and it all might come unraveled

city streets

somewhere, footsteps plod along a city sidewalk. windows are lit behind edges of curtains and ears of dogs and awkwardly high bar stools adorned with yellowed, wilted philodendrons. at this hour, everyone wears sweatpants and unlaced tennis shoes and cover their heads with hoods and hats and headphones as they stand in awnings and on porch steps in the silence of night as they take drag after drag after drag of a cigarette. they say you can quit if you want to. but we don’t want to.

inside our minds, the world is not so quiet. the distant howling of an ambulance fails in comparison to the wretched little monsters lurking in our subconscious. they yell and scream. they hint and whisper. they burn and they freeze. they wind up and break down. you are not good enough they say why did you do that? our thoughts are runaway wild-west horse carriages and sometimes the monsters rein us in, halting us abruptly only to remind us you will never be as good as he is. what’s the fucking point? and then the carriage lurches forward and resumes its crazy speed and our minds spin and twirl like wheels and the monsters line up on the sidelines of the gladiator stadium screaming YES! NO! WHY?! NEVER! YOU CAN! YOU NEVER WILL!  and then silence.

if you find a monster in your closet, you’ll look for him every single night until the day you die. if the monster lives in your head he cannot leave. even in moments of stillness you scan and search and seek for the evil you know is lurking somewhere. true sleep is a figment.

sometimes, we forget our monsters and feel happiness flowing through us like rain.

we cherish those moments. we forget the worry and forget the fear and the pain and the pain and the pain and the pain. toothy smiles and hair tosses and laughter and YES! complete weightlessness. levity. horizons filled with sunsets and sunrises and skies with stars and the arms of blue-eyed men and hazel-eyed girls. these moments.

but the mind turns. the reins clenched once again by ragged claws as we are pulled into blackness. thrown out onto city sidewalks to ignore strangers and take drag after drag of a cigarette. to look down at our feel and ignore the heavens. to bow in shame. to regret everything. to feel sadness in our bones for having lost nothing, and having lost everything.

the cyclical nature of psychological screaming can vary second to second or month to month. but tread safely – there are straights and narrows and winding roads that never end. we often dream of a change. we swallow small, colorful things every night and every morning to derail our carriage and cage our monsters. but our minds are not composed of steel or iron or brick. they are soft, a maze of delicate muslin pulsing slowly in the breeze of consciousness. they are fleeting. delicate. fragile. and someday,  they all might come unraveled.

 

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a fear of blissful sunlight

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loneliness. the world would be a better place without me. i am not enough.

in a home, alone, pervasive thoughts weave through my head as i ponder what it’s like to be happy. ephemeral, it seems to be. out the window, i see dogs prancing and yuppie couples walking hand in hand pushing a stroller with a new baby boy, or baby girl; the stroller’s contents are of little concern to me. the apartment door opens and shits as neighbors carry on with their lives, a constant reminder of the doors between me and the world.

i scathe the beauty before me drawn out like a theatrical play, too fanciful for reality. comparison is inevitable. i am self-sequestered – scared of persuing happiness out of fear of failure. if i truly try to succeed at being happy, what happens when i fail? the consequences seem to outweigh the benefits, as my prodigious anxiety paralyzes me in a cocoon of jealousy and loneliness. we want what we cannot have and we act with fear of our unrealized potential

i could, of course, reach out. i could do better. i could make an effort to make friends, bar hop on a saturday or indulge my creative tendencies out in the world, where they could be noticed and possible accoladed. but what if? what if.

when the stroller and vapid Bernese mountain dogs and $500 leather boots and keys to an audi stroll past my window i am inundated with thoughts of jealousy. comparison. to deal with my subversive nature, i scathe their daily routines, their BPA-free coffee mugs and laudable professions. i convince myself that i do not want their lives. scorn. but internalized, hatred and jealousy work the opposite way you want them to.

i am eaten inside by the forced callousness of my own thoughts and feelings. in truth – we are sentient, sensitive beings. loneliness serves us only as a  neglectful companion, a boorish friend, baring its teeth at the door when you come home. but this is familiar. this is comfortable. like a doe, sequestered in the dark forest from birth, we too are fearful of sunlight; of joining our herd in the green fields of merriment.

and joy.

my mantra is to want what they want. to want to want what they want. to live a life contingent upon other things than my own persistent worries of the future. there may be fence posts by which to mark my progress, but in no way are they linked with wires by which i can easily follow a given path. the post of marriage. the post of a promotion. the post of children. the post of travel. the post of happiness. it seems others are being led by some unintelligible force, leading them to a premeditated course of action.

for me. for me? for us. for us? i string my own wires. i dig the holes and walk the course. i try and i often fail. i am blinded to success. i am not enough. the world is just too much. i want to want what they want. i want to want when he wants. i want it all. but i want nothing but the comfort in the miserable cacophony of my mind.

as life changes course, taking little notice, we derail. we can only hope this derailment shatters the body and frees the mind.

adulting.

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growing up is hard. growing up means you must become your own anchor, your own guiding force. you must discover on your own what makes you happy, what brings you down into the pit of despair.

i don’t handle emotions well. extremity is the basis of my day to day, fluctuating from high highs and low lows. finding a middle ground has been inextricably difficult.

i often think back to my childhood. a time when i don’t worry about the trivial day to day. a time when playing in a sprinkler brought pure joy, and the thoughts of how my body looked, or the words i spoke meant little or nothing to me. naive is the wrong word. freedom is.

searching to find the mentality of my former, confident, happy self is a daunting task. thoughts flash through my head like a strobe light, and i simply cannot seem to quiet the noise, the chaos, the complete lack of internal self awareness.

we often form boundaries from other people, from distressing or uncomfortable situations. but how do we find the wherewithal to form boundaries within our own minds? how do we enjoy the present moment without our minds wandering to the future, or the past, wrecking our systems with anxiety and doubt. future-tripping, self-doubt, stories. we all believe the stories we spin into our psyche – an intrinsically meshed brain of truth and misconceptions.

my peers tell me not to believe what you think. a thought is a thought. it will pass, if you can grasp it internally, recognize it, and let it go, send it back up to the sky, reminded raindrops from somewhere far above us.

sometimes i look at the stars. i see how little i am in this universe, the cosmos, the worlds we have yet to discover. trusting the process of life is difficult, but i can only ask myself to do what i can, to do my best with the tools i have been given. i am not perfect. i am where i am supposed to be. this notion, i seldom trust, but know it to be true.

letting go.

expectation is the thief of joy. open mindedness is essential. say yes more than you say no. you are enough, just as you are. and there is infinite beauty in that.

cohabitation

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we have combined the things, acquired the things, strolled through big box stores, picked out shower curtains, hung pictures, scoured the internet for things, taken the dog for walks, fluffed towels in a dryer, designated the $45 retro cherry dressers into “his” and “hers”.

we have taken a step – a crucial step, in togetherness. sharing a life with someone you love means learning to love 1/2 the things, 1/2 the time, 1/2 for yourself, 1/2 for the other. this is now “ours”.

sharing space. sharing meals. sharing bills. sharing a bed.

it’s a step you don’t take until you’re ready to show the other half your other half. learning about yourself by proxy of the one you love is a hard pill to swallow, and yet, a learning experience of a lifetime. bad habits. good habits. it’s all fair game.

i love lying next to you, before bed, after lunch. i love staring into your eyes in our space, in our home. i love coming home to find you curled up on the couch, my cattle dog in your nook, a show i do not like playing itself out softly in the background. i love that you love to share a space with me. perhaps this means i’m worth it. perhaps this means “we’re” worth it.

we combine our thoughts, we combine the chores, we combine laundry and plant-watering duties. we remain separate but equal partners in aspects of life you never knew could be shared. and i love sharing it with you. i love sharing in loneliness, in euphoria, in tears and smiles and dirty dishes. i love this combination of us, the exposure of insecurity, the unabashed brilliance of confidence.

you make me a better me. i make you a better you. this partnership, this friendship, this combination of humanity is beautiful. cohabitation means learning about each other every day – a duty not to be taken lightly, a chore at times, an honor at times. i revel in your beauty, i look at you when you sleep. and i know when you awake, you’ll look at me with the covers tucked under my face, my head nestled into a pillow, my breath slow and steady and soft like the chest of a filly.

and we’ll dance this dance day in and day out and our friendship will grow, and we’ll dance in the kitchen and we’ll sit at a long, red table and we’ll look at each other and share a literal space of place and a place of the heart. and a light will flip on and a dog will bark in the distance and we’ll return to our separate activities of loving ourselves and loving each other in between the walls of an old building, in a new city, underneath invisible daytime stars. and we’ll be grateful for all that works and all that does not – all that will not, and all that will be.

home, i’m yours.

Kessler

it’s time. you wait around and wonder and wonder when the door will close, when the last bell will toll, when the music will stop, the crowd will disperse and the lights will be turned down, dimmer and dimmer until the room is silent and dark. that time is now.

i stand here, as if i’m the last one at the party. i stand with a sinking balloon in my hand and glitter in my hair and a smile on my face. it’s been a good run. i’ve learned more than i ever thought possible. and now it’s time to move on, 4 years later, to my home.

i write often about the meaning of HOME. it’s something you create and recreate and aim to attain over and over and over. the more nomadic your tendencies the harder it is to find home; the bigger the hole in your heart, the deeper you long for those familiar scents, evening breezes, leaf flutters and the distant barks of neighbor dogs. home is not where you are or how you feel. it’s a feeling of unparalleled comfort and stifling familiarity.

home is not a place. home is a memory. it is a memory. it is scraped knees and crying into a pillow and running down the stairs after the faint smell of morning pancakes. it’s howling dogs and dirt roads and horses grazing. it’s riding bikes like gangs through the neighborhood streets, it’s staring out the window at the stars, it’s tying shoes and painting rocks and pricking your finger on rose thorns. it’s an experience of growing up.

we grow up over and over again. in each bout of growth, life opens the door for us to recreate home. sometimes we take advantage of this opportunity, sometimes we don’t. if life was so kind as to solidify our home experience when we are young, we often opt out of an adult recreation of home. this is what i have done.

my home is too good. it’s filled with mountains and love and horses and purple sunsets and an evening breeze so perfect, even goosebumps can’t resist. my new opportunity of home cannot compare. therefore i have remained homeless for nearly 4 years in the natural state of Arkansas, longing for roots, longing for stability, and never allowing myself the freedom to stretch down and dig into the great earth in search of groundwater, of nourishment, of truth. i have grown up again, i have experienced a pain i never knew existed, i have fallen in and out of love and run rampant like some mustang in search of nurturing grassland. i haven’t found it. i’ve tried.

it is not here. it is home. and i know where this road leads me, i know where it ends. where it ends, the start of a new fork begins. it’s beyond the setting sun, beyond the think brambles of suffocating Arkansas forest. it’s amongst the pines and the soaring red hawks and the sparkling trails of crushed formica and sandstone. i’m coming home.

and it opens me to you. you are my ending, the beginning of every day. a silver spoon swirling a cup of black coffee, a roaring fire, a hand-rolled cigarette and bad jokes and veracious lovemaking and laughing until my stomach hurts. you, me. and then everything else.

wild & safe: a second goodbye

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This is a story about the most perfect night of my life. It’s perfect because it wasn’t. it was build upon a series of mishaps, mistakes and words misspoken. and it was all so beautiful.

but first, we had to say our initial goodbye. i walked down the two flights of stairs which led to the spacious, airy 3rd floor of my brother’s Pilsen apartment. we strolled hand in hand to the white camry we’d rented for the trip up and back to Michigan. i handed him a paper folder containing a sentimental Calviin & Hobbes cartoon, with strict verbal instructions “not to open it until you get to the airport”. he still hasn’t said anything about it. i’m guessing it got left behind in the car/airport/shuttle, etc. i’m hoping it didn’t.

we kissed. he said “i’ll see you in Lima” and i said “that works for me” while my heart screamed out for him to tell me how he really felt, or for me to tell him how i really felt, the words like fire rising up in my throat. why won’t he say it? why? the questions clouded my goodbye. it left a space between us, an unnecessary space. unsaid words stretch the strings of the heart, testing their strength, hindering their integrity. mine were tugged to their max.

we hugged again and i walked away and wiped the tears from my face with the palms of my hand. had i hoped he’d seen this? maybe. this was a goodbye, but not exactly the one i wanted. i wanted to tell him everything.

it began again with an accident. a flight scheduled for the wrong time, on the wrong day. in short; he had to stay an extra day in the windy city with my brother and i – after toting nearly 150lbs or luggage to O’Hare, only to find his flight was at 5pm, tomorrow. i had a feeling his flight was canceled – turns out he just wasn’t meant to board a plane that day.

so he called me and told me dilemma. he worked it out – it seems like a clusterfuck always follows this man wherever he goes. one unique debacle after another, which always seems to end…well.

so i lucked out with one more day with this man of mine. he comes  back to the apartment. round: two. here we go. big brother was actually genuinely excited, which came as a pleasant surprise. i’ll admit it was strange having him back in our space. i’d wrapped my mind and heart around not seeing him again for over 6 weeks, and an hour later he was back? in his words: “i’m emotionally very confused at this point”. we sat on the couch, he told us all about the commotion, the dramatic story, the ups and downs. poor man – it actually sounded like a legitimate disaster. he worked himself up so much, his stomach hurt. “i don’t know what’s going on” he says, “you’re an emotional wreck right now, that’s what’s going on.” i think to myself. big brother is restless. he paces and paces and we wait for my man to feel better.

he chugs water like it’s water. he feels better now. we head out. we all need a drink.

we go to big brother’s favorite new bar. it’s a re-vamped old Pilsen staple, and i approve. no hipsters in sight. whiskey, good beer, cheap beer, a few shot’s of Chicago’s infamous Malört whoch goes down something like fermented jet fuel. Big Brother asks some hard hitting questions: kids, life, long distance relationships. we meet a few randoms, one named Odysseus. “Odysseus?” i ask him, “yeah” he replies. “oh, hi, i’m Penelope” i respond. nothing. waste of perfect literary name gold.

this bar scene is done. HONKEY TONK TIME. my favorite bar in Chicago. it’s a little bit hick, a little bit hipster, a lot a bit twangy and antiquated in a delightful, modernistic way. a band of bolo ties, banjos, and a stand up base gathered round the single microphone on stage, strumming and boot tappin as the men swung their ladies round and round and the bartender filled my glass with a fine Manhattan, house-cured bourbon cherries and all.

“if you don’t dance with my sister at least once, you will not be sleeping in my house tonight” big brother says. and before my man can respond, brother grabs me and swings me over to the dance floor with a “snooze, ya lose!” and we dance – he’s incredibly drunk and i’m drunk, yet we ull of some seriously magnificent swing dancin in the middle of Pilsen in the Windy City. eventually he and i dance. and it’s wonderful, a slow song, something we can both handle without dying of embarrassment. my face presses into his chest and i breathe him in, all of him, as brother watches with a smile from the dark corner where we left him.

we smoke cigarettes and walk home, yelling brashly at buses, swinging from light poles, tripping over curbs and scattered plastic Fanta bottles. we climb the stairs, brother retires, we make our bed. “i don’t think you’ve ever seen me this drunk” he says to me. “well, you’re handling it very well.” i say.  in this night light, i can still tell his eyes are blue.

more staring. i can’t help it. i cave and finally the tears flow from my face like honey and he asks me what’s wrong, all the emotions, i say. which ones? he asks. you know exactly which ones i say. and i cry a little more. i’m really, really bad at sharing feelings, me too he says. and i really didn’t want to tell you when i’m drunk, that’s not how i pictured this happening. i tell him i don’t care, and that it won’t mean less. more tears. he looks at me, and rolls over and whispers in my ear i love you. and more tears. i love you so much i tell him and he cries. i’ve wanted to tell you that for a long, long time.

and we lay there, and we talk. we talk about his fears, how he feels so lonely doing what he does, a nomad, a gypsy of snow and ice, unfettered yet detached from a solid place to stand. he wipes tears from his face. he’s so beautiful, i can hardly stand it. i’ve dated plenty of other girls since i’ve met you, and no  one compares. no one. i keep thinking to myself “she’s the one, why can’t i make this work?” he says. you’re it for me, i say.

 i’ll keep you wild, if you keep me safe.

 

it’s all in moments

it's all in moments

two days before i boarded the plane headed to Boston, i purchased the ticket. i had to see him. it didn’t feel rushed or externally mandated by some ethereal expectation. i simply knew it was the right thing to do. so i did it.

he was in the country, briefly, to retake a certification course; thus allowing him to further demonstrate and solidify his abilities to one day, save someone’s life in a setting far, far away from everyone and everything. “i could put an IV in your arm and reset your bones” he said to me once. and my blood coursed and i thought of nothing but the tip of a needle, his hands, the comfort in it, holding steady.

and this is where he grew up. this is where he rode his bike, fell out of that tree, snuck out that window to kiss that long lost crush who is not married to _______ and lives in _______. this is where he threw that orange frisbee to that big-eared, low-profile corgi who now lounges about the floorboards, panting hazily in his decrepitude. he’s precious. a man who loves his dog is a man to which i can give my soul. one day, i will.

we drove about the naked streets of Boston round midnight, coming off of long, cross-country flights. an old golden retriever, Bella, pants next to me as his sister explains how she’s either succeeding or failing at work, i can’t quite remember the details. i’m too busy staring out the window into his crossed-car reflection to absorb much else.

we drive through Boston into Salem, and tread up the slender, steep stairs to her top floor apartment, in a building built before American history existed. We smoked a blunt, we pet her new tuxedo cat, we talked lazily of things that matter and things that don’t, we objected to her kindness of allowing us to sleep in her bed, but accepted the generosity anyway. we kissed and kissed and fell asleep next to each other, cherishing every inhale of scent, every restless tussle of limb and leg.

in the morning, we chomped duck confit and sweet potato home fries at a greasy spoon. i drank too much coffee. i faked a phone call to sneak outside for a much needed dose of nicotine. i paced and paced and worried incessantly about the impression i was giving, or not giving.

i give too many fucks about what others think. sometimes, this proves detrimental. sometimes, beneficial.

i paid for our meal, my stomach knotted with anticipation of meeting his father, which i did, twenty minutes later in the parking lot of some corporate-American monstrosity. he was blunt, straight-forward, grey-haired and arrogantly confident. he and Pete talked about skiing, skiing, mountains, skiing, as i sat silently in the cramped compartment of the little, black Ranger. much like his sister, his dad had yet to ask me one single question about me.

are they disinterested? am i that un-thought-provoking? well fuck.

fuck me not, the man finally spun around, “So, enough about this stuff. Pete’s mom made me a list of things to ask you, and i cannot disappoint her, so let’s talk about you for a second.”

yay. share time. and i did. “i went to this school, and studied this, and i’m from here, and i have this many siblings and i like this, and i work here, and i do this, and this is what my job is and i’ve been here for this long….”

he seemed interested. he seemed. i was happy to finally oblige.

and then we arrived at the home where this beautiful man grew up. a quaint New England abode, decorated neatly and flawlessly; a place for everything and everything in its place. comfortable. well lit. relaxed, but pristine.

an old corgi, greyed with old-dog dander fluff, panted on the wood floor, his little nubby legs sprawled about. this tall, tall man of mine, he kneels down and emotes totally on this little critter, coos to him, loves him; a man who does not love his dog is a man i want no part of. this moment of tenderness, rare with my tall man, gave me a deeper glimpse into a soul i already knew i wanted to keep.

his father eventually pedaled away to work on a practical bicycle. we packed a few things in his childhood bedroom. we loved each other desperately on a well worn, clean quilt and didn’t worry about cleaning up the inevitable mess. nothing felt wrong. it’s good, and natural, and necessary. flowing through each other like mercury, but stepping aside sardonically to ease the tension, the gravity of the situation.

i’ve flown more than half-way across the country to see you for three days. i like you and i mean it. i love you with every ounce of my being, but i wont be the first one to say it. we’ll reach a stalemate till the day we walk down that damn aisle.

we drove north to Franconia, a small town nestled in the piney shadows of the White Mountains. he pointed out childhood pastimes, landmarks, past landmarks, memories and maybe a few regrets, and then suddenly we were crunching up a canopied driveway to a large cabin built with logs kiln dried in the arid plains of Wyoming and grown in the dark forests of Alaska. a bird’s nest lay nestled awkwardly on top of the grill. that’s one way to do it.

he chopped wood. we investigated bedrooms. we loved each other again atop a quilt from long ago. he made a roaring fire. we gazed at the perfectly framed cloud-covered peaks through the panes of a large window. we smoked cigarettes and talked of this, and of that, and my heart settled into the mossy undergrowth, the softness of New Hampshire, the history of New England and the years and years of cabin life having been played out over the past decade. did i feel like an intruder? at first. but this piece is a component of a life i love, i life i wish to share. i accepted everything and anything and made peace with the discomfort in my innate being. i held a cigarette in my right hand, i inhaled smoke deeply into my lungs. i looked into his eyes, his blue eyes. and for that moment, my heart stood still.

we ventured to Littleton and ate dinner at an old, regal establishment, the ambiance almost unbearably quiet, but impossibly romantic. candles nestled into the vacant spots of long-ago bricks in a wall, our waitress elderly, her long grey hair flowing behind the trills of a cotton flower-printed jumper from the decade i was born. sandals and socks. mushroom tarts. frisee. white wine, red wine, one for him, one for her. white fish. fiddle-head fern fronds. white chocolate, dark chocolate.

“i can only eat a little of this. it’s just too much.”

it started to rain. a gentle rain, something soft and soothing and I fell asleep on the manicured chest of this man, twice my size who I love with all, plus a half of my heart.

he leaves the cabin at 6 to take a class in nearby Conway. i wake up alone, i toss the blankets aside, the succoring sounds of drizzle surrounding me like cotton, the faraway din of thunder beckoning me back to bed. i succumb. fuck it.

i wander through Franconia, having walked along a country highway en route. i stop in an old convenience store, buy a candy bar, talk with an experienced, rotund woman with a Boston accent so thick, you’d swear it was chowder. someone hand me a spoon, i could eat this place up in all of its charm, originality, stillness.

i go running. i weave across dirt roads, and dripping ferns, and pines as tall and as thick as a defunct republican congressman, flailing about the frothy waters of his first term. the temperature is perfect, the sun is shining, the mountains in the distance still encapsulated by low-hanging clouds, grey dapples of rain.

i come home and he’s back. i’m sweaty, i’m out of breath, i hug him and kiss him and he doesn’t care, the state i’m in. coming home to him, everything is suddenly full. what small indents remain pop out to form a smooth, flawless surface of satisfaction and fulfillment; we often don’t know what we want until we have it, what we crave until we taste it. from this point forward, i will live an unsatiated life. and i will do it gladly. i will stay hungry. fulfillment kills the drive to pursue. a huntress i shall be.

a mixed CD from high school provides background music as we stand in the kitchen, me at the stove, him at the adjacent counter, cooking together. like real couples do, real couples in normal relationships. i cook some veggie fried rice, he bakes me a carrot cake, which complies dietetically to my needs. the effort of this makes me melt. a man baking a cake for me? this is just too damn good.

the long, antique table is set beautifully. “my mom had this shipped from England to this house” he tells me.

candles are lit, we sit and eat and gaze at the sun as it disappears over the edge of the white mountains. he tells me the names of the peaks, named after our long-dead founding fathers, as can be expected in the land of “live free or die”. i’m smiling, ear to ear, and i just can’t help it.

after dinner, i walk outside to the back deck and light a cigarette, a “poor life decision” as i’ve come to call it. he joins me, rolling his own cigarette from loose leaf tobacco and the white packaged stack of zig zag papers. across the horizon, from the depths of the thick new hampshire forest, fireflies light up the night, an extension of the universe here on earth to pull us into a void of vertigo, an imbalance of the heavens here on earth.

“do you see the fireflies?” i ask, excitedly. “yeah, a few” he says. “wait till your eyes adjust, there’s a ton of em.” and he lets his eyes adjust, opening slowly to the magic surrounding us. we’re innately scared, protected humans, he and i. we keep a close watch on these hearts of ours, and it seems as if for the first time in a long time, we’re uprooting the keys, holding them in our hands, waiting for the cue to open our fingers to the sky, palms upwards, offering our keys to one another. i’ll give mine away once. all he has to do is ask for it, and it’s his.

and i’ll jump into dark water. i’ll wash myself in doubt and treasure it’s presence, its voice. the nagging sting of doubt solidifies that which is certain. he is solid wood in a world of fire and oil. he is a rooted tree in a forest of dust and slinking, black wolves. he is softness in a world of granite and bone. he is perfection in a world of smoke and mirrors. his reflection solidly rooted behind me as i stand alone, gazing into my own eyes in disbelief. love has found me. i wring my hands of it. not yet, i say. not yet.