maybe we´re not meant for it. maybe its as it should be. but at least, while we were here, it was good.
in the islands, everything seems more like an adventure.
this could also be due to the fact that i´ve just celebrated my birthday, in the middle of the ocean,
and we have parties on sailboats.
not our sailboats, mind you.
the surfers´. did you know there would be surfers sailing the world? i wasn´t expecting it.
and this is when everything gets a little crazy.
"i disposed of my little green man long ago"
thumbs, and the question master, and other circle of death festivities.
camarones al ajillo.
gillian welch and the fugees and michael jackson, all within minutes.
dance parties under galapagaenian skies, on deck, sans shoes.
4 second meteorites.
barhopping professors. tequila shots. birthday parades.
spontaneous trips in pangas.
smoke and mirrors.
five boys on a boat.
the british brothers, and the explanation of a "twitcher"
making up words.
being a sound young lady, and also la chica mas seria en el barco.
the invasion of prince phillips´steps (the flight of the booby)
pretty black eyes.
jazz on street corners.
the hat party.
marching squads of shouting soldiers, with guns.
tales of pirate attacks, whale beachings, twin confusion, firefights, and angry french missionaries.
ice cream, coffee chocolate cake, and banana pancakes.
we wanted to jump. venice beach, california. 1997.
we wanted to jump, but we couldn’t. it was right there in front of us; the surf, the space between the balls of our feet and the sand as we sailed through the air. but we couldn’t do it. not after what we had seen.
you first, I said.
no. it was your idea.
it was both of ours.
but you said it first.
that doesn’t matter, I said. what matters is that it’s here, and if we don’t take it now, it’ll never happen. and then we’ll be sitting on our asses in Minneapolis in November some day in three years, and you’ll be drinking a cup of that horrible tea. the one that makes the kitchen smell like rotting fish. and then you’ll say it’s a shame we didn’t take it. in that voice you always use when you’re talking about things you wish had happened differently. like when you told me about –
ok, we’ll do it, he said. why Minneapolis?
are you going to count?
sure. I guess so. do you want me to count?
no. it’ll be easier if we just do it. without the build up.
yea. without the build up. you ready?
since this morning. let’s go.
what do you mean, “when”? now.
well now just happened, so that’s not going to work. without one of us counting, how will I know when you’re going to jump? he said. how will I know if you are even going to follow through? I could just be doing it by myself, and I’d spin in mid air and see you standing there, your eye staring off all sideways like it does, your thumb up your ass. meanwhile, I’m flailing about in the water, and then those bright green motherfuckers come floating up, and I’m done for. down for the count.
we looked at each other. he turned, and started walking back towards the boathouse. I stood, rocking slightly as I let my knees relax. they had been tense, anticipating; the muscles in my thighs had been coiled like springs. my eyes caught a piece of sea glass, the remnants of an old Heineken bottle, caught in the gravel between my toes, and I bent. then I heard him. the shish shush of the sand as it spun out wildly from beneath him. he was running. I spun on one heel, and caught his eye just as he came rushing up behind me.
now! he shouted. and then there was silence. all I saw was his silhouette as he left the earth, his arms and legs flapping haphazard in every direction. like when you’re a kid on the playground and you’re in a swing jumping contest, and the more space you can put between yourself and the ground the better. so you flap, as if by some stroke of genius, you might be the one to finally discover how to fly. of course it never helps, no one ever gets farther by thrashing their limbs in the air. if you think about it, I’m sure it probably makes things worse; the physics of it, I mean.
I watched for a moment as the wake from his body sent white spray skipping across the surface of the sea, and then I realized I was still hunched over at the edge. without even thinking, I pushed off, soaring blindly in an arc over the water. I went in head first, and my stomach filled instantly with salt water. I had forgotten to close my mouth.
xviii. brick (inspired by the film)
its like walking home in the morning with a coat
you haven’t slept, and the wind cuts straight through the wool,
where holes in the silk lining give you away. across the field it’s
because there are no trees,
and the valley pulls the air down like a drainpipe.
but it’s not the cold that gets to you. it’s those words he whispered in your ear just before you let the screen swing closed.
they are spurring you across the street, your heels rubbing the skin
raw near your toes.
no one wears heels in the winter. except the girls with fake pearls in their ears. the girls with fancy black cocktail parties to go to on saturday nights, but no one to take them home on sunday mornings.
so you walk.
it was a mistake to stay on the couch. it would have been worse
to sleep in his bed,
but you should have left when the going was good, when the booze was still swimming
weighty in your veins. when he was still too gone to hide. but by light fall, he always remembers what he’s got to lose, and all bets are off. the cards sit on the table, growing yellow. the queen of spades is fading gray.
there was an impromptu piano jam, with spoken word, and
in pitchers of red wine. every once in a while, someone would forget, and pour, igniting the sides of the glass like they were made of oxygen. it never dripped, never left a stain; that’s how fast the fire spread.
you were waltzing on wood floors, your shoes hardly making a sound as the silk of your dress clung to your chest. the girl at the piano, who was singing about some jazzy bird named eleanora, who tells everyone she meets that she was born in missouri even though it’s a lie, asks you what you want to hear.
you croon, and sway
on the balls of your feet,
with one arm in the air,
whatever you say, lady day, he laughs from the corner, eyes glowing bronze from the candles. (he’s not even right. you knew it then, but you let him say it. he was looking. he was watching. this was all that mattered in the moment. but billie holiday was lady day, and nina simone sang about birds in cages.)
by three, there were only a few still sitting on bar stools around the kitchen counter,
the roses and slurring slightly.
he tells a joke about an old man from Brooklyn, and everyone smiles, their teeth catching the first flecks of daylight as they s k i d across the ceiling. from outside, a man on a bicycle could see the sadness in you, and if he’d had the chance, he would have swept you away on the back of his spokes.
like sixth grade romance.
but you never looked, never saw him in the street. so he rode away, and you stayed til dawn.
he pulled you into the living room, his hands dwarfing yours (like they always did when you used to sleep curled inside his shell, arms entangled). as you’d brushed the black paint around your eyes
that night, pupils dilated in the mirror and searching for the strength not to notice the truth, you had promised not to stay. not to let him stay in your way.
but there is nothing so convincing as the promise of a miracle, the exception to every deceitful rule.
the chimes of the grandfather clock struck seven, and the morning light shone through the window
revealing plastic cups in corners
and a pile of ash on the stained couch cushion.
though his knee was pressed against yours, its presence was tentative, and you almost choke on the tears as they slide down your throat when he says
you’d better leave.
(he has to work.)
you should probably go out the back door.
( it’s more quiet that way.)
creaking porch steps draw his attention to your feet as he steps toward the car door from behind the garage. for a moment, you think he’s going to say something,
the way his mouth opens slightly,
the way his breath freezes in the air around his eyes.
but neither of you can find it in the other to speak, and as he drives away, your heels
sink (sink heavy heavy heavy)
into the layer of dead leaves in the yard. the sidewalk is empty; no one is up this early on a sunday.
the coffee shop on the corner near his house looks different in the daylight.
the letters on the sign are still blue, but
without the luster of their electric luminescence,
it is difficult to think of anything but a
the lake is rocking steady against the rocks behind your house, it’s hushing rhythm abrasive behind your eyelids. the door doesn’t open – the lock is frozen shut. as you creep hesitantly through the dried brambles of the garden under the second story window, your foot catches on a rock, and you stumble. the wool of your coat too thin rips slowly,
stitch by stitch,
and as you press your way through the french doors downstairs, the wind swirls up the staircase.
your bed is cold when you sink into the sheets.