomes more true. The crying. The leaving. Even in this place where past and future chafe against the thin membrane of memory. I don't remember the sloped parking lot. The bar where I handed the waitress my phone, asked her to call us a cab because even my monocular vision couldn’t procure us a ride home. Here is what I remember: the parking lot like a ski slope for beginners, no rope to guide us home. The Christmas tree refuses to grow in the corner you’ve allotted, and I think that must be a metaphor,
In the parking lot where we stumbled and weaved the dark-haired memory tells me I was never meant to follow. Tells me I was born to have dreams. And I laugh, say the parts of myself still connected to you feel bruised. Tell her some day I’ll heal, but tonight I feel like an open wound. She doesn’t know what she’s looking for but it’s more than this. Hours ago, an impossible angle and a reckless shot, the 8-ball sinking into the corner pocket and even strangers have to sigh for the luck of it all. Perhaps these hands are more skilled than they know. Perhaps these hands know the path they are supposed to follow.
My therapist says it’s time to let go, says she can help me through alone but hope is a dangerous emotion. She can’t navigate the breadth of this emptiness, You. Do you know I still think of you at night? Wish the smell of you had stained my pillows, spoiled me to any future suitors' advances. There are times I feel like my sadness has chummed the waters of their affections, caused these hapless heartbreaks to rise to the challenge, hell bent on erasing this you that I still cling to. Is tragedy a thing, or its absence? I’m never quite sure.
I fear the morning, that still, quiet gray. My breath unfolding around me like a whisper. Like an apology. Everything is so different than I’d hoped everything might be. Even the feel of you against my bare feet: foreign like the countries we’ll never see together. Imagine Spain. Australia. Scotland. These places our breath has never mingled in dark alleys or hostels. Never risen off of each other's skin to be born again.
The dark parking lot where I’m buying cigarettes and the olive green shirt in dark-rimmed glasses asks how my day is. I say Can’t hardly complain and he laughs so soft his shoulders don’t move. See, he’s been having the same day too. As soon as I leave he’ll crawl back into the store, prop an elbow on the counter like the memory of a bar, and spill his stories. But I will be too far gone to hear. I watch my breath puddle around the cold.
I am too far gone to hear. I am too far. I am gone.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
A few years ago a friend (my lover at the time), asked me if I wanted to go bouldering. For those of you who are unfamiliar, bouldering is essentially rock-climbing but without all of the contraptions. The walls are shorter, the courses designed to be safely conquerable. There are no ropes, no harnesses. No other human being anchoring you to the ground with the force of their weight. Nobody to catch you. In bouldering there is you and the wall: your feet and hands snugged into holds fashioned to keep you from falling.
I agreed to go despite a lifelong fear of heights and a recent distrust of my own body. See, there are times my body forgets to be my body. Times my hands disconnect from the circuitry and drop whatever they’re holding. Times my feet tangle themselves into the subtle nuances of thin air. I have frequently felt helpless against gravity. But the truth is I was tired of the cold and the dark; winter so long you forget there is anything but winter. Tired of the routine and the safety. The artificial warmth of bedrooms created by breath and blankets. So I said yes.
The Circuit is an indoor climbing gym full of lights and noise and bodies. The climbing walls are coded with numbers, letters and colors according to difficulty. We entered that foreign space with our rented shoes and borrowed chalk, not knowing what to expect. Intimidated by the novelty we sequestered ourselves to a corner of the wall. My lover (at the time) jumped into the fray while I read and reread the rules. Never stand, walk or climb underneath another climber. No running, skipping or jogging. No food or drinks on the carpet. No Climbing under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Committing them to memory like they held the secret to success. Like they could equip me for the task at hand.
Following the beginner pattern she easily scaled the first wall, an up/down circuit that brought her quickly back to where I sat cross-legged on the ground below. I think you’re up. I stood, walked closer to the wall studying the pattern, breaking the code. The bodypuzzle unfolding in my mind.
My hands surprised me with their steady, arms bearing the body’s weight with unanticipated grace. My borrowed shoes gripping the divots and juts just so. My body splayed across the wall and climbing. Slow and steady. Strong and sure. I reached the top of that first course, pounding an open palm across the flat space between wall and ceiling. Victory. But coming down is the hardest part. The body, better suited to rising than anything else, slowly stuttering its way back to the earth’s surface. Toetips stretching delicately, probing out each ledge. I made it back because you have to make it back, one way or another.
I hit the ground with a splitlip grin, ready for more. What’s next?
We slowly worked our way around the perimeter of the wall. Some courses were top-out, no coming down from those. Once you were up and over the ledge your feet carried you down the ramp like feet were intended to carry you. Others, up/down like the first, required the cautious consideration of navigating your path in reverse.
In climbing, there comes a point eventually where you are halfway up or down a wall and everything just stops. Your arms refuse to reach for that next handhold. Your legs won’t straighten or they won’t bend. You can’t move up or down. Fatigue creeps into every muscle and joint, fingers aching, heart pounding. The only option is to let go.
Lately my life feels like that first unconquerable wall. Everything tired, everything aching. Letting go means forfeiting all of the height I’ve gained. Means falling. Means trusting the ground to catch me. Means letting myself be caught. There are no ropes or harnesses, no person anchoring me with their weight. There is only me and empty space; those subtle nuances of air. When you can’t climb anymore, you let go. Acknowledge there are more walls, more days. And maybe you will be stronger next time. Or maybe you will just be less afraid of the falling. More accepting of gravity.
The first time I let go I fell hard from a high place. Landed heels to ass to back. Let my body sprawl across the padded ground. Let my body breathe and laugh, flexing hands and arms and legs. When I think about living I think about climbing. I think about falling. Think about standing back up, powdering my hands with fresh chalk.
Analyzing the bodypuzzle.
Scaling the next wall.
Monday, October 19, 2015
I am a reckless collector of memory.
Under my bed shoe boxes teem with notes, postcards, scraps, and shopping lists. Totes stuffed with cards from every occasion. My empty spaces overflow with Miss Yous and Happy Birthdays. The ticket stubs: Brandi Carlile, The Great Gatsby. The empty gum cartridge from my first solo road trip, each silver bubble ruptured in an effort to stay awake, stay awake, stay awake. Albums full of photos from when photos were a thing. Smiles permanent and fixed points in time like somehow remembering makes them real. Like remembering makes anything more real. Your face could be more than your face just because I ask.
Every few months I dig through the e-mail archives. Click through the digital relics. Expose myself to the plotlines fallen by the wayside; all the places my story didn’t go. All the places it did. The inside jokes I’m no longer party to, familiar but forgotten like the tune to a lullaby your mother used to hum. We were once so small. Like any good archaeologist I recognize beauty in the scraps, even if I can’t identify their original purpose. If I hold onto these things I can nearly piece them back together, nearly piece myself back together. Nearly find peace.
Today I learned that a former coworker lost her battle against depression, and it’s got me thinking about the lexicon of losing. What it means to be reduced to words and memories. How a struggle so fierce can be expressed so passively. I only knew her casually, but this loss tears at the seams of my community. Prickles at the back of my mind. We are so small. Memories. Words. There is no agency in either. After we’re gone we are thrown to the mercy of the people who cling to us. If we knew how they would cling, would we ever be able to leave?
There is no such thing as a casual tragedy. But there is information gathered in passing, a hung head in the back hallway, a moment of processing before the day lurches forward again. I didn’t really know her, but somebody did. This was somebody else’s beginning and end. And I feel selfish for the relief, that brief instant of recognition: this could have been my loved one. Someday it still might be. But today I can read through the archives fondly knowing the people I care for are still breathing. I can tell them I love you, please be ok even if those aren’t the words I use to say it. I am so profoundly sorry for everybody today who can’t say the same.
Here is what I remember: a laugh, and a smile. Eye contact from when eye contact was a thing. How you could mine something interesting from the most mundane details. You made a person feel so fucking special just for breathing. If you knew how we’d cling, would you still have to leave? Did you have to leave us with the pieces so you could find your peace?
In a New York City bar I left my ring on the sink, but not before tracing its lines into the pages of my notebook. In the back of my car, all the clothes I never wear. No longer taking up closet space, but still within easy reach. Memories. Words. Nothing ever big enough to replace a person. Nothing ever real enough. It is reckless the way we hold on; the ways we let go. Slowly, slowly, then all at once.
To every You I have ever clung to: I love you. Please be ok.