important milestones

It is the last night of this decade, whatever the hell that was. I'm not sure where I am, but it's snowing, at least.

There's about nine hours left in the year. I don't know what those will look like. It may just be spent drinking coffee liqueur and smoking cigarettes on the fire escape, talking on the telephone to a girl who's a hundred miles away but still thinks the best way to bring in the new decade is talking to me. Maybe we won't talk at all. Maybe I'll be celebrating with someone else entirely.

Nine hours. That's five hundred last minutes. Three thousand last seconds. And then this whole decade is over. Part of me knows nothing changes, of course. It's just another day, right? It's all completely arbitrary, just a way of keeping track of time. 2005 is still just five years ago. It all still happened.

But for the past few weeks everything has been so perfect, I just can't keep from smiling. I can forget all that, really forget. And that's my introspective for this decade: I'm trying to forget, and I'm succeeding, and I'm happy, and everything is finally going well. So in what may be one of the last sentences I write in the year 2009, in the decade of 2000-2009, whatever we're calling it, I am going to just say this: fuck 2009. This year is going to be awesome.

The weather forecast says that when I wake up tomorrow I'll be looking at something clean and white and pure and beautiful, and for once I believe it.


open book

I have a book that knows everything about me. My girlfriend gave it to me as a Christmas present, and I don't know if she knows what it does. I think she did. As I opened it she gave me a look that I only really figured out in retrospect, and even then I'm not sure why. Does she think I don't know myself well enough? Was that it?

It knows things I don't know, though. I'm not sure how I know they're true, but it knows them. Everything I do, every secret desire that I have suppressed or tricked myself into thinking I don't have, it's there. All written in this very cold, academic language. All referring to me only as "the subject." It changes, or maybe it knows everything I'll ever do and somehow I never read those parts. I don't know.

I feel like it should at least help me in some way, but it doesn't. The language is dense and hard to understand, and it's not like it helps me to know about--hang on--"latent issues with gender identity." Even if I didn't know about it already. It just makes me feel like there's nothing I can do about it. There's a page about that, too.

She asked me if I'd read it yet and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say--"Yes, thank you for the creepy book that tells me everything that's wrong with me?" I just said I hadn't. She seemed--hurt. "It really means a lot to me that you read it. Please?"

And that seemed all wrong. There's something here I'm not getting.


a time for reflection

My mirror doesn't work anymore.

That's not quite right. It works fine. Nothing broke, I mean, and anyway it's not just my mirror. What I mean is this:

I can't see my reflection anymore.

I don't know when it started exactly, but one day I noticed I was kind of indistinct in the mirror. A little transparent and a little blurry, and I thought it was just the mirror so I went over to my sister's house and it was the same there. "Do you see that?" I asked her. She said no.

Maybe I should have stayed and tried to figure it out, but instead we went out drinking, and made fun of the dancers and got really drunk. I made my way into the bathroom at one point and as I was washing my hands I stared into the mirror for a minute before realizing I just wasn't there anymore. It was upsetting so I told my sister I wanted to go home, and she agreed to split a cab and let me stay on her couch.

My reflection wasn't back by the morning, but my sister said she could see it just fine. She didn't see anything wrong. I decided to just leave before she could decide to get really worried about it. I visited my girlfriend and kissed her in front of the full-length mirror in her room. I wasn't there. I just didn't show up. In the mirror she was just standing there, looking happy and without me.

The mirror started showing things a little different than they were after a while. I wasn't there and people were different. She didn't have the jacket I'd got her. Her hair was different. Her room was decorated different. It would have been fine if the mirror world didn't seem so much happier, so much more beautiful. It was subtle but the differences were profound.

I broke all of my mirrors. Threw them off the roof of my apartment. I asked my girlfriend to move hers to places where I wouldn't see them. Nobody knew why, of course, and she didn't question it. I learned where they were and learned to avert my gaze or close my eyes.

I just want to understand where I've gone. It seems like even in the real world now I can see things the way they would be without me, and even my girlfriend's embrace feels like I'm seeing it through a glass darkly.


wrapping paper

For Christmas someone gave me the perfect girl, in the form of one of those little things you put in hot water and it turns into something. I didn't know what it was at first, so I put it in the water and took a nap.

When she woke me up I understood what she was with a sort of disturbing clarity. It was like I had known her for years--and she knew all of my secrets, my hopes, my dreams. I knew everything: the way she said things or didn't say them conveyed volumes more than anyone else could possibly detect. And she had the cutest smile and the softest hair and perfect skin, and she knew me like no one did.

The card that was associated with the box she came in got lost, so I didn't know who to write a thank you letter to. I wasn't sure if it was necessary. She said I shouldn't worry about it, so I didn't. It felt like a weird thing to ask.

By morning on the 26th I was starting to feel a little guilty. She was so perfect and she seemed so happy with me, but she deserved better, didn't she? I was sullen. She asked what was wrong and I lied and made something up. I could tell she didn't believe me, and I knew that I was the only person who'd be able to tell. I felt sick.

She was sullen and aloof all day, and spent most of time cleaning up. She tended to slam drawers and cabinets, and she threw garbage. She said she wasn't angry. By that evening we were fighting our own little cold war, and she eventually shouted at me. She trusted me implicitly. She lived to please me, literally. She deserved honesty. She deserved to be treated better.

I said some things I had no right to say to anyone, least of all her. I didn't really mean most of them, except that I knew they'd hurt her. She cried and fled the house. It was snowing.

A half hour later I went outside. Her footsteps barely reached the sidewalk, where there was now a spongy piece of red foam perhaps three inches in length, cut vaguely in the shape of a woman, covered in the fresh snow. I picked it up and left it on the mantelpiece above the fireplace. I made hot chocolate and sat down to write thank you letters for the rest of my gifts.


camera shy, pt. 5

I came home several hours later, to find her alone. She was lying on the bed with the covers in disarray, the crowbar and gun on the floor nearby. She was smiling and staring at the ceiling blankly.

I sat down next to her but she didn't stir. I said, "So, do you still want to go camping in two weeks?"

"Let's go now," she said, still not moving. "It's so perfect. We can go downtown and camp on the common and roast marshmallows on the burning buildings."

"What happened to--"

"Shut the fuck up and let me bask in the beauty of the moment," she said, and who the fuck am I to argue with that?

She lay just like that for what must have been hours. After a while I left and destroyed that last camera she'd missed, and set it down next to her on the bed. I sat on the roof of the building and watched the fires burning into the night. This wasn't mine to share.


camera shy, pt. 4

The rioters had overwhelmed the police before they had a chance to mobilize. They were armed and angry and destroying everything in their path. With the cameras everywhere everyone had a chance to flee, or join in. They were everywhere and they were growing.

Kelly watched with that same cracked smile. "That's amazing."

"Are you going to join them?"

"No. I'm waiting here. We can play again if you'd like."

And they waited, and played chess. Some of the police managed to organize and attacked the rioters. It was brief but bloody, but the rioters won. The cops routed. Really the whole thing was like that. It was hardly even hours before almost the whole city was rubble or burning, anyone who wasn't rioting had fled or gone into hiding. And then it was over and what do you do when you've just destroyed a city?

And my girlfriend played chess with a terrified electronic store clerk, so sure that no one was watching. And after a while the cracked smile became a natural one, an easy one, one that seemed really, truly happy. And suddenly I understood very clearly that I was watching a moment far more intimate than any I'd ever had with her. I stopped watching at about that point.


camera shy, pt. 3

I didn't watch the riots until later. It was just that suddenly everything exploded. Kelly, meanwhile, took her hostage back home and told her to sit on the couch. At this point the poor girl was terrified enough she didn't even need the threats. She sat down. Then Kelly took the crowbar and destroyed the cameras in the living room.

I ran into the living room, saying something like "What the fuck are you doing?" and Kelly pointed the gun at me and told me to sit down on the easy chair.

"I don't understand what's got into you," I said, and I realized it was a lie.

She did, too. "Get the fuck out. Get the fuck out of my house." I fled.

She walked around the house and looked for more cameras. She destroyed some things just because she could--but she missed one of the cameras. While the world was on fire I just sat and watched her.

"Can I get you anything?" she said to her hostage. "Some tea? Something to eat?"

"No, thank you."

"Would you like to play chess? I would like to play chess."

"I--I'd like that, thanks."

She set out a board. They played in silence for a while. Just the soft sliding and clicking of pieces being moved. Then, "I'm sorry I threatened to kill you." Click. "I wouldn't have really." Slide. "You seem like a nice girl. I'm sorry. I panicked."

"What's this all about?" Click.

"I was just tired of--of this. Nobody's honest. It's all sideways and fake smiles. It's not honest like--like bashing in a TV set." Then she smiled a cracked smile and said, "I think I fucked up real bad." Click.

"I'm not sure I know what you mean." Slide.

"No, me neither." Click. "Checkmate."

At about this time the old air raid siren went off, and they looked out onto the streets, where around them the world was discovering the honesty of violence.


camera shy, pt. 2

It was one of those things I probably should have seen coming. Nobody really gave it any thought when she went out and bought a crowbar. I mean, why should they? Everything was so perfect. She probably had a perfectly good reason. And when she got out her dad's old hunting knife she just said she was thinking of going camping soon. Maybe that was what the crowbar was all about.

She even invited me camping. "In two weeks," she said. "We'll go camping. It will be fun."

When she walked into an electronics store and smashed up all of the televisions and threw their shattered husks through the plate glass windows, it all seemed to make sense. The police didn't know what to do. It had been so long since they'd needed to do anything. There wasn't crime anymore. It was the strangest thing to watch. She looked so furious, just shouting obscenities at nothing at all, broken glass and electronics all around, the poor terrified girl at the counter just looking on.

They came and tried to talk to her, tried to get her to calm down, tried to find out what was going wrong. She ignored them. They raised their voices. She took the poor clerk hostage, knife to her neck, and demanded they let her go.

Then one of them remembered they had guns and drew on her. "Put them down or I fucking kill her," she shouted.

They complied, slowly. She picked one up and marched her hostage out into the streets. The whole world watched on the screens.

That's when the riots broke out.


camera shy, pt. 1

When they installed all the cameras, all of our problems went away. Anyone could go and watch anything that happened anywhere, so we all lived perfect lives, like on 50's TV. There were problems, but it was never a big deal. We all knew everyone was watching all the time so there was no more crime, and arguments were always minor and you could always resolve them over a drink later on, and we'd laugh about it and we'd all learn a valuable lesson about friendship.

It was freeing, in a way. We didn't have to worry about privacy or anything like that. We didn't need to worry about petty gossip or conspiracy. Everyone was honest and open and accepting.

My girlfriend, Kelly, was a quiet girl. She didn't smile much. She looked out at the world with big brown eyes and never told anyone what she saw. Sometimes she'd smile at me, when we were alone, but we were never alone anymore. Not with the cameras. She pretended to like them but I could tell she was lying. We couldn't talk about it, of course. Everyone would know.

There was still the written word, of course, but she wouldn't tell me anything. She kept a notebook and never showed anyone what was inside, not even me. She smiled less and less. She stopped talking. When we were out to dinner she would just sit and stare into the middle distance, fidgeting with her hands or her hair or whatever. Sometimes I'd ask what's wrong. "Just thinking about my mother," she'd say, and it would be insensitive to pry. Everyone else seemed fine with that as an excuse.

Still, I worried. The life seemed to have gone out of her. But her eyes glittered like she had a secret, and sometimes she talked in her sleep and I felt like I almost caught a glimpse of her plan.

what i did for love

When I was seventeen you told me you could only love a great man, a man of magnitude. I thought we were in love. You went off to college. I almost cancelled all of my plans. Almost. Instead I carried through with them with conviction. I finished my bachelor's. I finished law school. I entered politics. I had a career. Everyone was amazed at how driven I was, how successful. They didn't understand.

You called me when I was twenty-six to say you were engaged. I asked you if he was a great man, a man of magnitude. You hesitated and said you had to go.

And I continued. I was becoming an influential figure. I was clever, charismatic, driven, articulate, perceptive. I had a future, everyone said. And I rose quickly. Everyone remarked on how selfless I was, even as everything I did advanced my career--I let others take the spotlight while I built ideas, made connections.

When I was thirty-four we met once for coffee while I was passing through and you talked about your life, and I asked if you were happy. I asked if he was everything you had hoped he'd be. You said you weren't. You continued on.

I'm forty years old now. I have the president's ear. I could make him do anything if I wanted. It's all I ever wanted. I built this war for you. Tomorrow when you hear the news talking about it--the bombs we dropped on those people, the president, grave, stern, talking about how we had to, using big words like freedom, liberty, and talking about how we were threatened--when you see the mushroom clouds and the carnage and the dying and you hear all the protests and the outrage and the hawks are supporting that decision--I want you to know that was me. I did it for you.

They look to me for guidance now. They look to me to see if they're doing it right. I'm the one this country looks up to. I'm a great man now. I'm a man of magnitude. I can shatter the world. I think I have. There's no way the world will forgive us for this. People will die--this will go down in the history books as the day the world fell. Because I love you. Because I said I would do anything for you, and I knew you'd take nothing less.



When the war came, we fled west, away from the city. This country is big enough we were sure we could hide, maybe forever. Are they really going to care about this little midwest town we're hiding in? Will the tanks roll over main street here?

Everything is so quiet here. I don't know if it was always like that. Lots of the boys went off to war, and nobody talks much, about them, or about anything. There's a TV or a radio on everywhere and it's always mushroom clouds and rubble and bad news from the front. More death totals. Every day another city fell.

I thought this would mean we'd last forever. I thought it would bring us together. But there's something cold and distant in her eyes now. Ever since she saw the end coming, she's been withdrawn. She'll say things like, "What does it matter?" and "We'll die anyway," which seems more true every day, I guess.

We were going to wait out the war together, keep hidden. It would be just us. I thought maybe it would repair those little rips we had in our relationship, that maybe the end would finally bring us together forever.

It turns out forever is a word you only see in movies.


one more cigarette

Freedom is her hand refusing to release mine on my way out the door, her voice as she asks me to stay for one more cigarette, at least. I say, "Okay, one more," and she joins me on the porch. It's snowing pretty hard by now, and the wind is blowing so it takes forever to light up. And then we do and it's so quiet and peaceful and beautiful.

"I'm going to miss this," I say, and she nods.

There's always a moment when it snows and you're outside where the cold feels perfect, and the snow seems to make the city immortal. This moment feels like it will last forever, and it does, in a way. Our hot cider is steaming in the cold and our cigarette smoke dissipates almost immediately, and nothing can change. We're warm and cold and alive.

And I'm just about to leave, and I can never go back.

We finish our cigarettes and stay for a while longer until the cider is gone, and then we set that down and stay for a while, watching the snow, not looking at each other. Then the moment passes. I stand up and say, "Well, it's been fun."


"Thanks for the cigarette."

She kisses me once, briefly, and turns to go inside. I walk off, leaving footprints in the virgin snow. They won't last forever. Freedom is transience.


an apology

Dear F______,

I wish I had an explanation for my behavior. Well, I do, but it's not an excuse. There are no excuses. I'd just discovered a lot of things as if for the first time. I took it all very seriously. I was young and intelligent and the world was a question and there were answers, I was convinced. I thought I was right about a lot of things.

I think love was one of those things I had just discovered. Obviously I'd always known about it, but you, you were different. It was like I'd just been born or something. Nothing else mattered. And I took that very seriously, too. I took it very seriously when you left. I thought I understood a lot of things and suddenly it was all going wrong.

That made me angry. I finally found a definition for my self [sic] that seemed complete. The only problem is that definition was basically you. Is that what love is? I don't know. Sometimes I have problems with that, the self and other. It wasn't just someone leaving me. It was a part of me--it was me, that was going away. I hated you for it, and I hated myself for hating you. And then I desperately wanted you to come back, but I knew that couldn't happen and I hated you all the more for it, even if it was my fault.

I meant only for the best. I truly meant well. Even before, the little things that drove you from me, I thought I was helping. When I talked to you about how much I hated your religion or how cruel I thought your family was I thought I was doing some good. I thought maybe you'd come around. I thought it would all end different, I guess.

I know enough now to know that I was wrong. I am blessed with enough knowledge to know I don't know anything.

You are happy now. That is what I hear. Things are finally going right for you. I'm glad, and I hope it really lasts forever for you. Or as long as you like. You deserve nothing less.

I'm sorry I thought I understood the world. I'm sorry I tried to impart my grand wisdom to you. I'm sorry I couldn't understand how you were something entirely other than me, or that I was entirely other than you, and I'm sorry that I didn't understand that thinking something does not make it so. I'm sorry I didn't treat you with the respect I insisted that every human deserves to be treated with. You deserved better, and I may never get the chance to express how inexpressibly glad I am that you finally found better.

With fondest regards,
R__ M____


nature versus nurture

I've read all about the problems I have, trying to blame them on my mother. Her genes, the way she raised me. The little box of pills I have set out for the week is a color-coded plastic cage, seven little containers of things I never wanted to do. Smiling like a normal person, seven days at a time. And they work, too. I laugh and smile and act like nothing is wrong so long as I stick to the routine.

They've finally found a way to make me human, I guess. My mother didn't do a good enough job.

The thing is the doctors don't know what causes it. Not really. It turns out it's complicated. It seems like all their studies have been inconclusive. They don't know if it's environmental, they tell me. Maybe it's hereditary. Maybe it's something else entirely--some wires didn't develop right, or something like that.

I just know my mother tried her hardest and that wasn't good enough. She gave everything she had for me and she didn't have enough to give. And she hated me for it. She shouted at me, insulted me, did everything short of beating me--and maybe she even did that a few times, times I can't remember or don't want to. And all I ever wanted to do was get by. I wanted to make her happy. I never did. I never got a smile.

I haven't talked to her in years. I still get so angry just thinking of her. Sometimes I get letters. Sometimes she calls. "Hello?" she'll say, and she says my name. I tell her I don't live here anymore. I hang up.

I can't stand to let her see me the way she always hoped I'd be, all happy and well-adjusted and living a normal life, chained to these fucking pills.


nightmares again

I've been dreaming about my sister lately. It's been years since I saw her. We talk sometimes.

In my dreams we're kids again. It's not always clear how old. Sometimes it's high school, sometimes I'm just starting kindergarten. We're always together, but there's always some looming catastrophe just ahead. We won't be together for long. Sometimes it's me who sees the disaster, and I'm trying to tell her about it but I can't explain it right or she thinks it's just another game, right up until it's too late, or sometimes not even then. Other times she's trying to tell me about it and I'm not paying attention, because doesn't she understand how upset I am over this girl, or how excited I am about this new book? Or maybe I don't understand her point, or I think she's wrong or she's just telling me about a dream.

There's always a catastrophe. A fire, a flood, a kidnapping. It's always forever. There's no chance for a reunion in dreams.

Tonight I don't remember what it was, I just remember her face and her scream getting suddenly cut off and then I wake up, screaming, too. I called her up. It must have been ungodly early there. "Hey, how's it going?" she said, still cheerful.

I say, "I'm doing all right," and decide that maybe I can tell her about the dreams some other time.


After the last forests get eaten up, thirty years from now, and the mountains are being mined to the core, stripped of anything remotely valuable in them or blasted for roads and highways, society doesn't stop working. What isn't desert waste is urban sprawl now, just miles and miles of it everywhere you go. But we keep on. Science is flourishing. They've figured out how to keep us alive forever, even without all the trees and lakes and rivers. We don't need that.

One of our best scientists invented time travel. It only goes back so far. I grew up rich and with nothing to worry about and with all the best connections, and the right training. They let me volunteer to go back, to test everything. I'm not supposed to touch anything or do anything that would change the timeline because of paradox or whatever, but I don't need to worry about that. I'm not interested in the people so much.

Do you know there's still trees here? I did some research when I got here and I found someone to take me out to some cabin in the Wenatchee National Forest. We drove over these beautiful snow-capped mountains to get there. The poor girl who was driving me thought I was crazy, all staring agape in wonder at everything.

And then we got there and there were no people around anywhere in sight, no buildings, no sprawl. Just the road and the little cabin and the trees, which were alive and beautiful and free. It was quiet.

I told her, "I've never seen anything like this," and she agreed it was beautiful, like she has never had to understand why she appreciates it.


no more cigarettes

I have stopped wondering if I could have done things different. I don't think I could. Maybe that's fatalistic of me to say. I don't know. I don't know anything anymore.

I know this: when you try to plan for the future, for a conversation, it doesn't work. It just doesn't pan out. It sounds scripted, forced. It sounds insincere. And you say the words--even the little ones you'd practised, like how you would say "hi there" instead of hello like you usually do, and you would smile, and it would be disarming. But it just comes out all weird, like the inflection's off or something. Little things.

I gave her my last cigarette. The worst part about it all is how calm she was. She just watched me and smoked, her expression blank. Or maybe it was even a little annoyed? I don't know. I just know that I had to throw the script out because it wasn't the right one. I still think it was scripted in a way, though. I don't think it could have panned out different. I think that the conversation we had was the only conversation it was possible for us to have.

People tell me that's fatalistic. Maybe it could have been different. Maybe even little things change it. Maybe I shouldn't have let her have that cigarette, which she just used to keep me so far away. I don't think I'll smoke again. I'm done with coffee, too. But I know it would never be different. The things that would change it could never change. I will always give her my last cigarette. I will always be a few minutes late.

And always, after I'm done talking, after I've given my desperate speech, the one that I know I'll regret even while I'm giving it and I do it anyway, all fragmented and pleading and demeaning, all crazed ultimatums and insane declarations, after all that, she'll pause just a little too long, and she'll put her cigarette down--it is hers now--and she'll take a sip from her coffee liqueur, and she'll set that down too, and she will look me in the eye. She'll say, "I'm not sure how you expect this to continue, Rob," in that icy tone.

And I will always say, "Please?" as if the word would change something, or for that matter, as if wanting something so desperately that all you can say is "please" would change something--to which she will always reply, "There's really nothing more I have to say to you."

And she's right. That's where it always ends. There are no farewells. She packs up her things and leaves, her drink unfinished, her cigarette still smouldering in the ashtray.


after the bombs

"There must have been a moment, at the beginning, were we could have said no. But somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time." Stoppard said that, and it's comforting in times like this, with the city on fire in the distance and the sirens finally dying down. They'll be here soon. I don't remember ever thinking about it. I don't remember there being a choice. Not even that moment of paralysis where you're afraid to do what you know you have to do.

It's almost quiet now. The bombs have stopped going off. The little crackling radio my ladylove found is telling us the fires are under control, that it's over. It's going to be all right, they keep telling us. And we hold each other's hands and hope that it really, truly is.

We've done something ugly. We can't take it back now. I don't know if we ever could. I don't know if we could ever even stop ourselves. I'm just gripped with this weird certainty that if we were ever free, it was only right now. When the glass broke on the windows of those faceless offices, when the fires blossomed out, that is when we finally started being free.

If even then. We had no choice, or we missed it. Can you really be free if you didn't choose it? We're dead either way.

out of the ordinary

They probably think I haven't noticed, but I have. The world stops spinning when I'm not around. I don't think I phrased that quite right. It's hard to explain. But nothing happens if I don't notice it. It's not a solipsist thing. There's definitely other people there. But they are frozen when they are offstage. The sets get all rearranged and they only spring to life when I walk into the room.

They try to hide it. They try to make it seem really uncinematic most of the time. Of course, why would we only start it here? If the world were just here to convince you that it's real we'd probably do some much more interesting things than this! But I know. I can read between the lines. The way things are always so perfect, and of course the way they're not.

Of course, that's why the world is playing games with me, too! It understands the narrative even if no single person truly can. That's why things happen the way they do. Just when it seems like everything's going so well the one thing that truly matters slips away. Oh, sure, it looks like a coincidence. That's the whole point. That's the genius of it.

I just want to get her back. That's all I've wanted this whole time. I let her get away and I am so sorry. And now that door is closed forever. Just one evening! That's all I wanted. Is that so much to ask? One evening? I'll never get that chance again. And it all happened so perfectly naturally. I was ready to take on the world and pretty sure I could win. Then, as worlds do, it all came crashing down.


character study by the light of the morning

I can never remember dances the morning after, and last night we danced longer than usual. It is, perhaps appropriately, a blur of motion and passion and music. And we danced until we couldn't dance anymore and then went back to her hotel room and talked about how sore we were, how sore we were going to be, and it was in happy tones--it was a good kind of soreness. We didn't want the night to ever end but we were too tired to keep it going. I took a shower and by the time I got back to bed she was sound asleep, still wearing that red dress. I smiled and climbed into bed next to her.

We slept.

Somehow morning changes everything. I was still sore and not at all in a good way. She woke up when I stirred and sat bolt upright, hair a mess, no longer the peaceful image of a girl who'd danced until she couldn't keep her eyes open but someone who's been disturbed and isn't happy about it.

"What time is it?"

"I don't know. Morning."

She grunted and laid back down on the bed, draping an arm over her eyes. "It's so bright. Make the bright go away."

"I'm afraid I can't."

She sighed. After a long silence she looked at me with one eye and said, "Well, I had fun last night."

But there was something about how she said 'last night' that made it more than just that. She italicized the words. She distanced herself from them. It was emphasized in just such a way, as if to say, "The fun did not survive to the morning. It stayed in the evening when we were dancing and happy.

I tried to ignore this fact as I asked if she wanted coffee. She said, "Do you have any earl grey?"

We did.



Every song I listen to is just variations on the same theme. Every picture I see is hers, her eyes so bright, her smile so free. Everyone I talk to uses her words. L'enfer, c'est les autres. Hell is remembering. Everything is different now. It's been years. I've made many more mistakes since then, and a few good decisions. I have fallen in love with someone else entirely, a punk rock girl who has me completely enchanted. She is not the first girl I have fallen in love with, but sometimes I think she may be the last. I have met many people and forgotten most of them. Right now everything is beautiful.

And yet.

There is a picture where she is holding a cigarette. She is smiling and saying something to the photographer. There's a moment that was captured there and there was a moment, many years ago, when I would have thought I'd be part of it. I don't know who's behind the camera. I don't know what she's saying. In the next shot her eyes are closed and she is laughing. She looks so happy. She looks so different. It kills me that I can never know that.

I have made many mistakes. I have missed opportunities. This morning it was raining and windy and bitter cold and I forgot to smile at someone who smiled at me first. I regret that. They say things like "hindsight is always 20/20" but they are full of shit. Hindsight is blinding. I don't know if I'd be happier if I hadn't fucked up. I know that everything would be completely different.

There is a photograph I still have of us. It's the most candid photo of me I have. We're both on the floor, laughing, exhausted, like there isn't someone there taking our picture. It's so unselfconscious. I feel so weird about it now because there was someone there and what were we doing? Didn't we care what we looked like?

I have the most beautiful girl in the world and I am sitting here worrying about the mistakes of years ago. I am so happy and so lucky to have her and she helps stabilize my fractured self like no one else ever has. I don't know how to write about that.


four hundred

I spent today travelling. There's not much left to say except that I'm tired. It's not a lack of sleep, or not wholly. Some days I'm not even sure what it is. Living eventually catches up to you.

And tired is really all that I am. I could be angry or upset or depressed or frustrated. Instead I'm just tired. I've finally alienated everyone I cared about. Normally I'd be talking about how you only get so many mistakes even with saints but let's be honest, she wasn't a saint. She was a good person but she made her mistakes as well. It's just she finally had enough of mine.

So there's nothing keeping me here anymore, so I left. After all the posturing, all the fighting, all the words--the ones we'd take back if we could and the ones we wouldn't--it was over. I packed my bags and I left. I could have felt regret or longing or nostalgia, but it's over and I just want to rest.

Maybe it will all come rushing back. Maybe I'll see some Brooklyn girl lighting up a Parliament and I'll remember that evening when we drank coffee liqueur and smoked Parliaments and I kissed her because I wanted to and never could explain to her what that meant. And I'll wonder if I'd explained if things would be different. Maybe she'd have been able to endure a little more for me or from me if she knew, if she really knew, how much it all meant to me.

I know there's lots of little things even on my person, in my bags, that will make me think of her eventually. She gave me this jacket. She's the reason I bought these shoes. But the emotion seems so distant now. Does meaning fade with time? Can your attachment to something finally die?

I hear it snowed today. I wonder if it's white and beautiful out, all hushed and peaceful before the city wakes.


can i help you?

I spent most of the afternoon browsing a local record store. It was one of those days where I felt like listening to something new, but I didn't know what I wanted--I so seldom do. So I browsed. The store was mostly empty, except for one or two other people and the girl who was working the counter. I'm not sure what the right word is for that. Is it clerk? Is she a record store clerk?

And then I guess because I looked uncertain and it's her job anyway she says, "Can I help you?" and there's so many ways I could answer that without even getting to the obvious innuendo you could make there. I mean, how do you say "I want to listen to one of those bands that was really good but never had a chance to go mainstream because they weren't lucky or didn't have the business savvy or never wrote a single that caught the right person's ear so they probably just opened for some of the more famous local bands a few times and did some aggressive touring and maybe even made a CD which a few people listened to and thought was really great, but they never took off or made it big, or even really made it locally. I want undiscovered gems. Can you even ask somebody for those?

So I just said, "You know, I don't really know."

"What are you looking for?"

"Haven't the foggiest." And I smiled, because there's a lot to be said for admitting that you have no idea what you want. "Sorry."

And I almost feel like her smile in response was genuine.


The most important people to me are those I've wronged.

I don't mean that like "I always hurt the people I love." That's probably true but that's not what I meant. No, I mean that these people know me the way nobody else does. I've said and done some fucking terrible things to people. And you know what? That was I. That was me. I did that. Me. And then you just move on and pretend it never happened. But they know what happens when I'm not smiling my crooked smile, or making dismissive jokes about the world, acting like I don't care about anything. They've seen the fire in my eyes, tasted the poison on my tongue.

I'm remembering a time when I was breaking up with a girl whose name belonged in poetry--or I guess to be accurate she was breaking up with me--and we were arguing and we both hated each other so much, and we knew each other so well, and we both said a few things. They were the sorts of things where it doesn't matter if it's true, or if you really mean it. Just the act of saying them is unforgivable. By the time she stormed out of the room we were both crying. By the time she slammed the door we knew each other more intimately than we knew anyone else.

If this were a movie we'd be best friends now. We'd be there for each other and keep each other sane, because we know what monsters we are under everything. We'd keep the monster in check. She'd be dating a boy from California with an indomitable spirit and an acoustic guitar, and I'd be dating an adventurous Brooklyn native whose many piercings are only outnumbered by her many talents. Some cute indie pop band would do the soundtrack, and we'd go on an adventure across the country, just the two of us. We'd fight when the car broke down in Wisconsin, and in the Infinity Room at the House on the Rock we'd see something hilarious and we'd both laugh and hug and promise never to fight again. Then we'd fix the car. The credits would be a montage of us driving home and laughing, windows down, hair flowing in the wind.

Since this is the real life the last time I saw her was a few years ago, and we sometimes keep in touch on Facebook, but nothing substantial. We've both tried and we just can't really talk anymore. The last time we met was when she was moving away. We ate at the diner where we had our first date, not quite on purpose--for either the first date or the last meeting--and we spent most of the time staring at our meals and making awkward small talk.

"So, how was your day?" "Are you excited to move?" "Is everything packed?" "I'll see you around, I guess."

Whenever I think of her I think of her with her beautiful eyes brimming over with tears, her voice hoarse from screaming at me, but the white-hot fury of the moment was fading, and I could tell I'd hurt her, and I just pressed on. And then she said all sorts of things to me and stormed out, and when the door slammed I felt like the worst person to ever live.

I'd be so afraid that part of me would be lost to the history books, hidden under my little facade, but I know she remembers. I hope she'll pass it on. What's the good of owning your mistakes if they're forgotten?

type as in archetype, pt. 3

A confession. I'm not actually sure if both of those stories are about her. I mean, they definitely happened, I think, and I'm pretty sure it was her. But the memory's a tricky thing. You know how people can shift from one person to another in your memories? And maybe that's why she didn't look familiar. The more I think back on our time together the more I find that my memories are like that. She could have been anyone. Like my memory of her is nothing more than my memories of everyone else I've ever been with. There's only one that I really remember--and that's the last night we were together.

A memory. She had just gotten a kitten. I stopped by her apartment to find her playing with him, and she just looked so happy. I think we'd just been fighting but I don't remember about what. She looked up, and the smile faded, just a little bit, and she said "Listen, we can't do this anymore."

There was a finality about the way she said it. The kitten attacked her hand and she laughed.

Everything in her apartment, I noticed, was in boxes now, many of them bearing fresh claw marks. A few things had been left out, like the typewriter on the desk in the corner. I remember that. I walked over to it, but she stood up and blocked my way. "I'd like you to leave."

I gave her a few days before I tried going back, only to find the apartment completely empty, except for the typewriter and a single sheet of paper, on which was typed:

don't leave. don't leve.i have to l;eave im sorry

followed by her signature, unsteadily.

I tried calling but her number had been disconnected. My emails were returned undeliverable. None of her friends knew where she was. Her family responded to my questions with hostility--"That's not funny," her brother said, before hanging up the phone. As far as I could tell she'd completely disappeared.

Including, apparently, from my memory.


type as in archetype, pt. 2

A story. Six months later I ran into her again. I want to say it was something like "it was like we'd never been apart," but she'd cut her hair and she wasn't sure if she knew me, either. It was at a cafe and she was just staring at me for what seemed like forever before she came over and said my name, and then said, "I got a typewriter. Would you like to see it?"

And I said sure before I knew who this strange woman was. I probably should have asked just then. I finished my coffee and walked with her to the little place she called home. Never once in all the time I knew her did I ask if it was really a home, and sometimes I feel guilty for that. I have called a lot of places home and these days I'm not even sure what I mean by that.

Then I sat down on her couch, awkwardly. The typewriter was on a little desk in the corner of the room. "Do you want a drink?" she said. She came back with two cans of PBR. She opened one and handed it to me, smiling exactly like she was enjoying herself.

"Can I ask you something?"


"Who are you?"

And she smiled and told me how we'd used the word "we" and it felt so natural six months before, and then she leaned in close, her breath smelling of cheap beer just like it did six months before, and whispered "I'd hoped you'd remembered" in my ear. I wish I could say she kissed me then. I could feel her nose brush my cheek as she moved away and sat at the typewriter. "But I guess six months is a long time."

There had been others before me and there would be others after. I knew that. I didn't know why we both wanted this to be special. I'm not sure if either of us thought it was.

type as in archetype, pt. 1

A memory:We didn't mean to meet. I say that like you normally intentionally meet people. Like everything in the world isn't just a series of perfect accidents. But we sat down across from each other and you know how sometimes you're just on the edge of the conversation with someone else? And then we went to the party that night.

It was so late by the time we realized what time it was. From one of those awkward conversations where one of you is halfway out the door to sitting on the front steps with a cigarette. One of us glanced at the clock across the street and said "That can't be the time," but it was. And one of my friends was stumbling his way home. I stopped him and asked if we could sleep on the floor, and he was apparently too drunk to notice the "we" but neither of us were.

I don't know if I actually slept. It was cold and the floor was hard and we just talked until the sun came up and the trains were running again, and with a smile and a "We should do this again some time" it was six months until the next time we spoke.



The last few weeks I've been staying with this girl I've known for years. She is a saint, or maybe an angel. It's not that she's always been there for me, because most of the time we were on our separate ways. But if I ever needed a place, like I do now--just somewhere to lie low until the bruises fade, metaphorical and otherwise, and I'm back on my feet.

I try to stay out of her way, more for my sake than hers. She only has one request of me, and that's "I don't want to be touched."

She didn't used to be like this. When we were both teens we dated for a while, like teens do, exactly like we were the only people in the world, until that faded, as teenage relationships do, but somehow the friendship never did. I guess it's because she's a living saint.

A few weeks ago when I called her and told her I needed help she said sure, as I knew she would, as I felt so guilty for knowing, and when I tried to hug her at the door she just cringed and said "I don't want to be touched," and I couldn't ask, right?

If only. A few nights in I asked and she looked at me like she didn't know what I was talking about, and I stupidly pressed the matter until I could see she was uncomfortable. I decided I'd drop it, but damage done--she wouldn't talk to me for the next week.

I'm not so good at knowing how to thank people for their hospitality so I just try to stay out of the way. Clean up, leave no messes, that sort of thing. She's talking to me again now but now I think it's time to find someone else to stay with, and I don't think there's a way I can really make it up to her.



Sometimes I get tired of telling these stories of dysfunction, but apparently someone did a study. Turns out you're better at communicating when you're in a bad mood. But it's Thanksgiving so I should at least tell a Thanksgiving story.

I think this was in 2007. 2007 was a dead year for me. I was seeing this girl and neither of us really--I mean, we got on fine but there was no chemistry there. It was a relationship in the school of "anybody warm," and she was warm, at least, which was probably good because we both lost power on Thanksgiving. Her family was--I don't even remember where, somewhere on the east coast, somewhere far away. I was staying with her because I didn't want her to be all lonely. Nobody should be lonely on Thanksgiving.

Which seemed weird to me at the time. That I thought it was special, I mean. Wasn't that our entire relationship? Nobody should be lonely, so we had each other. It wasn't much but it was much better than the alternative.

And there wasn't any power so we couldn't actually cook anything we'd bought, which was mostly just canned, except the tofurkey. I suggested we find a restaurant at least and she said, "There's nothing so lonely as going out on Thanksgiving." And of course everyone was out of town so we just curled up at home and ate some of the perishables that would otherwise go to waste. It was actually really nice. Nothing else mattered and we had each other, you know?

I don't even remember why we broke up, but it wasn't for anything memorable. I think we just both decided that we could do better than someone whose only qualifications were "being there." Can you blame us?

I hadn't thought about her until just today. I had a lot of hopes for 2007 and none of them came through, but she was there and it made the whole thing a lot more bearable.


haunted attics

And finally there was a girl who liked taking me to explore abandoned buildings and haunted attics. We never even kissed but in public she would take my hand and we'd walk like one of those couples, with a spring in our steps, bouncing into each other the whole time.

That also only lasted a summer, but in many ways it was the most intimate I ever got with anyone. It was so quiet and perfect, these empty places. She really came alive in these places everyone else had forgotten. And though she was showing them to me it was really just for her. I don't think I was even remotely necessary.

There was an evening in an old sanitarium where we sat and took pictures and shared a cigarette and drinks from a flask I'd brought with me, and suddenly there was knocking and whispering and I'd swear there was a ghost there. She saw it too. It was frightening and worrying and exciting. And then it was gone and we took our bikes and went home.

We parted amicably at the end of the summer. She told me if she didn't have to move across the country maybe something could have happened between us. Of all the girls I've dated she's the only one I keep in contact with. We've both had other relationships since then. The moment's passed but we're still good friends.

Except that never happened. None of it. There was no haunted attic and she wasn't the one there because there was no her--it was someone else entirely, someone just as unattainable. It was a beautiful evening, but after it was like nothing ever happened. It's been a year now and every time I see her I think of that, with the last light of the day shining in through the window and leaving those little columns of light and dust.


holding the maps

And then there's the girl that I travelled across the country with. It was probably the best few weeks I've ever had, a late August when nothing mattered except the trip. It was the only good August I've ever had. I completely missed the worst parts of it.

It feels like we visited a hundred diners. I don't know how many it was. We lived out of her old Volvo stationwagon. Sometimes we'd stop at a hotel or a hostel for the night. We'd tell everyone we saw, mostly bored waitstaff who maybe even found our story interesting. We'd talk about what we'd seen. We'd seen a lot. We'd been to more cities than some people have ever seen in their lifetimes. We'd seen so many roadside attractions, just to say we had.

We slept under the stars in the badlands in South Dakota, where the land is still sacred, and made love under the open skies of Montana. We got hopelessly drunk and lost in Brooklyn and complained about the pizza in Chicago.

There's one moment that I remember more clearly than all the rest of them, the one I think of when I think about her now. I don't even remember where it was, or if it even really happened. It was the middle of nowhere, some town off I-90, where the waitress couldn't have been more than seventeen and thought we were the coolest people she'd ever seen, and we were looking over the maps--Idaho, it was in Idaho--trying to figure out where we were going. And as I was smoothing out the map she pointed at something and her hand brushed mine and there was just a moment where our eyes met, this moment of perfect clarity.

Before and since we'd done so much more than brush hands so many times, but that's the only moment where we both knew it couldn't last forever. We'd just set out. We tried to make it forever but there's only so much you can do.

When we got back to Seattle we were exhausted, but the timing was perfect and we had just enough time to get blind drunk at the bar where we'd set out, and stagger back to her apartment and thank God she kept a spare key because she left hers in the car which was miles--years--away downtown now, we'd get it in the morning, and then she poured shots of whiskey. And she was laughing when she raised her glass to me and said "Forever!" and we drank to forever.

I blacked out. The next thing I remember is waking up next to her with a terrible headache. She was wearing my shirt. I got myself some water and stole a jacket and left.

We never really talked since. It's been a year, now. She called me once, drunk, at some bar in Ballard. She couldn't hear me, but it's probably for the best. There's really nothing left to say.


There was a girl I dated once who didn't know my real name until we'd been dating forever. Or maybe it was just a few weeks. She'd heard it once but she didn't remember. She just called me by a pseudonym she knew was false. It worked. And then it had gone past the point where you could ask, and should I have told her? was it funny? and neither of us seemed to care that much.

I'm just thinking one evening where we were watching some movie on my laptop, just lying on my bed one hot summer night, and the air conditioner was broken in my building, and she kissed me and next thing I knew the movie was over and it was hot and dark and we were naked and it was still hot out, and it seemed so peaceful and perfect.

This was early on in our relationship and she hadn't figured out my name yet. And she said something like "This is nice," and I agreed, and she laid her head on my chest and just seemed so happy, or maybe contented is the word I want, and all I could do was sit there and think "she doesn't even know my name."

She didn't know my name. She found out at a party a few weeks later when one of my friends called me by name. "Oh, your name's Rob?"

"Yeah, I guess."

Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if she never found out.



The word rational keeps coming up in my studies. We're assuming that X are rational actors, where X is something which is at least one living, breathing human who knows what it feels like to have their hearts pounding in their chests, to love and be loved, to be afraid that they will never know that feeling again. Rational means self-interested, is ultimately what it comes down to. A rational actor is one who acts according to its own best interests--define that however you want. There is no room for sentiment here. A serious scholar has no room for the whispered promises that this moment will last forever. The scientist does not believe in moonlit kisses or escaping by sunrise.

According to academics, every action can be explained wholly rationally. I started that fight with my best friend because I thought I stood to gain from it. I ran away when he tried to apologize because I thought I stood to gain from it. It had nothing to do with the burning emotions of the moment, how much I hated him and every single word he used, how terrified I was that I'd destroyed something I loved.

Any scholar will tell you that merely because an actor is rational does not mean they will always win--that a twenty percent chance of success is better than zero percent. Any rational actor would have done the same. They do not believe in regret. They do not believe in the cold isolation of the early morning hours when your blood is no longer boiling and your cooler head prevails and you are alone with your mistakes.


Opportunity is all around us. Every day in every way we have thousands of opportunities to better ourselves, to improve our networks, to advance. That's what they tell me, anyway. Seize the day, and so on. There's all sorts of bullshit for me to buy into about making the most of what I have. Except that what I have is a lull in conversation and nothing left to say, because what can you say to someone? Are you even allowed to be sincere anymore? Am I supposed to say something clever? Is that just a sign I fucked up somewhere?

Maybe there's a lot to be said for not saying anything, but now she's smiling apologetically and moving on--not sorry to be leaving but sorry that it's me she was leaving, that I wasn't as perfect as I could be. And maybe not even that. Sometimes life just didn't work out right. The stars were wrong.

Only now we're falling into bed and it's so perfect. None of the awkward pauses and silences matter. It's all about now. There is nothing more exciting than right now.

Which is to say: nothing will ever be more exciting than this. This is the best we will ever do. Nothing more meaningful or worthwhile than this. No thrilling conversations or brilliant turns or phrase. Just the knowledge that we've peaked right where we are. We might as well make the most of it--we'll never have this opportunity again.

It feels so inevitable. I want to sabotage the system, ruin everything. But the more I try the worse it gets.


character study by the light of the moon

My girlfriend spilled the sugar dispenser on the table about half an hour ago. Since then we've been making little patterns, unintentionally: the waitress refills my coffee, so I slide it closer to the edge. My girlfriend adds more sugar to hers. I add cream. We take a sip. She adds a little more sugar. And it leaves these little lines and circles behind.

I don't know if she's noticed, but I bet she has, which makes me question the whole thing. I only started watching just now, and it's the sort of process that would be really fascinating if I thought it were actually random. But now she reaches for the cream and is she doing that for the sake of the pattern? Does that change anything? Does the intention change the outcome?

She doesn't see patterns, though. She only sees beauty. And there's beauty in simple things like little swirls of sugar on the table or spirals of cream in her coffee, I guess. I'm just so much more interested in patterns, in meaning. It's so intricate. The smallest variable can change the whole thing. What does that line tell us? What does it mean? And maybe she's just making pretty shapes, and does that make it meaningless or can it still tell us something?

Isn't there more she could be doing?

She asks me if there is something wrong and I tell her that everything is fine. She tells me she wants to go dancing, and at the very least there is something we can agree on.

character study under cover of darkness

Half-remembered conversations about that quote I've heard so many times: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Costello, I think it was. But maybe it wasn't Costello, and that's not what the conversation was really about. Or even about at all. I think someone said it once. I don't remember why, or who. Maybe it was me?

Then, a vision: me saying it, everyone looking at me, and did I say something wrong? do they know what I'm saying? do I know what I'm saying? Except that never happened. I didn't say anything all night. I drank. I drank and thought about dancing about architecture and the image is just so captivating.

There was a part of tonight when it made sense and everything was lucid and clear and perfect and I don't know if it's before tonight really started or if it's after it was all over and now I'm here and not sure if I'm trying to get my head clear. I don't always know what I'm saying, I'm sorry. I'm trying to figure this out.

I think that last round was probably a mistake.

I don't really remember anything clearly, or if I do I don't remember what I wanted it for, and it's--I'm so close to figuring it out. I don't really know what "it" is. But once I know it'll all make sense. No more worrying about the right words or wishing I'd done things different. That's what it is. An answer to everything.

And then someone quoted Douglas Adams and I said "Hey, fuck you," but I was probably smiling when I said it. I don't know. Maybe it's not important. I'm--I don't want to say something like "I'm tired of caring." I care, I do. Too much. But there's mistakes and there's mistakes and there's someone telling me we're going home.

All I remember is the city spinning past and the sense that I'm an inch away from everything there is to know, and it's got something to do with architecture.

They dance at the Sydney Opera House, don't they?



I. Something is wrong
with the weather--
I'm not laughing.

II. The rain whispers
insincere apologies.
I still accept them.

III. I wish for small things:
Things like freedom
or a less beautiful cage.

IV. Remember yesterday?
I thought autumn leaves
were poetic.

V. I'd rather spend today
in the rain
with the sun so distant.

VI. The stars are cold.
I mean the wind:
the wind is cold.

VII. Yesterday
the Leonids peaked.
I guess that's nice.

VIII. Drinking red wine
alone in a storm,
I toast the wind.

IX. The weatherman said
the rain would never stop.
I pray for floods.

X. What have I done?
The wind has no answer
but fallen leaves.


I didn't mean for things to turn out this way. I used to be so sure, you know? Everything was going to be all right in the end. I had it all worked out. There was a future. I know nothing's ever perfect but this is as close as it gets. Or was. I don't know what the right tense is for that. How do you talk about a future that's long since past? Or I guess more accurately, a future that never was?

Listen, I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything. I can't say it enough times. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry. I'd do everything different if I could. I would go back and mean every word, every single fucking word, if it would mean things didn't have to end like this. There's so many better endings, even if it had to end. I'm okay with that. I'm okay with it.

I'm trying to choose the right words. It's hard. They never seem like enough. I scripted this whole thing out and I just can't say it anymore. I mean, what's the point? It's over. It's over and you picked a way to make it about as final as it fucking gets. Fuck you. You know I never meant to hurt you. I never meant any of it. You know as long as there was you and me I was happy, and why did you have to go and get rid of the one thing that meant anything to me? Where was I when you made your fucking plans?

I know I've made lots of mistakes. I'm not perfect. Nobody is. I did my best. We all do our best. I did everything I could, and I guess that wasn't enough for you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't do better. I'm sorry it didn't turn out different.

I'm sorry I wasted my fucking time.


photography lessons

I haven't really met anyone since I moved to Seattle, which isn't surprising. I tell people who ask that I've just been settling in. I'm not even sure what that really means. It's not like I have a lot of stuff. Everything is unpacked and I spend the evenings walking around Wallingford--did I get that right? I'm still getting used to the neighborhoods--or watching people from my window. It's a nice studio.

It didn't take me too long to find work. I guess I've met some people there but it's still a working relationship if you'll pardon the pun. None of them really know me. I think more important, none of them know anybody who knows me. I've got a chance to start over. I can reinvent myself. I'm going to start with photographs.

I'm not very good at changing my behavior. It's something you can only do a few times, I think. I did it a few times, when I was younger. Maybe that's just because it was the only way I could hide back then. Something happened and I'd change so that it would stop, or I'd change to get away from it, or something. It seemed so easy at the time. It was hardly even a conscious choice. It went something like--you know the saying "I became what I always hated?" Is that even a saying, or just a song?

Nobody takes pictures of me. Maybe I'm not photogenic but I think it's just the people I hang out with. But there's a few out there. It's hard to get a picture of who I am from them, if you'll pardon the pun. But that's how you get to know people now. You go to Facebook. You look at photos. You piece it together. You figure out what type of person they are. And then that's just what you think of them. Once you've figured out what kind of person someone is it doesn't matter what they do or act like. That's just who they are.

That's what love at first sight is all about, of course. You see someone and you fall in love and then there's nothing they can do to change that, until something happens that forces you to see.

So I've been carefully going through and finding photos that make me look like the kind of person people here will like. Adding this photo, deleting that one. Captioning them in just such a way. I'm building a new identity here. I get to start over without starting over. I feel sort of like I'm cheating, because not everyone gets this chance. But everyone deserves it.


For most of my life I've been stable, exactly like a gyroscope is stable. I'm sure a physicist or someone could say something more about that. When I was a kid I thought gyroscopes spun on forever, like some sort of perpetual motion machine before I'd ever heard the phrase. There was something magical about them. I know better now. Things have not been so stable lately, but I've always come back to equilibrium.

Recently there's been a girl I've been thinking about all the time, and of course I've also been thinking about thinking about her. What I like about her is that she seems like she is always enthusiastic but always restrained. I met her this evening for coffee and bad diner food, which is really my favorite place to be, especially when things are mixed up. At first I was mostly quiet, subdued, taking it all in: the way she doesn't stir in the creamer and just watches the spirals make little patterns. The way she always has that little smile, almost like she doesn't know it's there.

We talked, as I'm so fond of saying, about everything and nothing--about fear and stability. About returning to equilibrium. About freedom. Maybe it was the coffee or the time of day but I've known for a while now that I can't keep spinning forever and suddenly it seemed like I didn't want to.

"There is nothing quite so frightening as freedom," I said aloud. She smiled and took my hand.

And then it was later, and my bags were packed, because a man has to face his fears.



Fear is a survival mechanism. It triggers your adrenaline so you can fight or flee from whatever it is that's making you afraid--that's what they say, right? That's what all the textbooks say? And it makes sense, too.

I spent most of today in a good mood. It's not that anything in particular was happening but I was having fun with everything, and that's more than you can say for a lot of days. I smiled, joked, laughed. I liked everything. It was mostly solid. A few things that normally would have pissed me off happened and I just took it in stride. Like you do.

I was supposed to meet a friend somewhere in the Back Bay and it was raining and I don't really know the neighborhood very well still. It's always been the sort of thing I'm afraid of, getting lost or stranded or whatever after the trip. I called her when I got in the area and she wasn't answering. And I stood there at the streetcar stop, and wished I'd brought a hat, and tried to find a shelter.

Fight or flight, right? She isn't coming. I'm lost now. I'm frightened. I'm shaking with all the unnecessary adrenaline. You can't fight being lost, and there's nothing to run away from. There's not even weird looks from the passengers. I'm just another guy waiting for something that's not happening.


or flight

It was a stupid fight. I knew it when I started it. We both did. But I was drunk and there was something about the way he said it--everything he said was so patronizing. Like because I'm a girl and had a few drinks he needed to protect me. Maybe he was right. All I know is the last thing I wanted was to be anywhere near him.

It had been raining real hard for the past few days and it wasn't about to let up. I'd got us kicked out of the bar when I punched him in the eye, and we were waiting in the not-so-sheltered bus stop. I don't even remember what he said. I can perfectly see his face and expression and hear his inflections--that little smug "if you're fine then why'd you get us kicked out of the bar" smirk, all innocent and concerned--and eventually I just said "fuck you" and started walking away.

"Don't be like that, Melissa," he said. "Come back."

"Fuck you."

"I'm sorry. Really. Please don't go." He was following me now. I picked up my pace. He started to jog. "Melissa!"

I ran. I didn't care where I was going. I started at a sprint and didn't look back until I was blocks away and I didn't hear him calling after me, and then I kept running anyway. The rain soaked me to the bone I had no intention of stopping. I tripped a few times. I was too drunk to be doing this, and it was wet and dark. Sometimes I slipped, sometimes I tripped on the curb or something on the sidewalk. I was wet and bruised and bleeding. And I kept running.

Somewhere in the back of my mind it registered that I had no idea where I was, that these buildings weren't familiar. If I was sober maybe I'd have stopped. But maybe not. I was drunk off my ass and running and bleeding and bruised and my jeans were torn and my lungs were burning and my muscles were sore and I was definitely alive. It was the best I'd felt since I don't even know when.

I mis-judged the curb and landed in a giant puddle, and the rush faded. I dragged myself onto the sidewalk and sat there curled up in the rain, cold and exhausted and frightened and confused. I didn't know where I was. I lay there for what seemed like hours but was probably more like fifteen minutes before I stood up. The heat had left my body, and now I was cold and numb and sore. I limped down the street in a direction that felt right until I found a bus stop. Some of the route numbers seemed familiar, and the schedule said they were still running.

Meanwhile the rain kept falling and I kept shivering and the pain from all the sore muscles and the scrapes and bruises started catching up to me and despite all that I couldn't keep from smiling.


the best years of our lives

Sometimes, there is only starting over to look forward to. Sometimes we can't even have that. I've fucked up the past four years of my life--or maybe just a little more than that now. It feels like forever ago that I was--

There was something about her smile, I think. I would have been happy spending the rest of my life making her smile. Maybe that's all there was. Maybe in the end everything was just about her smile and her lips and that spot just below her ear. Maybe we were always bound for shipwreck, and there was nothing we could do about it. There was a time I could still feel her lips on my neck, her arms around me, still hear the catch in her voice as she told me to leave. I still remember where it all happened, but as I sit there in the lobby of the hotel where she worked, somehow it's all gone.

--with her, and then it was taking flight and making every mistake I possibly could, because nothing worked anymore. I remember most of them pretty vividly. The ones I don't are usually because I was so drunk I couldn't remember anything. I still mostly know what happened, anyway. It's not that I made enemies so much as I lost friends. It was always me. Sometimes they just wanted to help.

She called me one night. Not quite out of the blue but close enough as far as I'm concerned. "I'm worried about you," she said. I told her to fuck herself. She said, "I still care about you. I--you were part of my life, you know? I don't want you to--"

I hung up. She tried again and I just let the phone ring. I deleted her number. I wouldn't see her again for two years.

After a while I found somewhere I could hide. Nobody really knew me. I thought maybe I could start over, and I did all right. I found new friends. I had a nice girlfriend. But there were always ghosts. I'd wake up--not screaming, but panicked, sweating, breathing heavily. Nightmares, I guess, but I just called them ghosts. Things that could have been, things I killed.

She called me again one day. It was winter. It was cold. She said she'd heard I was in town. She asked if maybe I wanted to get coffee. She was wearing a scarf. It's all I can think of when I think of her now. Her in a scarf and a winter coat, with her hands around a cup of coffee. Her smile is different. It's not for me anymore.

That doesn't go away if you hide. My girlfriend left--amicably, this time, headed south where I couldn't go. I wasn't sad to see her go. I'm not sure what that means. I've been seeing this new girl for a few weeks now. I think I like her, but it's hard to say. I've told her about the past four years, or maybe a little bit more. I'm trying to keep in touch with the people I ran away from.

I'm not sure if it's successful. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be. I'm not sure if this will work. I wanted to start over. Someone who wouldn't know who I am so I wouldn't have to be who I am. Maybe it's time to find a new home.


my eternal love

She is, if I had to describe her in a word, an excellent person. She does not agonize over the meaning of words, or the meaning of things, and I mean that as the highest form of compliment. She is very beautiful and witty and clever. I would be lucky to have her.

She says she loves me.

I tell her, "Say again?"

"I said I love you," she says.

And I can't just say, "But what do you mean?" because it's always right there. I'm not sure why my panic instincts are kicking in now, but I know she sees my hand shaking as I take a sip of wine. Crestfallen seems like the best word for how she looks here. Or perhaps deflated. She dips a finger in her water and runs it along the edge of her wine glass. It hums faintly. She does this because it means she does not have to look at my eyes.

A week ago we were in the sort of place where you do not drink wine. She was finished with her meal, and stealing what remained of my french fries. She looked so happy, sitting at a greasy dive with me, running on cheap beer and fried food. I told her I enjoyed myself, and for just a moment she seemed ecstatic. She said there's nowhere she'd rather be.

Today there are no french fries to steal and the food is decidedly less greasy. It is the sort of place you go to for wedding proposals and important anniversaries. I am here thinking about love and eternity and trying to buy time. I'm thinking about missed opportunities. I'm thinking about the future.

After all the french fries were gone, we paid the check and walked home in the cool autumn air. Cold, not cool. Just enough to be uncomfortable. As I went to kiss her good night she said she had been sick for the past few days, she didn't want me to catch anything. I kissed her anyway, because it was the thing to do just then.

Now the moment is past and she is drawing up her dignity and saying, "It's really nice here," and what else is there for me to do but say "Yes, it is, I'm glad you came?"


days like this

She's talking about something like freedom or art or something else lofty, and all I can think about is how nice it is outside, and how there's just something satisfying about walking into the wind with my coat and hair flowing--and then she's expecting a response and I start with that little shrug I do, the "what can you do?" gesture with that little apologetic smirk, and that's not enough so I say something like "yeah, exactly," and then, speech over, the conversation lulls, and right away it's me saying, "Oh man, I read the dumbest thing in the New York Times" and then it's my turn for a story, and it's the sort of sarcastic thing where I can tell before I'm finished it's going to fall flat, but she's smiling and she asks me a question about it--the sort that means she was actually listening--and I shrug and try to answer, but she's quicker on her feet than I am, I wasn't expecting a response, and now I can't tell what she's thinking, or if that smirk is because she thinks I'm clever or because she thinks I'm stupid, and then she says something else and the moment's over and she's moving past it and she's talking about something else, and now I know she's made up her mind about it already, and I don't know what her decision is so I can't follow her lead, and she's finally completely lost me.



She is obsessed with locks and keys. She picked her first lock on her sixteenth birthday. Now she collects old keys, and she knows exactly what each one of them goes to. She likes to say that every key has its lock. There is a line in Pink Floyd which uses "pick her locks" as a euphemism for sex, and it is her favorite line in music, though she can't quite explain why. It has something to do with exploring, mystery, and freedom. As far as she is concerned, freedom is defined by boundaries--boundaries which exist to be broken.

She doesn't know how to tell the boy she has been casually dating that she is not interested in a relationship, especially because it is only true concerning him, specifically. She doesn't know that he isn't really, either, and is just too nice to tell her and too introverted to try to bring it up. He is philosophically inclined and wishes he were more adventurous, but he is afraid of everything--but most of all of being chained down.

His ex-girlfriend is primarily his ex because she was not philosophically inclined, and he mistook this as meaning that she was not intellectually curious. She is not worried about the meaning of things. She likes secrets, especially when she can share them with someone, and values spontaneity, though she sometimes wonders if this is a fault.

Before him, she dated me for a few weeks until the summer was over and I decided it was better to fly across the country, because my idea of adventurous is abandoning a good thing to go exploring something completely unknown, I think just to remind myself I'm still free. And mostly I'm happy with that, except last night I was drunk on the floor with my girlfriend, and it was 4 am and we were staring at the window and I asked her if freedom is worth it.

Freedom is her lips on my neck as she whispers that it definitely is, so long as freedom means us. It's a red wine hangover in the morning and going to brunch in the same clothes you were wearing last night, and telling stories over bad coffee about the little town you left behind. I'm not sure if it's worth it, but days like this it sure feels like it.


We've been waiting for the train for days now. Maybe even weeks. It's hard to really tell, because time has stopped. After the train went by without stopping, everything else stopped. The station clock has been at 2:18 in the afternoon since it passed. And we're here, sitting, waiting, talking.

I want to say it's beautiful. It was, too, when I first noticed. It's one of those moments I always hoped would last forever: where nothing really matters and you're just killing time. There's no objective, no expectations. Just words, idle chatter to pass the time. A conversation with infinite potential. A conversation that will ultimately be interrupted.

Except this one hasn't been. She hasn't noticed, or if she has, she hasn't let on. 2:18. She is cheerful and noncommittal. She smiles easily, she jokes, she laughs. She is enjoying herself because she knows that as soon as it is not 2:18 it will all be over and none of it will have made a difference.

And I apparently have all eternity to make this moment matter.



I didn't manage to save much from the fire. Just my bag, which has a notebook and a netbook and a change of clothes. Everything is gone now.

It's not like I had much to begin with. Some books, some CDs, some clothes, some other random things. I used even less of it. It was just stuff. That's what I always said. I wasn't worried about it. It was fine. That's what I said when I called her asking for a place to stay. "That's terrible," she said. "It's just stuff," I said. "It's fine."

She picked me up outside. We drove around for a while, not saying much. Eventually we stopped in front of her place. "Thanks for letting me stay," I said. She nodded. We went inside. I sat on her couch and she went into her room and came out with a blanket and a pillow. Her blanket. Her pillow. "Let me know if you need anything," she said.

Then she saud, "You sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine, really."

"It's just, you're always smiling. Except you're not now. I've never seen you not smiling."

I shrugged.

"It's like you said, right? It's just stuff. And stuff just ties you down, right? Look at me. I can't leave this place."

I looked around. It was a nice place in a great location for a good price. "I guess."

"So you're free now. You can go anywhere. It's--God, I'm almost jealous."

I didn't ask if almost was the key word. Instead I tried to smile. "Yeah. I guess you're right. I'm free."

She stared at me for a long while, then said, "I'm just--let me know if you need anything."

She was probably right. I was free. I spent the rest of the evening sitting on her couch, staring at her wall.


bus connections

Today I was waiting for a bus that was running late, so I decided to jump on the next bus that came by, instead. I didn't know where it was going. I asked the driver. All I knew is I'd never been to the neighborhood before. It was perfect. I rode until the terminal, and got off and found another bus going somewhere else I'd never even heard of. Halfway there I got off and walked several blocks off the nearest side street. I asked the first person I saw where the best place is to get some decent coffee around here, and he directed me to a little cafe off another side street.

I had no idea where I was by this point, and the diner was the sort of dingy out of the way greasy spoon the locals love, but nobody else has any cause to visit--in short, a beautiful place that would be constantly crowded in a nicer district but instead has a steady patronage of incredibly loyal regulars.

The sort of place a guy like me, who walks in looking completely lost, looks like an outsider--the kind of outsider who gets asked questions like "So where are you from?" because they know it's not around here. I tell them and they ask me what I'm doing so far out here, and have I been here before? I tell them no, and that I honestly have no idea.

But this is some damn good coffee.



She talks about lots of things I don't understand. Arcane formulae and numbers and terms that I don't understand. I don't know if I'm supposed to understand, or at least I don't know which ones I'm supposed to understand. Is that one important, or is it just there for show? What do they all mean? And so she talks and I write down what I can remember and I ask her very nicely to repeat it and she does, and she tries to use words I'll understand but sometimes that just makes it worse, because then it's so close, like I can almost see it.

Mostly, though, I come so I can watch her lips move while she tries to teach me. Maybe that's not a very good way to learn.

She helps me work through it and I write everything she says down obediently but sometimes I can't figure it out and she gets frustrated and does it for me. I don't think she'd say she's getting frustrated. She's trying to help. She wants me to see how she does it. I only see her hands and her writing. It's not neat. It's tiny and angular and hard to read. Sometimes I can't tell the difference between the numbers and the letters and the symbols. Sometimes I can't tell if it's just an unintentional mark.

And then I screw up again and her hand is on mine and I can't think of anything else.

tired smile

She is sullen over coffee. Her eyes won't meet mine, and she draws on her napkin with her finger. Neither of us talk much--because today is the sort of day where I need coffee, and I'm only drinking water. I'm not sure why she's silent. And the important thing is to never ask, not directly.

She's not really touching her coffee, either. Now she leans back with her arms folded and sighs, and I'm not going to ask about that, either. People always ask me what's wrong when I sigh. I'm usually just tired. It's hard to have to justify your breathing. Now she looks out the window with an expression I can't read--it's either longing or the type of boredom or exhaustion or whatever where you'd rather be anywhere but here. I suppose they're really the same thing, in the end.

And then, I smile and say something completely inane about the day, some stupid unremarkable thing that only really seems funny when the only sleep you've had in the past few nights came in the form of a cup of coffee. She smiles too. It's the sort of smile that comes with relief.


sunrise in a good way

She doesn't close her blinds. They're broken. Her room faces east, and the sun comes in when it's morning and she has such a clear view of the city and the sky.

That's what woke me up this morning, and it's been forever since I'd seen a sunrise. I don't know why that makes a difference. I never did. We even argued about it, once. A sunset is fleeting. A sunrise lasts all day. I don't think I said that right, but I'm okay with that. It was so clean. I probably woke her up sitting up to see it better. "It wakes me up every day," she said.

My blinds aren't broken. I keep them closed all the time now, even when it's day. I don't want to let the heat out. My room is dark and the only light is cold and sterile. I'm not sure why sterile is different from clean, either. "I'm still not sick of it," she said.

I didn't have anything to say. I asked if she was going back to sleep. She shook her head. I asked if she wanted me to make some tea.

By the time the water boiled, of course, the sun had basically risen. The horizon was still a pale shade of pink. We drank tea and curled up under blankets. I don't think mornings are supposed to feel so decadent.

crooked smile

One time, my sister left a comment on one of my Facebook photos saying I'm never smiling in them, which is true. I don't smile. I don't laugh. I know I've talked to her about this but I don't know if this was before or after her comment. I don't do so good at remembering these things. Sometimes I'm better than others.

Smiling. Ever since my girlfriend told me I'm smiling all the time I've thought about smiles constantly. I look at pictures of me smiling and I wonder why I look like that. I smile in the mirror and wonder why it's so crooked, why it looks so fake. I'm a good actor, so long as you don't expect me to smile. I look at pictures of her and I notice she's always smiling in them, and she used to hate cameras. It's like she couldn't help herself. She smiled like it was a secret. I always wondered if I was ever really smiling all the time.

I look at pictures of my sister, who smiles like a cat--she's happy and happy to be happy. It's smug, but not in an arch or condescending way at all. When she's smiling she's showing it off. That's her in photographs. She really appreciates being happy.

I know my smile wasn't always crooked. I'm not sure where that came from. It didn't used to be so wry and skeptical, so arch, so put-on. I didn't used to be afraid to admit that I'm having fun, without any sort of commentary on who I am or what that means. I didn't used to obsess over people who could look like that.


the error of my ways

I'm worried a lot lately. More than usual, anyway. I feel like there are a lot of mistakes I've made. Well, I know there are. I say it all the time, even: "We all make mistakes." "It happens to the best of us." I make it into platitudes and jokes, and people laugh politely, I think because they don't know that I'm only half joking. They think it's just some sort of game.

There was a girl, once, who really laughed at them. Can I say girl? They tell me that it's not a very progressive word, that it's demeaning. I don't know anything about that. I just know that I like the sound of it better. "Women" sounds like a word for the type of person who tells you that "girls" is a term which is derogatory. I don't want to hang out with women.

I was talking about laughing at my jokes, though. I really appreciated it. I couldn't say that, though, because how do you say that without sounding like you're just desperate to sound funny? I'm not. But you only find that sort of thing funny if you really understand that when I tell you, "I'm pretentious," it's not just a thing I say so you will like me. I really think that.

The other night I turned down an invitation to go to a party. I stayed in with a poet with punk rock aesthetics. We watched our favorite sitcoms from the 90's on Hulu, and drank coffee liqueur and smoked Parliaments. We listened to Weezer. We talked about kittens. We told stories that were mostly honest, or at least embarrassing.

At midnight I wondered aloud if I should try to catch public transit back home. She gave me a smile that would have been coy if she were still sober and suggested that she had room for me at her apartment. I kissed her, and then I realized that it was the first time in longer than I could remember that I'd done so because I wanted to, not just because I felt like it was expected. Like the girl who laughed at my jokes, I didn't know how to tell her this. I'm trying to be genuine. Sometimes I'm not so good at it.

Later, when my hands found the clasp of her bra and deftly unhooked it, I told her how we'd all practiced that with a padded bra that we found as a prop in an old theatre's dressing room in high school, just idiot kids hoping for an opportunity to look suave in the future. She laughed. I am good at making some people laugh.

Even though it's fall now the sun still came through her window too early and just made the headache worse, and I can't sleep with her there, but I can't just leave and I can't just leave a note, and I worry that I've already fucked everything up. Maybe I wasn't genuine enough, or I told her too much. Maybe I worry too much. Maybe I'm just worried that I obsess too much and I will act too uncaring. I don't know. I'm worried.

I just want everything to be okay. I know there's only so many opportunities you get and I don't know when the last one is going to be. You have to get it right. You have to plan ahead. You have to assume that every chance you get will be your last.

The next day when I finally went home I was really tired and went to bed early. I slept right through her phone call and her text messages. Today I called her while I was eating lunch and she didn't pick up. My coffee and cigarettes taste like her.



My sister called to ask me about the accident. She'd always wondered, after it happened. Like most things, we never really discussed it. I think she assumed that I remembered it at all.

I knew it happened, of course. It was hard to miss. The neck brace, the hospital. Calling her up on Christmas eve. Hi, this is Rob. I just--I'm not going to be able to make it. Could you tell dad--no, I'm fine--there was just an accident. No, I wasn't--yes, I'm all right, I just--no, I'm fine. Really. I love you too. I have to go. It's coming home in the new year with all the Christmas decorations still up, and the neck brace isn't so bad but suddenly it's just so sad that you weren't there. At least they kept them up. They had a little party for me when I got home.

It's the stupid little things like that you never talk about. She was there for most of it. She knew. And we never talked about the things we weren't both there for. Maybe this was her attempt to start, but there wasn't even a cinematic moment of realization. I woke up and I knew I was in the hospital. And they told me what happened, more or less. I was lucky. I should be more careful.

At the time I wasn't thinking of home. I was thinking of a boy who smiles easily and sincerely and who can laugh at anything. My smile is crooked and contrived and I mostly just sneer. "You're lucky. You should be more careful." I wish one of those statements were true.

The driver was apologetic. She was frightened that I would sue. She didn't know what to do and she admitted fault and did everything she could to make me happy and if I wanted to I could have taken her for everything she's worth. Instead I took her out to dinner, on me, after my sister called to ask. It was six months on. I asked her if she remembered what happened. She was still apologizing, and I told her we all make mistakes.

Eventually that night her smile came easily, and we both made mistakes, and after, when she was asleep, I called my sister and told her that I still didn't remember what happened at the accident. But I told her about the boy who smiled, and how I didn't smile enough, and how that's why everything went wrong. I told her that sometimes the worst thing you can be is close to someone.


Kate spends her evenings working with the subtle nuances of language, carefully placing this word here, that word there. She strings words together until they are beautiful, until they are perfect. She is good at it. Words are exciting, and she often says there is nothing she likes more than a particularly elegant turn of phrase. Her mother once told her that words are nothing without action. Her mother reads romance novels from supermarket checkout lines.

There is a girl who works in her building at front desk sometimes, who is usually reading while she is working. Every day it is a new book and every day it is a different kind of book. She is not there every day. Kate has never had a conversation with her--all they ever say to one another is "Hello," and "thank you." She has never shown her how she can put together pretty words. Sometimes, when she hands the girl at the front desk her identification card, their hands touch, on accident, and Kate smiles. She says "thank you" because she means it, though she is fairly certain she does not mean it for anything to do with checking her ID.

She frequently resolves to say something, or write something, something beautiful and captivating. Nothing seems to fit, which is not a new experience, but it is frustrating nevertheless. She feels that if she cannot write about something it must be because she does not understand it.

It is roughly eleven o'clock in the morning on a Saturday. She is not expecting to see the girl at the front desk, but she is working there anyway, reading a book by Richard Feynman. She looks up and smiles at Kate as she enters. She says, "Hi."

Kate says, "Hello," and hands over her identification. Then she says, "Thanks," and smiles again, and as she walks past, very nearly stops to say something else.


broken sky

I'd known her for years but it wasn't until one morning under a broken sky I really felt like I understood her. She was staying on my couch, and I had work in the morning. I woke early and walked out into the living room and she was there, not asleep, not really awake, with one leg curled under her and the other pulled up to her chest. She watched me without word or acknowledgement. I showered and got dressed. She was still completely silent as I left.

The sky cleared up to sunny during the morning, and by the afternoon it was that apocalyptic shade of autumnal grey, with the faintest breeze and a temperature just chilly enough to remind you summer is long dead. The sky was broken again by the evening, and she was sitting on the steps of my building with a cigarette.

We didn't say anything, or even look at each other, as I sat next to her. She handed me a cigarette and I lit up and watched the sky go dark and the evening people walking past, and there was this weird clarity to everything. None of it made any sense and I knew it all.

Her hand brushed my shoulder as she walked back inside. I didn't look up. I didn't have to.