where have I been?

You’ve been extremely good, a little lonely, content with your friends, feeling alienated from close friends, feeling alienated from fading friends, feeling like a second-class friend, suddenly ready to cut people out, exceedingly comfortable with the people you love, willing to reach out to people you’ve looked over, unsure if this was out of desperation, motivated to reach out to people you’re intimidated by, confident in your independence, confident in your ability to walk into parties alone, confident in your ability to carry conversations and connect with people unlike you, neurotically depressed when friends prioritize others over you, endlessly needy about attention and shows of care, peaceful about activities alone.

Fast bikes to the beach in Tevas and sexless t-shirts, strolls by shirtless, tanned college students playing volleyball, and upturned sprawls on Mickey Mouse towels with Infinite Jest: unpretentious because no one cares. Chilly breeze but warm sun. Beach flies on a singular spot on the ankle; perhaps you wiped away a drop of honey there.

Leaving SS’s house with MB and N; she tells you she’s read Infinite Jest. Not unrelated, you begin to notice how self-aware, snarky, smart, self-satirizing she is. Also not unrelated, you hate that you’ve become this uncontrollably pretentious. Regardless, you want to be friends. Later, she tells you there is not enough room for you to come on the trip they are planning. The moment passes, tense, and goes.

You meet up with your group for the first time in a year. You notice, in passing conversation, that they have a group chat without you. The moment passes, sad, but only for you; its traces linger.

Long silences in a car driving to a gratifying nowhere; shotgun. Bad music and bad harmonizing; glazed eyes out to East. Bursts of laughter and camaraderie, internal smiles. You don’t need many friends. You have this one, and you know that it’s the ones like these that eclipse any quantity.

Trudging alone along a ridge, taking occasional photos of the ant-like figure that pops over peaks up ahead. Silence, silence, silence somehow more vast than the view. Ever-changing rocks: pink, brown, and that far-off blue.

The aurora of the sunset, minus the sun. Red-cheeked smiles and disheveled, damp cotton. A pebble tinkles down the ledge behind. Later, you trudge down with shitty headlamps, cold and sore. You forget to look up. You are happy.

Idiotic and yet delightful stories, even if all they do is provide and foothold for visual memories: shapes, imagined shapes: patterns and stories and people and imagined meaning: you decide: the stars must be seen everywhere.

Past midnight: all three of you are falling asleep on the carpeted floor to Black Mirror. None of you ask why the other two do not have plans for New Year’s Eve, are not partying with countless friends. It is still good. You may not have chose this, but it is good.

She is driving and you are shotgun and you are driving away from an incredible feat of modern parenting and laughing, laughing at an inside joke — when was the last time you had an inside joke? How do some create inside jokes with such ease? — it is something to latch onto, something that the trip has yielded. Your tongues sting with mango salsa and tostadas.

You toil over the dough, kneading and sweating, and timing, and pacing, and heating, and checking, and waiting, and it comes out: a miracle! a beauty! a child! and you feel it: the pleasure of doing something for you, for you.

Golden hour is thrown into relief against an already-yellowing series of perplexing metal poles. You meander there: you take a photo of you. He is smiling, really smiling, shockingly so: it is so difficult to get a capture of that smile. Later, you look at that photo over and over. You look at his open smile. You look at his crinkling eyes. It glows: gold.

You are muting his messages for the night. You do not want to see his apology for the thing he didn’t really do wrong. He cannot sleepover for this whatever reason, you know, but you also ask: why can’t you sleep over there? But you don’t actually ask. Instead, you act simply sad, but understanding, little vulnerable but in a loving way. But you are not actually vulnerable. To be fully vulnerable is to show the emotionally needy and the pathetic and the insecure, and you think maybe if you show that too much — as you worked up the courage to do last year — he might just begin to not stick around. Denial may just work yet.

You make a photo album of the trip and share it with his parents and him. On second thought, you share it with your mother. His parents respond immediately: lovely! beautiful!; your mother takes a bit. You are sad and happy that she takes a bit. You want her to have a full life, an overflowing life, with too many people to love. He does not look; does not like that you would know if he looks. You think about this: that he cares and does not want.

Tea and music in the backyard in the patch of sun just outside the shaded cover. Mellow, yellow.

A phenomenon: rain drops, at certain velocities and sizes, turn to fleeting, quivering bubbles on jacuzzi water. You think: there are few joys to eclipse dunking hair in hot water, head tipped back, face an island. You sit on the entrance steps, steaming. He kisses your feet: a prayer.

To be blatant: sex. Art, it is art, you are slow and you let out all the missing, all the thinking.

He wants Chick-a-fil-a and he knows you have moral issues with them and he spits you out, or so it feels, to the Panera. Is this ok? he asks. You are disheveled, angry, stressed, insecure. You find the heart and maturity to fill his tea and recup his tea bag. You eat your chili alone at the table nearest the window and want to punch him when he gets back and looks at you with apologetic and still impatient eyes. You don’t punch him. You hunch in and say: I’m don’t deal well with being rushed.

You cry your way through a movie that makes you remember that he will leave you, must leave you, or else you must drive him away eventually. You sit at the night spot with your friends. A vaguely recognizable girl comes to talk to your friend, does not acknowledge you, though you stare at her, willing her to turn, to nod at your presence, to validate your social capital. She does not. But at least you stared.

You go to a party of his friend’s girlfriend, alone. You are the first one there. Oh, you came! the hostess exclaims. You sit with his friend and his friend’s girlfriend, aware of the brimming awkwardness, refusing to acknowledge it. It’s surprisingly ok. You stay twice as long as you’d planned. People laugh at your jokes.

Maybe, she tells you, when you invite her to a thing, when you haven’t seen her it months. I’m telling everyone: maybe.

You pet this blind, deaf dog. It snores lightly. It bumps into a tree. Somehow, you and your friend feel these things together: love, care, the hilarity of it all, the tragicomedy of this trotting, courageous dog.

The waiter assumes you are not adventurous. Maybe you do not look adventurous. You do the jalapeño vinegar shot in one go to prove him wrong.

You message someone two things, both thoughtful, relevant, and requiring a response. You get nothing. You wonder: how many times are you supposed to try before taking a hint?

You jump: down the rabbit hole, excel sheets and wikipedia. It comes together. It’s coming together.


07/25/17, 8:10pm

Sure, it was you

who did the thing. It’s a hassle

in some regions more than others, but somehow

it was relatively quick, a trip to L.L. Bean on the way

home; you were going anyway to buy a sleeping bag,

size small. The mouth fit smoothly into your pencil box. Your bike chain is still

an arms lock. It jostled against your groceries

as your legs folded over and under

you swerved around mothers-to-be who muttered

obscenities, misdirected hate being a common side effect

of love. Sure, it was you

who went to the registry, told the mustache

at the front desk: I solemnly swear to use this

only to hunt quail. But you’re from the California coast, where it’s seagulls

who snatch snips of bean burritos.

You left me a letter after I left, quietly, out

at 1am wearing pajamas. But just as one’s trash is another’s

treasure, words twist, feline, as they fall

on different ears. I’m not done shooting. I’ll hide

this gun in a pocket, or a winter

coat lining, perhaps nestled in the middle

of a belt buckle, or maybe in a pill

bottle of my medicine shoebox. I’ll slowly forget. Then

one day, I’ll find it, a surprise time

capsule, and we’ll see then if I’ll cry. But

the plan is a slow sprint. You become a totem pole

on a subway station bench: hair flopped on long

face cradled in palm propped up on

elbow weeping on

a box that is your comfort

object until you send that away,

too. You have finally become a post-

card: even the kid with Beats

across the tracks means something when framed

by train bars. Isn’t the train towards the Bronx

on late nights already an alternate universe? Up

is down and down is: you wish

you never picked that particular

petal of that particular violet. This city

is a museum of public woes. When the scratched

words brush your reddening eyes, nothing can stop

this pole from toppling over, wetting

into your surrogate mother’s sheets

two symmetrical puddles a spinning mind’s

distance apart even though you

had the entire goddamn thing

memorized. You’ve never seen a god-

damn quail in your life.

07/25/17, 2:48am

you have made progress! this progress is painful, but it is progress. you can not deny what you felt. you could not keep going that way. that was not an undesirable path, it was an impossible path. you could not keep going that way. you can not change what he can give. this is progress. do not go back. do not fall back to limbo.

he didn’t want your expectations.
he didn’t want your trust. he doesn’t want your trust.
that wasn’t a slip in a charged moment. he knew
what that meant. he knew what
that implied. he knew what that entailed.
you laid down all your cards, every last
one: he made the final decision. you loaded
the gun and pointed and he pulled
the trigger, that was all he did
in the end, shot the can of worms
you shared so they could finally writhe
through your hands. There’s something

freeing about being so dirty that you gladly caress
the slime: you can’t believe it; it’s as if: finally. Finally
you’ve shaved your scalp but only to reach
inside your head and pull out your innards
of the skull; you’re getting into the empty kind
of meditating and you’d heard they were obnoxiously
sentient sometimes, sometimes like
when you finally fold your clothes, you face the drywall, like when
you enter with one headphone in and leave with both
shut tight as the double doors of
your childhood, one for each ancestor: the orchid
and the bee. Sometimes it’s not okay to cry
in front of the little bird who has told you
more secrets of yourself than
you knew you had in you, though
you wonder if it knows anyway
without needing to see the sound-
less spread of a shadow on a carpet.
Is that the secret of the little bird? Sometimes you must

close the door through which you entered without knowing
where the exit is or if it was meant for a person
such as you: it’s ok to sit in the dark just as
it’s ok to install the shadow
of yourself on the floor of lobbies in
apartments and hotels and offices and point
its empty eyes at nondescript tile so confidently that night
shift security takes one look at your crumples and thinks: not this
one, not today. Why bow your head in prayer when you can look
up, up to slopes, slope the neck to
a dejected question, up so
the cheekbones become your personal twin
electrical towers; tall enough to draw the whip
of lightening depending, of course, on the height
of the sorrows around you. If you generate
enough water you might conduct energy, a new kind
of life. Electricity’s a bitch and, contrary to popular thought, often strikes
the same place over and over again just for kicks. A tip: do not

be so sure that the tallest takes the hit. Another one: don’t
swell there for too long, sweet sow, sweet
sow. Didn’t you buy the morning
glory seeds to cover the escape hatch with the wonky can opener? Didn’t
you swear to drag yourself from eternal sunsets? Even worms come up for air
only in between showers. Remember: there are other
natural disasters on your bucket list: sharks to poke, seas in which
to flirt. You are not yet done breaking.

07/23/17, 1:13am

An ode to the handshake that will never happen:

Some shimmy and slap and clap

and twist. Our friendship, it was

never so ebullient. Instead, we slyly felt

for the wenis — the wenis! imagine

that! — and clasped pinkies; we giggled

the closed-mouthed smirks of comrades

on a makeshift raft of logs we’d gathered, tied

together with brown curls, a Bach prelude

our sail. We sailed the world in it for a while.

Sometimes, sunsets were beautiful

when they set our feet aglow, dangling

off wooden decks to disturb the still. Maniac

laughs in downpours were beautiful

because they were hideous. Which is to say,

our best memories are wordless, but not

soundless. To the end, we slapped mosquitos

from the other’s sweet flesh, mine more

than yours, perhaps, but who’s counting?

There’s that trope, because what are we

but nothing more than amalgamation of Tumblr quotes:

nothing gold can stay, or perhaps we just

threw the shiny stuff overboard when

we realized it was copper, just like

when I cut the rope and let the logs drift off, just

like when you let the water wash the music

from my pages. Was that on purpose? Maybe

you couldn’t have known. Maybe we only noticed

because one day we heard the wings of a vulture

catch the breeze. A raft can only stay

afloat for so long. Maybe we thought we could

build a boat; you were never Jewish and I

never Christian enough to believe so much

as in an ark. Tragedy chimes clear at the end

of aspiration. Did I stop taking out the trash

or did you stop throwing the rottings in?

It’s hard to say who jumped ship

first, or when. It matters only that we finally did

it together, the only fitting way. We bump

mosquito bites and grimace together

at the prickle. Someplace far away, we hold

each other’s hands so that we do not touch

the flame. It burns for three days before it fades

to a shadow of melatonin and then to nothing

at all; we forget that it ever itched.