Perspicacious

Why am I thinking about what I didn't get? 

I came back here so I could live the life I deserved. 

A contagion of memories that is subject to erupt at any moment.

They asked me to leave due to my abhorrent behavior.

All those hollow, negative feelings.

Social outings are available to me.

I had an agenda of what to do in order to be happy.

You always responded.  You always picked up the rope.

A place I could finish my sentences, a place I could figure out my thoughts.

I was melted; I couldn’t express it.

I was allowed to fall together.

After Image

He says I need to create a gap, a void, for good things to come in.  I need to make room.  The sun is shining in our eyes and we squint at it, hoping it will get smaller or go away and not bother us.

My first boyfriend was Andy Gaffman.  I remember watching Lifesavers explode in his mouth on a camping trip.  We were partnered up; one of us had to chew on candies and the other watched.  He volunteered to chew, so I looked inside his mouth as light sprang forth, a miracle, bright and minty.  The girls on the trip thought it was romantic we shared a moment like that together.  But I didn't like him.  Only a piece of my heart felt something then, a piece that dropped to my stomach because a boy liked me and wanted me.   I had wanted him to be someone else, and that, I thought, was very romantic.

“Reclaiming Your Greatest Self”

I check the weather forecast every four hours.  There is nothing I can do from 2681.5 miles away.  But I check and check and watch the weatherman wave his hand across red band that crosses over my home in real-time news, over and over.  I look up recipes for Chicken Florentine and take my rings on and off and pick at my cuticles and bite my nails and dread work tomorrow and make phone calls and I can’t talk to you.  I take something that will make me tired and it does and I rest on the couch and imagine skies clearing.

I drink yellow Gatorade from a purple straw and set up camp in bed.  I have been here for twelve hours, but who’s counting.  It’s been such a long time since anything made sense, and the email about a potential teaching job seems like a mirage amidst the hot flashes and fever dreams of last night.  Perhaps it is a sliver of God.  I continue work on my short stories, defining an empty chapter with no strands to hold onto.  I wait for an appetite to return.

“precarious”

I slept most of the day and hiked up my electric bill.  I had the AC running, hard.  I don’t want to work tonight and this strawberry mochi tastes like TCBY in Aruba when I was six.  Everyone got drunk for the first time that year and I didn't know what to make of it.  I thought it was a phase.  I just want to know if I got the job already.  I have to leave, walk to work, stay until close, and I don't want to.  I thought it would get easier.  I used to want my days free and now I want the nights back.  I wonder if I intervened too much.  I slept all day; I shouldn’t be tired. 

I get a migraine halfway through my shift and have to pretend it’s nothing; this is just how my face is, this is how I look when I work.  There are so many glasses to polish.  They keep coming in racks, and then the silverware, and then more glasses.  The busser is coked out of his mind and wants to leave by 11:30, but we won’t.  When I finally get in bed around 12:30am, my head is pounding so hard I can’t see.  I put a cold compress over my eyes and all I can think about is seventh grade.  When I was thirteen I was overcome with depression because Austin from my art class didn't love me back.  It made me feel weak and sick.  It overtook me.  I tried to change myself in small ways to make him love me, but he loved someone else and they had their time together and we didn't. 

Being depressed as an adult is another world of pain; a pain that almost doesn't hurt because it sucks so much.  There is nothingness in being a child, a kid, a student, with the illusion of care wrapped around you so tight like a comfortable blanket, warm, promising, hopeful.  As an adult, no one cares if you sit in your apartment all day and eat licorice or whether you ran a mile or whether you bite your cuticles ‘til they burn or whether you smile when you work or work at all.  It’s freeing and terrifying, both, at once.  I think about this as a cold arc of pain rises in my forehead.  I know the pain will pass, but it hurts, endless, in my mind.

When I stayed in Santa Cruz I went to this pizza place that gave away free t-shirts when you bought a slice.  I have no idea where that shirt went.  I loved it so much when I had it.  All we have is our art.  I woke up at 6:00am and the pain was still dull in the front of my face.  I went back to sleep until 9:00am and now it’s 5:00pm and I'm working on submissions.  I think all I can do is keep going, but I don't want to sometimes.  Sometimes I just want the things I love to love me back, and for that to be enough.  I miss that shirt, even though it’s stupid.  I miss it more than I should.

Virtue Signaling

I'm sorry for making you wash the spoon so I could have Cheerios on the way to class.  I'm sorry for going to K’s house and your friend saw us kiss in the driveway and I called you seventeen times from Panera and my soup got cold and I showed up at your house and you pushed me out the door and I understood why but you felt bad so you let me in and told me to go.  I'm sorry for turning away when you tried again in your new apartment and I said I wasn’t ready even though you had cantaloupe for me in the refrigerator.  I'm sorry for the way you listened so good.  I'm sorry the cab was so expensive.  I'm sorry you kept trying and trying and I never told you to stop.  I'm sorry that when we saw Drive, I thought about him all night and when you yelled at me at the Italian place I sat there and took it because I felt like I was no good and I knew we would never be because you held onto things from the past that I had let go of and moved on from and you didn't and I wanted him to call me and he didn't and that made it worse and you told me to eat my dinner so I did but I was empty and had nothing for you then.  I'm sorry about the pan I forgot to clean when we got high and had people over when your parents were away and you took mushrooms and couldn’t sleep so you sat outside until it was light and I drove home and knew there was an ending coming and that pan, I'm sorry it drove your mother crazy all those years.

Frozen Reese’s Cups

You blocked me before I blocked you.  Yes, I was curious.  No, I didn't want you back.  I wanted to see what the baby looked like, if there was still going to be a baby, if the baby had come yet, into the world from somewhere else, heaven- you’d say, because you believe in that now, and you’d say it was meant to be, written, declared, shouted, praised, and no hard feelings, but you had to block me.  The happiest we ever were was when you used to bring me coffee on your morning outings.  You didn't have to work until later in the day, so you went out to buy cigarettes and get yourself a bagel with cream cheese and got me a caramel macchiato and a chocolate donut with sprinkles.  I’d drop fifteen pounds after we separated.  And then you’d come home and I’d be doing my hair or packing my lunch and when I drove to school I was so happy that you had done something for me, for us, and I looked at the coffee in the cup holder and it gave me hope, so much delusional hope, that things would get better.  On Wednesday nights after temple I got sushi and a Coke and a package of Reese’s that I’d freeze until hours after I ate dinner and I’d enjoy it watching TV or standing in the kitchen with one leg straight, one foot perched on the other knee, like a flamingo, and I’d wonder where you were, if you were coming home, if you were staying out because you didn't want to fight or be wrong or have to be there, and sometimes I’d stand on the steps and look for lights, and the chocolate would melt onto my fingers and at least I tried to give myself something sweet.

Denomination

I think she was more disappointed than I was about not getting the job.  She sounded so sad, like it was her career on the line, her hopes and dreams slipping away because she didn't have the money she needed.  Everything is about that.

I remember counting the register in the morning, before we opened, still drinking my first cup of coffee, the one I drank before me and the other manager went to Starbucks in the mall to get caramel macchiatos, and I got the email, standing there, pouring quarters into their designated space, and he said he didn't want to take on the book, along with some other very nice things about my writing, but the gist was that it wasn’t going to happen, and I had hoped so hard at that moment that it would, I had been hoping so badly up until then, and then, all that hope was gone.

Apple cider vinegar, apple cider beer.  Towels drying, clothes hanging out to dry.  I thought I saw you on the street, and you thought you saw me, but we’re in different cities now, forever, together.

7.4

I know of what I speak like the white stuff I did for the first time last year on RJ’s rooftop party before I saw the man of my dreams and we watched fireworks from his roof and he made hamburgers and toasted my bun.  I remember the fourth of July party my mom’s friends threw at the building in Delray and I sat alone on the cushioned longue chair outside while the sun was going down and waited for A to call me back but he didn't.  I took pictures of myself in the mirror with no one to send them to because A didn't love me.

A holiday makes time feel stretched out, like a day can last forever.  Maybe it’s because we remember all the holidays of our lives, each celebratory cake, each firework, and compare them to one another like ex-lovers, trying to figure out if we’ve learned anything, if we now understand how to properly throw a party, be a good guest, or just show up to our own lives and the festivities that they require.

I think about all the people I’ve disappointed.  I think about all the times I could have been nicer, could have enjoyed myself.  On the roof that day, we the high as Georgia pines with gummy bears and Swedish fish and Cheeto puffs and Screwdrivers, felt higher than the fourteenth floor and the girls we met at the dollar store followed us up, up, up and out of the blue my man called me to tell me he was playing golf but he would be by in an hour so I absconded back to my own accommodations post haste.  It’s very strange living this way, in my haphazard spontaneity.  In the Lyft, driving through the mountains back towards North Hollywood, back to the apartment where I walked around until he came because I couldn’t sit still, I had no idea where the money would come from, how I’d survive a week, a month, a year, and all the girls had jobs with paychecks and wore pant suits and had beachy waves and manicured nails and I was trying to write my way out of this world, it was then that I felt like I was in the air, falling. 

Bummer

I couldn't wait to lose service in the canyon.  She kept texting me about how sorry she was, and I didn't want to hear it.

There will be people who want to show you things.  People who want you to have a nice time, enjoy your stay, come back, soon.

For a while I saved money by only eating one meal a day.  It made me lightheaded.  It made me alert. I felt good and horrible.  It was hard to work at the restaurant when I wasn’t eating.  Every French fry felt like it was so far away, like it was something I could only dream about and never achieve for myself.

He said, “You know what?  You’re a real bummer,” and I didn't disagree. 

6.14

She became a different person when she got married.  Literally her name changed, and I couldn’t find her online the same way I used to.

I tried for so long to tell her I wasn’t wrong about what happened.  But then I stopped, because maybe I was wrong.  I was wrong.  But the other day I was at Target and I remembered helping her shop for camp before it became the camp we both went to.  It was the first Target in our area that had three stories, and we were amazed at how our carts rode up the escalator next to us.  I remember her buying athletic shorts, cotton tops, pre-packaged underwear and long socks.  I remember thinking she would be gone for summer and I would stay, and all the things in the cart would be with her.

In stories I rename her.  Sometimes I don’t name her at all. 

Allergy Test

We covered the kitchen in suds.  It was my fault, really.  I forgot you can’t put dish soap in the dishwater, only the little pods, and I wanted to see the movie and remove the grease, so I let it go.  It was a good problem to have.  “We don't have to mop the floors tomorrow,” you said. 

I've been breaking out in hives.  Again.  This time I take myself to get an allergy test.  Twenty-something needles in the forearms.  I only react to crab.  Everyone says it’s stress, but everyone also thinks it could be something else.  My doctor gives me a fist bump and I cry on the way home.  Someone says, “Keep moving forward, just focus on the next thing in front of you.”

A Sudden Temple (A Gigan)

I talk to him about immortality, the way he will be

preserved forever in the written word.

 

I tell him about the love letters,

how they have been composed, directed

with misdirection, from the grey edge of our childhood.

 

He is too far away to feel, to get a hold of,

hold onto, hold forever.

 

This is what we are here for, born for, I say,

to build temples, impromptu, emerging

 

from that time we waited for mom,

outside the door in our pajamas, we stayed

 

silent until she came back.  But he remembers

her anger, and I remember the sweet center

of Chinese cookies in the park in autumn.

 

I convince him he is immortal, and like me,

the world will love him from a distance.

Recitation of the Immediate Future (A Palimpsest)

I am five at the indoor pool hanging onto the wall so I can see my mother outside reading on a lounge chair.  This is the building I will live in until I am eight and we move to Florida because my Grandma passes away and we need a change.  For now, the New York City skyline blocks the sun at different times of the day.  My mother suns herself and reads and I watch her.  I am afraid that she will die, for no reason in particular, except that I’ve recently realized she is my mother and I am her daughter and I will most likely outlive her.  I do not want this to happen and I show this by throwing tantrums at the mall, clinging onto her legs around the house as she does chores, and generally refusing to leave her side, making the morning drop-off at school a difficult feat with my crying fits.  A boy floats up to my spot on the wall and asks me if I want to play.  I say no and he says I am boring.  Boring; this word catches me off guard, and I dismiss it, ultimately, because nothing is more peaceful than looking at my mother, blonde and bronzed, reading her book, waiting for me to come outside and lay in her lap, staying alive for me and me only.

Two friends I no longer have convince me to drive to downtown Fort Lauderdale. We all just graduated high school.  Two of us will go to college.  The other will develop an insidious drug problem.  The girl is my current best friend and we, once inseparable, are becoming separable by the distances of our forthcoming universities, by the choices we make about boys, about our studies, about our bodies.  The guy is our best friend too, but he latches onto one of us at a time, craving our love, promising his in return, and sadly we do not want it, but we are lonely and bored and he is always coming back.  There is a snapshot of us standing in a lake on a middle school field trip, jeans rolled up to our calves, arms around each other, smiling.  The day I take this photograph off my wall and put it in the garbage does not come for a few more years.  We meet downtown and go to his apartment that his parents are paying for.  He came out gay in the tenth grade, but he wants me to hike up my dress and simulate sex on the bed with him, so I do.  It’s his birthday and we are the two girls that gave him the most trouble in school.  He was punched in the stomach for God’s sakes, because of me.  And when they want to go out for a drink when we are all underage, I say no, and they say, live a little.  In a few years when I am twenty-one, I try to do just so and they will both make sure I get my heart broken and they will pretend to understand my pain when it happens, and when I find out they are partly behind it and cannot forgive them, ever, they will tell me they wish I was dead.

I am twenty-seven when I move back to Los Angeles.  I have since learned how to deal with the state of love, slipping.  My wants and needs often contradict each other; I want to sleep, I don't want to sleep.  My old friends might describe me as flamboyantly ambitious.  I have not stayed in one place for too long.  My old best friend contacted me once when things were bad, and that was enough.  Other friends have disappeared into their own disasters, and from this, I try to make sense of our former hardships, the ways in which friendship does not always endure, but it dies, and dies again.  My mother always tells me to hold onto the good, let go of the bad, and look forward to the amazing.  My mother is my best friend in this life, the only person who I can fully trust, the only one who matters.  When I think about kids in classrooms, I tell myself that we were all just babies once, doing our best to understand the world, taste it all, drink it all in, grow up and grow already.  Then, out of the void, a small cruelty imparts on us, informs our bodies.  Sometimes we can hide in the shadows of tall buildings and wait for the darkness to pass, bring ourselves once again into the light, into the lovely, lovely light.  But more often than not, we find that it is easier to cower, to go amiss, to allow our whole lives to be disrupted by some unkindness.  Think of a body of water, the fractured elegance of a river, think of how it bends and twists, how it is full, full enough of what it needs to be.

Out to Lunch

“That’s when I realized it,” she says, cutting our Santa Barbara chicken sandwich in half, “Life’s so short.”

Exactly.  I have to sit here and pretend what she’s saying makes some kind of sense.  This is why I hate going to lunch.  She was late too, like really late.  Her idea of being “ten minutes away” is a lot different than my version, or everyone else’s rather.  I grab a handful of French fries.

“I was driving to David’s to get my hair cut and I saw this motorcycle all beat up on the side of the road,” she continues.  I watch her silver charm bracelet bounce up and down on the table while she cuts.  “There was an ambulance and everything, the woman driving it was being taken away.  It just made me realize you have to live your life, each day, to the fullest.”

She must feel like she’s stating a shrewd declaration.  I have to let it go.  I twirl my fork into the dish of pasta we’re sharing and put a mound on my plate. 

“How’s everything with you though?”

I don’t answer though.  I want to say something about how I don’t understand what she’s doing.  How I think she should stop being so flaky.  That she should stop what she has with this other guy and be with her boyfriend, who loves her so much it’s ridiculous.  He once waited at the mall while she tried on the same dress for an hour and a half and then didn’t even buy it.  I can’t say anything though.  She’s not systematically numbed to the idea of romance like I am.  She still believes in things and people and an overall conviction in the cosmos.  How can I let someone down like that?  I can’t.  I tell her that her eyeliner looks good.  It looks natural. 

Involuntary Admissions

Jaclyn screams for another Tootsie Roll,

the backseat banter of three six-year-olds

on the way to gymnastics.

I am still afraid to eat, disregarding

the tuna salad in my Mickey Mouse lunchbox.

My teacher

asks my mother

if I will ever eat again.

I like to be small;

a Barbie doll on the balance beam.

I like to be weightless;

floating, flying, falling into the foam block pit.

No one tells Jaclyn to be hush up,

and I can smell the watered down chocolate

on her mouth.

My mother is driving, and I know

she can’t stand the noise, too, like me,

she prefers the quiet of being alone.

Fragmentation

They’re all miles and miles away, thousands of miles. 

Driving through the woods reminds me of you.  Tall trees, so tall, so high, pointing up, reaching for God, reaching for heaven.

I ate my ice cream in the car ride home.

The clouds looked perfect, like a bad drawing of clouds.

I had no idea that I transgress plains that way.

It was nice to see him so, up.

B and her earrings.  It made me happy that she would put those on, an accessory, silver, dangly things that zig-zagged down her neck.

Another working title was, “The Vulnerability.”

An Ode to Mountainous Places

I wanted him to follow me outside and tell me everything was okay but he didn't so I had to stand out there alone and tell myself.  This wedding reminds me of other weddings.  This memory feels like I have to let go of something.  Like going into the desert when I was twenty-four, how I believed the vortexes would cleanse me of you, and after all that I saw you again.

It feels like a drag in the side.  No matter how many salads she eats, she will never be over you.  You just need to throw yourself into the work, that’s all.

Rilke- The Panther (Translation)

sight gazing the bars                                        easy supple stride,

so blunt sees nothing more.                            turns the smallest circle,

seems thousands are                                       a dance about a center

and nothing merely.                                        stands stupefied.

 

the pupil’s film

opens image fills

glides tension the limbs

the heart is still.