Snowflakes

I think it’s been about five years, and people still ask about you.

I think it’s been five years because I don’t count.  I’ve never counted.  I try not think about it at all.

When I do try to talk about you, I never know where to begin. The first time I saw you and we locked eyes across a common hall packed full of students too young to drink?  Or… your mouth pressed to mine on the balcony in that little town in Spain, high above the world or… that time you got down on one knee and pulled out your grandmother’s ring.

Everyone wants the story, and for once in my life, I don’t know what to say.

I knew you better, and I loved you harder, than anything before or since.  I’m still trying to write about you, where do I ever begin.

***

When we were living in New England, we raced to the top of the hill in the snow, only to have three busses pass us by and leave us shouting, cursing in the slush.  In the nine months I’ve lived here I have grown to hate blizzards, public transit, and the ever growing hole in my left boot that I still can’t afford to replace.

We stood there, growing later for work by the minute, shivering in the dull February morning.  I looked up into the grey sky, all doey eyed California girl, and remark to him on how the snow looks like little jagged chunks.  It only snowed once every other year or so when I was a child, I said. I’ve never really had the chance to see it closely.

He grins, feigning disbelief.  “My American baby,” he says, laughing.  I tell him to shut up as he hooks his arm around my back and draws me to him.

“Here.”

He scrapes my collar with his credit card, and holds it up for me.  I am twenty six years old.  I have never seen a snowflake.  I stare at it, all tiny and perfect as he holds me to him with his other arm – and I can feel him – warm in 10 degrees below zero, warm in the slush up our calves, warm through the two overcoats, three sweaters, and four shirts between us.

I am beaming.  I am full of love.

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Fall

I’ve been doing everything I possibly can not to write about you.

I shut down my computer.  I make more plans.  I thwart my own desire to write.

I don’t tell friends your name, I won’t introduce you.  I put your flowers on the coffee table and stuffed the hand written note into the top left drawer of my dresser. Then suddenly, in a moment of recklessness, yanked it out and put it in my purse.

Unbeknownst to you, for the last two weeks I’ve been carrying your words, your crooked k’s and i’s dotted far to the left, everywhere I go. I know I’m falling for you. I’m fighting it every step of the god damned way.

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Doorways.

He isn’t the type to show up in your doorway, and that’s a good thing.

When I watch the wrong movie and the man tells the woman he respects her for her tenacity and strength, and that he wants her to be successful because she’s earned it, I cry; he doesn’t come.

When the janitor at work buys me flowers on my birthday that should have come from him, because she still loves me, but he doesn’t anymore, he doesn’t come.

When the rain hits the California ground for the first and only time all winter, not even enough to banish the edges of the drought, but enough to finally wash away the heart he drew with his fingertip on my driver’s side window, he doesn’t come.

He isn’t the type to show up in your doorway.

His pride is more important.  He will tell himself, and he’ll tell me, that it’s maturity.  He will save me, really, from the back and forth; the wavering, heart sucking, gut-wrenching act of pulling myself out of his arms, knowing somewhere deep down that in the end, all he’ll do is throw back a few too many and shatter me into a thousand pieces just like every time before.  His pride is saving me from suffering of a greater kind.  I know that.

And he doesn’t come.  And he doesn’t come.

And at two am I am up in the living room.

And he doesn’t come.

Away We Go

We’re having a beer at the pub, and me being me, I’m being an asshole.  Other than a brief flirt at an alumni event, I hadn’t seen Kyle in about a month.  I’d skipped town, and he’d facebooked me, asking to hang out while I was surfing in Central America.

“You were ridiculous,” I chide him, and grin.  “You knew I was going to be gone.  Are you high?”

“Well, I couldn’t.” He says.

“Couldn’t what?”

“I couldn’t, you know, let you think you went to Costa Rica for two weeks and I didn’t care.”

I hadn’t expected that.  I smile.

“Well,” – And I’m feeling bolder – “If it makes you feel any better, I did go to the mixer with the intention of flirting with you.  My boss said, ‘Really?  An alumni mixer?’ and I said ‘I’m gonna flirt with a guy from summer school!  I have a plan!’.”

He grins.  “Sealed the deal for me.  Abbie Cooper’s going?  Done.”

There’s a blush of something, and we’re touching under the table.  And I don’t know what the hell feelings are, because it’s been so long, but I think these are feelings.

And then there’s a spark.  We walk from the pub and I turn on my heels, short pressed up against him.  “I think you should kiss me,” I say, “I know you want to.”  And he does.  He does and up on my toes I feel the universe wake up again.  The power lines buzz and the punks of Venice run down main street, but there is no one else in the world, nothing but electric. Nothing at all.

“Let’s find a place.”

We sit, my bare legs across his lap, and we can’t keep our hands off each other or our faces apart.  It’s bad.  We know it.  “We should get out of here,” I giggle, “They hate us.”.  But we can’t stop.  Whispering.  Leaning in.  He has a hand between my knees and I’m breathing onto his neck, telling secrets in his ear.  There is nothing but electric.  Nothing at all.

There is vodka and electric.  There is sin in the air.

“Let’s get out of here.”

It’s too much, I think.  It’s too much and it’s too fast.  But I’m lost in the blur.  I feel something.  It isn’t love, but it’s something.  And we should wait but we can’t wait and it’s in the darkness and –  and his hand pulls behind my back, into him, and we move, quiet.  Then laughing, kissing, pulling back; embarrassed, scared, unsure, but wanting.

In the morning, he asks me not to go, but I have to.  Okay, I don’t have to.  Okay, but I’m saying I have to because it’s too soon to act like I have nowhere else to be.  He kisses me goodbye, and it’s only then I realize it’s the first time I’ve kissed an unfamiliar mouth in about four years.

The morning moves on, I visit my friends, I have my day.  But I’m bursting from the inside out.  At night it’s quiet, it’s dark in my room, and then I hear my phone.

“You should be here,” He says, “I would like that.”

And I try to sleep, but I can’t.  There is neon buzzing in my veins.  Electric, electric, electric.

There we go.

Want

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”

― Jack Kerouac

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I want the smell of skin, hands in my hair, my head on the pillow. I want the twisting, pulling of it.

I want.

I want.

Last weekend I went to a museum with a boy and we had that conversation. We talked about that particular person who can make you stay in one room for five days straight – who makes you fail all of your classes.

I came home from my semester in England with a string of F’s that I managed to swap for withdrawals. He was the Yoko to my Lennon. He loved me, I loved him, and together – we destroyed the Beatles. Five years later, after putting a ring on my finger, he also effectively destroyed my life as I knew it.

The boy at the museum said, “It sounds so … “young.” And it is young. Can desire exist in a contained space without sucking out all the air? I’d like to think I can choose to not let the world waste away but still hate to leave you to go to work in the morning. I’d like to think I could call in sick when I’m not sick, just once. I’d like to think that despite the foresight to know better, the lip biting, heart aching taste of it is just on the tip of my tongue. Just a whisper out of reach.

Sure, you can be older and wiser. But what about younger, braver, bursting at the seams. Kerouac, of course, reminds us that this supposed greatness is little more than burning the candle at both ends. Even the man we espouse as this icon of youthful wandering eventually gave up life on the road to become a celebrated author who lived in one stationary place. The “roman candles” he wrote about fucked off to be nobody in particular.

I am not quite twenty eight years old. And besides, it almost killed me once already. I should have grown out of this by now.

But do we really grow out of it? Or do we teach ourselves to be satisfied with the comfortable instead of the kinetic. The timid instead of the tantalizing.

I am a bundle of nerve endings. All lips and tongue and fingertips. I am alone in the vastness of all the not knowing, waiting in the darkness for something to spark.

One.

Every mother has one story about each child that, over and over, they still love to tell. In this one, I am standing in the grocery store, maybe four years old – up to her knees or so – and I tug on her jeans.

“Mommy! Mom! Moooooom!” I say, eyes full and round.

She crouches down to my tiny level, cream cheese in one hand and lunch meat in the other, and as she does I throw my arms around her neck and breathe in deep.

“Mommy,” I say, “I would know you in the dark. You smell so good.”

It’s something a child that small would say. It is earnest and endearing, because it is honest.  Because it is true.

I wonder what it is that makes us feel that kind of tethered connection to another person. One could argue that it’s biological. That we know those joined to us through twisting strands of DNA, cavorting in the minutia of space. One could argue that it’s emotional. That we form a bond by choice, by desire, by proximity and repetition. That we nurture our decisions to follow through. That once we’ve chosen something, we feel the need to back it up, regardless of how illogical or nonsensical it might truly be. We’re hooked, reel us in. It’s too late.

The neurons in our brains, they dance. But they like to dance the dances they know. They look crappy trying out new shit on the dance floor. Maybe we’re just replicating the past in endless loops of static electricity, failing to notice that it’s all just rhythm with no reason at all.

My friend Shanna likes to look at the world as energy, all connected, moving in force to and away from itself. She says that we don’t know why we feel it, but we feel it. It’s how your mother knows when your broccoli goes bad and your heart is broken. It’s the reason your married ex-boyfriend texts you out of the blue after two years of dead air, when you’ve only recently stopped thinking of him. They do, in a way, have radar. Energy moved away from them, and although they don’t know why, even though there could have been years of silence between you, they suddenly felt a loss. The clip of a string, a free flying corner in the breeze. The weightiness of you is gone. They can feel it.

I don’t know if I buy that crap.

My married ex boyfriend texted me because he was drunk on a Thursday. My mom knows my broccoli is bad because I’m always emptying and filling my fridge with sporadic fervor and no sense of due process. There are reasons, I say. It’s logical, mathematical even. Read a book, I say. Duh.

My heart never presents it’s arguments in complete sentences. Allowing me to amble onwards with a quiet ache, though pain and subtlety, it warns my body that something isn’t right. A tiny, persistent wonder, a needing to touch and be touched. I can hardly stand to admit it, that despite all of my arguing and rationalizing, I feel it. My tiny hope that there a line to grasp. That there is something to hang onto in the panic of the deep.

For a year and a half, desire seemed impossible. Everything was scorched and barren. Everything tasted like ash. But now, peeking from the depths of a heart that speaks to me in silence, I know a part of me is still waiting. That I feel a blind, mad hope. That despite everything I’ve been through, despite everything my mind tells me is true, my heart feels a tug from a cord, even though I have no idea what lays pulling at the end of it.

I am groping around in the mess of things, blind. Feeling my way desperately towards something that feels like home.

When everything is peaceful. When I am still within myself. When I lay with him in the quietness of it, satisfied in silence, I’ll know it. I’ll reach across the counterpane of the sheets; my fingers will find his.

And I’ll say to him “I knew you. I found you in the dark.”