I have been carrying a lot of ghosts around with me today, some friendlier than others. Chris, as every year, is called to mind in January when blood oranges are in season.
I have a test day on Wednesday at what I hope will be my new workplace- I made blood orange macarons for the interview and they came out perfectly, like biting into a fresh orange. Like an escape from the winter to someplace warm. Topped with a sparkling slice of candied orange, died blood red. What a sparkling haunting. What promise seems to hang in the January air. The wind has been so strong recently, and everyone’s cheeks are bitten red.
I am filled with hope, and anxiety, and sugar. I am bundled up in scarves and sweaters.
Chris was not the first person I lost to suicide, nor was he the last. We’ve all seen too much death.
We’ve all been bitten by the cold.
Crisis Hotline Austria: 142
National Suicide Hotline USA: 1-800-273-8255
Every time I go to crop a selfie it offers me the prompt to “straighten” the photo, and it always makes me laugh. Because I can edit all I want, but this bisexual disaster is always going to slant a little bit queer.
I don’t want to eat,
I want to sit around being fragile
And subsist on sparkling water
I want there to be something left in my day
I want to turn the internet off, open the windows,
And listen to yesterday’s thunderstorm.
I want the rain to wash the sidewalks away with the hours,
To return me to the twilight of yesterday, before we…
I want to do yesterday over again:
To do nothing. To do more, to do less,
To speak up when I was hurting.
When you were hurting me.
I want to have never started, or to have lingered
In the moment, after the first time I asked you to stop
Before I said “Where is the dominant guy who threw me over the desk?”
I want to have stayed there- in your surprisingly gentle arms,
To have fallen asleep.
I want to be the worst kind of hypocrite, I want a cigarette.
After your tobacco breath and all my complaints-
I want to hang my head out the window and blow the smoke into the January air,
Watch it curl toward the cobblestones on the courtyard
Like a woman descending spiral stairs.
The French have a word for this. Usually, it’s the Germans,
Coming in with vocabulary lacking in English.
But today it’s the French:
L’espirit de l’escalier
The ghost of the things we should have said.
I have so much left to say to you.
I want our story to keep going, too.
An addition to the poem:
I remembered tonight that my ultimate dream vacation
A trip aboard the Orient Express,
Runs from Istanbul
Maybe one day we will go.
Maybe one day I will look back and realize I was always heading toward you.
This blog is slowly becoming a love letter to anxiety, as anxiety is slowly becoming a long-lost-lover of mine.
Look at me, chubby and smiling and feeling absolutely gorgeous.
Look at me, dare I say it, relaxing.
I’ve been listening to love songs as ever, but for the first time in forever there’s no longing. Just the comfortable exhale of a woman who trusts that he is going to call her.
I trust this one, he’s got me glowing.
You make me want to wait.
You make me want to erase
every man before you.
You make me want
to be a good woman.
You make me want to be holy.
Evidently, if you play your cards right, the locals in Austria waltz at midnight. So I spent the first minutes of 2022 gasping from laughter, swept off my feet in the emerald green silk gown I chose to wear.
I waltzed my way into midnight.
2021 was a trash fire, and I am standing beside it basking in the glow, but 2022 is looking awfully good from here.
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The moon was awfully bright tonight, and it reminded me of missing you. Which is not to say I miss you.
But the fact is, you’re so far away.
Some impossibly expensive plane ticket away.
I wish you would call me.
We were always best like this, at a distance, exhausted, a candle burnt at both ends. It was hard to sleep without you, maybe it’s harder to sleep without you in the same city.
This is just a series of hardships, slowly decreasing in severity.
Which is to say. I don’t miss you like I used to.
But the moon makes me feel like I should be.
I’ve been saying,
We’re only still married by fault of a piece of paper,
a pair of names on the mailbox,
And another set on the doorbell.
They took our names off the doorbell.
I am burnt out, yet electric. I’m not sure what happened in the last week to set this strange collision off. Perhaps I just had a reason to be creative (the interview), perhaps I had a multitude of anxieties (the interview), perhaps my young lover…(redacted, for decency).
Perhaps I am just here to brag.
To smile, to tuck a yellow rose behind my ear.
The sexiest thing I’ve seen recently?
A screenshot of an email from the Handsome Devil
about the little trip we planned,
showing he had already arranged gluten-free meals for me.
If you’re looking for the sexy part of that sentence, it’s: “he had already“.
If you’re looking for the sexy part of that sentence, you’re probably a guy.
The involuntary gasps from my friends when I showed them said it all:
We love a competent man.
As I’ve said before, the bar for men is so low it’s a tavern in hell.
But we love a competent man.
As I’ve said before, I’ve been sitting at the oak-and-leather bar of the Tavern in Hell,
drinking watered down gin and pretending to have a good time.
He makes it so easy to show him off. I love a planner.
Perhaps that’s the issue: I keep showing him off.
A picture is worth a thousand words,
and the expression I make when I text him is worth at least twice as much.
“Ooooh, what’s Alessandra doing? Her face says it all.”
Everyone who loves me wants to see the queen of puppy-love in another love story.
Maybe, after the last year, everyone is rooting for the underdog.
I may be the underdog,
but I am also the Ladybug of the Christmas Market.
After all the input from my friends, I considered it.
Considered him. Considered if he was worth dating.
I hate to disappoint, but this is not a love story.
It’s a leaflet of smut, tucked beneath a mattress.
It’s not love, but it’s glorious.
“I just want to keep things like they are.”
Absolutely, Sir. Zero complaints.
Keep things as they are: without obligation.
I’m not his, he’s not mine.
I have conned my way into a gloriously good time.
So I’m still sitting at the bar, in the Tavern in Hell,
But I’ve upgraded to sherry cask whiskey.
I’m seated next to the Handsome Devil.
His hand is subtly grazing my knee.
The music on the jukebox changed, and I’m tapping my toe to the beat.
I’m sitting at the bar of the Tavern in Hell,
Still waiting for the right guy to ask me to dance.
Christmas in Love
Nick, evil CEO, is in town to buy out Ellie’s Christmas Kringle factory. He’s exchanged his Big-City-Italian-Suit for an appropriate uniform, complete with shoe covers, hair net, and gloves. Ellie, on the other hand, is in full Christmas glam- her long blonde hair free-flowing into those Christmas Kringles. Yummy. Evidently, her homespun charm exempts her from stringent health codes followed by everyone else at the factory. Oh, and those adorable Christmas baubles hanging over the mixer won’t be quite so cute crushed up in a pastry, but this is small-town America, and we like our food authentic, and absolutely riddled with adulterants.
Big City Health Inspection Grade: C, for Christmas
A Gingerbread Romance
Chef Annabelle Renard, the supposed villain of this story, is the only character who gives a damn about her clients’ health. She is also the only person in this movie capable of pulling her hair back. Meanwhile, architect Taylor and single dad/hunky baker Adam have teamed up to build a giant gingerbread house. Do they utilize child labor to do so? Yes. Do they even once don a pair of gloves? No. Does everyone get the promotion they dreamed of? You bet.
Big City Health Inspection Grade: P, for Promotion.
Ice Sculpture Christmas
Callie, an aspiring chef and future poisoner, has been unwittingly entered into an ice carving contest against her boss and his villainous sous chef. How do we know the sous chef is a villain? Her hair is pulled back. What do you think this is, a big city? We don’t believe in hair elastics around here. What we do believe is that every single room should contain at least four fully decorated Christmas trees.
Big City Health Inspection Grade: J, for Jingle.
Murder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery
Hannah Swensen, baker and unlicensed gumshoe, has found herself in a caper. Well, to start off, her sous chef plates croissants for service without wearing gloves. Oh, and THERE IS A DEAD BODY. She VISITS A CRIME SCENE and then returns to the bakery, without washing her hands. Eat your heart out, Ignaz Semmelweis. Despite all this, upon entering her kitchen, Hannah actually pulls her hair back into a ponytail.
Big City Health Inspection Grade: M, for Murder.
I went Christmas shopping with my friend D. today, in search of stocking stuffers and an escape from the confines of our respective apartments. We found ourselves in front of the Tom Ford counter, and she gave me the eye.
“Didn’t the guy wear…?”
“Yeah. He did. But I am not thinking about him. Definitely not thinking about him.”
I say, staring at the bottle of his cologne.
“Yeah, sure. Which one was it?”
“That one, the tobacco vanilla one. It’s like fucking catnip for me. When he put it on I basically just wanted to lick him.”
“And did you?”
“Actually, no. He was a little hot-and-cold in that department.”
The saleswoman grabs the bottle, and goes to spray it on a tester, but I shake my head at her and reach out my arm, pulling back my glove to reveal my wrist.
D. says, “They have it at the commissary for like half price.”
My nose is pressed to my wrist, and I mumble at her from behind my palm,
“Yeah, mmhhmm, half price of way-too-fucking-much. But, I might need you to buy me a bottle. I don’t need the guy- I can just buy the damn perfume.”
“Or you could just keep fucking him knowing you’ll go home smelling like it.”
“Yeah, that’s super practical, completely logical. No, it’s not happening. I’m through with him.”
“Yeah, uh-huh, you seem really through with him.”
“Shut up. Ugh, I can’t escape him- he said it himself. His name showed up on the Bee yesterday. That word game I play.”
“I can set you up with my investment manager, I bet he smells nice.”
“I told you, I don’t care if the guy has money- is he a good person? Not a “nice guy”- a good person.”
“Well, he seems very laid back for having such a large trust fund.”
“I really don’t think you’re hearing me: not-interested-in-rich-dudes. Just buy me the damn perfume.”
God, I am a bit of a mess today. Actually, I’m not, I’m perfect, I’m exceeding expectations. My life is pretty neatly managed at the moment, I’ve got my shit together. I worked incredibly hard, it paid off. I also just want to cry a little- but I can’t, because my makeup looks flawless. I am having a fantastic day, excuse me while I…sob?
To be fair, I did bonk my head on a drawer while I was grabbing the laundry. But it was a sort of charming, movie-quality clumsy. I’m having a delightful day, really.
I think I am just nervous about the interview tomorrow. And, you know, nervous about the gaping maw of the unplanned future.
This year has been an exercise in learning that plans, no matter how secure they may seem, are prone to change. So I will have to settle for dreams, goals, and god forbid, hope.
Now I want to cry and vomit. Lovely.
You’re not possessive, at least not so far, but when I set a risqué post to draft- I realized I was curating my smut. That perhaps we have something going that I don’t want to risk fucking up.
This cursed blog has always been a corner for unedited musings, reckless abandon, and the heart-on-my-sleeve ramblings that befit me. A junkyard of brutal honesty. I am a foghorn of a woman, calling men to shore with a warning. The most off-key singer of any siren, the most asthmatic mermaid. I’ve been on the beach, waiting.
Hey Sailor, come home to me.
Best of luck to any man I go quiet on. Your girl is not a gambler. Your girl.
There’s this old movie, this old broadway show, really. Funny Girl. Fanny Brice falls for Nicky Arnstein, prince charming and poker player, he shows up wearing a starched collar and he brings her yellow roses. She follows him across an ocean, wilted roses in hand. He gambles her fortune into oblivion. She bets everything on him, and loses.
I’m pretty good at asking for exactly what I want- until I really want something. Until it’s a thing I am afraid to lose. I am not a gambler. Never take a bet from me.
But, I realized tonight that maybe, just maybe, I should shut up for once. Maybe, you are a man I am afraid to lose.
Perhaps that’s a compliment, perhaps you complement me.
Perhaps I’ll publish the risqué post anyway.
Perhaps I don’t have to be silent for you to chase me. To choose me.
Maybe we should be adults, should talk it out, maybe I should extend this metaphor beyond its grasp- put my cards on the table, and such. Is this an ocean or a poker table? It’s both- it’s Funny Girl. The metaphor makes more sense if you’ve seen the film.
Maybe, if you want me to be your girl, you should tell me before I get anxious and fuck everything up.
if I want to be your girl, I should just do it.
I dreamt of my mother last night. I had foster children and she was helping me move them into the house. It was wonderful, she was a great help. I bounced a boy on my hip. Maybe it’s because I wrapped the gifts for my godchildren before bed? Who knows. But mom was there, we made pleasant chit-chat, she laughed at my jokes.
Of course I miss her laugh, this is the thing everyone misses about their dead mother.
Anyways, it’s been a long time since she died, and for years after I waited to dream of her- and when I finally did we were always fighting, screaming at each other. Then years later she would appear, but I would remember she was dead, and awake in a panic, hyperventilating, having tried to warn her.
I know a lot of people who lost their mothers, some more recently than others. When mine died, my boss told me “You’ll have the dreams, you know, and sometimes it hurts in the dream and other times when you wake up- just try and enjoy it.”
So, to my friends who are in the same position, I want you to know: You’ll have the dreams, you’ll see her, enjoy the visit.
Who has two thumbs, spent too much money on his Christmas gift, and totally-doesn’t-have-feelings-for-him? This liar.
EURYDICE IS BLOOMING!
Okay, perhaps she isn’t blooming, but this little troublemaker is growing flower buds! She’s budding! In mid-December! A Christmas miracle!
My little minx, joyful and abundant despite the cold. I am so fucking proud of her. I am so proud of myself. I have never kept a plant alive let alone coaxed one out of hibernation. Oh, sweet Eurydice, I am your Orpheus, my dear, or perhaps I am your Hades, either way- I brought you back from the dead. I am, with not a hint of exaggeration, ecstatic.
My god, what a delight! This little lady, always such a metaphor for my life.
Today, I went for a walk with the man who bought her for me. When I ended things with him, all her flowers fell off. I had to look at her every day and think of him. Now I see only her, all her determination, I see myself. What a thing it is, to be a flower blooming in winter, blushing from the cold.
I walked with him, through parks and past multiple accordion players, the romance determined follow us, but I am immune now. I was there for polite conversation, and I had a pleasant time. He’s a fine friend, it’s been long enough.
Towards the end of our walk, my phone was vibrating a bit wildly. “Sorry my phone is blowing up let me check it.” I peeked at the screen, and the overwhelming smile on my face gave me away. He just laughed,
“Ah wow, your smile! Well, I will let you get back to…whatever that is about..um, yeah, you sort of make it clear, your face does…”
“Haha, yes, um…I am seeing someone, and he’s very good to me. He makes me really happy.”
“I can see!”
We parted ways, polite hugs goodbye, Then I went home to find Eurydice, looking just as radiant as I.
What a good omen.
I can’t wait to see just what she’s foretelling.
Come over here and love me already.
I think you kind of do.
I don’t know if I am lovable anymore, I’m so ready for it, it’s unbecoming.
I am un-becoming, coming undone,
My skin aches for human touch
Yet Saturday I had a gorgeous girl in my bed and
She was begging to stay,
And I could only tell her to leave.
I forgot how to trust anything.
Sleep around less.
Have left his place.
Maybe not have posted about our crazy sex.
Stop thinking about exes.
Not delude myself into thinking
That a man who
Ignored me for days on end
Would have stuck around if
I only kept my mouth shut about
Not keeping my
I should let you love me.
“If you want to kiss me you have to stop smiling so much.”
We’re back at my place, we escaped from the cold weather and the heated protests. First date, lockdown style. We walked through the center and bought some Punsch, and encountered a woman holding a flaming torch.
“So…do you want to go back to my place? This feels like a bad time to be on a lesbian date. All they’re missing is the pitchforks..”
So we went home, and sat on the couch calling each other beautiful for 7 hours.
“You have a century smile”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know, I just made it up, but you do. I love your smile when you kiss me, you have so much love in your eyes. I can see that you have a lot of love to give. Do you have a camera? I want to photograph you.”
“I know what you mean. I want to paint you, but I can’t paint portraits. I want to paint on you, blue flowers cascading down your neck.”
“Let me take your picture.”
Look at this little vixen, just THRIVING.
I cut off the dead weight and since then she has been growing so fast it’s like she’s in therapy. Look at this gorgeous troublemaker. She’s living off ice cubes, radiator heat, winter sunlight, and the carbon dioxide of my complaints.
Look at her new stem, cuddling the sunlight.
Eurydice, ever the metaphor for my life. For once, one I am excited about.
Yesterday I got glutened, despite my best efforts at due diligence. It’s the most gluten I have consumed since my diagnosis, and I was upset. I had been having a lovely day, and when I found a gluten-free cake pop I was just about nuclear with joy. But, after eating it, I realized it was too good to be true, and called the bakery to find out I was right. Oops.
I miss New York sometimes, but especially when I find myself crying in public. When a perfectly delightful treat has ruined what was about to be a perfectly lovely weekend. I miss being able to cry on public transit, without so much as a glance in my direction. Or, on the opposite end of the New-York-subway-manners-spectrum: a crumpled tissue and hug from a complete stranger,
“That’s right honey, you just cry it out.”
New York is a great place for mad public sobbing, everything there is both open and shut. The subway is a living room and a locked closet. Public and private, a woman applying her make-up, the mascara wand hovers in her hand while she waits for the train to stop.
I’ve done my fair share of sobbing in Vienna. It’s a cleaner sidewalk to crumble on, I’ll give it that.
On Saturday morning, I languished in bed with a new lover, discussing, as one does these days, the current plague,
“Yeah I had it last year, I got it in the hospital.”
“Wow, you just have everything, asthma, and your knees don’t bend. You’re a wreck.”
It’s not like I had a choice in the matter? I don’t know, it’s fine, it was just an aside. I am just annoyed he was right.
Well, I left Mr. Honesty’s place and made my way to a market in search of new artwork for my apartment. I took down the wedding photos, a long while ago, but there are still hooks hanging on the wall, like the empty frames in the Gardner Museum. Evidence of a robbery. I pushed the thoughts away, about the wreck of my body, and bounced about the market, enjoying my newfound health. And a delightful lunch: french fries in a dedicated fryer! Then a fucking cake pop proved to be my Achilles heel.
I’ve dated rather ferociously the past few months, as evidenced here in my various posts of Sunday night sex poetry. I keep a few handsome playthings in rotation for when my wreck of a body wants to be warm for an evening. They all have their nicknames: The Hunk, the Kid, The Chef. I rarely keep someone around long enough to warrant my friends learning their names. That’s not true, I rarely let someone close enough for my friends to learn their name.
I was furious at the bakery that told me the cake pop was gluten-free, and I posted about it on Instagram. How glamorous, how sexy, to announce to the world news of my poisoning. I am sure that anyone reading it could connect the dots of precisely how my evening turned out, and it’s not exactly glamorous. My stomach was so bloated, the boudoir shoot I planned for Monday would have looked more like a maternity shoot. Welcome to the world, baby Gluten
But, I was surprised by the outpouring of support I got. All the men I have dated who saw the post reached out to me with kind messages, Really kind. Even the ones I don’t talk to anymore, the Professor and such. What a delightful thing, to be surprised by a man’s compassion. Of course, my friends all sent me messages as well. The bar for men’s behavior is so low it’s a tavern in hell.
After what happened a few weeks ago with A., and the IUD, I was jarred. Hurt. It stopped feeling like fun. I tried to laugh it off, but I was furious and scared. I deeply questioned my taste in men. My doctor counseled me that the IUD isn’t 100% effective and I could still be pregnant. “Don’t worry, I’m one of those liberal Boston girls who get abortions” I had told him. It’s not true, and it’s a decision I am grateful I didn’t have to make.
When I was recovering from the procedure, everyone reached out to me, except him. God, what a fucking Saturday that was. Kind messages from my ex-husband and not a whisper from A. Then he dumped me over text on Sunday, with nary an “I hope you’re doing okay” or, I don’t know, “Let me know if you’re pregnant”. I would have settled for “I hope your okay”, a grammatical error befitting him: a mistake.
But, for now, it feels like A. was more an exception than a rule. Even if none of the nicknames has turned into a love story, perhaps my taste in men isn’t quite as terrible as I imagined. They all passed the “basic human decency” test with flying colors. Even Mr. H managed the feat, texting to say he was sorry. I admit it made me smile. I should know better by now. Here I am, seated at the Tavern in hell, drinking watered-down gin, convincing myself I am having a good time.
I won’t wait around long, sustained on bread crumbs. Your girl is hungry.
Perhaps I am unfair to these men, sometimes. Perhaps. It seems a fair exchange though, come over and use my body, and I will use your body: I’ll make you hang Christmas lights. I have somehow accrued a harem of giants. I should buy more high heels.
I know I should have stopped calling F. “The Kid'” a while ago, but when I do it makes me feel a bit like Humphrey Bogart. Say what I will about the Kid, who is unreliable for a rendezvous, he is the most reliably sweet thing to me. Always greeting the day with a “how are you?”, and such. Always rooting for me to find the right one.
“What are you doing tomorrow morning?”
Coffee with Mr. H, it seems. Followed by a mild poisoning.
“You should have come over, I’m certified Gluten-Free.”
I am anxious today, editing the final piece for my writing class and it’s tricky: vulnerable. The critique is more specific, and all the feedback I’ve been given is conflicting. Of course, the editing process itself is tricky, confronting demons and details and all that. A graveyard of darlings and the teacher prodding me for more honesty. More. More. More.
At last, the Christmas lights in Vienna are up. The city turned snowglobe and god, it’s a romantic misery of cold.
The covid numbers are daunting, and I am not sure what to expect. Winter arrived in full form today, announcing that the era of my leather jacket has come to an end. I will miss it, for it gave me power and pockets.
I’m feeling awfully vulnerable these days, but happy sometimes. I’m not short on company, friendly or otherwise, I have a bit too much time on my hands this week, it won’t last long- I should enjoy it. I should let myself enjoy things. I should let myself enjoy you. I have my guard up, it seems.
I am rambling, I am not sure who this post is for, it’s just thought spillover. If you’re still reading, my apologies.
The class focuses quite a bit on the great paradox: “Specific is the best in general”
I think I need to be held. I think I need a walk. I think I want to be held, but need to go for a walk.
I want you to hold me. I want you to spoon me and pull me close, and when I say “I should head home”, I want you to pull me closer and gently wrestle my underwear off as I try to put it back on. I want you to kiss my neck and leave a mark, so I can text you about it and pretend I am annoyed, smiling all the while.
Yes, on an island off the coast of Italy there grows a mythical olive tree. Countless men have died trying to reach it. Journey there, in the port, you will meet a raven-haired woman with a one-eyed dog. To the dog, you must feed a piece of your own flesh. To the woman, you must reveal your deepest secret. If you do so, she will provide you a map to the island. It’s a two-day sail from the harbor, past schools of sirens. The tree itself is atop a mountain, climb it, and find the tree. In the tree nests a silver dove, with her baby chicks. Each of the three chicks will ask you a riddle. Answer the riddles correctly, and the dove will allow you a cutting from the tree. Bring me the topmost branch.
Or, just bring me flowers, yellow roses are my favorite.
A year ago I was in the hospital, so sick I was sure I would die. So sick, I wrote a will and an informal goodbye.
A year later, and I had a lot to say on the matter, I wrote myself a long letter, but I don’t know how much of it is worth sharing here.
Most of all, I want the Alessandra of one year ago to know: you are still here.
“How are you today?”
“I think if I drink another coffee I can emit a pulse which annihilates every straight cis man in Vienna.”
“That good, huh?”
“But you were nice to me yesterday, so this is your warning that the Reckoning is coming some time this afternoon, after I meet this deadline. I suggest you move beyond the city limits, swiftly.”
I just need to get through mid-term exams, announce to the world that indeed I am getting a divorce, and indeed I am staying in Vienna (or doing my best to stay). Then I need to disappear into the abyss for a few days, turn off my phone, run the ink dry on a pen, or three.
Hey Gorgeous, do you want to come with me?
“Don’t ever drink coffee after 9p.m., that’s how you were made. ”
“Always wear delicate red lipstick on a date. Otherwise, you’re always kissable, too kissable. The lipstick is war paint. I let myself be kissable, that’s how I had you.”
“Don’t read books, next thing you’ll start talking about books with other people. You know what that gets you? Pregnant is what it gets you. And library fees!”
“Be quiet. You know who was a great conversationalist? Your father. You know what that got him? That’s right: you, it got him you.”
“Only date someone your own height. That way, you always know you’re at kissing height and your defenses will be up. The tall ones are surprisingly sneaky and charming. One second I was looking up, the next I was pregnant.”
“You should have seen my hips before I had you. I went on two dates with a giant, and this is what I get. Jaqueline and the goddamn beanstalk.”
“You know what?! DON”T clean your room! In fact, never clean your apartment, you’ll just invite someone back to it, and next thing you know, you’ll have someone like you, and be screaming at them to CLEAN THEIR ROOM!”
For those wondering, I am now a card-carrying member of the gold IUD club. They literally gave me a gold card with the serial number of my IUD on it. I had to have it put in as emergency contraception, because hormonal birth control was no longer an option for me after hormonal BC caused me to grow a small benign liver tumor. I had to have it put in on a rush on a Friday afternoon right as the doctor’s office was closing, without dilation or numbing, and I SCREAMED at the pain and almost passed out. To quote my doctor “Are you still alive?” I am. At least I (probably) won’t be screaming at a real child, for a while. But maybe someday, when I am ready, and I promise to never treat a real child like the imaginary one in this little post.
It’s a strange thing, to invite you in,
To ask you to stay.
To let you hear me snore-
To let my breath escape.
You know you yell in your sleep? A sort of half-scream. It’s scary.
I keep telling you to relax.
I’m a hypocrite on multiple counts,
A mugshot of smeared lipstick and a half-finished glass.
I’m not trying to get you drunk, I’m just trying to get to know you.
I think you’re cute, but I’m not trying to get you pregnant yet.
You’re not particularly nice to me. Evidently that’s my thing.
Men who are scruffy and vaguely mean.
Maybe it’s my kink?
Nah, my kink is people that hold me.
My kink is men who make me feel safe.
I don’t want to fall asleep yet, but we should cool down.
I am apprehensive, and hungry.
I am many things.
I am weird, you keep reminding me.
You did all the right things, but
Succumbing to coming is particularly intimate,
It’s a rare feat, for me, on the first time.
The rumors of my small death have been greatly exaggerated.
But the pleasure was real.
The lie was ethical-
A half-truth, I was overcome with bliss but not quite reaching a precipice.
There was behavior worth reinforcing.
In particular, that thing you do with your tongue-
Do exactly that, but just-
Do it when I trust you.
Eurydice and I have learned to understand each other. I appreciate the ability an orchid has to communicate: its roots bare to the world. Heart on her sleeve, it seems.
She takes after me.
Spoiled as ever. Her blooms continue to dry out, but her stem is green. She gets a steam bath in front of the humidifier whenever she loses her perk, and she responds quickly.
After too much googling, I learned less about orchids and far more about orchid people. Orchid gardeners are second only to mommy-bloggers when it comes to anxiety and judging. They are one step above vinyl record collectors when it comes to snobbery. But, after some waffling back and forth on the best watering methods, I have indeed fallen for the ice trick, and Eurydice seems to love it. It’s counterintuitive, but it seems to be working. It’s a technique which requires restraint, and patience. Eurydice and I are both learning patience.
I had to attend to a funeral this week, a former coworker’s suicide. In lieu of flowers donations were made to the local animal shelter. The only flowers were rose petals, we each tossed a handful of them into her open grave, over her urn, white and glittering. They buried her ashes by a young tree, which will be there for at least 400 years. Tree number 9. The deceased was 31. I am 32. Sometimes, when you cannot stop crying, it helps to focus on something else: numbers, letters, the names on the gravestones. A phalaenopsis orchid has a blooming cycle 2-3 months long, and many people throw them away after that. But they can live 10-15 years with proper care. Some have lived to be over 100 years old..
I watered Eurydice when I got home, with ice. I reminded her that she needs to live.
So do you, she said.
How dare you be such an amazing kisser.
How dare you make me think I‘ve met my match.
How dare you give me something to love.
You forgot what I’m capable of.
I’ll treat this little minx the way I should myself.
Give her the world, and anything else.
I blocked you, call it self-care.
I’m unfed, but I’m caffeinated.
Plied with rice milk and coffee.
You’re anxious, over-educated,
And unbearably pretty.
Scenes from a sunlit bachelor pad:
A corner bed-frame, comic books
Dry soap, a broken shower head,
Scraggy towels, a single hook.
You’re as broken as the rest,
But you get away with it.
I’ll leave in a minute, gorgeous,
Let me look at you for a bit.
Regale me with tales of your crises,
Lay all your despair on me.
Just, sit here a while. Let’s see
If you convince me to stay.
“It is a nice jacket, very cool, Sandra Dee.”
“Yeah, I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying. I kept it on while I was waiting for you, just to show it off. It has so many pockets, I don’t even need a purse! It makes me feel mad with power- not to be weighed down by a bag. I realized on Saturday: this is why society won’t give women pockets- it makes it harder for us to run.”
“Yeah, I’m cold, wouldn’t it be nice if only I had my blue Cardigan…but someone stole it.”
“I’m not giving it back. It’s mine now. Well, it’s still yours, but I’m keeping it, permanently. I told you, I get it in the divorce.”
“Fine. Well, where did we get it? I will have to buy another one.”
“I think C&A? Not sure. I am sort of accumulating a collection of men’s sweaters at this point.”
“Well, not quite, it’s just two at the moment, but it was three for while. I mean, I was good, I gave one of them back. The other guy hasn’t realized I still have his cashmere sweater. I forgot a belt at the nice one’s place, not sure what that means.”
“So, it’s, like, your thing.”
“Yeah, it’s like a tax, or whatever. The VAT. Not that anyone is paying for the arrangement, but, like, I guess that’s the catch…you come into my apartment, you must sacrifice an article of cashmere to me.”
“Yeah it’s a trade off- you don’t have to hold me, but you need to keep me warm.”
I walked myself home from the date, alone.
Past the silhouettes of a couple breaking up
beneath the metal staircase at the construction site.
Backlit by the street-lamps on the square,
Snippets of her exasperation reverberating against the steel.
Cold air and echoes of argument.
I’ve done the whole flustered-but-adoring-academic routine before.
Perfected the art.
I could write a thesis on it.
I’m not interested in kissing a smoker.
I’m am somewhat interested in kissing you.
You seem awfully charming after a few cocktails,
And so on.
And ho! Barkeep!
A salve, good sir, for the anxious polyglot!
Shaking like an over-caffeinated leaflet.
Today Academia informed me that someone in Rome cited me, or cited someone by my name.
My long Italian name which I am, it turns out, mispronouncing. Sure, I could be reasonable and assume it’s just a shared name. But it’s not so unreasonable that at last, one if the many PhD candidates I have nursed through their dissertations, went ahead and gave me some credit where it’s due.
Sunday, 12:59 p.m.
I think I can see it, the end.
There exists an illusion we face towards the exit, wherein the tunnel seems longer for a moment,
Stretching out towards the light.
Where we can slow down, hold our breath, and decide.
I say this every Sunday. The I’m done mantra.
But, it’s usually a ritual reserved for the evening, and it’s barely the afternoon.
My patience is creeping in, cutting off your time.
Monday, 6:13 a.m.
You make me pray for awful things, for the will to stop loving.
I won’t let you sap all compassion from me.
What a lazy and romantic poisoning.
You’re a grumpy patch of weeds.
“Have a nice week. Have a nice life, I guess. Be good.”
I will, respectively,
Do precisely that,
Do my absolute best,
And do no such thing.
God, I must be so convenient for you.
I want to be careful.
No,- I want to be adored.
I am absolutely incapable of being careful, and relentlessly capable of care.
You son of a bitch, you brought me a flower.
Not some thing I can appreciate and let shrivel up by Wednesday
Like ten bucks of affection gone dry.
You fucking asshole
Brought me a beautiful thing which I will surely destroy.
I was raised by a borderline wood nymph, and yet
Inherited nothing close to a green thumb,
I am reckless with plants
I am preposterously incapable.
Give me a man at his lowest depths and lord
Can I resurrect him with my tongue alone.
But give me a plant and watch it be
Smothered, drowned by my keen attention.
I am nothing if not
an affectionate thunderstorm.
And God, this poor blossom,
This orchid, doomed,
I’ve named her Eurydice.
For I, as Orpheus, shall do my best to keep her from death.
I do nothing but kill things.
God save her from me.
My friend warned me that she will shed her petals in the coming weeks
As the city turns cold and retreats.
Well, I will say, “here is Eurydice, my stick who imagines she is a flower.”
My friend warns me, further,
that the stem will also die,
but there will be leaves, and promises
A hefty requirement of patience
A relentless necessity of due diligence.
Eurydice, soon stumped and longing for sun
Perched at a north-facing window
On the corner of my dining room table
Not dead yet.
Some thing I must nurse back in to existence,
A thing I must watch die
And be reborn
And not once acknowledge as an analogy for anything in my life.
Last week at a swing dance event, I cuddled the wall and chatted up N., the DJ.
“This song is about where I am from.”
“Yeah, the Boston area.”
“Oh wow, now I will think of you every time I play it.”
“I should be so lucky, to be occupying your thoughts.”
My shoulders smell like your sweat.
I should soap up,
Should wash you out.
I’m sacred enough
I’m decently dirty.
Latex and lubricant scented everything,
All my corners, how you’ve kissed them clean.
What a thing to bend to,
Each joint angled toward a lustful embrace with your mouth.
I don’t even know you,
And you know so little of the world or the ways of women,
Skilled, some natural talent,
Gorgeous and you don’t know it yet.
“This is like a second g-spot for you, your lower back”
(I showed you how to hold me like he does. You learned well.)
You lift me into your arms,
Precisely, like some tiny, precious thing.
Press me me against the wall, a flower betwixt pages in a bible.
My moans escape into the courtyard and echo throughout the evening,
My everything captive to you for so long as you please.
I could have used you,
Back when I had to hang the curtains.
I could use you.
Should I keep you?
“Beautiful. You. You’re beautiful.”
It would seem that I’m an insatiable minx,
“Did I give you that scratch?”
Just a bit of sweat
Between acquaintances. A bit
of latex, and
to the imagination
I’m having a delightful time,
Save for the occasional sore throat.
Though, perhaps I should practice
Lest my reputation precede me.
She makes a grand entrance,
Rumor has it,
The girl goes down easy.
I’ve nothing to apologize for,
He tells me I’m a good girl,
Tells me he wants more.
“Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has been innumerable years since my last confession. “
“May the lord help you to confess your sins, my child”
“Father, I have lied, but I have done so oft in the name of love, or companionship, but these lies have begun to weigh on me, and I feel I must speak my truth.”
“Yes, my child, tell me how you have lied.”
“I can no longer pretend to like Davids, father. I have lied about my favor for so many Davids.”
“Davids? Do you speak of Shepherds?”
“No father, I speak of artists. David…ack, I can barely say it aloud father.
“Tell me my child, who is this David?”
“Lynch, father, I can not longer pretend to enjoy and care for the work of filmmaker and personality David Lynch. I fear that by speaking this truth I will be ostracized by my friends and loved ones, but it has to stop.”
“Ahh, my child, of course there’s some disagreement about season two of Twin Peaks, and where his real vision came in to play, but season one seems in like with your interests, no?”
“Indeed father, whimsy, and murder mysteries, and Kyle Machlachlan are things I adore. But, I just don’t care for it.”
“Even Blue Velvet?”
“Even Blue Velvet, father.”
“That is indeed a burden to bear. I will keep you in my prayers in this trying time.”
“And Father, there’s more…”
“My child, do not tell me you speak of the other, the most sacred of Davids…”
“Bowie?! Absolutely not, father! I would never dare besmirch his honor. But, in truth, there is another David who I can no longer suffer to feign enthusiasm for. It’s David Byrne, father.”
“A yes, and you may find yourself, in a catholic confessional booth, and you may ask yourself, how did I get here?”
“Good one. A real dad-joke, or a real father-joke. Indeed, I enjoy that song when it comes on the radio. I nod my head when acquaintances, cousins, young teacher’s assistants, and even lovers espouse the “genius” of David Byrne. But I do not feel the same admiration in my heart, and it fills me with shame.”
“My child, these are grave deviances from what we have declared good. For your penance, you must learn the lyrics of an obscure talking heads song, and practice your poker face in the mirror 50 times. And 50 Hail Marys.”
“Tell me child, are there more?”
“Not quite. I mean I always preferred the intro to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but that’s allowed, yes?”
“Ah yes, brother Eggers, indeed, we make room for those who love the intro as well as the memoir itself. Our flock is open to all.”
“Thank you, father.”
“Yes my child, I leave you with your penance to make at home, but before we leave let us say the lord’s prayer together. And may God give you strength to find your way back to the flock.”
“I am ready, father”
“You remind me of the babe…”
“The babe with the power?”
“The power of voodoo..”
“Remind me of the babe!”
There is, quite honestly, no where I’d rather be than on a train. Waiting in the car, at the station, early enough to have found a good seat, by the window, and next to a person whose arm I can gather affectionately across my lap, my fingers tracing lazy spirals on their forearm, their thumb tracing purposeful, flirtatious arches across my knee. And perhaps a kiss on the shoulder, it wouldn’t be so greedy or untoward to wish for one, in this, a description of a perfect moment.
There is nowhere I would rather be than situated in the blissful beginning of a good time: past the anxiety, the which platform and where to sit, the where is your ticket and it said I had to print it but I am sure they will accept it from the phone. And where to let go of the baggage, emotional or otherwise? And should we pack a lunch?
The bit after that:
In that blissful moment, the quiet, when I (when we) can exhale amidst the shuffling of footsteps, and look out a window toward something. When I know I am going somewhere.
Well, everyone that was telling me to move on has to eat their words, because I bent myself backwards to do it.
I am going to hate myself when I wake up, so I am avoiding going to sleep. Avoiding the inevitable.
He didn’t ask for much in way of approval. The blissful ignorance of a handsome and preposterously well-endowed man, to ask nothing and try everything.
NO. (Don’t put your hand on my throat. )
At least he listened to that.
I proved…something? What a mediocre victory.
I am going to go shower forever.
I spent some time last night chatting with a smoker. They aren’t rare here, or disregarded. Despite the protected status of the nicotine-smitten citizens of the city, things have changed. Indeed, even Vienna, time capsule that it is, has modernized slightly since I moved here, and I no longer must suffer through the winter with my coat reeking of stale tobacco if I dare set foot in a bar for even a flutter of a moment.
The issue was, she was smoking the cigarettes I used to smoke. She had quite a few of of them, but kept insisting that each new cigarette was her second. There were 3 or 4 “second” cigarettes. It was entertaining, she’s a funny girl, and she looks cute when she smokes. That was the lethal thing back then, being told I looked good when I smoked.
And the whole time I was watching her look cute and forlorn through a cloud, my mouth was watering.
I cannot start smoking again. Absolutely not.
And yet today, I am reading, and still thinking about it. About how nice it would be to stop thinking about everything that plagues me and pick up a cigarette. To watch the smoke curl about the corners of the page like a cat in need of a cuddle. Wouldn’t it be romantic to have something else to occupy my mind than all this knowledge, and nonsense, and (god forbid) all these fucking emotions.
I’m asthmatic. We’re in the midst of a lung disease epidemic. I am far too logical for this.
But, wouldn’t one more bad habit solve everything?
If I am going to pick up smoking I will have to give up starting sentences with capital-A “and”. And I would rather die.
“I see that, too. Everyone here is broken. All these women I meet and they want love but they just can’t. You just look at them and you see, they can’t. I don’t know what it is about this city, if we all come here because we’re broken, or if the city makes us that way.”
“I always say, ‘Vienna is a city built on Roman ruins and heartbreak.”
But, I want to stay. At least for a little while.
I’m going to set roots, and grow like a weed from the cement.
I’m here to officially revoke my membership to the Broken Hearts Society.
Give me the form to fill out, the hotline to call. Go ahead, charge me an extortionate cancellation fee.
“So you like your men like you like your furniture: Scandinavian.”
Making new friends and swimming in new waters. Getting my feet wet and talking too loud for my own good, perhaps. It’s nice to not be the most-American American girl in the room. I’ve been in Europe for six years and I still feel like Minnie Mouse, but I’ve grown to accept it.
Someone told me that when he is with me he “feel[s] like less of a stranger here.” So, maybe I am doing something right. Or maybe I am just making him feel normal by comparison. Who knows.
It’s late to be texting you, but
I was wondering if you
forget about him.
I’m supposed to go away with you tomorrow.
I was supposed to be done with you, well before yesterday.
All I do when I’m with you is orgasm relentlessly and ask myself,
“What am I doing?”
“What am I fucking doing?!”
You make me feel worthless.
You make me feel so good.
You trace your thumbs along my bones,
You draw me so precisely.
Let me bask in the illusion of being known.
You don’t want to get to know me, really.
I just want to dislike you enough to remind myself not to want you.
I’m just here for the ride out of town.
I’m just here to get you out of my system.
I’m just here for the starlight.
I’m just here for a few more weeks,
Might as well enjoy it.
And were we to take an inventory of the friendship,
What would we find?
A few dozen skipped rocks.
A generous handful of sunsets.
A reckless dearth of caffeine.
Some spilled ink.
A couple wishes each, made during the meteor shower (What did you wish for?).
Enough peach pits for a cyanide poisoning.
A multitude of small deaths, some of them faked.
And perhaps, and most importantly,
Two people who are slightly happier than they were a few weeks ago.
The spoils of
I feel comfortable with you.
An affection relatively devoid of emotion, and certified gluten-free.
You taught me to love dirt again. To get my hands filthy.
It’s under my fingernails,
you’re under my skin.
I should learn to garden,
to cultivate something I can actually grow
and have a say in.
Something to nourish my body beyond pleasure.
I could grow herbs.
Who am I kidding, I can’t grow roses.
I can’t keep a cactus alive.
Perhaps, this week, I will buy myself some flowers.
That’s a start.
I meant to love you until one of us was dust for scattering. And then some.
I’d have adored you when you were just a pile of your own cinder, a plastic box of your ruined bones.
Instead, we disintegrated. We burnt up and escaped out the chimney with the breeze.
What a fleeting thing forever turned out to be.
You make me feel beautiful. Not just beautiful, gorgeous.
You make me feel gorgeous.
I’m not exactly great at taking it slow. I’ve been known to be impatient, My imagination is overactive. My hands are fidgety, and your skin is awfully soft. But, I will make an exception.
You are, or so it may seem, exceptional.
And what a thing it is, to not only be a thing worth wanting,
But to be a woman worth loving.
My phone is haunted by ghosts.
I should fucking block you
But I won’t.
I decided to escape the confines of my apartment’s white walls for the confines of the Austrian National Library’s white walls. I tried to visit years ago as a tourist, and left embarrassed, having never really seen the inside. Which I was told is gorgeous.
Today, I decided to be brave. I bought an annual pass, and went in ready to be dazzled by some gorgeous Austrian architecture. There isn’t really a good map of the reading rooms, at least not one I could find. It just looks like…a library? Not sure what all the hubbub was about. From what I understand there is a fancy reading room somewhere, but it doesn’t seem to be available for actual reading. Just for instagramming and private events.
Anyways, libraries, I forgot, are an absolute ADHD nightmare. It’s so…silent. I know, genius that I am, I forgot. But, this is excessive, more than library quiet. There’s nary the shuffle of a page turning, nor the occasional cough. There are dozens of people here and I’d venture to guess not a single one is breathing. My shoes were painfully loud while I walked in. I took a sip of water and the sound echoed violently.
I somehow picked the squeakiest chair not only in this room, nor in this library, but in the entire world. Honestly, scientists should be studying this chair to learn its secrets. After cacophonously scraping it in place to get myself seated, I am now stuck here, a bit too far from the desk, until the end of my days, for fear of ever making that noise again.
It was nice knowing you all.
“She died doing what she hated, being quiet.”
Since arriving, I have gone through the formality of opening my copy of Gray’s Anatomy for Students to the first page of the chapter on the lower limb. Chapter is a polite way of putting it, it’s more of a formidable, insurmountable heft of paper with a vendetta against my attention span. Honestly, I can’t bring myself to start, knowing I won’t finish. Thus, I have spent my time looking at what everyone else is studying. I took a seat at the furthest table back, lest anyone else give me the same treatment,
“Hmm, what’s she up to? Not studying, by the looks of it. She should really get started reading that section, it looks awfully long and she has to finish this class before September, tsk tsk“
Honestly, it’s astonishing how many details this imaginary stranger knows about my procrastination.
Oh god, oh dear God. My stomach is going to grumble. I should have eaten something. And I have to cough. I have never had such a strong desire to cough in my life. I guarantee you, there is a German word for “the sudden desire to cough knowing that one is in a quiet room”.
I should look it up. Better yet, I should make one up. Biblioquiescent Tussis.
Last night I didn’t dream of you, but I was thinking of you in the dream. Talking about you, trying to call you but the phone wouldn’t ring. Telling mutual acquaintances a bit of everything, all the falling apart and the pain.
And wouldn’t it be easy, wouldn’t it be convenient, if we could just retreat to a cave and grumble about the world. And love nothing but each other.
And perhaps my opinion on the matter will evolve. It’s a cliché ripe for disproving.
But, for now, it feels terrifyingly certain, that there is nothing I will ever love, the way I loved you.
I was up one stair,
the height difference compensated for
I figured I might as well,
kiss you and all.
Let’s get out of here.
If you take me home I’ll go down on you.
Nice try, and not the first time
a guy has used that line on me.
Maybe I give off a certain energy,
Maybe you all think I taste sweet?
I’m awfully vanilla, but
l hope it’s crafted with the expertise
only a pastry chef could manage.
You’re bringing back memories of Brooklyn,
and the bar hounds I used to know.
7 years away, I’m out of practice.
Same lines, different accent.
Dogs, all of you, really.
Here boy, come play.
You can walk me home
but you can’t come in.
You can show me the sunset
and bring me a box of chocolates.
We can sit by the water
while you drink gin & tonic.
You’re allowed a certain amount of me,
the pleasure of my company.
A handful of skin, or two.
But, I’m not here to heal you,
not your manic pixie dream girl.
I have my own story.
I’ve been known to kiss and tell.
Polite kisses, not enough
to smudge my lipstick.
A younger man with thin lips
and a leather jacket.
“Are you cold? You can have it. “
There’s enough romance
in the city center at night,
That it even gets under the
skin of a guy who grew up here.
There’s enough moonlight to go around.
Enough street lamps to lean under.
“Are you a boy, or are you a man?”
“I’m not sure, what’s the difference?”
“Well, what do you value?”
“Absolute honesty, even when it hurts.”
“Well, I can’t tell you the precise difference. But one is that a man has an answer to that question.”
“Can I sit closer to you?”
And in the morning he calls me,
What a thing it is,
To be a thing that is wanted.
Ours was the greatest love story ever told. It was never going to end well, it would have been too much. The universe needs some sort of balance, and two little people can’t going on sapping all the joy from it.
But here I am, in the falling action of the fairy tale. He returned his apartment keys, and the wedding ring. The gold came from my mother’s favorite bracelet. When she died, we made 6 rings from it: one pair for each sibling. My father made me get mine engraved, with our names and wedding date. I was the first sibling to use them, and I will be the first to remelt the gold, and erase this chapter of the story. I don’t know, I don’t know if the rings could ever be worn again. I don’t know what feels right, or what is final. I know this is a story not worth erasing. I would do it all again, I would.
I mean, to be fair, the gold came from bracelets bought for my mother by her first husband. So, maybe they can stay, dates engraved and all. The story of the rings was always intertwined with the fact that great loves still end.
And the heartbreaks which came before this one, they all added up to this. My last relationship before K, was with A. It was bad, toxic, I was young and naïve. It ended on a gray day in January, and my life went up in flames. I left in a hurry, so suddenly that I forgot to bring my jewelry box, with my grandmother’s jewels inside of it. A friend from the town brought them to New York for me, after we had both moved there. And she invited me to a play, Sleep no More. That was where I met K.
So maybe this is just another one of those moments. Another perfect heartbreak, maybe this is building up to something. But, even if it isn’t, even if this was the last great love of my life, and even though it ended, it was worth it.
I was meant to be on a first date, with the doctor. Cancelled at the last minute, rescheduled for tomorrow. I wish I could say I care, but I don’t.
So, I am at home, all done up and with nothing to do. A storm arrived at 6 p.m. on the dot, banging the doors and windows shut.
And maybe, just maybe, I have grown accustomed to spending thunderstorms with you.
And maybe, just maybe, absolutely maybe, I prefer to.
Send me pictures while you are away.
Of all this nature you long to return to. Of the things that make you miss the city.
Show me the dirt you grew from,
your well-trod paths,
the back alleys frequented in your youth.
Your most familiar patch of sunlight.
I’d venture to guess that you have your
initials carved into a tree somewhere.
You said your favorite color is green,
show me the precise shade you were imagining.
I went looking for a muse in a crinkle-eyed architect with affection for hard white lines and poured cement. I stumbled across a red haired charmer studying data security who says she “mostly dates men”. I fell back into the safety of my husband who doesn’t live here anymore. At some point, I have to stop calling him that, husband.
I spent the afternoon on the eve of turning 32 playing poker with 5 people who didn’t remember the rules, betting with blueberries.
I learned to skip stones today. I swam in the river.
I ate a cherry so ripe it bled down my palm while I moaned at its sweetness.
I had a day of blissful, childlike joy.
I did not get sunburned.
The crinkled hazel eyes looked at me and said,
“I have a problem with the color red”
“I can’t look at it anymore after so long staring at screens. For example, that car, if the sun were hitting it I couldn’t even look at it.“
And what am I if not the woman in the red dress?
Evidently, I am an acquired taste.
When I awake on my birthday my
husband won’t be there, but he’ll visit for breakfast and some performative cooking. Some obligatory romance.
I‘ll be sad tomorrow, feeling stupid about the things I said.
I feel foolish already, and full of regret, and uncomfortable with silence. And somewhat ashamed of my bright colors.
But I did not get sunburned today.
And perhaps it would have been better to have ended the night early. But I am glad I got answers. These days, my heart’s dalliances are more and more fleeting. They just don’t make them like they used to, and so on.
This post is meant to be read while listening to this song:
You know, when I moved here- it was the elevator that I really felt in love with. It’s bizarre, obviously custom, shoved into a corner. It’s triangular inside.
It’s walled in glass on three sides,
and you can see out the window into the apartments across the atrium as you go up. You can see where Daniel and Rene, our only English-speaking neighbors, were at last able to change the blinds Rene said she hated the day they moved in.
The elevator ride always made me feel like this was all some great glamorous adventure. To live in Vienna, spitting distance from the Opera house. Inevitably, every single time I went up in the elevator to our fourth floor apartment (fifth floor by American standards), this song would get stuck in my head.
It’s been an adventure indeed, perhaps not the great one I imagined, certainly not in the way I imagined it. Certainly it doesn’t seem to have much of a happy ending at the moment. I take the elevator up to the apartment these days, on the rare occasion I have braved going outside for fear of the virus. And I come home to an empty apartment, just me and the walls, and a pile of homework and unfulfilled dreams.
What a secret it seems I am keeping, but barely. What a glass elevator it seems I’ve built around me.
“There is no life I know, to compare with pure imagination.”
I love rainy days, I do. I prefer thunderstorms. Actually, I love thunderstorms and I am neutral about plain old rain- it depends on the temperature. It depends on the company, the evening, the street cleaning and the neon reflecting and the particular awning one takes shelter under. The I’m just here for a burger and to dry off, but thanks for the drink. The cash pocketed for a third of a cab ride from 60th to Brooklyn, laughing all the way.
And to think what he would think of any of the men, of all these men. And me. And to think what he would think of me.
And the roof tiles opposite my quarantine chamber are slick with rain for once, the rusted green metal drain tapping about and I am pretending to read. I am pretending to be doing something worthwhile. I am actively avoiding you. I’ve been thinking about what I want, and it isn’t to hurt you. That would have been simple, nothing about this is simple. I still.
The prompt was about Lemons?
I want you to know that I killed the spider
who has been living by the elevator window for months now,
coming and going
in her orange-and-black and
increasingly terrifying fashion
far too close to the mailbox.
At least, I think that I killed her.
I came at her with the edge of a cardboard box
and she dropped
to the cobblestones.
At least, that is what I hope.
Perhaps, she ran up my sleeve
and she is in my hair now,
Perhaps, her thousand servants are now congregating
for the sole purpose of plotting my demise.
They are laying out maps and dealing with issues of nepotism
and who is really the first born son of a thousand and so on.
I can only hope their diplomatic issues hold them at bay for some time.
I have no idea what she has been sustaining herself on
for all these months,
and deep into winter.
Whatever it is,
it was likely rather meaty
given her voluptuous frame.
She’s a behemoth, truly.
She is most definitely crawling into the apartment,
and into the bed.
But before she inevitably kills me,
I just want you to know-
that I did this courageous thing for you.
I’m not going anywhere soon. But I took a bunch of tests which said I might, maybe, possibly, be going somewhere soon before long. So, If I’ve gone off anywhere, well not “anywhere” but into that particular-ineffable-where, I want you to know:
I went there listening to Satchmo’s La Vie en Rose and Gene Wilder singing Pure Imagination. And at some point I was dancing, and I was thinking of you-each of you. And there are different yous in this letter, but you will know yours when you see it.
I thought about the nieces and nephews official and unofficial and the box of shiny-sparkly things I own. And each of you are getting something from that box, that you can someday give to someone you love. Because I love you so much I cannot imagine you could be capable of anything less than such pure love.
And, anyways, worst case I went out eating chocolate and peanut butter and horribly-HORRIBLY- attempting to sing songs from Gene Kelly musicals. And I never learned to dance well, but I sort-of-kind-of tried. And if I am gone my knees will be the happiest of all, they worked the hardest. They deserved the chance to relax at least.
And I don’t think I will see my mother yet, I think I may have a few more runs around reincarnation before I find her, but I expect to see a few dead poets and dead movie stars. And maybe one of them will teach me how to dance at last. And T.S. Eliot was probably really disappointing to meet, but I can get coffee with my grandfather and Salinger and talk about how much of a phony he was.
And I am thinking about you all and hoping you are dumping the trash boyfriends or girlfriends who were weighing you down. Or abandoning the dating rules and telling the person you were trying to play hard-to-get with that you love them. Because they probably love you too, and if they don’t, please refer to the first sentence in this paragraph.
You should go back to school and get out of this shitty career. I’ll help you make that happen.
And I hope you all get off twitter and TikTok for a bit. For a long bit.
And you- many of you- take your medicine especially when your friends and family beg you to. And stop taking it when they beg you to stop.
And I wish for you to figure out your faith-yours, not your parents. I spent this year attempting to figure out my god-shit and I didn’t find god but I found some good people, and that is just about as close as I think anyone can get. And I never learned how to shut up, but I started learning how to try. Which is, well, it’s nothing really but them again so am I maybe? Or so I will be maybe? But it is good to shut up sometimes.
Speaking of god, my god- lighten up. You’re all perfect mothers. Get off the internet, you’re fantastic. Really- and I had the best mom in the world and she was really crap at it sometimes.
And uh, you-you. You know exactly who I mean, or you will when you read this: Go buy yourself the puppy. Even if it isn’t a shelter puppy because, you know, your allergies. And finish the writing. And see the aforementioned note on Twitter. And remember to eat breakfast, and let yourself enjoy it with whole milk. And find someone who likes music, and also still wants to share risotto. It might be the puppy, who knows?
I attempted to write 30 poems in 30 days during April this year, with mild success, and too much honesty to share it all here. But here are some unedited moments that were tolerable to share, though not good. Point is, I did my homework.
- (In)Complete guide to decorating a Wedding cake
Last night my German teacher said that I had a profession which did not require thinking, but that my husband did. Well, at least that is what I think he said. He doesn’t speak a word of English.
I have sent this letter with excess postage.
With an excess of longing, of sorrow. It’s been a year now.
You see, approximately 0.5% of the men whom I pass on the street look like you.
This phenomenon has been going on for years now. It stems from a pathological desire to unexpectedly run into you, and say,
“Of all the sidewalks in all the towns in all the world, you walked onto mine.”
Or some similar feat of seemingly casual perfection.
Perhaps, a bit more more effortless, along the lines of,
“I have written down words with mild success, I have only you to blame”
“Here, have a copy of my book.”
I haven’t written a book yet. You weren’t supposed to have died.
It’s rude, really. I was counting on you.
I saw one of you just yesterday.
In front of me on the sidewalk outside city hall. He turned and looked right at me,
then he crossed the street.
Or, he turned and looked at the traffic and I was there, waiting,
and he looked at me like he could have been you and this could all be an elaborate lie,
then he crossed the street.
O, I have been rehearsing.
I have been dressing for the occasion of our encounter.
I am not sure I have occasion left to dress up for.
I can’t believe that you are gone.
See, I. Well, I.
I think about you too much, really. Always did, as I am sure you know.
I begged you once not to kill yourself after you joked about it. It worked, I guess. It seems pointless now. Well, perhaps not. Well, you died anyway and it appears that you died without finding love. I hope that I am wrong. It’s not a question answered in an obituary.
He died without finding love.
It’s just not the sort of thing the papers are willing to say.
It said you were surrounded by family. That you had a brain tumor. Like a goddamn film character. As if you coughed somewhere in the first act of your life, or complained of a mild headache. As if we were all supposed to know. A brain tumor.
I mean, come on.
You had a profile on a group for singles. It’s still there. You were in a group for writers, too. You are still out there looking for her. The book is still unfinished. Was it the one about South America? You know the story, how your car broke down in the desert and you abandoned it there. Was that the one? Was that how it began?
I wrote you a letter once to which you never replied. I saw you in person and you informed me that I had used excess postage. That every year the postal service runs at a loss.
You have reminded me of the importance of maintaining distance from my delusions.
You’d perhaps find all of this grief obnoxious, self-serving. Exaggerated. Dishonest. Cliché.
So how about some honesty, at least you didn’t die from cirrhosis.
I remember that time when you sat next to me in the lecture hall.
How your skin smelled like alcohol.
How your elbow brushed against mine.
“This song is about heroine.”
“A song about herring?”
It is acceptable to be the lone dancing girl in the room,
but only if your arms never reach above the level of your eyes.
Today was my first Dutch lesson. Kevin and I recently moved to Eindhoven for his work, and after leaving my job in Amsterdam I am finally taking the time to learn some of the language before I apply for work.
In class today, there was some discussion of the accent in this part of the Netherlands, Eindhoven and North Brabant.
(Note: North Brabant is an odd name because there is no South Brabant in the Netherlands, and the province of North Brabant is located in the South-East part of the country. What happened to South Brabant? What secret is being covered up?)
Anyways, the accent. As I have gathered(likely incorrectly) the accent here is a bit softer, specifically in reference to the throaty “G” sounds (pronounced huh, but like you have a chest cold) and when it comes to the letter “r.” According to my teacher, the people around here use a much softer, breathy, almost non-existent “r” whereas people in the Hague used a harder “r.” Also according to my teacher, the people in the North think people from Brabant sound, well, less intelligent.
(Note: North of the country, not to be confused with North Brabant which is in the South.)
Supposedly, people here in the South think that those crazy Hague dwellers sound haughty and self-important. Pronouncing their Rs. Pfft. So snobby.
Thus, my interpretation of this lesson is:
Eindhoven has the Boston accent of the Netherlands.
Let me just start by saying last night I witnessed a domestic dispute so violent that the sound of, something, banging against the walls of the house next door woke me up at 2 a.m.
No, let me just start by saying that I also witnessed the police act in a way I can only call a hate crime against a trans woman who was trying to help.
No, let me just start by saying that the sex workers of this city are our community watch, they have more presence on this street than the police which are 45 seconds away. They are the heroes of the story.
No, let me start with the terrifying image of the open door of our neighbor’s house, the walls of the hallway covered in blood.
We live on a mostly quiet street in Amsterdam, between a bike rental store on the right and a building on the left that is so comically leaning its bricks wave up and down in a dramatic zig-zag. People often stop to take photos of the neighbor’s cat perched in the window of the very wobbly building. In the wobbly house house live and man and a woman, an Italian woman with long black hair who wears thick buddy holly glasses. She’s tall and thin and strikingly beautiful in a way that always makes me jealous. She lives with a man who we found out last night was her boyfriend.
To the right of our house, two doors down, we have a few red windows that sex workers rent. Sometimes the windows have blue lights, which advertise that the woman inside in also trans. I am on friendly waving terms with many of the women. We don’t live in the red light district, so the women who work these windows are different. Some have beautiful, what I like to consider “real” bodies, by which I mean soft, wrinkled, lumpy, lived in bodies. I like them. For example, one, named Marina, is a regular during the weekdays. Kevin and I think she is a mother working during school hours.
The other week while walking home Kevin noted,
“Oh, Marina moved windows”
“She cut her hair, too. I like it. Maybe I should write a sign to tell her.” I said. I never bothered to.
This isn’t a story about Marina. I just wanted to put something nice in here.
Last night at about 2a.m. I woke up to the sound of banging on our walls from the apartment to the left, the wobbly house, and what I imagined to be kids shouting. Then it began to sound like women shouting. I got up and went to the window when it was clear it was a woman shouting. Outside there was one of the trans sex workers standing on the street, looking into the open door of the wobbly house, shouting and dialing on her phone. In the middle of the winter, she was standing outside in fishnets and underwear, without her shoes on. I heard the Italian woman next door crying and yelling to call the police, shouting “My boyfriend is going crazy, he hit me he hit her he won’t stop. Call the police” Then she shouted her address.
I shouted to Kevin to call the police. He was already half up., and he grabbed his phone.
Then the Italian woman started screaming.
Not shouting, horror movie screaming.
I started sobbing, thinking we were about to listen to a murder. While Kevin called the police, I saw the sex worker shout “Bastardo!” to the open door and then back away, scared.
I opened our front door and beckoned for her to come inside if she needed. She said no, she asked if we called the police and I said we had. She said she had called the police but they weren’t listening to her. This is the part of the story I am calling a hate crime. Because the scared cries of a sex worker aren’t worth the same speedy attention of a man calling.
When the police arrived they went inside, Kevin and I went outside to see what the banging was from. The front door of the wobbly house was open, the wall in the front hallway was covered in blood. Covered.
The sex worker told me that the woman had a head wound.
It looked like she had been pushing against the door, smearing her blood on the walls.
I asked the sex worker,
“The Italian woman? The skinny one with the long black hair?”
“Yeah, I mean I would say more dark brown but yes, her.”
“Is the boyfriend the man who lives here?”
“Yes, I see him walk by all the time, tonight, maybe 20 minutes ago, I saw him walk by drunk, he’s been drinking, he’s out of his head.”
Kevin and I stood by the window for a half hour, until the police escorted the Italian woman to a car, followed by her boyfriend to another police car.
Then we tried to go back to sleep.
So, let me just finish this by saying that all women are women and we look out for each other, that sometimes men only want to listen to other men. That the sex workers of this city are our community watch, they have more presence on this street than the police which are 45 seconds away. They are the heroes of the story.
nce upon a time there was a noblewoman named Rachel.
She ruled over a powerful Co-Op Board in a rapidly up-and coming neighborhood. The real-estate lords had recently renamed it SOKIPA (South of King’s Palace). Rachel loved many of the joyous excesses of her kingdom: locally grown flowers, designer blue jeans, and home design catalogs. But she loved two things most of all:
The first thing was Sir Gregory, her boyfriend of 4 years. Gregory had light brown hair that turned red in the summer. He was exactly five inches taller than Rachel, which made him ideal for kissing. He wielded his smile with skill; he had, as they say, looks that could kill. He also had a trust fund that could make any man seem immortal.
Sir Gregory was in a band. He played guitar and wrote great love ballads for lady Rachel. He praised her eyes, and her mouth, her laugh and all her other features that were like totally specific, girl. Gregory had been courting fair Rachel, who wasn’t going to be 29 forever, through many summers and winters, so he better step on it.
The second thing that Rachel loved was food, in particular the variety known in her kingdom as dessert. Dessert was revered for its magic ability to bestow upon those who consumed it great joy and energy, followed by great guilt and sadness, followed by great hips and buttocks. Dessert was reserved for special occasions, only afforded by the fat-wallets of Christmas bonuses, or the lean thighs of the athletic. Rachel had no need of a Christmas bonus, she had no lean muscular extremities upon which to seductively lay her layers of lipids. She had only a persistent craving for sugar. It appeared the moment she awoke, followed her until she slept, and often into her dreams.
The inherent problem in the situation was one that many hetero-normative once-uponers suffer from, and that was that Gregory, boyfriend of four years who better step on it, was too skinny. Skinnier than Lady Rachel, which just would not do.
At first, fair Rachel was able to pretend. Through the early months of their courtship Gregory brought her to many feasts, at which lady Rachel consumed only the greenest of salads. Lettuce hung from her lips, painting her like the most noble of bunny rabbits. Rachel suffered through each meal, even the obnoxious bits of lettuce that remain at the end, stuck to the plate and impossible to pick up with a fork without creating a squeaking noise that distracts the entire court from their feast.
Try as she might, lady Rachel could only hold out for so long. In time, as her strength waned, her weight gained, and her resentment of Gregory grew with it. So strong was her jealousy that it began to consume her, and she to consume every morsel of sugar in sight. Gregory dismissed her worries with casual laughter, often biting into a slice of pizza as he did so. One night, Rachel snuck down to the kitchen for a midnight snack. As she sat crying over a tray of brownies, she concocted a plan.
The next day she sent out a decree, over email and twitter, calling all of the doctors and dieticians of the kingdom to come forth. He who could make Gregory larger would be rewarded with an insurance payout fit for a king. They ran blood tests and measured his body mass index. But it was to no avail, for Sir Gregory remained as lean as ever. So, the doctors were banished, with only their malpractice rates increased.
So Rachel summoned forth all the great chefs of the kingdom, who for three weeks held great feasts, the tables overloaded with dishes dripping in fat and sticky with sugar. The entire realm filled with the perfume of fresh baked cookies. For weeks Gregory ate, and smiled, but he did not gain an ounce. Rachel watched angrily from outside the feast, chewing on celery.
So, in a last attempt, Rachel summoned forth the great un-credentialed masses. The food bloggers arrived first, and mostly photographed the food. An army of body builders lumbered in, hoisting barrels of whey protein and vials of injectable potions. The hairdressers who swore tah Gawd they gots a cousin who ate only almonds and bananas for two friggin months and he gained like 25 lbs. Yet Rachel did not have two months, her patience had run out.
Rachel raised her cellphone angrily into the air, threatening to banish all of the crackpots from the twittersphere. A hush fell over the crackpot convention as they all looked up in fear. Just then, a small voice called out from the crowd,
“Follow These 3 Easy Tricks to Gain 15 lbs. in 2 Days!” it cried.
The crowd opened around the place the voice had come from, and as they parted out stepped a tiny, adorable, dimple-cheeked dumpling of a girl.
“Who might you be?” asked Rachel.
“It is I, KaleAndOreos13! I have a blog and a pretty popular instagram, it’s for binge-eaters who also dabble in the dark arts. Send these people away safely, and I will help you”
Rachel invited KaleAndOreos13 into her bedchamber, where she instructed Rachel to disrobe, and drew upon her body in great circles of black marker, outlining all of Rachel’s flaws. KaleAndOreos13 spoke in hushed tones and explained to Rachel what must be done,
“Tonight is the full moon. First, you must give Gregory a draught of this potion with his dinner, so he will sleep like the dead.”
She reached into her bag, and handed Rachel a blue bottle, marked with a skull, and labeled Nyquil. Then she gave Rachel an elegantly decorated dagger, a spool of red thread, and a long golden sewing needle.
“At midnight exactly, gaze into your mirror, take the dagger and cut the unwanted pieces of flesh from your body. Sew them into place onto Gregory, then speak the following incantation three times:”
Othingnay Astestay As Oodgay As Inthay Eelsfay
Midnight arrived, and Rachel stood in front of her mirror, dagger gripped in one hand, a wobble of thigh fat pinched in the other. In the reflection, she could see the great stripes of black marker on her frame, and behind it, Sir Gregory sleeping soundly. She could not proceed. At dawn, KaleAndOreos13 saw that Rachel had failed. So, she pulled Rachel aside and said,
“Well, there is one more thing we could try. “
And that is how sir Gregory was made to join Weight Watchers, along with Lady Rachel. After two weeks of being forced to count up food points all day, Rachel found him secretly eating the last of her stash of brownies. Soon, he had to loosen his belt two notches, and she had to tighten hers. The kingdom rejoiced with song and dance and 3 point Giant Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream Bars for all.
They’re always bitching at me not to leave my till. Todd, Margaret, all of them. Always bitching. Though, they never explain just how it is that I’m supposed to know what the lady standing in front of me means when she says,
“A grande-caramel-latte, and one of those on the end”
and starts pointing her accusing finger toward the end of the pastry case.
I mean, that latte bit I‘ve got down. I could take that order in my sleep. Hell, I could take that order and ask if you’d “like to try it with our new coconut milk” without turning my head to the cool side of the pillow.
But I have no idea what she is pointing at. Not a clue, this being the second day of October and a whole new rotation of specials we’ve got on offer. It’s probably a pumpkin-something, a cinnamon-whatever, some damn spiced crumble etc. The lady, she is wedged into place by the crowd behind her that is raging for a cinnamon fix. I am standing, chained behind my register like a good boy, just like I promised last night, when they made me sign that employee responsibility paper. I was all, “It won’t happen again, sir” and so on.
So I stall, and ask the lady for a name to scrawl on the grande-caramel-latte. She says,
“Huh? My name? It’s A—–.“
Well, actually, what she says is,
“Huh? My name? It’s Al-uh-suhn.”
But if we’re going to get all technical, which people like to do with their names, what she says is,
“Huh? My name? It’s [ˈæləsən].”
I mean, give me a break. Do you know how many damn ways there are to spell [ˈæləsən]? There are at least 7 if you only count the common versions. You’ve got the old stand-by, Allison but heaven forbid you use it if she spells it Alyson, or Alison, or god knows what else. I knew a girl in 4th grade who spelled it Alysen, like her parents had something to prove. So [ˈæləsən] is standing there, pointing and pointing, while I consider writing “Ellison” on her cup just to mess with her. Or, really, just to make use of my degree for the first time since I graduated. But I doubt Todd, who is working the espresso machine, would even get the joke. He doesn’t seem to have read much of anything outside of the employee handbook.
So, I hedge my bets and write out “Allison” but I kind of squish the two L’s together, like, maybe there is only one. I squiggle the “o” indecisively. Like, maybe it’s an “e” or maybe my pen is running out of ink. Like, maybe I’ve been using it to write the next great American novel on recycled napkins. Like, maybe I am the guy who gets her, who knows exactly who she is. Like, maybe I could tell she had a relatively normal upbringing but that her parents just wanted her to be a little bit unique. Like, maybe she knows that I am clearly overqualified for this position. Like, maybe she could tell I’ve got a master’s degree and a lifetime-membership card to the ivory tower. Like, maybe we should get coffee sometime, somewhere else. Like, maybe she will love all my jokes about Derrida. Like, maybe she’ll forgive me for messing up the rest of her order and I won’t get written up for it. Like, maybe this [ˈæləsən] is the Allison or the Alison that changes everything.
All the while, [ˈæləsən] is holding up her resilient elbow, pointing toward whatever it is that I am about to get wrong. The moment is more or less a metaphor for my entire romantic history.
And of course, where is Margaret now? Margaret, our fearless shift supervisor, who is supposed to be working the pastry case. Margaret who wore out her lungs from bitching at me about leaving my till. Margaret who is evidently taking a ten minute break, now of all times. While [ˈæləsən] is waving her finger toward some mystery cake. [ˈæləsən], who left her glasses at home and can’t read the damn sign. [ˈæləsən] who looks like every other damn [ˈæləsən] I’ve ever come across, like she doesn’t have the time to look at me.
The line of customers is stretching out past the door, all of them frowning, all of them decaffeinated-cranky. Here I am, alone, strapped to the register. To my left, Todd has barricaded himself behind a wall of paper cups and syrups. I can hear the espresso machine hissing and spitting, then suddenly it stops. Todd has run out of steam, I‘ve thrown a wrench into the machine. Ominous, that silence.
So I look up at [ˈæləsən], who is dangling my future off her left index finger, and ask,
“I’m sorry, could you at least describe it for me?”
My Poem “The Best Place Not To See Paris” was published as part of the HIV Here and Now project. Go Check it out:
Is it still- no,
Is that just rain still falling?
You know, dripping from the trees
Yeah it is,
what is left.
They look like they think
it’s spring. You know?
Like they are just blooming.
It’s pretty. The light really.
I mean. I hate to tell them.
Is it fall already?
Not until September-
twenty first or twenty second?
They’re just setting their watch by it.
Loves the cobblestones
Breaks the hearts
of street signs
Forgets her glasses at home.
Where you been
Who you been
Keepin’ your secrets from?
You look good.
I was thinking ‘bout the moon
I should call her up.
That crazy thing
Dancing through her walk home
My, she use to stop it.
Time, that is
We used to make the clocks moan.
We used to make the clocks moan.