you used to wonder why i wished upon hanging sneakers instead of stars
i don’t think you ever understood that stars hung their heads low where i was from.
i hold my breath while crossing your street
as if it’s still a graveyard.
(i’m writing again.
this generally means something is wrong, but i don’t know what it could be)
too many poems make light use of visible, real scars.
i’m only disappointed that my skin heals well so i would have nothing to show you.
it’s completely impossible for her to be four hundred miles away from where she’s supposed to be
but i’ve spent the entire day worrying about the lank brown hair and vapid eyes i saw on the metro this morning.
we’ve never spent an october together.
and why can’t i just get over panic attacks and depression
it’s so hard to explain why i can’t just get over something when your ghosts still roam my bones.
i’m sure he’ll love just like you did.
even though there was so much to improve on i’m sure he’ll feel just like you.
It’s a mea culpa to the wind because you’re stealing crumbs like time from my lips. The guilt comes crashing down like I’m breathing someone else’s breath and creating their cells. But there’s no reason to cry because being full means full with life and each stretch mark brings the ancient image of fertility to swat my guilt away. But how can I even think of carrying a child when I can’t even carry myself past the worries that flood with each bite? I should never think that a bowl of breakfast will carry a death sentence. Guilt brings tears that make no sense and have no place.
Think about the most beautiful person you have hurt
You have not broken her
But given wings to her words
And she will strike down
And she will smite you.
I love you most in summer
When skin peels and
I can forget the memories it held onto from winter.
I could never really call you a part of my life, which was why I could never share Noah with you, although I could never share a person.
I always though I could tell a lot about people by the way they gave directions. For instance, I didn’t like people who talked in colors. Turn right at the blue house, keep going straight at the rusted green lamppost, reach the maroon bicycle. Instead I was attracted to the absentminded writers whose directions got me lost. Sure enough, my crumpled printed email read
"Pass the abandoned garden with the broken doll. Then you should see a bar with a pinwheel taped to the door. Turn left at the next corner at the street that doesn’t fit."
He didn’t realize that Houston was a Mecca of bars and open lots you could call gardens. Finally, I saw what he saw, that street that didn’t fit, in Clinton Street.
Noah made me nervous, but it wasn’t the anxiety of a first date, or a business meeting. It didn’t hit me with their walls of stomach pains; instead it was a well-known sheet of self-consciousness that I found, ironically, almost comforting.
Maybe I was just nervous to explain. Maybe I thought that any second you could happen upon a street that didn’t fit and there would be no time to explain. No, there wouldn’t even be anything to explain because the situation would just be so obvious. I’d be forgotten. I was ready to jump.
I pretended to read the menu even though I knew my stomach would only be able to handle coffee. Bitter and uncomplicated.
The lemon slice in Noah’s water made it your gin and tonic. The light sour scent I almost caught on your breath reminded me that I was a barrier.
Were you making me nervous? Noah became an unfamiliar being behind strong hands and soft blue cotton. One button undone, collar unironed.
You hadn’t been a security blanket under those garish red checks.
His hands lied. He was soft. I needed that right now. He looked like wind with tousled brown hair. Right now I didn’t need to fall back into my feelings for Noah. I needed him platonically. I needed the light in his eyes flickering behind gold-rimmed glasses.
He wasn’t the calm before the storm. The storm had passed. He had become the mocking blue skies traced with faint rainbows after I was already drenched. What kind of hurricane had you pushed me into?
"Lil," he said. Even his words sounded like a joke. “You’re awfully quiet.
Little did he know he redeemed you in that questions. The softness of the way you swallowed the ends of word with a trace of a non-native speaker. The harsh palatalization of others. The way you had insisted on my full Russian name. You know where I came from. And just like that, my rush of emotion, my full-blown hurricane dispersed. I was left with the ache of sorrow unvoiced pushed against the roof of my mouth.
"I’ll be fine," I said.
Sleeping on the futon that night had drained my patience. I realized how trivial our next endeavor was; we were going on a picnic. Such a naive outing, especially compared to the night before. Devin pinched the elbow of your shirt.
"Looks like someone has already brought the picnic blanket," she said. You quickly turned the same garish shade of red as your shirt.
I only wished I could take comfort in it like a blanket. But on the subway ride down I kept catching whiffs of alcohol sewn into its hideous checks.
Fortunately enough the stench hid among the grass and other friends showed up to ease the tired tension. But you didn’t mix well; after all, my friends had always hated cigarettes. I couldn’t very well defend you either. I could only go on one night and even then, I almost wanted them to hate you.
But you had company. Your friend decided to join us as well. He was a left-handed San Francisco guitarist you met on the subway at three in the morning. I knew not to question why you frequented the subways at those hours. But you were close enough that he let you hold his guitar, abuse our ears with your attempt to play left-handed. Your friend (was his name Mike?) released us from your folly with a song not his own. And so, somehow you got sucked into a conversation far off. A mother who could only hope her sons would not be you. But you could be perfectly charming in her language.
"So, you’re from Russian then?" you asked.
"Yes, but my children are French. Do you speak French?"
"No, I’m sorry."
But the kids spoke no language at that moment as they started dancing to song that wasn’t your friend’s. You smiled, and in that moment you could have been a father.
I forgot all of my reservations about the night before. I was still intrigued, maybe even more than. But I knew I had to tear myself away from you before your charisma sucked me dry. You kissed me on the cheek again, and I fought to return it. I missed a little. Obviously you are better at this than I am.
I didn’t stop whispering your name under my breath that day.
Let me return to that very first night, so I can hold onto the fond memories for a tiny bit longer. Those memories that will soon be my mind’s (body’s, soul’s) last great testament to you.
I wish I could say my head had been fully working then. Somehow in a muddled headache I thought your face was kind, vulnerable, and all at once it made you comfortable. It was then that I realized that if I ever got to know you, I could ease into you. I always thought figuratively.
You were the guy I was supposed to like, and your picture perfect smile made it safe to approach.
With my nerves, I wouldn’t normally approach whilst you chatted up another girl, but you were playfully unattached from the conversation. I wasn’t an intruder here.
I barely caught the girl’s name. It was muddled and there were no hard sounds to cling to, so it was lost in the buzz of the crowded party. But yours hung in the air long enough for me to catch it.
"I’m Nikolai," you yelled, “but only if you really have to. Most of the time I’m just Nicky."
"Nikolai. I like that. I’m always Lily, except for when I’m at family functions."
"What are you then?"
It took me aback how quickly you figured it out, but then again with a name like Nikolai I could figure that you had had your fair share of diminutives and relatives who still clung to patronymics.
The girl with the muddy name just smiled and tried to find a way into our conversation. She’s kind of pretty, I thought out of pity. In a shy way. Then again, who was I to judge on shyness? Nonetheless, I felt bad for her; it’s hard to wheedle yourself into a conversation between two Eastern Europeans.
It must have only been two minutes but Devin came looking for me soon enough. “I’ve got to go,” she said. Those four words made me fear our conversation would be cut short, and her fifth only confirmed it. “Sick,” she grunted.
I awkwardly danced around the farewells that went with meeting someone for the first time. But you went straight for the kiss.
As Devin clutched my hand and led me to the door, I just hoped this wouldn’t be the last I saw of you.
That day was the second time we met. I don’t think you remembered the first time, but I still cherished—no, that’s too fond—considered that kiss on the cheek you gave me in passing. It seemed to be your instinct; whenever you said goodbye, you just kissed your acquaintance.
Kisses had never come that easily for me. I didn’t want to be vulnerable and these little snippets of affection poured too much of myself into the other person. And that was a self I wasn’t entirely comfortable sharing.
The way you gave them so freely scared me.
That had been the culmination of our first meeting, the entirety of which lasted about ten minutes. But I relaxed when I saw how out of place you were now, while standing on the 96th street platform. Your leather shoes were too clean and your plaid shirt too eccentric against the backdrop of weary home-bound New Yorkers.
What was I saying? This was your group. If you didn’t fit in, none of us did.
Our friend Devin surveyed us like a watchful kindergarten teacher before ushering us onto an uncomfortably filled train. And with her instructions, our party of mismatched travelers made our way to that fake suburbia on the edge of the city. It wasn’t your city anymore, nor was it mine, as we made our way through unrecognizable street names
This is a repost of a story I started WAY too long ago, but since I’m continuing it I figured I might as well post from the beginning.
Some people are battlefields,
Leaving scars that history won’t forget,
And some people are wars
That I wouldn’t think twice about fighting.