He Asks What I Write (Part Two): I Write Spaces

Writing

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Part One:  I Write Short Stories

I’m writing spaces, these blank places where we become better than our possibilities.

If I told you the truth, if I said all the words, you would end the conversation.  It sounds like a thud, this faux love that we make, this fucking on IKEA beds.

The good parts are in your head. The words ruin what was possible, bog us down, and cement the atrocities.

When the bed creaks, we don’t hear it.  When the pillows sigh, we have stopped listening.  Ribs cage us.  I don’t have the heart to tell you.

You can find my body and his in all the spaces, these places where everything was always greater than its assessed value.  Even in the sorrow, even in the badness, the emptiness is what warms us.

We fell in love with our own rhythms: the beat of our heels; our thighs, the rub.  I found him in the place I wanted him to be, the place where I was a thing worth finding.  He was a magnet, a polar opposite.  I rubbed him like lotion until he disappeared.

He Asks What I Write: I Write Short Stories

Open Letter

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He asks what I write and I tell him, “short stories.”

But the stories are not short.

Not unless you want them to be.

Not unless I have a heart attack soon and die.

Not unless you just stop reading.

I have only ever had but one story to tell.

The periods are just for breathing.  Your ears, like cholesterol, inside my pounding heart.

You tell me it’s okay to relax, I laugh and say, “comma down.”

 

Loving You Left Me Bankrupt

Originally written for Thought Catalog:  Loving You Left Me Bankrupt

 

This love, I carry it in a coin purse.

We met over coffee; borrowed a pen from the teller and wrote love poems with laughter, opened a new account to deposit our smiles. We sat and drank cupfuls of possibility, like you were the seed of a good person and I was full of all the potential to draw you out. Like my interest was exponential and your arms around my waist would form a tax free loophole.

You stood in a corner and looked down at my face, asked if I knew how beautiful I was and then paid for my muffin in cash. You wore a sweater that smelled like coffee and asked my shoulders if their bareness was overwhelming. Put your arm across my back and asked me if I wanted to come home with you.

It started the first time I let you touch me.

In a split second, before I could stand up straight, you were a split personality and we split the bill and my value dropped threefold. My kisses couldn’t even shop in the half price bin. My love was going fast andslashing prices and everything must go go go. Like I was the free bin at the garage sale and I hardly had time calculate a tip; my head spinning like a top.

You looked me in the eyes and acted like my pleasure wasn’t worth your time; held my hands to keep me from reaching for a second helping. Moved your lips to form the words that spelled misogyny and silenced the sound of my cumming with your demands as you held up your hands and said stopand only if I’m the one to give it to you.

You texted bullshit about maybe stopping by like my time was only worth $0.74 on the dollar, which is funny given that the last time you were here, you seemed totally fine to take just two bites out of the three different apples in my fridge. Like I hadn’t spent my whole paycheque making sure you’d get fed. Every time you put your hand on my back I got mugged.

You’re a criminal math problem, an economic black hole, a pick pocket in a coal mine waiting for Christmas and I’m pretty sure that last Saturday night when I let you cum on my chest, the balance in my savings account dropped to zero. You’re a dent in my credit score; a reason I have to buy this blanket on lay away.

Your mom called me last week trying to tell me that she had raised a beam of light and I have to wonder if she had the wrong phone number. She wanted to cut me a cheque for time served but I told her the bill was already in the mail. She cried a bit and promised to write the wrongs, in a letter, an apologetic poem, a soliloquy to be performed at Thanksgiving dinner when she’ll look at you and her list of your charms will shrink and cringe, burn up at the edges of fiery cheeks. And while she’ll be thinking of me, you’ll just be asking for another slice of pie. You’ll the rip the crispy skin off the turkey and shove marshmallows and yams into your face and she’ll look at your dad and they’ll wonder if I even have enough money to buy Kraft Dinner.

I’ll complain to the internet, I’ll lament the sorrow, write the words down on scraps of paper and place them into the cracks of brick walls around the city. They’ll commiserate with me; the internet, and the bricks; cold and hard and ruddy red and you’ll throw bullshit birdseed in my direction every couple of weeks just to keep me from starving to death. Be careful, you say as your tongue drips with maple syrup and flies, I heard you’re not from here. It gets cold in Montreal.

But I’ve got enough blubber to keep me warm, the layers have built up over the years, and I’m starting to believe it doesn’t get that cold anyway; cold is a luxury for the rich. I’ll press the snow against my hot cheeks to melt and wash it all away and then my eyes will open up like rosebuds or corner stores on Saturday mornings, slow and patient and eventual. I’ll roll my pennies and stockpile my dimes and when Christmas comes I won’t be a pauper wrapped in rags. I’ll fly home to Vancouver and I’ll tell tales of the time I moved to a city where I only met men who stole my money and heart attacks felt more like a literal command.

Until, on a Wednesday in November, I met an accountant who knew the value of good books. Who padded his way across my chest in degrees, like an eclipse or a quarterly statement, four sharp turns from a Bachelor to a Master. So I smile through the telephone and write jocularity in the steam of my bathroom mirror, a sweet message for a man who might one day get a chance to read it, assuming he has enough to pay the toll; just a few coins for my purse, the late fee on my love.

I’m Taking The Microwave

 

Originally written for Thought Catalog:  I’m Taking the Microwave

You drove out of town in a silver car that looked like all the others, on a Sunday like all the rest and I went to sleep that night and then got on with my life. You took the stereo and the blender and that bottle of champagne we’d been saving for the day I sold my first book. You left the dishes and the bills and all the reasons I didn’t love you to begin with. We had had a fight that didn’t make sense because of the way you rolled your eyes when I spoke and the way it didn’t even bother me. You broke a lamp while you stormed around gathering up shit like a vindictive teenager caught in a hurricane sized meltdown until I blew you over with one breath, just go. The lamp was my grandmother’s and the dust upon its shade meant more to me than you ever did. A statement I now wish I hadn’t said because I watched the way it moved across your face, a glow inside your veins, a dying light underneath your flesh, until it reached your chest and broke your heart in two, which was nine fewer pieces than my lamp. I counted, later, after you were gone.

“I met someone else” I said, to the wall before you got home. I was practicing for the dance we do where we pretend like the other person matters to us and we haven’t just been filling up this space in each other’s lives.

He smells like dim lighting and candles. The scent of 80s movies and something John Candy might star in. He makes me want to play mini golf or fuck on a bear skin rug. I want to record him on my VCR. I want to drive my box-cornered Volvo over to his house. I want to be a lifetime before any of this ever happened. I want to be the chapter in a book of mistakes, the one time it all worked out.

But that’s not what I say. I plan excuses like escape routes and give reasons like reinforcements.

You don’t really care about me.
We’re just wasting time with each other
When was the last time my touch even mattered?
Can you just get the fuck out already?

I sat on the couch waiting for hours long past when you should’ve been home. Long past the point when a phonecall to say baby I’m going to be latewould’ve made a difference. I ate Doritos for dinner and watched reruns ofGilligan’s Island. I wondered what it would be like to be stranded. I wondered what it would be like to be deserted. I thought about what it would be like to be stranded on a deserted island with you. I immediately started packing up your things. When you still weren’t home at midnight I piled the boxes by the door and left a note on top.

It’s over. You know this. 

Sometime around 3 a.m. or when I was dreaming about winning the lottery and wearing dresses made of cake, you burst in and woke me up. Stumbled around the bed, stubbed your toe on the corner, came over to my side, shoved the note in my face and slurred whatthefuckisthis? You smelled like bad decisions and weakness. You looked pathetic. But then you ripped off the covers and all my sympathy was swallowed hard.

I jumped up, chest puffed out, ready for things to get blurry. Is it wrong that my first thought was I could take you if I have to?

But there was no fight to be had. You sat down on the bed, in the warm empty spot my body had just left behind. You sighed a few times, like you were trying to get a grip. You wanted to know why? Face in your hands, rubbing your eyes and you wanted to know why I was calling it quits.

Because I hate you.
Because I’m aging at warp speed in your presence.
Because you make my face hurt.
Because I want to matter more than a placemat: a space to put your food, your heart, your dick.
Because I want love.
Because I want someone else.

“Because I don’t love you,” I say, “anymore.”

You interrupt, “or ever?”

You ask it like a question wearing a safety vest, full of trepidation, afraid of the answer because though you’re just guessing, you have a pretty good sense that you’re right and you already regret asking.

“Or ever,” I sigh in admission.

“You bitch,” you spit and get up from the bed; I turn to go into the other room. You grab my hand, my arm, my waist. Jerk me close against your body, look down at my face.

“I hate you”

“I know,” I say, “you’ll get over it.”

“Probably”

Your face expands into a smirk, and then just as quickly deflates, your warm breath upon my cheeks. Your hand eases up around my arm, runs its fingers up my back, and finds a home in my hair. Your palm presses against my scalp, fingers wildly searching for anchors in my curls. Forearm, bicep, your entire body tenses. You pull my face up to yours, hard, and kiss me. Search my mouth with your tongue for our future, come up empty. I let you have this one moment. You make a noise that sounds a bit like a hiccup, blink frantically and push me away.

“Fuck you,” you say, “I’m taking the microwave.”

Paper Airplanes

 

Originally written for Thought Catalog:  Paper Airplanes

 

I want to see you, on a balcony across the way, and throw a paper airplane to get your attention.

I want our love to begin with your best set of binoculars.

I want to be ready for you.

You have a story to tell, I can see it.  Yesterday I went out and bought my own set of binoculars, just so I could see you better.  I watch you pull back the red curtains in your window, watch the sun wash over your body, watch the corners of your mouth turn up and then you lower the binoculars.

You look shy.  Kick imaginary rocks around with your feet.  Blush.  From the sun.  From the heat.  From my gaze.  You look like chewing caramel to a jazz ballad.  You look like the beat slowed way down.  I bet you smell good.  I think you’re on the 20th floor.  I tried to count exactly but I kept losing track.

Draw the binoculars back up to your eyes.  This time it’s me lowering mine.  I’m nervous.  I squint from the glare of the setting sun off your building.  A smile spreads across my face like a flood, the movements uncontrollable.  I’m awash with uncertainty.  I giggle.  Look away, down and to the left, but raise my arm, my right hand, and offer a gentle wave.  And then I look back, and see you, without binoculars, waving.  Big sweeping motions.  Like you’re acting out a silent movie.  I want to be in black and white with you.

I blink.  I breathe.  Something catches my eye and you’re gone.  I grab the binoculars and whip them up to eye level.  I search for a Lion on the Safari.  I seek a bird in flight.  I look for the last piece of cookie dough in the cookie dough ice cream.  But you’re gone.  I close my drapes, the night feels heavy.  I tell no one.  This is not my secret to share.

Morning comes.  Drapes are opened.  And there, across the way, something catches my eye.  Big.  White.  A sign.  Nestled in between those red curtains is a sign for me.  You’ve thrown a message in a bottle.  You’ve put your hand in the wet cement.  You wrote Dave was here inside the desk of your first year college dorm.  My knees get weak.

Where did you go?  It says.  I’m sorry I left, I thought you knew I would come back.  Your smile is more beautiful than my heart can stand.  Come back tonight, at 10pm.  David.

I can’t think straight.  But I have a life and it must go on.  The day happens, things get done, time does not stop for me.  I go out and buy big white poster boards and colorful felt markers.  Evening comes and I peek out of my window.  I stand off to the side.  Shy.  Not ready yet.  But I wonder if you’re there.  You are not.  I remind myself you said 10pm and spend the next two hours acting like I’m getting ready for a date.  I clean up my apartment, I shower, I do my hair and makeup.  I try not to think myself insane.  I write my name in Red.

At 10pm I open my curtains, it feels like opening night, and there you are.  Sitting.  Waiting.  You jump up in excitement and I know that you see me.  I hold up my poster.  Show you my name.  I’m watching through binoculars.  You clap your hands, your mouth opens to form an O and then a smile.  You hold up a hand that looks like STOP! but I know really means wait.  I kick myself for not knowing this last night.  That I should wait.

I can see you scribbling furiously, bent over a table to your left.  I can see into your apartment.  It’s very nice.  And I’m instantly glad I took the time to clean mine up as you can probably see everything.  I think about my apartment, imagine what it says about me, wonder if you’ll think me juvenile for the IKEAness of it all.  Wonder if you think it looks like doll furniture.  Wonder if you would judge me.  Decide that you wouldn’t.

I look back at your apartment.  And wonder what kind of man has red curtains.  Floor to ceiling, rich and deep, your curtains are the centre of a cherry, the place where flesh meets pit.  I wonder if we’ll ever meet.  I look down at the street and think it could be that easy.  Two elevator rides, two swinging doors, two strangers on the ground.  But it feels right to stay here; to write our story in signs, to write ourselves pending in poster boards.  I’m not ready yet.

And then you’re back, and holding up your sign.

I want you to know it says and after a few seconds you fling it behind you to reveal the next poster.

That you’re doing just fine.  And then you lower the boards and just look at me.  The sun is going down.  Dusk is hovering.  The night waits in the wings.

I quickly turn to my own table laden with paper and markers.

Dave?  I write.  How do you know???  Hold up the signs for you to see.

Again you turn to write something and then come back to show me.

Because the board says and then you reach into the back pocket of your jeans and bring out what looks like a piece of folded up paper.  You open it up and place it flat against the glass with your palm.  It reminds me of Good Will Hunting.  I can hear Matt Damon say, how do you like them apples?  I’m not yet certain I know what this is.  And then you begin to fold it up, you make it into a paper airplane, and make airplane flying motions with it until you’re sure I recognize what it is.  You put it down and pick up more signs.

You hold up the because message one more time.  This time a second message follows.

It’s enough that you want to.

My stomach flips.  My heart fills.  My head spins.

I remember the paper airplane.  I remember the day I threw it, months ago.  On a Wednesday in December I stood on a balcony covered in snow and looked down at a city blanketed in white and I threw my hopes and dreams in the shape of a paper airplane.

I just want to make you smile.  That’s what I’d written inside.

He must have found it.  Must have kept it.  All this time.  How did he know it came from me?  Had he been watching that day, when I had thrown it?  Had he been watching other days?  Had he run down to get it?  How did he find it?  And then of course, why?

He watched with his binoculars as I slowly put it all together.  And then he wrote one final message.

I want to be the person who makes you laugh.