Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, Everyone!!!

I've been away for a few days, something I decided to do on a whim on Christmas Eve. My husband surprised me with "I'm going to be off until January 5," and I was like, "Wow! So am I!" So I decided to just take time off from everything. And, we had a blast! But I've missed my blog, and all of your blogs as well. And, well, the new year is almost here, and I wanted to stop in and wish you all the best 2010 anyone could ever hope for. I'll be back in a couple of days with a new post. Until then, keep smiling and don't forget that new beginnings are always exciting. So, from under a deep and purple sky pierced with millions of twinkling stars and the full glow of a blue moon, from deep in the heart of the great Lone Star State of Texas, and from deep in my heart, I send my warmest wishes and love to all of you, everywhere that you are, wherever you are. I'll see you soon. Happy New Year!!!


xoxoxo
Nevine

Thursday, December 17, 2009

(i think) I Know



i dare to search
for indisputable answers
in questionable places
i dare to defy my heart
that i might satisfy my mind
i dare to open boxes
mummified in the invasive
odor of age

and so

i go blindly into the jungle
into this place where
(i think) i have found my way
and i am inside this wilderness
and i am with the beasts
and they are with me
but we are not alone

a voyeur hides
awaiting my uncertain pause
awaiting my faltering footstep
awaiting and daring
to speak
at times
with honeyed tone
and haloed behavior
at times
challenging what it is
(i think) i know

and so

i might consider
retracing my footsteps
old and faded as they may be
partly here and partly gone
and from them to learn
the path i should not take

i might consider
trying to discover
the very source of
my ancient sorrows
and from it to water
the plant of my evolution

i might consider
pretending i do not see him
partly hidden and partly visible
though somewhat reticent
this voyeur who would like
to drown me in the honey of his words

i might consider
approaching him and saying that
his means can no more stop me than
a hand can stop a hurricane in its whirl
his means can no more sway me than
a pebble can sway a wave from its crash

his presence need no more
circle and glide
like an insect
trapped
inside the cloistered membrane
of my soul

and this
(i think) i know

and then
possibly

i might consider
slumbering for a spell
plunging into a Small Death
that truth might reveal itself
in the dreams and shadows
that bend my mind
beyond intellect
beyond chance
beyond reason
beyond memory

beyond will
(if such exists)

and then
possibly

i might consider
entertaining this Small Death
that i might trick the Big Sleep

but

i do not consider
i do not speak
i do not execute

instead

i go blindly into the jungle
into this place where
(i think) i have found my way
and i am inside this wilderness
and i am with the beasts
and they are with me
but we are not alone

a voyeur pounces
grasping to verify my misthought
grasping to ensure
my misstep becomes my fall
grasping and daring
to bellow
now
with vibrant timbre
and violent demeanor
now
challenging what it is
(i think) i know

But this
now
I do (I do) know:
Silence is the death knell of
The Lukewarm Straddler,
and Inertia her murderer will be.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

rise














the darkness of night
          births secrecy
the darkness of secrecy
          births deceit
the darkness of deceit
          births separation
the darkness of separation
          births isolation

the darkness of isolation
reaches for a door
(though it may be locked)
reaches for a window
(though it may be sealed)
begging for life
begging for people
begging for being
begging for us
begging for hope
of transformation
begging for want
of elevation

birthed only by release

when the hearts have spoken
when the secrets are disclosed
when the seals are broken
when the veils have exposed

darkness is reversed
and
daybreak appears

darkness is reversed
and
daybreak appears

in an instant
we awaken
in an instant
we realize
in an instant
we are light
in an instant
we are reborn

in an instant
in the blink of an eye
(or rather in its unblink)
we rise

Friday, December 4, 2009

freefalling




















i do not mean to see this thing
this most private of commissions
but the eye captures
before the mind receives

i see you falling
there are no elegant words you know
arms and legs like a ballerina
(there i tried)
and it seems to wink
and beckon
and pose
the act that is
and you

is it your desire to ensure
you will die all the way that makes
you fling yourself from so high up
is it your desire to ensure
you will haunt forever those who see
you die before you die
is it your desire to feel the
helplessness
powerlessness
immobility
tranquility
that strike us all dumb while
you fall through the purple dusk

but my thoughts stray

and
how many had
offered you their favors
but but but
how many had
told you to call and
not given you a number
how many had
asked how you are and
not listened for your answer
how many had
stabbed you
because they knew
you knew them not

and
how many will
you scar
and mar
for life
with this greatest betrayal
to those who love you most

but that is
a cruel thought on my part
of a selfish act on yours
and because there are no elegant words
i am being inelegantly judgmental

you fall

we freeze

a man's leg cocked in anticipation of his next step
a woman's teeth touching at half-grind
car wheels jammed in semi-rotation
raindrops deadlocked in air

you are an object in the sky
falling through the exile of the purple dusk

you are an object in the sky
dancing your final pas de deux in the arms of the air

you are the sky
picking the clinging stars out of your hair

you are the sky
falling and embracing and kissing the ground

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Conversation in the Semidarkness, Part 2

I don't know why I'm fumbling with these two characters again, or why I created a Part 2 to this piece. Usually, when I'm done with something I'm done with it, and I thought I was done with them. But these two characters keep getting back together and having conversations, and they've asked me to let them out again. So, I've decided to honor their request. If you are interested, you can read Part 1 hereIt is my hope that Part 2 will give these two some rest and they can stop haunting me.


*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I'm going to do this. Somewhere in his mind, his tired mind that can find no sleep, he makes this determination.

He pulls his arm out from under the covers. He rubs his mouth with the palm of his hand. He flicks on the small reading light on the nightstand. He turns to her, beside him. He looks at her, sleeping but not asleep. "Let's play a game," he whispers.

She looks at him in the semidarkness with her deep brown eyes that have come back to beseech him all over again. "What kind of game?"

"We'll take turns telling each other what we liked most about the last person we were with. You'll tell me what you liked most about Ryan. And then I'll tell you what I liked most about Michelle."

"I don't like the sound of this," she says. "And why do I have to start?" She watches his face for the slight twitch of his mouth that will tell her if he's being sneaky, for the faint shift of his eyes that will tell her if he's being deceptive. But his face is like a sheet of glass in the shadows.

"It's my idea, so I'm offering you the chance to go first."

The chance, she thinks. Like it's an opportunity. 

"All right, then. I'll begin," she says. "But what are we talking, specifically, when you say 'what we liked most' about the other person?"

"You know. Something special. Or funny. Or maybe even sexy," he says, still holding her eyes with his. "No holds barred. It's not like we're seeing them anymore." He is still speaking quietly, almost in whispers.

She thinks about what he has just said. She thinks she doesn't know the purpose of this "game". And she blinks at him in the semidarkness, blinks at him with her brown eyes that are now beseeching him to please not go there. She is not sure what to make of it all. Not sure whether or not she should trust him. And she is not feeling good about how this is sitting on her skin. Or how it will sit underneath it.

"You seem reluctant. Would it make you feel better if I went first?" He looks at her with the same steady, glassy face. He looks at her while his head rests on his pillow and her head rests on hers. "Would it?" he says gently.

"I guess." Her voice is as non-invasive as a speck of dust in the cold, dry bedroom air.

"Come here. I want to hold you when I say this, just so we'll both know what's real for us right now." He comes closer to her, and slowly folds his cool arms around her warm body. He breathes in her intoxicating smell. "You smell like crushed violets," he whispers in her ear. And he thinks that he would like to suck her like he would suck the pulp out of an orange.

She looks into his green eyes. Green with tiny flecks of gold. Eyes that change color with his mood, going from green to hazel to gray. Eyes that are always so quiet, but that seem to hide so many secrets. She looks into them, now. And sees green inside green inside green. But she doesn't know why she is so uneasy. And she doesn't know why they're doing this.

"What I liked most about Michelle was her hair," he starts, and her heart jumps a beat. She hadn't expected him to start so abruptly. "It was this gorgeous, rich, auburn color that glowed like liquid fire in the sun, and it danced around her shoulders." He is still looking into her brown eyes, and he is trying to read what they might be thinking. "We'd be out walking on a windy day," he says, his hot breath creating a thin sheen of mist on her nose. "And the wind would tousle her hair, and it would go flying all around her face. Some of the strands would land on her lips, and she'd squeeze her lips together. That was when I wanted her most."

She is still looking into his green eyes. Green with tiny flecks of gold. Darker green, now, it seems. And she finds some comfort in the fact that their bodies are so close together it is almost impossible for her to lower her gaze. If she looked down, or away, what would he think? But she doesn't know how to respond to this confession he has just made. She doesn't know what she is expected to say. Or do.

The air is cold and heavy and dry. And these are moments that feel like minutes that feel like hours. And now, he is seeing her eyes as four, as four times four, as sixteen times sixteen. And her exponentially multiplying eyes are looking at him. And he is waiting for her to begin her part of the game. This much, at least, she sees in his two eyes.

"One of the things I really liked about Ryan was his strong body," she begins. And she looks very carefully into his eyes to see if they will flicker. But there is nothing in the eyes. There is nothing in the face that is like a sheet of glass. She does feel his left leg shift slightly off of her right leg. But that is all. "His body was so muscular and so well-proportioned," she continues, "I used to call him David." She feels like some of the pressure has lifted. She feels like it is easier for her to open up to him and talk about these secrets that she has never talked about with anyone. He has made his confession, and she has started with hers. There is no point in stopping, now.

"Why David?"

"You know Michelangelo's statue? That David."

"And what else?" he says, his voice giving nothing away. His eyes giving nothing away. Everything glassy and clean and neat. Even his left leg is now back to its old position.

"Well," she says. "He had the hottest body I'd ever seen, really."

"And what part of his body did you like best?"

"His legs," she says without a moment's pause. "I wanted his legs to just... well, you know." And then they are both silent. Silent in the semidarkness and in the afterglow of those last two words that hang above them in the cold, dry air. Hang. You know.

And she watches his eyes. And before she sees it, she feels it. The change. The transformation. The possession. And before anything else registers inside her head, he has jumped out of bed in one leap.

She sees his fingers roll into his palms. She sees the knuckles whiten and protrude. She sees his back stiffen and his shoulders square. She sees him roll up his hands into two fists. Two fists as hard as bowling balls. Two fists so hard if you hit them they'd break. She sees all of this in the semidarkness, and realizes that she shouldn't have...

And she watches, with her hand covering her mouth, as he drives both fists against the wall by the bathroom door. Drives them in and then explodes.

"Do you still love him?" He is screaming at the wall he has just killed his hands against, and he looks like a madman having it out with an invisible enemy.

And her eyes are crying, now. Crying as if they have been activated on their own, unattached to any emotional mechanism inside of her. "I don't love him," she says softly. "And you're the one who wanted to play this stupid game. You manipulated me."

"You didn't seem to need any goddamn encouragement to remember his sexy legs, did you? Do you still want him to fuck you with his goddamn legs? Do you want him to shove both his legs inside you up to his neck? Is that what you fucking want?" His rage is bubbling between his teeth. She can almost taste it in her mouth.

"How can you be jealous of someone who doesn't exist for me anymore?" she says quietly, trying to swallow her tears so he won't hear them.

"What the fuck do I have to be jealous about? He's a fucking has-been. And you're out of your mind if you think I give a shit about any of this."

And now, he knows he has said too much. Again. And said too hurtful. Again. He has punched and pulped and pulverized. And she has said nothing in return. And he wishes she would say something, wishes she would cuss him out and call him a bastard and a dirtbag and a jerk and an asshole. But he knows she won't. And he wishes he could take back those last couple of minutes that had started with an idea born of... what? Curiosity? Power? Or was it jealousy that had possessed him, like she'd said?

"Where do you see us five years from now?" he says with defeat, having switched off his rage as if he'd pressed a button. And he wants to believe that there is hope for some kind of future for them. And he wants her to know that he wants to believe.

"I would've wanted for us to be together," she says, her voice still damp with sadness and fear and confusion. "Married. Happy. With two beautiful children. A boy and a girl." And she stops for a moment to swallow the thoughts that have just rolled into her mouth. But these thoughts want to come out. "I'd even picked out names for them. Esmeralda and Sebastian." And she asks herself why she is telling him this, and why she is even still there, and why she had come back, again.

"Esmeralda and Sebastian. I guess most kids nowadays have really weird names. Esmeralda and Sebastian would be no exception."

"But our kids would've been so gentle and so beautiful. And they would've loved their names."

"You don't really believe that, do you?"

He turns around, now. And his lips are twisted in some kind of expression that she can't read.

"What names would you have picked for them?" she says. And she waits, thinking that it wouldn't matter what the names are because they would be the names of their two beautiful children.

But he is silent. For moments that feel like minutes that feel like hours. "I don't know," he finally says. "I hadn't thought about it."

"No. I didn't think you had."

He watches as she climbs out of bed. Just like every time. And pulls up her hair. Just like every time. But, this time, she does not bathe.

She dresses.

She is ready to leave inside of five minutes.

He would have liked to make love to her. Before she left. One last time. To inject her with something she could extract from between her legs every time another man touched her there. To impregnate her with a memory she could retrieve and smile about, secretly, in her head, while she smiled with fake love at her new lover. Or while she smiled with true love at her two children from another man. The man she would marry. The man who would father Esmeralda and Sebastian for her. The man she would be waiting for to come home every evening so she could serve him the dinner she had so dedicatedly prepared. The man he knew would never be him.

Friday, November 27, 2009

a fragment before midnight



a fragment of your voice
fell behind my eyes
amethyst eyes
that hear like ears of flesh
it fell and lingered there
and with my eyes
amethyst eyes
that hear like ears of flesh
i heard you say
this is how i love you
i had not heard that part before
had not heard the how
i grasped with such speed like
trees racing
past my car with six windows
past my coach with six horses
racing and wanting to fly
on a tarmac of black and white
before midnight struck
and the pumpkin and mice appeared

but you said
forget this car and these windows
forget this coach and these horses
they are merely a pumpkin and mice
scurrying in a fairy tale of
uneven proportion
remember only this
these six words that will remain
this is how i love you
they are not six horses that
at midnight disappear
remember only this
these six words that will remain
this is how i love you
and brand them on my naked flesh
that, even if you, my princess,
should burn to cinders and
become stardust in the air
i, your prince,
shall have them yet

but i know the cinders possess
like ancient trees with twisted roots
and although we dream of
magic wands and golden nights
they will possess this time again

i am a mangled layer of skin
flat upon the tarmac of black and white
amethyst-eyed and berry-mouthed
like a silent-movie star
sleeping and dreaming
with my glass slipper
tucked beneath my head
sleeping and dreaming
by the crashed cars with
soaped-over windows and
six layers of fresh paint that
don't hide the dents outside
or the cinders within

i am a mangled sheet of vellum
flat upon the tarmac of black and white
underneath a dry sky that is you
and my dreams are my quill
drawing upon me
a catalogue of confetti
an inkblot of confusion
propelling me like a compulsion
into the darkness of
an unjeweled midnight
where an invisible wand strikes
and we all become
pumpkins and mice

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

conduit


you walked upon
a hanging bridge
narrowing
not only in your eyes
but also in mine
a matter of perception
a trick of the mind
coming closer to the end
the end of what
you asked
i said be watchful
mind your balance
your footing will fail
and
given the
proper dimensions
you will float
both here and there
in a sky falling
upwards
inwards
starless
moonless
you will float
outside the vapid mist
a speck of matter
in the cosmic vacuum
following the arrows
pointing
north south east west
pointing
everywhere
and nowhere at all

you say they say
the earth is shrinking
i say they say
the time is coming
when we will
froth and foam
bubble and bust

but we will not perceive

we are hostages of
mutilation and desire
and
we slumber within our
lesions and dreams

Monday, November 9, 2009

the next train


if i were to take a journey by train, suitcase in hand, and stop at station after destination after station, i would struggle with the burden of this suitcase, heavy and burdensome with my weights. i would stop at one station, a bone in my throat, asphyxiated, my feverish heart clamoring for someone to help with my suitcase, heavy and burdensome with my weights. and this with the mind of not knowing, really, if this someone will help if i ask, or if he will want something in return if he helps me. and this with the mind of not knowing, really, what my next destination will be, or why i am going there. 


i have traveled from mons to bruxelles to liège to köln, station after destination after station that smells of burned rubber and recycled human breath, against my desire, wearing my feelings like a string of scalpels around my neck, and seeing in their eyes her love is away for six months and she is dying inside, but saying it must be - this journey must be if i will find the chips missing from the mosaic. perhaps in the embrace of steam to my face as i sip an espresso in a sidewalk café. perhaps in my uneven walk up an uneven hill while, in the town below, the church bells toll for the dead. perhaps in a knowing bite on my thumb as i watch a child smile at her mother while the smiling is still innocent. yet i find myself stuck in köln on a rainy monday in this crowded station of glass and steel and peculiar geometry while the active crowds walk past me with static faces, their entropic intolerance for one another like expensive perfume, their waxy eyes branding disorder upon my screeching flesh. and i await the next train to take me to the next station, but with a primordial resistance, perhaps because i do not truly wish to find these chips missing from the mosaic. 


so i remain upon a bench of glass and steel etched with graffito after graffito by those seeking some form of commemoration - ich vermisse dich 13.05.07 and du bist mein engel. i sit with comatose body but zealous mind on this monday in köln, i too missing my angel, with the glacial rain shooting bullets onto the stone platform, slapping my face and drenching the suitcase that sits beside me, heavy and burdensome with my weights, while i allow train after train after train to pass me, though i have a calculated awareness that i cannot sit in this station forever pretending that i await the next train.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

creator of illusion


see the imprint of my lips
upon this chalice
lips that harbored the bread
drank the wine
and became a mouth
a mouth that spoke
confessing transgression
seeking absolution
abandoning discretion
it spoke in jagged screams like fallen trees
murdered in jungles by inhuman mortals
and now
you
creator of illusion
with unquiet lips
the judas lips of
those who betray
those who pull hearts from open chests
and nail them bleeding to a wall
with elegant lies and chameleon kisses
you offer me your eucharist
your bread and wine
but
my wholesome spirit knows your evil mind
so your wine
before my lips can taste it
spills upon the floor
trickles and creeps like ignoble blood
and you
stomp through its puddles
in derision
desecration
your crisp and eager footsteps splitting the air
like communion wafers
masticated by impenitent sinners
and i
who can only betray you
in my imagination
will offer you a eucharist
inside my weeping heart
but know
that there is no absolution
for creators of illusion
and your lips
stained with the wine of betrayal
will never leave their imprint upon this chalice
will never be a mouth

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

a writer's dream


she is alone. it seems like days since he left. or is it minutes? but no. he didn't leave. she sent him away. threw him out harshly with three gentle words. let me be. she needed to be. alone. to think. to concentrate. to remember. why they had done it. why she had fought him. he'd known better but hadn't argued. well maybe once. hadn't challenged though. hadn't complained. it happened like this.

she said I want this house. the house the agent said hasn't been occupied for years. the house the agent said is food for inspiration. a writer's dream. he said but babe this house is old. look at the peeling paint. the small windows you can hardly see inside. and a gable. who lives in houses with gables anymore? she said please can we look one more time? she said it with a look in her eyes. a look that said and don't argue with me because i've already decided. but then softened the look with i feel it inside. i can write here. i'm inspired. and he silent.

he listens.

takes the key out of his inside coat pocket with trembling hands. inserts it inside the lock. and twists. twists saying are you all right babe? you seem so far away. and she with chattering teeth saying i'm perfectly fine. words gunned from lips so blue in the winter cold. her mind saying yes. her heart saying wait. don't go. and he opening the door. slowly. maybe she will change her mind. and she stepping over the threshold and entering a place without life without living without breakfast or lunch or dinner at the kitchen table with baby tessa crawling around her feet and nibbling at her ankles. a place without.

but.

a chair. a table. a tray with a teacup and teapot and the tea still steaming. a rocking chair still rocking with a shawl smelling of attar spread upon its arm. and he looking with disbelief. and she going to the stairs. climbing the stairs that creak. crack. beneath her feet. and he following. saying this is absurd. but climbing behind her still. and she walking down the corridor. to the big bedroom at the end. their bedroom. and opening the door squealing on rusty hinges. going to the tarnished brass bed like one pulled by invisible hands. sitting on the rotted mattress in the half light seeping through windows stained with age. and he still with her. with her watching the door closing shut with a padded thud. and she shaking shivering wrapping herself in the reeking blanket old and torn and yellowed by time. and he saying will you be all right babe? and she saying let me be. and he thinking he will leave her for a while. he thinking while the snow slaps the windows leaving weeping trickles.

and did she imagine what had happened next?

did she imagine the steadily dripping pipes sweeping water into the corridor and dribbling gray floods over the stairs and onto the rocking chair still rocking and the teapot still steaming below? did she imagine the rattling furnace in the basement vibrating strange mutterings incomprehensible but stark? did she imagine the mice with eyes like tiny inkpots and grins on their chins when caught in her traps? did she imagine the drip of stinking rainwater seeping through the ceiling and onto the floor of her baby tessa's room? did she imagine baby tessa in her crib swinging violently and baby crying in the dark and her running like a madwoman to baby tessa's cribside to find her sound asleep her face polished and serene like a porcelain doll's? and the dreams. did she imagine them too?
dreams of hands purple hands grasping in the dark
dreams of hearts scarlet hearts beating bursting bleeding
dreams of shadows lead shadows embracing broken floors
sleeping dreams haunting
and
waking dreams haunting more.

she knows what she knows but will not speak. will not ask him back and tell. he would say i told you babe didn't i?

but he returns. for a spell. and he knows. looks with accusing glances at the doors and walls and floors. and she. wrapped in the mist. wrapped in her chamber of shadows and shapes and smells of things watching waiting following seeking. wanting. her. unbuttoning. her dress. button. by. button. with slimy fingers from beneath and beyond. and she the modest girl of long ago now with arms bound above her head
chest imposed
breasts exposed
legs spread wide like a she-lion in heat giving it all away shamelessly
and hearing baby tessa's cries
again and again and again
trying to get up and go to the door but the hands holding her pulling her back to the bed and into the waiting arms and their companions clinging with a plushness undeniable inviting promising delights indescribable and luxurious while baby tessa screams with shrill voice like nails pounding into her eardrums but she unable to abandon the brushing upon her chest upon her breasts of tiny
fingers
tongues
feet
not two
not five
five hundred scurrying flitting tickling teasing and the inelegant succulent heat between her legs heat not like the stillness of desert and sand but like the drumming of tropic and storm heat rising accelerating to the final crash.
and he. paralyzed. deaf. dumb. blind. but still. listening to the clipped utterings of pleasure she had once reserved for his love. her mouth fizzing. bubbling. foaming. and he. staring into her eyes that he can barely see through the mist floating around her over her into her. and she. within it sunken in unfettered indulgence while held slightly upright by those unseen hands.

and he seeing inside her sublimated world in which the mist reigns.
and.
in which he no longer exists.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Conversation In the Semidarkness

I love her. Somewhere in the distance, real or imagined, just around the corner from the nest of his thin sleep, he thinks he hears a siren. I can't do this, he tells himself. I can't.

He pulls his numb arm out from under the covers. He rubs his mouth with the palm of his hand. He flicks on the small reading light on the nightstand. He turns to her, beside him. He glides his stiff fingers over her cool hair and around her gentle face. He pulls her face closer to him, wanting to smell her.

She opens her eyes slowly. Brown eyes that had always beseeched him to love her. And he thinks he does. Love her. He thinks.

"What's the matter?" she says. She yawns. Her breath is intoxicating. Like preserved fruit.

"I can't sleep," he tells her, his own voice unfamiliar to him in the semidarkness. "Do you love me?"

"Oh, not again." She blinks. Her beseeching brown eyes disappear for a flicker, then return to beseech again.

"I need you to tell me," he says. "Please."

"I don't understand why we keep talking about this." She pulls the covers up to her chin. She looks at him.

"No, you don't understand. Period. That's the problem." He's looking into the brown eyes threatening tears, now.

"The real problem is that you don't love me," she says quietly, as if afraid he'll hear her. As if afraid she'll hear herself. "You can't accept me as I am. You can't accept me without wanting to change me. Or wanting to change my past." She pauses, hoping that he will deny her charges. Hoping that he will keep looking into her eyes in this semidarkness and tell her that none of what she just said is true. She doesn't move.

"I don't know how to accept you." This, after a long silence. "A meaningless concept to you, I'm sure," he says harshly, "but I do have a hard time accepting things or people without knowing why I'm doing it." And then he's silent again.

"It's just your nature." She wants to break the tightness. "It's who you are." She turns her back to him. But stays in bed.

"No. This is the dark side of me," he whispers into her hair, which smells like the woods in autumn. Intoxicating. "The me that doesn't know how to be forgiving or humble."

"It's the scientific you." She speaks to the wall she's looking at. She hears her voice reverberating in her ear against the pillow. "Clinical mind over intuitive heart," she says, craving the comfort of her muffled voice in her ear again.

"Do you even care for me?" But he doesn't wait for an answer. "I don't know why you ever did care, to begin with. If you did. Was it the thrill of the chase? A childlike crush? A kindly gesture to another man who seemed lonely?" But then he feels the slightest bit ashamed. What have I done?

"You're cruel," she says. "Not only to me, but even to yourself. And why would I take all this crap from you unless..."

"Yes, yes, and I thank you for your kindness." He jumps in too soon. Not gently enough. He knows she'll think he's shouting at her.

"Just be quiet," she says. Heavy tears prick her eyes. But she doesn't want him to gloat. He would, too. Gloat. "Your words are like mud," she whimpers. "I hate you." But she hates herself more. For crying in front of him. Again.

"You're too sensitive," he tells her, trying to blend a softer hue into his voice. "Or maybe not." He wraps his arms around her warm body under the covers and breathes in the woodsy smell of her skin. Intoxicating. "Sometimes I think I don't know you."

She stiffens. "You don't," she says through her tears. "Can't we talk about anything without your trying to analyze everything and everyone? Like we're all independent and dependent variables in a damn experiment?"

"I have a difficult time with gray. You know that," he says into her ear. A few strands of her hair tickle his lips. "And I don't know how to embellish what I want to say. I just say it. I don't know how to make what I feel look or sound more attractive." Then he's silent. Again. For a moment. And for that moment he asks himself if he does love her. "I want to be the only one," he tells her on impulse. "The only man in your life."

"You are," she whispers.

"But I haven't always been. And I can't love you and know that others have loved you before me. It makes it all incomplete."

She sits up, suddenly, in disbelief. "But you never knew any of them. They needed me and I needed them and it was good for a while and then it wasn't good anymore. And I'm done with that, so why can't we put it behind us?" She dries her tears with the backs of her hands. "I feel like an idiot for telling you about them. But none of them really loved me, anyway. And neither do you."

He pushes his face into her abandoned pillow. "Forgive me," he says. But his voice is smothered. And although she hears him, she knows he doesn't care whether or not she will forgive him.

Such a senseless thing to say, she thinks. Empty. Forgive me. Like the last few drops of gas in your tank when you still have eighty miles to drive and the next gas station is seventy miles away.

They stay together in silence in the semidarkness. The silence of minutes. Short minutes. Like short, labored breaths. Uncomfortable but necessary. Her smell is dripping like venom through an eyedropper into his senses. Intoxicating. He turns away from it. From her.

She climbs out of bed. She pulls up her hair. She bathes. She dresses.

She is ready to leave inside of an hour.

"Will I see you tomorrow night?" he mumbles from bed when she's at the bedroom door, on her way out.

"Mmm. Ten o'clock."

But she doesn't come.

He will miss the curve of her graceful neck above her elegant shoulders. He will miss how her eyes twinkle like stars in the dimness of twilight. He will miss how she gently bites his lower lip with her trembling lips when they kiss. He will miss her radiant smile, inhibited, but radiant. And he will miss her intoxicating smell.

Friday, October 16, 2009

dreaming devotion

















of all my dreams
no dream like this
such sweet release
on vagrant stairs
i chant your name
i worship i cry

walking up
on painted walls
legs in chains
scaling perimeter
skirting beam
the ears the eyes

closed eyes
hurt eyes
of heart of mind
my legs in pain
frantic but shy
to reason to stop

your image teases
glint of cheek
of rock of stone
petrifies defies
my discipline my agony
my devotion

do i know you
do i know you
do i know
do i do i

slave to gravity
tortured beast
will i find you there
on high (up high)
waiting (will you)
will i will i

or will you leave
a scribble on skin
an envelope sealed
unsealed revealed
will the demons be
will they will they

what chance have i
to win a round
my cards two-faced
my arms no-handed
giving giving
too much and why

do i dare dream
do i do i

i dream of trains on rotting floors
in narrowing corridors of dusk
and flames from fallen lamps
dancing on torrid waters of sea
and you i kiss and i you kiss
open mouth to closed eye

what dream to dream
can awaken shadows
send them swinging
on painted walls
waltz (waltz)
not die (not die)

do i dare dream
do i do i

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

the elements of thrill














what makes your skeleton rattle

is it the anticipation of a victorious afterward
when you have learned a truth about him and
you will watch him lie about it
without his even stopping to breathe

is it the abuse of power when he
does come to you with lowered head
and admits he has made a mistake
and you say too bad too late

is it the quiver of your flesh when you
pass by the house of your lover
knowing he might be at a window
watching you secretly from behind

is it dressing in the dark and
escaping to meet clandestinely
or the triumphal abandon
of getting caught

is it the tremor in your gut when you are
behind closed doors within closed rooms
indulging in what you know is
forbidden but desirable

is it the sharing of the
promise of a secret
or the moment of
its shattering

is it the heinous desire to
burst out laughing at a funeral
or the twisted need to
be laughed at

the ardent glance of zealous worship
or the icy gaze of remote disinterest

the resolve of succumbing to rapture
or the defeat of succumbing to fatigue

the perfume of liquid sex
or the odor of rotting carnage

the arrival at your final destination
or the transformation you endured to get there

the blanketed punch of climax
or the marmalade zigzag of holding back

thrill

the moment is
delicious
intoxicating
agitated electricity

and the effect is a
soothed
relaxed
transported ripple

Friday, October 2, 2009

This Spirit, Uninvited

She haunted me. That was one misfortune. I played her devilish game. That was the other.

"Do you believe in the spirit world?" she asked me that night, as she stood beside my bedroom window with a satanic smile on her face and the shadow of the fluttering curtain at her feet.

"I don't know. I've never thought about it, I guess." But that was a lie. I had thought about it. I had thought about it when I was on a flight back to Amsterdam, three weeks after it had happened, not because I needed to be there, but because of the memories that burned like acid rolling over my insides, because I thought that by going there, I could somehow open the door and let the pain in all the way, hold my breath and walk through its poisonous cloud, and then walk out, close the door, and leave it at that. But instead, I had walked the streets of Amsterdam like a drunk, homeless wino, staring vacantly into shop windows, not seeing inside, but seeing instead the image of Miranda, seeing her angelic face smile at me, as if she knew. I wanted her back, if only for a moment, to embrace her one last time before I let her go forever. Miranda, everywhere. And I, in Amsterdam. But that Amsterdam was not the city I had known with Miranda.

And she continued. "Did you love Miranda?" If I didn't love her, would I have fallen so deeply into her melting brown eyes the first time I had seen them, fantasized so obsessively over the silk tassels of her chestnut hair, worshipped so devotedly the evasive dip in the middle of her chin? And her voice, which I still hear ringing in my ears when I sit alone, in the stillest stillness. And the endless days waiting to awaken from this coma. And the dreamless, sleepless nights. And the dreams, when they do come, always of Miranda. Was I to blame for having broken down, no longer wanting to pretend, while peace evaded me like marbles rolling down a steep hill? How else to face up to the gravity of this? A carefree life, without thought, without memories, without the irrational obsession that came with knowing I'd never see, never breathe Miranda again - that was what I sought.

As if hearing my thoughts, she said, "It's not the loss of Miranda that's grieving you, you know. It's your loss of her. This is hardly about what she will never have. It's about what you will never have. It's about you. Not her." Her voice had a disturbing quality about it. It was disturbingly truthful.

"Why won't you leave me in peace?" I said, realizing the futility of the question even as I asked it. This wasn't the right time for anyone to be poking holes in the logic I had barricaded myself within. So who was she to just come along and violate my security?

"I want you to know what you don't know about yourself, Jason. Or at least, what you tell yourself you don't know." When she spoke my name I felt a muscle twitch in my face, a nerve flicker in my eye, an invisible hand grasp me by the head and squeeze. Every inflection of her voice fell on my ears like a thunderbolt.

She smiled at me, now. Half-smiled, actually, so I could see the faintest blur of her teeth. There was a wicked twinkle in her exotic eyes. Her lips also were wicked. And they were dangerously inviting. "I need time alone. Please go back where you came from and let me be?" I begged.

She laughed cunningly. "I'll relieve you of me if you take this. It's so sweet. And you're so so sweet. And I'm so so lonely."

And she came toward me with a perfect red grape held out by two fingers with perfect red fingernails. She brought the grape to my lips. And as I opened my mouth to receive her offering, her exotic eyes became exotic empty sockets, festooned with gems of purple and orange and blue, her beautiful lips, a gateway to oblivion, her face, an abandoned carnival mask. The cold grape touched my tongue and rolled slowly into my mouth, its sickly sweetness oozing between my teeth.

I spat out what remained of the grape, rubbing my lips with the back of my hand, as if to remove an indelible smear. And I heard, as if from far away, the grandfather clock downstairs strike the hour of midnight.

"Come with me," she chimed, her voice shimmering like a million crystals, echoing in its madness. "Let me show you how mellow pain can be." She glided out of the window. "I will never leave you," she chanted as she floated across the horizon, graceful as a butterfly.

I awakened in a sweating frenzy, crying out for Miranda, grasping in the darkness, scrambling for the light. I looked at the window, which I was certain I had closed and locked before I'd gone to sleep. The window stood wide open, the curtain fluttering in the wind. And the sky was purple and orange and blue.

Monday, September 28, 2009

walled



allegra drinking and people walking talking
buying candy ice cream waffles and the public bus
screeches to a halt behind the biker with no helmet be careful
kid they'll turn your body to

cream with two cubes of white sugar and where's the spoon i need my
spoon the pigeons watching they're watching who are they
watching
me?
fighting fighting over the pickings of crumbs from the breakfast
crowd the crumbs on the sidewalk the
lone
liness
loneliness consuming out go out the security
people security of people drink coffee
two gulps and walk around walking around walking around in
circles
ring around the rosy
a pocket full of posies
ashes ashes
loneliness under my skin
allegra it says allegra i'm here
allegra
              she pulls pulls hair so blond so fine so straight like
wisps of corn silk
she pulls to punish the sinner
nobody sees knows she hides
it beneath those pretty hats
she wears
allegra so happy they say even her name is happy
so shallow hollow they don't see inside allegra
beautiful beautiful oh so beautiful with
turquoise eyes like the waters off the coast of zanzibar
haunted blue eyes but the
scar
and allegra cracking from the inside out

when the ghosts come out to feast i hide behind my wall
allegra hide and don't come out but trista asks allegra out to
play come play
let's play ring around the rosy
trista says it trista the twin sister they thought was dead in the womb
trista the twin that never should've seen the light of day
twin they thought was dead
came into life without a cry without a scream
our miracle baby girl they said about her forgetting you were there
our miracle girl doesn't cry but oh look so sad look at her face
so sad trista is her name they said and named you allegra
you smiled when your twin was born they named you allegra
twins but opposites they said but you were the same
eyes nose mouth hair everything the same but the scar cut wound
they said was an accident when you were little girls playing with scissors though
mommy had said not to allegra and trista played doctors but trista was the doctor doing
surgery on your mouth with the scissors that
slid open going in and slid shut coming out closing on the side of your mouth so
your cheek was open like a piece of torn fabric and the blood was falling like victoria falls
trista screaming saying mommy mommy told me to do it but mommy looked scared and
took you to the er and they stitched you up and said don't worry pretty little girl everything's
gonna be all right but mommy got you home and said come here bad girl
bad girls get punished and slapped you across the cheek still smarting with pain and the
blood came again and mommy doused it with vinegar saying it was the lord's punishment that you
bleed
for being a bad little girl now go in the closet and ask the lord's
forgiveness
mommy says don't tell lies or mommy will just have to burn your
cute little mouth with matches
that little mouth you can't wait to wrap around a cock
mommy says don't go pee pee in your panties or mommy will just have to burn your
plump little thighs with matches
those little thighs you can't wait to wrap around a man
you dirty little sinner
aren't you a little whore

trista always nice not because she wanted but because she was your sis' and knew
mommy's bad little secret

twin sis' little sis' they thought was dead and the
other kids always told trista what's wrong with your sister
and trista's face going red saying just a little accident
trista happy but allegra oh so sad and you ask yourself did she mean it
after all these twenty years did she mean it
with your eyes like the waters of zanzibar and
your mouth like frankenstein's bride

trista
got all the friends
all the boys played spin the bottle without fear of
do i really have to kiss her
do i really have to kiss that ugly mouth
and you go behind your wall but tears tears tears
tear down the wall allegra tear down
i'm never coming back i'm not
but the wall is there when allegra comes home
voices
talking i'll be talking and they'll tell me to
stop
and i'll forget what i was saying and what i wanted to say and why she wanted to say it she'll be in
another room with the glass wall and she'll see her body her head
floating
in the air and the voices saying
                                                    save the talk for yourself allegra
and my head will be blurry like a scrambled egg like an out of focus
photo that needs focus because the details
details i need details too many of me to count
none in the same place doing the same thing allegra1 not here not here behind the
wall
of brick and mortar allegra2 behind the glass looking at the other side i don't want to be there
walled
walled
i don't want allegra3 walking walking away and looking back
change of
heart i want to be walled allegra4 a drink a lay a man a woman what difference
does it make the world of
flesh
is mine allegra5 on the mountaintop over the top looking out over the space
wide open sharp crags mighty boulders
allegra you're dizzy
so dizzy not good for you
don't like heights
can't feel my arms legs fingers toes head so badly bleeding from the
pulling the hair sores burns cuts
nausea
not in her stomach
sweating trembling fever like i've just run over a kid and run away
heart
beating so wildly my pulse is in her temples
her mine

but smile allegra when you
smile
people see a happy you allegra they say is happy
even to her name but you say my mommy and daddy must have
cursed
me must have challenged the
lord
with that name
allegra
oh so sad and
trista
oh so happy
her mommy and daddy didn't curse her didn't challenge the lord

agitation cutting like barbed wire messing with
moments that fade to
gray
brain freeze
can't remember feelings
there but not part of allegra1 sitting behind her wall
that wall
walled in with brick and mortar
allegra2 what if i tore it down and never looked back what if what if allegra3 walking
to an open space and nervous nervous
oh so nervous but not
nervous enough to
stop
allegra4 with a man pretending to listen to every word she says but who will take
me home and beat me until i'm black and blue allegra5 on the cliff over the top trying
oh so hard trying
to keep her balance but the tide
oh so inviting
and the way back to the wall
don't know what's the way back i just don't know allegra2
saying maybe maybe i'll try to
find my way back but allegra4 says you'll never find a man like him he's all you need
everything you need
allegra saying mommy mommy

why

and mommy saying i'll give you to the count of...

one two three four five six seven
all good children go to heaven

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Love, Suddenly


Two people are on a stage. A man. A woman. They don't know one another in the true sense of the word. They are actors. He plays an army general to a king he later murders and replaces. She plays his ill-advising wife. Night after night, in their roles of husband and wife, they exchange words, glances, touches, as all actors do. At curtain call, the cast members all file back on stage to the thundering applause of their admiring audience. She takes her curtsy. He takes his bow. He catches the flower bouquets hurled from the audience and gives them to her. She curtsies once more and lays the bouquets at her feet. Then, he reaches out his left hand to clasp her right hand, and together, they move forward to the front of the stage for a final round of appreciation.

These intersections are meaningless, a part of their nightly routine. Undisturbed. Unbroken by the merest interest in, or attraction to, one another. They know, without its ever having been processed or verbalized, that beyond their thespian endeavors they lead separate lives. He is no flustered, guilt-ridden King of Scotland, and she is no hallucinating, sleepwalking Queen. What they do not know is that tonight, after curtain call, while the rest of humanity is eating or drinking or sitting in the waiting room of a hospital or playing cards or arguing over politics or making love, after she has taken her curtsy and he has taken his bow and caught her flower bouquets for her, and she has laid the bouquets at her feet, he will reach out his left hand to clasp her right hand, just as he does every night. But, this time, involuntarily, he will reach out just enough for their fingers to brush, fumble, seek. And somehow, this floundering whisper of a connection will trigger an arching thirst, a sensual fever, in his core. A bullet of white passion will shoot through his arm and trickle over his body like icy water. To have had her all this time, so near, her mystery hovering, and yet never to have seen her... What had he suffered from?

Amidst the musty parchment smell of the theater and the heat of the intensely burning lights directed at the stage, he will drift, drift into the devouring world of his senses. He will smell the captivating fragrance of amber coming from between her breasts and the dips in her collarbones. He will hear her shortness of breath despite the crazed babble of an intoxicated audience. He will feel... something. An arithmetic will happen inside his head, followed by the crashing realization of the gravity of his emotion. He will turn his gaze to her, their eyes will meet, and in her cavernous eyes he will see everything at once. And with his eyes, Have you discovered my mind? And with her eyes, I have uncovered you, heart and soul. She will reach her right hand out further, just a breath, just enough to let him know. And oblivious to audience and applause, his now fearless left hand will reach further and clutch her right hand firmly. His fingers will intertwine with hers. And he will close his burning eyes and take deep breaths while slowly counting to ten as he tries to calm his quickening heart.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lafindumonde



On the edge of space and time there exists a city named Lafindumonde. This is no ordinary city. Its people are no ordinary people. So where's the distinction?

In the city of Lafindumonde people know, with precision, the date and time of their passing. Their lives are defined by this knowledge. They are on a schedule of events they enjoy, rather than a schedule of duties, responsibilities, errands, and chores. Their professional lives matter less, their personal lives more. There is no mulling over the next mortgage, car, or flat screen TV payment. There is less CNN, QVC, and HBO, and more sunsets, tides, and birds. Interests are geared less toward supervisors, colleagues, and acquaintances, and more toward friends, family, and neighbors. There is less Wanchai Ferry, Hot Pockets, and Burger King at the dinner table, and more homemade chicken soup, beef stew, and crème caramel. There are less corporate parties, business dinners, and "highly recommended" social events to attend, and more garden parties, small dinners with neighbors, and quiet movie nights at home.

In the spring, the people of Lafindumonde take their little ones out to see the glory of the daffodils in bloom. The little ones are told the daffodils won't be around for long, so every day in their presence is a crystallized dewdrop. Bumble bees buzzing around lavender bushes in front yards are not mere background music; they are an intricate part of the spring season.

When the summer months arrive, the families of Lafindumonde are at the beach and in the parks, enjoying the water and the sand and the trees and the grass and the endless blue sky. The children are playing with beach balls, building sand castles, enjoying picnics, picking worms, and flying kites.

In the fall, everyone returns home to somewhat of a grounding time. An ordinary work schedule resumes - the usual thirty-hour week. The children return to school - four days out of seven. In the early evenings, couples go out for walks in the woods. They enjoy the splendor of the changing colors, the crackle of dry leaves under their feet, the light crispness of the air.

When winter comes, Lafindumonde is a quiet city, but no one is hibernating indoors. Everyone is out to see the first fall of snow and watch it melt on the sidewalks. The outdoor cafés are packed with pink faces drinking hot chocolate and cider and watching the children play tag around the fountain on the town square. And with the winter freeze comes the highest entertainment - listening to the sound of boots squishing in the snow.

This is how the people of Lafindumonde live, every season, every year.

One day, a stranger comes to the city. We'll call him Mr. Z. He's not a visitor. He's here to stay. Because it is customary for the residents of Lafindumonde to know the exact date and time of their passing, the new arrival is informed of his facts by the town spokesperson. But this information does not have the desired effect on Mr. Z. Rather than doing as the people of the city do, he goes on a schedule of collecting, bookkeeping, hording, recording, preparing, hiding. He is ravenous for anything and everything. Grasping. Clinging. Tenacious. And soon after, he invites a female companion, also from out of town, to join him in Lafindumonde. The townspeople, until now, have not bothered with Mr. Z and his pettiness, but the arrival of this companion is a threat of changes to come. It is only a matter of time before things are no longer as they used to be.

The townspeople are nervous. Anxious. Jealous. They feel entitled to protect what is theirs. But as it is unlike them to force an issue, they ask their spokesperson to have a word with Mr. Z. Already, this is a sacrifice - meetings are not popular in Lafindumonde. During this meeting, the town spokesperson informs Mr. Z that his city's people live satisfied lives in the knowledge of their date and time of passing, and that they are not seeking any modifications to their way of life, especially by a person who came here initially seeking their way of life. And it is always easiest to swim with the current rather than against it, sir, the spokesperson tells Mr. Z. Mr. Z is pained by this exchange. He had hoped for more of a discussion and less of a monologue. He understands what the spokesperson is saying well enough, and he agrees with the logic behind it, except that there is one dilemma: he knows his date and time and is helpless to curb his instincts, his nature, which counter any attempt to change his habits and become like the people of Lafindumonde, who have evolved a contentment with the very knowledge that challenges him. And so, they come out of the meeting exactly as they had entered it, without an agreement. There is no animosity or resentment, but missing also are the feelings of hope and promise that hover over an inkling of accord between two previously opposed parties.

The people of Lafindumonde should not be mistaken as inflexible or backward. On the contrary. They have advanced their society intellectually, culturally, scientifically, technologically, beyond any other society. Everything in Lafindumonde functions with absolute punctuality, efficiency, precision, and perfection. Everything is planned, organized, and premeditated. Nothing is left to chance, fate, coincidence, or providence. Time, the most precious aspect of the city's existence, does not allow for such serendipities. The people should also not be considered cold or heartless simply because they know the dates and times of their deaths and the deaths of their loved ones, and yet are able to lead such serene lives. One may say that they are not as struck by the shock of parting with loved ones as we are. That they are able to plan for the arrival of such? Yes. That they can say their final goodbyes in a more eloquent and timely fashion? Yes. That they are better equipped to take care of unfinished business? Yes. But that they are heartless? No.

Mr. Z is intrigued by the clinical methodology the townspeople have adopted - it is what had brought him to Lafindumonde in the first place. Knowing that people in this city put in thirty hours of work a week and accomplish what they do and are paid large salaries and still have free time, plenty of it, for leisure and relaxation, had been the decision maker. But there is an unsettling element for him. Life in Lafindumonde is, if such a thing is possible, too designed, too perfect. It is true that Mr. Z had left his old town because life had become too intense with a fifty-hour work week and responsibilities too many to count. He had begun to feel like an indentured slave to his house, his car, his job, the fillings in his teeth, all of which required him to work like a beast so he could pay pay pay. So what had his options been but to explore, in what should have been his golden years, the possibility of a new life in a new place with a different vision of what is ideal? And so he had happened upon Lafindumonde. And, if truth be told, the townspeople had given him the facts before he made a decision; there was no deception involved. So, what to do, now?

Going against the current is something that Mr. Z acknowledges he can't risk; the spokesperson was right about that. And so, following several days of deliberation, within himself, and with his companion, on a cruel and brittle January morning, after the holidays and festivities are over, Mr. Z and his companion leave the key of their rental home under the mat at their front door, pack their few belongings into their car, and drive out of Lafindumonde while the city sleeps, knowing they will never return.

The townspeople awaken to a new day of dark skies and endless snow. But as is their habit, they go about their daily activities with energy and optimism. By the lunch hour, every person in the town has heard of Mr. Z's departure, but the news is just that - news. There are no comments, speculations, or discussions over lunch in any of the cafés. With time being as precious as it is, there is not a moment to be lost. There is lunch to be enjoyed in the company of friends, and work to be done - all at a leisurely pace, of course. And there is a town gathering on the main square to be looked forward to, this evening. A new outsider from somewhere across the world is coming to Lafindumonde with hopes of establishing residence. And the town spokesperson will be there to deliver the facts.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Au revoir, Bruxelles

My husband breaks the news to me over the phone. Are you sitting down? I tell him to stop messing with me and just say what he has to say. We’re moving back to the States. I'm silent, trying to digest this information. There is no back to, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never lived in the States. For me, I’m just moving to the States. He breaks the silence. I can’t believe it – after twenty years. He sounds like he’s upset, or maybe excited, or confused. Either way, he'll be in the Sandbox for another four weeks. And then, he will come home to Belgium. And six weeks later, we will leave. This time for good.

I make a deal with myself: I have ten weeks – ten weeks to enjoy Brussels, my favorite city in Belgium. And I will enjoy it like I’m dying tomorrow. I do this because I know. We make promises and resolutions and decisions, all of them determined and sincere and final. And then we break them. And this time, like all the times before, we will promise to return, for Christmas or New Year’s or his birthday or mine. But we won’t come back. So this time, I am serious. And maybe everyone sees it in my eyes. So the vendor at Friterie Michel smothers my cone of fries with extra Samouraï sauce, and the waiter at La Rose Blanche sprays an extra tall tower of crème chantilly over my cappuccino. When you’re getting ready to leave somewhere, all of a sudden, it’s the only place that matters in the world, and the only place you want to be.

It’s a sunny day in Brussels. On Avenue Louise, I enter my favorite perfume boutique. It’s a French perfume boutique, but it’s in Brussels and this is what matters, for now. I choose as a departing gift to myself Le Jasmin, and the store manager, a middle-aged lady with the body and face of a runway model, and who has been very nice to me these past three years, gives me a miniature flacon as a gift. For the plane ride, she says. We embrace. Perhaps we will see one another again, she says. Perhaps, I tell her. But I doubt it, I tell myself.

In the Gallerie du Roi, I go to a tapestry shop. I buy myself a shoulder bag with a floral motif and a monogrammed lace handkerchief. On my way out of the store, I see a small replica of the Manneken Pis with a corkscrew for a penis and take it for my husband; I know he will get a kick out of it. I exit the store and cross the Gallerie to Neuhaus, or Chocolate Decadence, as my husband calls it. A lovely young lady with dazzling blue eyes is manning one of the counters, and she summons me with a bright smile. And which chocolates would you like today, Madame? Some caprices, some Manons noirs, maybe some truffes? Or would you like to try the tentations? She indicates the various chocolates with her perfect mauve fingernails. Could I have six violettes, please? I ask her. Mais ouai, Madame. You like the flowers. Such delicate flavor! She offers me a ganache. I take it and thank her. The sky is clouding over, she says as she gently places my six violet chocolates in a sachet, seals it with a Neuhaus sticker, and hands it to me. This is Belgium, she continues, taking the twenty-euro note I offer her and walking to the cash register. Nothing changes in Belgium, she says. At least not with the weather. Nor with the government, for that matter, she adds with a sarcastic chuckle as she walks back to the counter with my change. I tell you, Madame. She looks into my eyes as if she is about to impart some very critical knowledge. We have been six months without a government in this country, she says, stabbing the counter gently with the side of her free hand. What kind of country survives without a government for six months? She's still hanging on to my change, holding it hostage until she is finished with what she has to say. I don’t think she is waiting for an actual response to her question, so I don’t offer one, though I feel like I've earned the right. I have been a resident of Belgium for three years, speak French like a native, and have passed for one on many occasions. Doesn’t that entitle me? Six months! she repeats, tossing up her hands and rolling her eyes around in disbelief. Think of it, Madame. C’est ridicule! She hands me my change. What we need is a man like Nicolas Sarkozy, she says, pointing her index finger with conviction. A man with balls, she says decisively, holding her hands out like she’s handling testicles. I have to ask myself why a woman who just saw me for the first time in her life less than five minutes ago would use the word balls with me, and I'm uncertain about how to respond to this unexpected and unusual show of informality. But my response hardly matters. She wants to play the pundit, and who am I to stop her? As she wipes the countertop with a damp towel, she apologizes for giving me an earful. Don’t worry about it, I tell her. It was my pleasure. At the door, I pause, taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, as if to seal this sharp, bitter, sweet, fruity, floral aroma inside my brain. Ça va, Madame? my pundit friend asks me. Everything is just fine, I say with a smile.

I have spent the last two years, nine months, and twelve days of my life being annoyed with the rain, with the inconvenience of having to carry an umbrella wherever I went. But now, the rain of Belgium is a precious treasure that I have only ten weeks to enjoy. I walk out of the chocolate shop, back down the Gallerie to its entrance, and into the torrent drumming like shards of shattered glass upon the Grand’Place. It is so true. Nothing has changed in Belgium. Not the centuries-old buildings whose sides have been rubbed by tens of thousands of appreciating hands. Not the cobblestone square that has been trampled by unwitting feet and carpeted with colorful tulips. Not the sky, which can go from baby blue to lead gray faster than you can say “Bang!” And not the Belgians themselves, who have been so kind and friendly to both my husband and me, though he is a service member in a military that is fighting a war they do not support.

Four weeks later, my husband returns. My joy is boundless. When I open the door for him and see him for the first time in five months, I realize that this is the happiest moment of my life. But my joy is tarnished by the knowledge that soon it will be time for both of us to go.

For six weeks, we visit our favorite outdoor cafés on the Place Ste. Catherine, eating moules frites by the tub and swallowing it all down with half-liters of Hoegaarden and Chimay. We bargain with the artists on the Grand’Place and buy two or three of their amateurish sketches, just to say we did it. We chat with the tourists and brag, We live here, our hearts dark because that is soon to change. And when the sky blackens with clouds, we don’t open our umbrellas, because we want the rain falling out of the sky of Brussels to baptize us.

On November 7, a shuttle waits in front of our hotel to take us to Zaventem Airport. In tow, I have with me a symbolic tribute to Belgium: a small ballotin of homemade chocolates, my tiny flacon of Le Jasmin, my tapestry shoulder bag with the floral motif, and my monogrammed lace handkerchief for the tears I know will come. It does not rain on the drive to the airport. Maybe some things do change, after all? Maybe just for today? On the plane I take the window seat, as usual. I settle into my chair, fasten my seat belt, secure my monogrammed lace handkerchief in my right hand, and lean my forehead against the window. The dark clouds roll in. I watch, waiting for the first drop of rain to spark on my window. And the rain begins to fall, so swiftly, so suddenly, so violently, I miss the first drop. It is raining in Brussels. It is always raining in Brussels. And it is always raining in Belgium. What had made me think it would be otherwise, today? Nothing changes in Belgium – at least not with the weather. Nor with the government, for that matter. Ten weeks later, the Belgians still don’t have a government. And the rain will not stop. Not even for my departure. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Voice of Insomnia


You think you don't know me, Hannah Baum, but think again. I've slept in your bed, rested my body in the same place you rest yours, so heavy with child, every night. I've laid my head on your pillow and read your thoughts that are so haunted by the natural childbirth you know you can't risk. I’ve been in your closet and worn your clothes, and your husband has snapped shots of me posing like a happy hippie, dressed in your 1960s floral hat with the purple trim, and nothing else. I’ve tried on your comical granny shoes, the ones with insoles, the ones you’re always wearing because you’re always pregnant. We laughed at you behind our hands, your husband and I, like teenagers sharing a secret. My back, my stomach, my legs, my hair, have been caressed by the 1,500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets our man bought you for Valentine's Day, and the smell of my skin has mingled with the smell of yours. I didn't get her anything for her, specifically, he’d told me. We’ll be using them, too, you and me. And it's true that we'd stained the burgundy sheets with our love. But is this consolation? I can't leave her, he says. What would happen with the kids?
When he's with you, I’m in my bed aching for him. You’re in your bed, with him at your side breathing deeply. My man has no worries, you tell yourself, and you smile like a moronic beast. It’s a sham, Hannah. His rest is the rest of the guilty. He prays, before he kisses your breasts swollen with milk for his fifth child, that he won’t whisper I love you, Isabel into your ear when his body is dancing in ecstasy and his mind is bent at an obtuse angle from reality. He prays to some God of the Unfaithful every night, before he succumbs to sleep, that he won't wake up in the middle of the night screaming the name of another woman. Who knows how many lovers he has? But you don't get any sleep, either. You're on your back, like me, staring blindly at the ceiling in the pitch-blackness of the night, your right hand resting on your belly, like you can protect your child from the truth.
I know what you're thinking, Hannah. You're thinking you're scared about the natural childbirth, though you're not letting on. You're thinking maybe you should go with the C-section, after all - doctor says there's still time to change your mind. You're thinking this man is the father of your four kids and the fifth that's on the way, and he’s so in love with you his heart is bursting with it. But you're so wrong, Hannah, and you know it – you know there’s another woman. You know because he’s left home for “the office” at the oddest hours. You know because your intuition made you call his office one day to ask about the number to the hotel he was staying in on his “conference trip to Albuquerque,” and they’d said, What conference? And you know because after five kids and eight years of marriage, there's no room for I'm fliphappy in love. You're more like friends than lovers. You're spouses – comfortable in the familiarity of one another’s presence and in your shared contentment with mediocrity. And you know why else you're wrong, Hannah? Because he loves me - Isabel - but he won’t tell you that. You are about to have his fifth child, and he doesn’t want to upset you by confirming your suspicions. He keeps watering you like a tree and you keep bearing him fruit; it’s a win-win situation for both of you. I concede – he'll never leave you. But...
If I tell you something, Hannah, can you handle it? If I tell you I'm carrying his child, too, can you handle it? Yes, it's true. No, he doesn't know, and I'm not going to tell him. I'll let him figure it out. And he'll have to fight it out with himself over whether or not he's going to tell you about his love child. I know it's cruel of me. Really, I do. But it'll give him something to think about. For once, he'll be staying up at night, not you and me. He'll be on his back with his eyeballs glued to the ceiling, our man. It won't be long, now.
I know the barrenness in your chest when you don't have someone to go to in your time of need. I know the restless anxiety of driving around in the devil’s hour, on your third sleep-deprived night in a row, your body as stiff as a block of ice, your senses as charged as live wire, trying to hypnotize yourself on the deserted, floodlit roads. When you’ve had enough of white snow on black asphalt, black ice, rain, black ice, white snow, rain, white asphalt, black snow, black ice, you take yourself home and carefully lay yourself down in bed, closing your bloodshot, burning eyes with a sense of relief because, surely, now, you will sleep. You stretch out your sore legs, all the way to the footboard, like someone is pulling on them. But your hands are rolled up into hard little cannonballs and your eyes are like glass marbles. You can't take a sleeping pill. You can't have a drink. But you won't have to worry about that, Hannah, because I'll be there for you. And for him. When your fifth child is here, there’ll be no more lovemaking in your home. Oh, don’t worry, you’re not going to be that ugly. But you’re not going to be that pretty, either. Your face, which is now glowing with hormones, will be ashen and pasty, like the pith of an orange. Your body will be a deflating mass of flesh. You'll have bat wings under your arms, stretch marks on your stomach, fat dimples on your ass, and mini donuts around your eyes. So he'll be coming to me for his doses of toe-curling pleasure. And when it’s time for me... well, I’ll worry about that then. I’m not due for another eight months.
You think I'm crazy, Hannah. Crazy or drunk or stoned or maybe hallucinating or maybe all of these things put together. No. I am tired. But my mind is as sharp as a razor. And I'll be waiting for you. And for him. And when I have our love child, our man will never leave me, either.